Let’s face it, Florida is just a ballsy place with ballsy people. It doesn’t take much digging to air our state’s dirty little secrets, just ask native filmmaker Billy Corben. Corben, born in Fort Myers, had a taste of Hollywood as a child actor – he appeared in Ron Howard’s blockbuster “Parenthood” and more – but came back home to tell the stories no one dared to tell. Remember the 2006 international hit film “Cocaine Cowboys” about the Miami drug culture in the ’70s and ’80s? That was Corben. The film didn’t give Miami a black eye; instead it put it on the map, as well as Corben.
At the Stock Island Film Festival on June 8, Corben sat down and explained his love of Florida’s outrageous and eclectic people and he certainly didn’t exclude the Florida Keys. A good friend of local filmmaker and festival producer Quincy Perkins, Corben has great reverence for the weird and questionable history of the Keys and hinted at working with Perkins on a future Keys film project. “But I don’t want to give it lip service, I want to do it right,” said Corben.
“Florida as the canary in the coal mine. If you want to see trends in America, Florida does it first and everyone else follows. If Rick Scott could be Governor, then I knew Trump would be President.” Billy Corben, filmmaker.
Corben first made his mark as a filmmaker when he was the youngest director to premiere at Sundance Film Festival with “Raw Deal: A Question of Consent” in 2001 about the rape of an exotic dancer at a University of Florida fraternity house. He specifically keeps his production company, Rakontur Productions with partner Alfred Spellman, based in Miami. It’s all about Florida from the stories to the production.
Corben came to tell Stock Island Festival-goers about his latest project that takes a page out of famed author Carl Hiaasen’s playbook. He is finishing up the pilot for a TV series called “A Sunny Place for Shady People.” It will be a 30-minute documentary series telling smaller stories about real crime in Florida that classifies as “You can’t make this sh#t up.” Corben likens the series to a “database of Florida f*ck#ry with social media as its own genre of journalism.”
“The pilot is about a ruthless gang of drug runners and smugglers who happened to be the Bal Harbour cops,” said Corben. “You know, the place only known for its high end mall.” Steven Bauer from “Scarface” narrates the episode. He promises it to have enough off beaten humor and Floridian nonsense to do the rest of us justice.