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Rodger Corman


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#1 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 03:29 PM

I've been reading Rodger Corman's book "How I made a 100 movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime" and I gotta say, this ought to be required reading for any film school program. I was fascinated with the things he has to say and also felt validated that he advocates many of the same things I had said about saving money during production on this board (IE in-camera editing, ect). I was wondering if anyone had worked with Rodger and what that expirence was like, also has anyone else read this book (I'm sure there are several of you) and what they thought of it? B)
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#2 Richard Boddington

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 03:43 PM

Obviously many studio execs blowing 100+ million on a movie need to read his book as well.
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#3 Hal Smith

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 04:48 PM

The following trained at the "Roger Corman School of Film"

Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Donald G. Jackson, James Cameron, John Sayles Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, and Robert De Niro.

Not only does Roger know how to save a buck, he sure is one heck of a judge of talent.
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#4 Bill DiPietra

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 05:57 PM

The following trained at the "Roger Corman School of Film"

Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, Donald G. Jackson, James Cameron, John Sayles Jack Nicholson, Peter Fonda, Bruce Dern, Michael McDonald, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire, and Robert De Niro.

Not only does Roger know how to save a buck, he sure is one heck of a judge of talent.


Corman has always been known as the guy who gave all the big names from the late 60s-early-70s their start.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 07:13 PM

The films he directed in the 1960's like "Tomb of Ligeia" were fairly slick considering their budgets and short schedules, with decent 35mm anamorphic photography.

I worked one day doing second unit for a Concorde Pictures production. I was a little appalled actually in some ways. This was later Corman production of the mid 1990's, but some of their cost-cutting was clever and some of it was inefficient, like hiring bad, inexperienced AD's to run the show, or paying people so poorly that almost every day, half your crew were new people, including the Gaffer and Key Grip -- there was no loyalty to see the production through.

I was asked to shoot some city nighttime landscapes and car drive bys, so I asked for either a camera that I could undercrank to shoot long exposures, or some fast lenses. I got neither. They gave me a camera that could only run at 24 fps and some scratched T/2.1 lenses. It's not like I could bend the laws of physics -- I needed some trick to be able to shoot in available light at night. I had no choice but to just push-process everything.

I was told to work with a grip and put a hostess tray on a sports car for a nighttime chase scene. As soon as I was done, they took off in the car to shoot the bad guys driving, and then put the policemen chasing them into the same sports car, figuring one car interior looked like another at night. They weren't far off actually. But the night was badly planned by the AD and crew and they went a day over schedule because of it. They scheduled a night exterior on the rooftop of a building that they also scheduled to shoot a chase on the street in front of the building, so you couldn't light one location without getting in the way of the other, plus you didn't have the time to move the production down from the top of the roof to the street in the middle of the night. At the time, I only had three features to my credit and I knew better than that.

Luckily I got hired to shoot a feature and got to leave the production.
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#6 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 07:34 PM

Sounds like a nightmare. What were some of the clever cost-cutting techniques they used?

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 27 August 2006 - 07:34 PM.

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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 07:41 PM

Sounds like a nightmare. What were some of the clever cost-cutting techniques they used?


I don't know about "clever" so much, but it was a little like shooting TV.

When you worked on their Venice Beach stages, they didn't feed you lunch, just broke for one hour and told you to get your own lunch. And considering they were only paying $100 for the day, that was annoying.

They had a lot of cheap reusable sets that could be reconfigured.

The weird thing there was that Corman would buy various low-budget indie and foreign horror/ thriller movies and then spend every Saturday shooting new sex scenes for them on one of your sets when you were shut down for the weekend.

This business plan only works if you are making multiple movies; in some ways, it's just the old model of the 1930's/40's studio system's B-movie divisions.
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#8 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 11:14 PM

It kinda makes sense that he would be influenced by the 40's style studio b movie business plan, he was at the studios at that time in the 40's and early 50's. I am sorta surprised he had to ADD sex scenes to foriegn films. I thought that was pretty much a given in most low budget import stuff. In his book, he talks about buying a foriegn feature starring Dennis Hopper that was a mess and still owed Hopper money for his work. He offered to pay Hopper the balance of what he was owed in exchange for doing some narration to get the film to cut together and make sense. (The passage was about what a great filmmaking tool narration can be) He then says he deducted that from the price he paid for the film and essentually got the narration for free. I'm not surprised about lunch though. Everyone I've ever seen interviewed about Rodger says he gave you a lot of freedom and no money.
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#9 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 27 August 2006 - 11:17 PM

My first pay job as an AC in LA was on a Concorde/New Horizons movie called "White Wolves 2." Roger wasn't involved directly, so I can't speak of him at all. We shot for a month up in Oregon. Probably the most fun I've ever had. Looking back, it was pretty hard work, but I didn't know any better and was just happy to finally be getting paid to work on a movie! :)

I guess it was typical of a low budget movie. Short ends. BL2. Not enough help. But it was an amazing place to shoot. Sure beat the hell out of downtown LA.
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#10 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 12:26 AM

When you worked on their Venice Beach stages, they didn't feed you lunch, just broke for one hour and told you to get your own lunch. And considering they were only paying $100 for the day, that was annoying.

A lot of episodic's are doing that now when they shoot on stage. It's mostly a bummer because it makes the day longer. Of course, they're paying better, so that's not a big issue.
Is that the situation on 'Big Love' David?
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#11 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 12:48 AM

Is that the situation on 'Big Love' David?


