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Roger Corman Receives a Heroic Welcome at Beyond Fest Alongside Protégés Ron Howard, Joe Dante, and More: A Look Back at Their Big Breaks and Test Screenings
The Aero Theater in Santa Monica was buzzing with excitement as the legendary filmmaker Roger Corman, often dubbed the “Pope of Pop Cinema,” received a hero’s welcome during the recent Beyond Fest event. At 97 years old, Corman joined a panel discussion alongside directors Allan Arkush, Ron Howard, Joe Dante, Amy Holden Jones, and producer Jon Davison. These esteemed directors all owe a significant part of their success to Corman, who played a pivotal role in launching their careers through his independent production and distribution company, New World Pictures, established in 1970.
Corman, known for directing over 55 films and producing hundreds more, shared insights into his illustrious career. He recounted how his success with “The Wild Angels” for American International Pictures led to financial disputes, prompting him to direct “The Trip,” a turning point in his career. Frustrated with profit disputes from distributors, Corman decided to become a distributor himself.
The Beyond Fest tribute to Corman included a marathon of four 35mm films produced by the maestro. The lineup featured Allan Arkush’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School,” Ron Howard’s debut feature “Grand Theft Auto,” Joe Dante’s horror comedy “Piranha,” and Corman’s whimsical “The Raven,” starring Vincent Price and Boris Karloff.
Following the marathon, the event featured video messages from two of Corman’s protégés, John Sayles and Todd Field. John Sayles congratulated Corman on the tribute, while Todd Field shared a humorous anecdote about Corman’s popcorn pilfering skills during a test screening.
The panel discussion brought together the directors, each introduced by moderator Mick Garris, with Roger Corman receiving a well-deserved standing ovation—the longest in Beyond Fest history. The directors fondly remembered their time working with Corman, highlighting his deep knowledge of filmmaking.
Joe Dante praised Corman for his exceptional understanding of cinema, a rare trait in studio heads. He emphasized the importance of working with individuals who possess superior knowledge and can genuinely support emerging talent.
Amy Holden Jones echoed Dante’s sentiments, noting that many industry executives struggled to differentiate between good and bad ideas, while Corman had an instinct for it.
Corman’s journey into filmmaking began as a film critic for the Stanford Daily before transitioning to a producer, where he gained practical experience. His directorial debut, “Five Guns West” in 1955, marked the start of his prolific directing career, despite having no formal training in directing.
The directors shared anecdotes about working at New World under Corman’s guidance. His improvisational and resourceful approach to filmmaking allowed young talents to learn and experiment. They reminisced about test screenings, both successful and disastrous, highlighting the valuable lessons they learned.
Corman’s New World Pictures aimed to entertain a young audience with films that were engaging, affordable, and vibrant. While the industry often featured older leading actors, Corman recognized the untapped potential of catering to a youthful demographic, emphasizing the importance of including elements like sex, violence, or humor to entertain the masses.
The panelists agreed that Corman’s approach provided them with creative freedom and the opportunity to develop their skills. Despite budget constraints, Corman valued quality and responsible filmmaking.
In summary, Beyond Fest’s tribute to Roger Corman celebrated his remarkable career and the significant impact he had on emerging filmmakers. The panel discussion served as a heartwarming testament to Corman’s enduring legacy in the world of cinema, showcasing the profound influence he had on the careers of directors who continue to inspire audiences today.