Roger Corman Shares His Secrets With AFCI

Cannes Film Festival

M. Galas


At the beginning of November, the Association of Film Commissioners International (AFCI) held their annual conference.  The conference began with a keynote speech presented by independent producer Roger Corman. 


Corman, who will receive an Honorary Oscar this year, has produced over 350 films.  He opened his discussion with a film clip from the 1959 feature "The Little Shop of Horrors." Corman explained this film was something he "did as a joke, just to see if we could do it."  Shot in only two and a half days, Corman allowed for improvisation with the lines and kept the tension level very low.  "The freedom the actors felt on the set made the actors work hard.," said Corman.  Amongst those cast in this film was a then unknown Jack Nicholson, whom Corman met during an acting class. 

After talking about the process of shooting "House of Usher" on a sound stage (he felt the stage perpetuated Edgar Allen Poe’s idea of the unconscious mind at work by utilizing an artificial environment), and casting himself as a stunt driver in "Death Race 2008" (the stunt driver used in the original version wanted too much money to return), Corman spoke about the benefits of location shooting. 

"I shot most pictures on location because of the reality," said Corman.  "You’re in the real world and you can get wonderful shots.  Mountains look as good shot in a low budget movie as they do in a big budget movie.  And always get the wide shot if you go to a beautiful location.  Take advantage of the natural beauty; don’t just shoot the scenes in close-up."

He also expressed that producers need to understand the complexities of a location to get the most from the shoot.  His example to support this was his warning to Francis Ford Coppola who was heading to the Philippines to shoot "Apocalypse Now."

"My advice to him was don’t go now," said Corman.  "It’s the rainy season there, it’s not like here." 

Having worked with notable directors such as James Cameron, Martin Scorsese and Coppola, to name a few, Corman suggested that the film commissioners devote their time working with people who are truly talented.

"There are three things I look for in any writer, producer and director I work with," said Corman.  "The ones that are consistently successful always exhibit intelligence, they work very hard, and they all have great creativity.  These three traits are spotable."

Although films have been shot with lighter, portable equipment and that even location shoots are greatly enhanced by special effects, Corman assured the commissioners that the process of making a motion picture has remained the same regardless of the equipment used or where it’s shot. 

As for his success and longevity, Corman offered these words:

"Embrace change."