Revolutions are ripping up the map overseas. Mobs are taking the streets at home. Industries from film to finance are discovering their idols have clay feet.
We're living in Corman's World.
Director Alex Stapleton gets this. It's not just gloss on her eye-catching documentary, Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. It's the core of the film — the do-or-die meat of it. She knows these are DIY times, and Alex is a DIY Lady.
"Get off your butt," Alex Stapleton says to new filmmakers, "and go do something . . . You're never going to read enough books or have enough lectures to teach you to make a film. You learn by doing."
Armed with simple tools and an ambitious will, Stapleton has managed to assemble a stellar first effort. Corman's World has an array of luminary facets going for it: sharp technical skill; a gripping anti-establishment narrative; enough editorial balance between stock footage, site shots and setpiece interviews to keep the screen interesting.
It has a cozy constellation of stars, too. Corman supporters, many of who you never would have guessed were in the King of Camp's corner — Ron Howard, Martin Scorcese, Peter Fonda — serve up slices of truly insightful and amusing dialogue. Stapleton doesn't just get these A-list celebrities to speak in honor of Corman. She gets the stars to shed tears.
Jack Nicholson not only sits for his second documentary interview ever. He breaks down over what Roger Corman did to launch his career.
Audiences can sit down to Corman's World confident that this is a documentary with brains, guts and heart. And above all, it has a message: If you want to do something, get out there and do it. Don't wait for permission. Don't expect a hand out or a leg up. Don't expect fate to force you. Force your own fate.
Through Stapleton's lens, we see that's how Corman did it. He wrote scripts he liked, grabbed a camera and a crew, and pounded out film after lean-, mean-budgeted film. Hollywood had been creaking under its rusted weight, and Corman's vulgar tales hit pay dirt with the underserved teen masses.
We all know Corman's story from there. An empire of drive-in movies was born. From that crucible came a wild new Hollywood. And when New Hollywood got old, Corman sought out new messages for new markets, becoming the unseen Lord of Late-Night Cable and Straight-to-DVD Mayhem.
The legacy is that of outsider Hollywood: It Conquered the World, leading to Wild Angels, leading to Easy Rider, leading to Death Race 2000.
The success story of Corman's World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel isn't written in the dollar signs, though. His millions have more to do with being keen-eyed when it came to finding how to tap into ever-evolving teenage zeitgeist when it came to stories and distribution, not to mention being tight-fisted when it came to spending.
The real success evidenced by Corman's World is ambition to make your own world being realized. Stapleton shows that refusing to accept rejection or shying from its threat is a success all its own. Not only does Corman's story prove it, her documentary's creation is testament.
Not that it comes cheap. Stapleton had a lead budget but, she says, "It took a lot of time." Five years to be precise. It takes time and dedication. But when you're doing what you love, it's just a matter of patience inspired by realizing you're doing just what you want to be doing.
Alex Stapleton and Roger Corman shared a modest and energized spirit in their interview. Both had the kind of humility that comes from only wearing laurels you've planted, grown and tended yourself. Both had the wry and active imaginations of true rebels.
"It's even more poignant for this film to come out now than when I started in 2006," Stapleton said. "Because of the state of independent film and because of the state of the economy, and how hard it is for independent artists to get their movie out there . . . What happened in 1950 when [Corman] started his career is exactly where we are today. Today, distribution is changing."
The old means of media are drying up while others struggle to take their place. It's imagination that fires this metamorphosis: You have to dream of something to make it happen. From there, it just takes will and a bit of know-how.
"There's definitely room for new voices out there," Stapleton says. "The internet is the new wave. The new world."
Stapleton's documentary asks us to believe that if we forever challenge — challenge our craft, challenge the system, challenge convention — then we craft our world. Champions of the craft, like Jonathan Demme, Joe Dante, Pete Bogdanovich and Jack Nicholson, speak humbly of their beginnings with the self-made B-Movie Emperor. It's enough to make anyone a true believer.
"DVD is on the decline. VOD and the internet, in the future, may pick up the slack," Corman says. "We have to have those, because we're out of theatrical and DVD."
A world where YouTube overtakes ticket sales, e-Publishing topples Borders and camcorders cost less than a video game console is a world practically demanding us to make our mark. It's a world where doing something makes you something.
It's not just Corman's world. It's Stapleton's world. It's yours.
Buy the ticket and take the ride when this anarchist tent revival comes into town. It'll take you where you want to be.