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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Collage by Mark Rappaport

Since posting the first installment of this sad serial, I have been in touch with a number of people – former students of Ray Carney’s, the Chairman of the BU Film/Video Dept., some other filmmakers.  I have both emailed (to his 3 addresses) and telephoned Carney, to no response.  Likewise all of those with whom I have been in touch who attempted to contact Ray obtained no response.  With one exception,  a former student who talked with Carney, and who says Carney claims that until less than a week ago he has been in effect off the grid, and was utterly unaware that the situation regarding Rappaport and himself was running like wildfire through the artsy side of the film world.   The once-student says he wishes to remain anonymous, and said Carney sounded “fine.”  Though he also said Carney said he  was sorry that Mark no longer was “a friend.”  Said student ended with saying since we – Carney, Mark, and I guess myself –  were all “brilliant minds” we’d work it all out.   If only alleged brilliant minds had such capacities.

My honest opinion is that if Carney said these things, he is blatantly lying.  I am 100% sure he is fully aware of what is going on and his elusiveness is a kind of tactic.  In part my reasoning is that Carney is a user of the internet, as shown by his once highly successful BU blog – still up but no longer active owing to his conflict with BU.  There is also a “fan’s” FB page, the provenance of which I do not know.   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ray-Carney/128365430515837.   Having been drawn into his Machiavellian mode when printing his long letter about his BU travails, I know from direct experience Carney’s inclination and willfullness to falsify information to serve his purposes.  In light of his history, and this direct experience which I have had with him, I have no reason whatsoever to believe or trust one word from him.  I will in a later posting print the entire exchange by which Carney set up using my blog to publish his obsessions regarding BU.

Below is a response from Mark to clarify things which I felt I needed to proceed in this matter.  My questions are highlighted in bold blue text.

I need a precise time-line, exact dates if you have them :

When did you make agreement with Carney to hold materials, etc.

I don’t have the exact date but sometime in late Feb or early March 2005. He either called me because he was in NY or we ran into each other in the street. I was actually surprised because I’d never met with him in NY before. I told him I was selling my loft and moving to Paris. Also, that I had a loftful of prints, video masters, scripts, early drafts of script, etc. and I wasn’t sure what to do with them—take them with me or what. He practically jumped up on the table and said, “I’ll take them!” That was it. That was all that was said. Since he had recommended me for a MacArthur Grant, called me “a national treasure,” championed my work and showed my films in his classes, semester after semester, had written effusively about me and my work I didn’t even think of having a written agreement, anymore than I would think of having a written agreement if I had stored the stuff in a friend’s basement.. The fact that he was a tenured professor at BU and that my stuff would remain at BU were contributing factors to my agreeing to have him hold my materials. I thought they would be safe there. He told me to ship everything to his office at BU on BU’s FedEx account. BTW, when he asked, just recently  (I have the email) for remuneration for his “trouble” in storing my stuff, he  asked me to pay for the shipments because, he said they were all on his personal account. He said that these FedEx accounts were proof of his ownership of the materials. He would, he said, “tear up those documents and transfer ownership back to me.”

When did you request he return materials.

I first requested materials back from him in January 2010. There was a whole laundry list of things I needed for a film festival in Spain. Since my American distributor had gone out of business, as had my international sales agent, it was very hard to get my hands on the video masters I needed. Carney had everything I needed and sent them to me. On April 10 of this year, I requested that everything else be returned because I had several simultaneous offers to stream my films and I felt it was time to place my 16mm prints in reliable archival homes. First, I emailed him. No response. A few days later, I sent another email, this time to two of his email addresses. No response. Then I started calling him at home, twice a day—in the morning and in the early evening. No responses at all. His phone has a mechanical message on it that does not indicate that it is in fact his phone but it was the correct number. I know that the messages were picked up because I had called so many times that, had they not been picked up, the answering machine would have announced that the mailbox was full. In addition to which, there were times that I called and the line was busy. Then I started calling his school phone. School was still in session. His voice mail said that in emergency, contact him at yet a third email address. Three emails addresses and two phone numbers. Despite the daily calls and the daily emails, he never got back to me.

When did you file suit.

