LOS ANGELES — Beyond Fest saluted producer Roger Corman on Saturday with a four-film marathon followed by a conversation with some of the directors who began their careers working for the now-legendary genre icon.
Speaking to the L.A. Times just moments before he stepped onstage at the Aero Theatre for an extended standing ovation, the 97-year-old Corman looked back on some of the changes to the film industry he'd seen during a career that stretches back to the mid-1950s.
"I think the great heads of studios in the past understood that motion pictures are an art form and a business, and you have to understand both of those things," said Corman, sitting in the back seat of a car parked behind the theater. "I think one of the problems today is that the new heads of studios understand only the business, and they don't understand that this is also an art form."
Though he began his career as a screenwriter and director, it was as a producer that Corman made his biggest impact, in particular through the company he co-founded in 1970 with his brother Gene, New World Pictures. Among those who worked with Corman early in their careers were Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Jonathan Demme, Carl Franklin, Peter Bogdanovich and many more. Though he is known for movies made quickly and cheaply for drive-ins and double-bills, Corman also distributed major international art-house films by the likes of Akira Kurosawa, Ingmar Bergman, Francois Truffaut and Federico Fellini.
The Beyond Fest tribute began with director Allan Arkush introducing a screening of "Rock 'n' Roll High School," followed by Ron Howard introducing "Grand Theft Auto," then showings of Joe Dante's "Piranha" and the Corman-directed "The Raven." Howard returned to the theater later in the day on his bicycle to join Arkush, Dante, "Slumber Party Massacre" director Amy Holden Jones, "Hollywood Boulevard" producer Jon Davison and Corman himself for a lively, affectionate conversation moderated by filmmaker Mick Garris.
"It's impossible to discuss the most influential filmmakers of all time without including the great Roger Corman," Christian Parkes, founder of Beyond Fest, said in a statement. "The definitive trailblazer and pioneer of independent film, his mark on cinema is indelible, his impact unparalleled, and legacy is forever enduring. Beyond Fest wouldn't exist without him."
Before the start of the panel, two surprise tribute videos were played. "Tár" filmmaker Todd Field, who acted in three films for Corman early in his career, celebrated his "amazing, unparalleled impact on so many in the industry." Field also recounted how, at a test screening of Carl Franklin's "Full Fathom Five," Corman declined anything from the concession stand before the movie while Field got a large tub of popcorn. At some point during the movie, Field noticed Corman's hand sneaking popcorn from his tub.
"And I thought, smart guy," said Field. "This is why you're Roger Corman."
John Sayles, a two-time Academy Award nominee, wrote screenplays for Corman before launching his own career as a director. In a video, he thanked Corman for "sending me through film school and paying me at the same time."
The filmmakers on stage had collaborated together in various configurations while working for Corman, so there was a collegial, affectionate air of a class reunion to the event. All shared outrageous stories of test screening their Corman-produced movies, from Howard screening his youth car-chase picture "Grand Theft Auto" to an audience of elderly people, and Dante recalling showing "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" for mental patients from Cedars-Sinai.
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