This year during the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival 2016, filmmaker Joe Dante (Gremlins, Innerspace) was honored with the first Sierra Spirit Award, the festival’s tribute to filmmakers with an impact. Presenting the award was friend, actor Robert Picardo, who portrayed the hilarious “Cowboy” in Dante’s 1987 Innerspace, one of the most memorable performances in modern comedies.
In an exclusive sit down with Brave New Hollywood’s Henrick Vartanian, the celebrated filmmaker discussed everything from his indie films roots, and working under the legendary low-budget, exploitation filmmaker, Roger Corman to his honest feelings about today’s superhero movies.
Dante also emphasized the importance of exposure for new filmmakers, in today’s saturated market of film production, and distribution, pointing out that the place for new filmmakers to bring attention to their films and their skills are film festivals, especially the likes of Mammoth Lakes Film Festival.
Dante also talked about his desire to bring his passion project, bio-pic, (currently titled The Man with Kaleidoscope Eyes) about his mentor Roger Corman to audiences. Corman, the legendary low-budget, exploitation filmmaker, under whose mentorship filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, and James Cameron received a shot at directing, gave the same opportunity to Dante.
Dante’s feature film debut as a director came with Hollywood Boulveard (1976), a comedy, thriller he co-directed with Allan Arkush. In later films, comedy became a staple of most Dante’s films.
When Roger Corman decided to make Piranha (1978), Dante was given the opportunity to helm the film as director, from a screenplay by John Sayles. Later, Dante invited Sayles to rewrite the script for his 1981 werewolf tale The Howling (based on the novel by Gary Brandner).
During the Sierra Award presentation at the Mammoth Lakes Film festival 2016, the director’s 1987 sci-fi comedy, Innerspace was screened, followed by a Q&A reflecting on the film 29 years after its release. The film won an Academy Award, in 1988, for best Visual Effects. It’s important to note that it was the pre-CGI era where most of the effects were performed in camera.
Dante’s other famous films include The Howling (1981), Explorers (1985), The ‘Burbs (1989), Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990), Small Soldiers (1998), and more recently, Burying the Ex (2014), starring the late Anton Yelchin.
Dante’s work in television and cable include the immigration satire The Second Civil War (1997) and episodes of anthology series Masters of Horror (Homecoming and The Screwfly Solution), Amazing Stories (NBC), and CBS’s Hawaii Five-0.
About Mammoth Lakes Film Festival: a 5 day festival that screens 50 films and brings innovative and inspired filmmakers together in the beautiful Eastern Sierra. The 2016 fest took place on May 25-29, over the Memorial Day Holiday weekend, in Mammoth Lakes, California.
Watch our exclusive interview with Joe Dante.