On May 9, I hired a lawyer in Boston. On May 11, the lawyer sent a FedEx letter to Carney’s home requesting the return of my materials. On May 30, my lawyer issued a Restraining Order and a request for return of the materials. A court hearing was set for June 7. This is what happened when the legal documents were delivered to Carney’s house: He (the process server) went to the house at 8:00 p.m. and saw a car in the driveway.  He knocked on the door and Mr. Carney’s wife came to the door.  He asked if Mr. Carney was home and she said wait a minute, I’ll go get him.  Then she came back and said she was mistaken, she thought he was home.  Mr. Murray said he needed to leave the papers with her.  She said she would not take them.  He asked if she was Mrs. Carney and she said yes but she wasn’t going to accept the papers.  He said he had to give them to her.  She refused to take them so he put them on the floor inside the door.  She then picked them up and threw them on the stoop.  So, as far as Mr. Murray is concerned, Ray Carney has been served.

Neither Carney nor a lawyer showed up for the hearing on June 7. Basically, he defaulted. The judge, for some reason that I fail to understand even now, as I did then, decided to give him another chance. A second hearing was scheduled for June 26. Carney was duly informed and didn’t show up. This time the judge issued a default order. If Carney did not return all the material within 20 days (not counting weekends) he would be in contempt of court and could be hauled off to jail until he disclosed the whereabouts of the material. July 5, Carney hires a lawyer who wants the default judgment removed because Carney was out of town and unreachable before that and never received notice of the court hearings. This despite the fact that his wife was at home. If you believe that, there’s a bridge I’d like to sell you for real cheap. My lawyer assured me that once a defendant hires a lawyer, it’s exceedingly rare that a judge permits the default to stand. In other words, when a defendant hires a lawyer, the case moves forward, even though he defaulted twice. Another hearing was set for August 14. Because of Carney’s refusal to respond earlier, my lawyer’s fees keep on mounting and he gets a chance to game the Massachusetts court  system.

What date did he provide the judge his statement he’d given away, destroyed, etc. items.

August 14. Carney’s lawyer appears in court. On August 13 Carney submits a sworn document that he had given away materials and/or destroyed materials, without itemizing them, because, he claims, they were deteriorating. He also questions the validity of the detailed inventory I submitted. In addition to which his lawyer demands that I pay a bond of $100,000 because of the hardship Carney will suffer as a result of the loss of materials (i.e., my stuff). Another hearing is set for August 28. Carney’s lawyer objects because Carney is in Atlanta. The judge accuses the defendant (Carney) of not taking the case seriously and wants a complete inventory of what Carney has and what he gave away or destroyed. The hearing, the fourth one that I am paying my lawyer to prepare for, will happen on the 28th. On August 20, Carney contacts me by email and suggests we make a deal, bypassing the lawyers altogether. He sends me yet another email address. This one is the fourth one. Plus a new phone number, the third one. He says, “I sincerely wish you well and am genuinely sorry that this issue has come between us,” as if he is not the author of this mess but some outside force has intervened and come between us. I responded to his email, asking him what he wanted but in no way could I prevent the Aug 28 hearing from happening, short of all the material being delivered to my lawyer’s office before then. No response. I send three more emails on different days. On Sunday, August 26, I decide to call the number he gave me. The machine answers that the phone has been shut off. On Aug 27, I receive an email from him. This is part of the email. “I’ve only had intermittent access to email since my return (Vermont might as well be a different planet in terms of email access!), and didn’t realize your emails were awaiting a reply. I swear to you I haven’t had a spare minute because of the court order…. Well, apologies again. Sorry. And that’s why the Vermont number I gave you has no one to answer it right now. I am 350 miles away from my house in Vermont and back in Massachusetts as of last week when I learned of the order for the first time. But, let me reaffirm: I do remain interested in a settlement, but this court order doesn’t leave me any wiggle-room about sending the material anywhere other than where the judge has stipulated. So my hands are tied on shipping the stuff right now. But, yes, I do want to help you if I can, and work out something with you.” Four email addresses and three phone numbers later, this professor at the College of Communications (sic) was virtually unreachable.

What date did he provide the inventory which showed all items listed and indicated prior perjury?

