Independent film producer Roger Corman is known the world over for being one of the most successful producers ever in the movie business, thanks to his ability to create popular low-budget films since the 1950s.
Whether working on cult B-horror movies like “Attack of the Crab Monsters” and “Teenage Cave Man” or helping future iconic directors like Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese get their start, Corman has always had a knack for making movies that are relevant to the times we live in while also turning a profit.
At 90 years old, Corman hasn’t slowed down. His latest, “Death Race 2050” (released on Blu-ray January 17), is a sequel to the 1975 cult classic he produced, “Death Race 2000,” which starred David Carradine and a then-unknown Sylvester Stallone. Like the original, “2050” is a political satire that’s also an action race-car movie in a dystopian future where the winner is the driver who runs over the most people.
We asked Corman to give four tips to filmmakers on how to succeed in the movie business. Here’s what he told us:
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1. Make a sly statement in your movie.
“‘Death Race 2050’ above all is an action car-racing futuristic picture with some black humor connected with it,” Corman said. “That’s what I hope the audience will come to see it. But there are some thoughts behind it. I always try when possible to put some theme of my own into the picture. Always in the subtext. The audience will come to see a car-racing black-humor action film, but there’s some social commentary, which is something science fiction is very good at doing. For instance, the United States of America is now the United Corporations of America. The president is now the chairman. Make statements at how society is going.”
2. Understand making movies is a business.
“Somebody who is working on a basis of pure art is forgetting the fact that it costs a lot of money to make a motion picture,” he said. “You must be aware of what is going on in the world and what is going on in the business of motion pictures. You must recognize certain genres, certain pictures that have records of winning and losing, and you must think about that in your planning right from the beginning. Yet at the same time you must be aware that just repeating what has been successful in the past doesn’t work. Even from a business standpoint you must have something original, you must include the creativity. It’s good business to include creativity into your business planning.”
3. Don’t be complacent.
“‘Death Race’ started out as a futuristic car-racing picture in which drivers knocked each other off the road,” Corman said. “Car-racing pictures have always done well yet at the same time I feel I must bring something original, I can’t make the same car-racing picture over and over. Cars knocking each other off the road brought an element of originality, but then I thought it needed something even more outrageous and that brought in the killing of the pedestrians. Nobody had ever made a car-racing picture where the drivers got points for killing pedestrians, so it followed some of my thinking in that I was working in a genre of car-racing pictures but I was bringing something new to a successful genre.”