Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Catherine Cyran, Who Rose to the Occasion

The letter C stands for Corman, of course. In passing, let me salute Roger’s eldest, Catherine Corman, who has done capable behind-the-scenes work on her parents’ films, but has also forged her own career as an author and photographer. Her latest, Daylight Noir: Raymond Chandler's Imagined City, features moody black-and-white photos of the L.A. urban landscape that evoke the spirit of Chandler’s detective fiction.

But right now I’d rather remember the career of another Catherine, one whose meteoric career rise shows what can happen to someone who finds favor with Roger Corman. Circa 1990, when I was Roger’s story editor at Concorde-New Horizons, a new employee moved into the tiny office next to mine. Catherine Cyran was a pert, petite Harvard grad, whose degree as I recall was in something like political science. She was also interested in business matters, but she had absolutely no background in film. At a time of heightened production at Concorde, she had landed a job as assistant to our two distribution experts, Pam Abraham and Pamm Vlastas, mostly on the strength of her personal connection with Roger’s new staff attorney, Steve Rabiner.

Catherine liked to write, and she also liked the idea of moving forward in the film industry. In 1989, Roger’s wife Julie Corman had just optioned Hatchet, a young-adult novel that tells the uplifting story of a young boy’s fight for survival after a plane crash in the Canadian wilderness. The author, Gary Paulsen, had turned his book into a screenplay, but at the last minute (which is when things always happened in the Corman universe) it was found lacking. That’s why I ended up in a story conference with Julie and Catherine, whom I believe had been invited in at least partly because she was an experienced backpacker. We discussed a number of fixes, making good progress. That’s when I asked, “Who’s going to put our thoughts into writing?” Catherine immediately volunteered. Next thing I knew, she had a screenplay credit on the film that was now being called A Cry in the Wild. (If a movie called Hatchet were to be released by the Cormans, it would doubtless have been taken for a slasher film).

A Cry in the Wild was well received by both critics and audiences, and suddenly Catherine was a writer. Soon after, she was busily both writing and producing a Corman quickie, Slumber Party Massacre 3. Throughout the early 1990s she racked up numerous writer and producer credits. And then in 1993 came another wilderness adventure film, White Wolves (aka A Cry in the Wild II). Catherine devised the original story of a group of high school kids who face mortal danger while on a camping trip. She wrote the screenplay, and this time she got to direct the film too.

Now she’s a director for real, one who has made something of a specialty of family films. But as a writer she’s also stayed close to her Corman roots. Her most recent project, from 2012, once more has something to do with wolves. It’s called Werewolf: The Beast Among Us.  


  1. Very interesting, Miss Beverly! I enjoy your style of writing and also your experiences. It feels very inner-circlish. Your style of writing is easy to read and interesting to even those who may not know the characters of whom you speak.

    Very happy to have met you though this. :) I will be back tomorrow.

    Waiter, drink please!

  2. I'm glad to have met you too, Dana. I share (at least some of the time) your love of baseball and coffee. Normally, I range widely when writing about movies and Hollywood. But I had some special experiences in my Roger Corman years, and it's fun to record them in these posts. More good ones coming!

  3. Ah, now here's another post to make a Corman fan's heart sing! I was not familiar with Ms. Cyran - but what a great story! I'm also pleased that she wrote Universal Studios' continuation of their Wolfman remake from 2010 - I haven't watched it yet but it's on my list! Going from Roger Corman movies to a Universal Studios monster movie is a career move right up my alley - although the only other example I can think of took it the other direction - Vincent Price - going from Tower of London, The Invisible Man Returns, and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein to Corman's Poe cycle!

  4. Yes, wilves seem to be a recurring theme in Catherine's life!

  5. Wow... such an interesting way to get into writing screenplays.
    I have to admit I've never heard of these movies. I don't think they've come to my part of the world.

    Deeply Shallow

  6. What's your part of the world, Anna? Roger Corman films were originally drive-in fare, but they were extensively circulated on video starting in the mid-eighties. And there's been lots of TV viewing of them. They play all over the globe -- which isn't to say that they're classy big-screen productions worthy of awards and accolades. But many people love their rough vigor. Thanks for writing.

  7. I admired what Roger Corman could do with such low budgets. He pioneered a lot of things and introdced us to future stars like Jack Nicholson.

  8. He did indeed. We who worked for him know that his low budgets almost killed us (in more ways than one), but we also got an incomparable education. I hope you'll visit Beverly in Movieland more often. Lots more insider Roger Corman stories ahead.

  9. Holy cow, White Wolves...I LOVED that movie. Watched it over and over, just like I read Hatchet over and over. Something about teens having to survive in the wilderness just really appealed to me when I was 10-11, I guess. :-)

    I haven't thought about that movie in YEARS. Makes me smile to see it brought up again!

  10. So happy to make your day! Do visit Beverly in Movieland again -- you never know what you'll find!