Billy Corben

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Billy Corben
Billy Corben at 2017 MIFF (cropped).jpg
William Cohen


William Cohen (born 1978), better known by the stage name Billy Corben, 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, Dawg Fight, and ESPN's 30 for 30 The U and The U Part 2.

Early life[edit]

Corben was born in Fort Myers, Florida to a Jewish family, and was raised in South Florida. As a child actor, he spent a large portion of his early days in Los Angeles, California. He attended New World School of the Arts High School[1] and graduated with honors from the University of Miami, where he majored in political science, screenwriting, and theater.



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.

Has declared on The Weiner Sheikh Show (episode 49) that Corben would be available and onboard for a Dear John reboot. Corben would like his character, Matthew, to be "Dear John'd" and seek out a support group like his father.

In 2019, he co-wrote Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy alongside journalist and Television writer, Aurin Squire. Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy was a world-premiere documentary theatre piece commissioned by Miami New Drama at the Colony Theatre based on Corben's Cocaine Cowboys documentaries.[6] The play used text from depositions, newspaper articles, and other found documents from the time. It ran at the Colony Theatre from March 7th - April 7th, 2019.[7]


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.

In a speech given to the Miami Media School in 2013, Corben is quoted as saying about the roles that the founders David Cypkin, Alfred Spellman, and Billy Corben play in their company Rakontur, "All of the creative decisions stop with me and all of the business decisions stop with Alfred. And Dave, he really runs our post-production."

Personal life[edit]

Corben currently resides in Miami, Florida.



  • Raw Deal: A Question of Consent (documentary) (2001)
  • Cocaine Cowboys (documentary) (2006)
  • Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin' with the Godmother (documentary) (2008)
  • The U (ESPN 30 for 30 TV series) (2009)
  • Limelight (2011)
  • Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja (documentary) (2011)
  • Broke (ESPN 30 for 30 TV series) (2012)
  • Collision Course: The Murder of Don Aronow (ESPN 30 for 30 Short) (2013)
  • The U: Part 2 (ESPN 30 for 30 TV series) (2014)
  • Dawg Fight (documentary) (2015)
  • Screwball (documentary) (2019)
  • 537 Votes (HBO documentary) (2020)




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


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


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


  1. ^ Ducassi, Daniel. "Oscar winner's Miami alma mater on the chopping block — again". Politico PRO. Retrieved 8 June 2019.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on June 7, 2011. Retrieved October 12, 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  3. ^ "A Culture Built of Guns, Drugs and Blood". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  4. ^ "Magnolia Pictures: Cocaine Cowboys". Archived from the original on 2016-05-01. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  5. ^ Stuart Levine (2009-12-16). "'The U' sets docu record at ESPN". Variety. Retrieved 2016-04-28.
  6. ^ Guerrasio, Jason. "'Cocaine Cowboys' is being made into a play after Hollywood failed for almost a decade to adapt it for TV". Business Insider. Retrieved 2020-07-27.
  7. ^ "Confessions of a Cocaine Cowboy". colonytheatre. Retrieved 2020-07-27.

External links[edit]