No, the catering is fantastic and so is the craft services... the trick will be to not gain weight on this one.
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#12 timHealy

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Posted 28 August 2006 - 08:56 AM

The films he directed in the 1960's like "Tomb of Ligeia" were fairly slick considering their budgets and short schedules, with decent 35mm anamorphic photography.

I worked one day doing second unit for a Concorde Pictures production. I was a little appalled actually in some ways. This was later Corman production of the mid 1990's, but some of their cost-cutting was clever and some of it was inefficient, like hiring bad, inexperienced AD's to run the show, or paying people so poorly that almost every day, half your crew were new people, including the Gaffer and Key Grip -- there was no loyalty to see the production through.

I was asked to shoot some city nighttime landscapes and car drive bys, so I asked for either a camera that I could undercrank to shoot long exposures, or some fast lenses. I got neither. They gave me a camera that could only run at 24 fps and some scratched T/2.1 lenses. It's not like I could bend the laws of physics -- I needed some trick to be able to shoot in available light at night. I had no choice but to just push-process everything.

I was told to work with a grip and put a hostess tray on a sports car for a nighttime chase scene. As soon as I was done, they took off in the car to shoot the bad guys driving, and then put the policemen chasing them into the same sports car, figuring one car interior looked like another at night. They weren't far off actually. But the night was badly planned by the AD and crew and they went a day over schedule because of it. They scheduled a night exterior on the rooftop of a building that they also scheduled to shoot a chase on the street in front of the building, so you couldn't light one location without getting in the way of the other, plus you didn't have the time to move the production down from the top of the roof to the street in the middle of the night. At the time, I only had three features to my credit and I knew better than that.

Luckily I got hired to shoot a feature and got to leave the production.


I haven't worked om any Corman stuff but I have worked on a few Troma movies in the first two years I was working "in the biz" and they try for the same production quality and money saving tactics. On a side note, Lloyd Kaufman one of the owners of Troma would be making his slock stuff and for a number of years his wife, Patricia Kaufman was running the NY Governors Office for Film trying to get Hollywood to shoot more in NY. Between the two of them they had it all covered.

best

Tim
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#13 J. Michael Whalen

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 09:01 AM

Another great book is Lloyd Kaufman's MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN MOVIE. I know over a dozen people who read that book and went out and made their film. Most weren't all that good...but at least they were motivated by it. haha

Corman is really one of those guys who never got as much credit as he should have.
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#14 Mark Allen

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Posted 30 August 2006 - 01:14 PM

When talking about Corman, you have to keep a perspective on era. He started making movies with his "Palo Alto Pictures" banner when no one was making movies independently. Then, he was just really clever continually as a business man. In fact, if you ever spoke to him, you would know quickly that this is where his "genuis" rested and what, frankly, seemed to interest him most.

By the time more and more people were maknig the lower budget films, Rodget had devised such a machine that he could make 19 movies a year and the era had changed - but home video was released and he was all over it. Suddenly studios needed more content than they could make and he was all ready for them. So, here was this guy who could make 19 movies at 1.2 million each - what a deal! Of course, the all he spent was around 300 to 600 thousand and he pocketed the rest and kept certain rights.

But the thing with Rodger is that you every little detail was about cutting the cost down. Movies could only be as long as all the reels would fit into ONE shipping box. I think that's like 83 minutes. Yes, that level of detail of cutting costs.

I once had a chance to speak to their head of marketing. I saw a poster of a movie I'd never seen on the wall and asked him about the tagline - something like "Voted Best Sci-Fi movie of the year!" by the sci-fi writers club. When pressed, it turned out that the story the movie was based on had been called "one of the best short stories of the last 10 years." or something - but he said, "But no one will look that up." (Nightfall was the name of that movie.)

Not being a very politically adept fellow I asked him, "Since you guys are spending all the money on making these movies - why don't you actually just make the better script - make better choices. Surely you realize that most of the choices made in the creation of these movies are not pushing them into the realm of quality. There are lots of good directors out there who could make much classier movies."

He said, "Our audience doesn't want to be intimidated. They don't want to see a movie and have to think about it. They want to know that they can walk away and come back and not have missed anything and they want to know for sure they're going to see some breasts - no questions asked."

Anyway - he became head of production a couple years later.


But the machine itself reminds me of Andy Warhol's factory in someway. Ironically the Troma guy is doing this as well now - very intentionally. He is finding troublemakers to make movies with and creating his own celebrities out of them. Again, very interesting. But both of these seem like metafilmmaking where the focus is on the process.

The interesting thing that is happening right now is that the trick isn't to be able to produce a LOT of material. The trick is finding an audience through all the noise.
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#15 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 02:47 AM

Another great book is Lloyd Kaufman's MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN MOVIE. I know over a dozen people who read that book and went out and made their film. Most weren't all that good...but at least they were motivated by it. haha

Corman is really one of those guys who never got as much credit as he should have.


I think I'm going to order that book too, just for the Hell of it. I still have toget Dominic's book on film processing as well. B)
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#16 David Venhaus

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 07:53 AM

Lloyd Kaufman also wrote another book called, "All I Needed To Know About Filmaking, I Learned From The Toxic Avenger", its autobiographical, has lots of interesting stuff about filmaking and is really funny. The forward was written by Roger Corman.
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#17 timHealy

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Posted 01 September 2006 - 09:57 AM

Maybe I should write my own book "All I Needed To Know About Filmaking, I Learned From The Toxic Avenger, Lloyd Kaufman, and the devil incarnate, Michael Herz"

Herz is Kaufman's partner and I worked on Toxic Avenger part 2 and 3, and Sargent Kabukiman, NYPD.

Best

Tim
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