Billy Corben

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William Cohen, (born 1978) more commonly known by his stage name Billy Corben,[1] is an American documentary film director. As a co-founder of the Miami-based studio, Rakontur, along with producing partner Alfred Spellman, he has created films such as Cocaine Cowboys and ESPN's 30 for 30 The U and The U Part 2.

Early life[edit]

Billy Corben was born in Fort Myers, Florida and raised in South Florida. As a child actor, he spent a large portion of his early days in Los Angeles. Corben graduated with honors from the University of Miami where he majored in political science, screenwriting, and theater. He currently resides in Miami, Florida continuing with his documentary filmmaking along with his production company Rakontur.

Career[edit]

Projects[edit]

His feature documentary directorial debut, Raw Deal: A Question of Consent, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2001, making him one of the youngest directors in Sundance history. Examining the alleged rape of an exotic dancer at a fraternity house at the University of Florida, the film utilized extensive clips from videotape footage of the alleged assault. Anthony Miele of Film Threat said of Raw Deal, “Billy Corben has stumbled onto one of the most controversial films of the modern day,” calling it “one of the most compelling pieces of non-fiction ever produced”.[2]

Following Raw Deal, Corben and producing partner Alfred Spellman founded rakontur, a Miami Beach-based content creation company, where they created Cocaine Cowboys. The New York Times called Cocaine Cowboys, “a hyperventilating account of the blood-drenched Miami drug culture in the 1970s and 1980s.”[3] The film tells the story of how the drug trade built Miami through firsthand accounts of some of the most successful smugglers of the era and the deadliest hitman of the cocaine wars.

After a limited theatrical release in 2006, Cocaine Cowboys became the highest-rated documentary ever on the Showtime cable network.[4] The sequel, Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustling with the Godmother, was released in 2008.

The U, a feature documentary about the championship history of the University of Miami football program, produced by rakontur for ESPN's 30 for 30 series, became the highest-rated documentary in the network's 30 year history, when it debuted on December 12, 2009, following the Heisman Trophy presentation.[5]

In March 2011, Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja, examining the free-wheeling pot smuggling era of South Florida in the 1970s, premiered at the South By Southwest Film Festival. In April 2011, Limelight (2011 documentary), about the rise and fall of Peter Gatien, New York City's biggest nightclub owner, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival, and premiered in NYC in September 2011.

In 2012, Corben produced Dawg Fight, a brutal exposé on underground backyard MMA fighting in one of Miami's toughest neighborhoods; Cocaine Cowboys: Los Muchachos, about the sensational Miami-based federal trials of Sal Magluta and Willy Falcone, the most successful Cuban drug traffickers in history; and Broke, a feature documentary project for ESPN examining the explosion of big money in sports and the epidemic of professional athletes who have gone broke.

Other[edit]

Corben oversees the soundtracks for all of Rakontur's productions, assembling the ideal artists for each project and working hands-on throughout the music production process. For Cocaine Cowboys, Grammy-winner Jan Hammer (Miami Vice) composed and performed the original score; hip-hop artist Luther Campbell performed the opening titles song for The U; Miami music fixture DJ Le Spam wrote his first ever film score for Square Grouper; on Limelight (2011 documentary), Corben consulted with Grammy-winning electronic music pioneer Moby, while the original score was written by Fast of the Fun Lovin' Criminals. In addition, Corben has contributed his own original songs to the soundtracks of Raw Deal: A Question of Consent, The U and Square Grouper.

Corben also serves as film critic on the Paul and Young Ron Show, a South Florida radio morning show, doing live segments every Friday. Corben and Rakontur are regular supporters of Miami-based Hope For Vision, a not-for-profit organization that donates money to fund scientific research to develop cures for blindness; the Borscht Film Festival, a group that supports and showcases Miami's independent filmmakers; and The 200 Club, an organization that gives financial support to the families of law enforcement officers and fire fighters who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Awards and Nominations[edit]

2014 - #1 Twitter Troll in South Florida

Filmography[edit]

Director[edit]

Producer[edit]

Actor[edit]

  • Dear John (TV Series) (1988-1992)
  • Parenthood (1989)
  • Stepmonster (1993)
  • L.A. Law (TV series) (1992)
  • Shanghai 1920 (1991)
  • Archie: To Riverdale and Back Again (TV Movie) (1990)

Editor[edit]

  • The U (ESPN 30 for 30 TV series) (2009)
  • Cocaine Cowboys 2: Huslin' with the Godmother (documentary) (2008)
  • Cocaine Cowboys (documentary) (2006)
  • Raw Deal: A Question of Consent (documentary) (2001)

Composer[edit]

  • Raw Deal: A Question of Consent (documentary) (2001)

Self[edit]

  • The Scarface Phenomenon (video documentary) (2011)
  • Rome Is Burning (TV series) (2011)
  • Raw Deal: A questions of Consent (documentary) (2001)

References[edit]

External links[edit]