On August 27, Carney submits a sworn statement itemizing everything that he has in his possession. Absolutely everything I asked for and had itemized on my inventory was there. In other words, Carney had perjured himself on his August 13 sworn statement. Apparently, I wasn’t just making up items on the inventory just to harass him. Furthermore, he states that all the materials I “gifted” him are in excellent condition. Frankly, I don’t know how he can examine or even profess to examine materials on video formats for machines that he does not have access to. But we’ll leave that question for another day. On August 28, we have the hearing. Carney has deposited all my materials with his lawyer. My lawyer demands an expedited trial, meaning that the trial must happen sooner rather than later, in front of a judge, rather than a jury. A date is set for early December 2012, instead of 2014, when the trial was originally scheduled for.

What date did you withdraw suit owing to inability financially to carry it through?

After Aug 13, when Carney said that he had given away or destroyed unspecified amounts of my material, I decided I had to emotionally divorce myself from all these goings on or else risk being in a tailspin about it for a very long time. I had no intention of going forward with a trial just to find out what Carney did or did not give away or willfully and willingly destroyed. My lawyer assured me that going forward with the trial would cost at least $25,000, possibly more. I subsequently called up various labs in New York to find out about prices for transferring 16mm negatives to digital videos. It turned out to be a lot cheaper than I thought and less than a trial. Even though I was prepared to go all out until Aug 28, I had made a firm decision. I was not going ahead with the trial. Furthermore, my lawyer told me that by Sept 4, I had to submit a written detailed time line, including proof that I had made the films that I made (!), in order to proceed. He also said that once I submitted to the process, it would be very difficult to withdraw. Since Sept 3 was Labor Day, I had firmly resolved, if Carney didn’t settle, to have the case dismissed on Friday, August 31.

What date did he demand $27,000? (I presume a large chunk of this is to pay his lawyer costs!)

After the hearing on Aug 28, Carney’s lawyer suggests to my lawyer that I pay $27,000 to Carney, which “Carney says will cover some of his costs and compensate him for holding the property safely for 7 years.” Carney had also said that he had spent 40 to 50 hours (sic) making up the inventory, which I assume he wanted compensation for as well. My lawyer said that Carney’s lawyer was, at that point due $8,000 in legal fees. I can only assume there would be a further split on the remaining $19,000. My lawyer offered $4,000. Carney came down to $19,000. I told my lawyer that there had to be a deadline on this since I was all too well acquainted with Carney’s habit of kicking the can down the road and making a relatively simple process into an incredibly complicated one. Carney would have to settle by Thurs August 30, 5 p.m. Boston time because Friday I was filing a dismissal of the suit. My lawyer offered him $7,000. We never heard from Carney. The dismissal was going forward. My lawyer also told me that one of the reasons, he, Carney, didn’t want to return my materials to me in the first place, as he had done in January 2010, was “because he, Carney, didn’t want to be at my beck and call.” Probably the same reason he refused to lend a 16mm print to a retrospective I had in New York in March 2011. They had to show a DVD of the film instead.

What date did Carney demand “return” of items he’d sent?

On Aug 31, the morning of which I filed for dismissal, when Carney’s lawyer was not yet aware of the dismissal, Carney’s lawyer wanted back the materials that Carney had returned to me, as a “courtesy” in 2010, and that they be held in safekeeping in my lawyer’s office until the results of the trial. Winner take all. I think that last salvo is more than just an example of ornery meanness. We’re dealing with someone who is very spiteful, vicious, and toxic.

Now that the temporary restraining order has been lifted, Carney is free to do whatever he likes with the films, even though he doesn’t have the rights to them. However, anyone who can swear that he gave away or destroyed film materials is capable, in my opinion, of making good on his oath.

I don’t think I can sue him again in Massachusetts for the same offense. Double jeopardy or somethin’.

Collage by Mark Rappaport

In reading this the first thing which jumps out is that Mark has no written agreement with Carney.  In legal terms this is near-fatal, especially since the “law” usually regards possession as more than half he game.  So in a sense it devolves into whose story is more credible – that Mark, moving to Paris, would literally give his life’s work to an admiring academic, who had lavished hyperbolic praise on him, and walk away empty-handed?  Or that this academic would willfully interpret an agreement to store, as a favor, Mark’s materials, and then turn around and claim he’d been given everything to do with as he wished?  As he’d done in a previous instance, with Cassavetes.  The difference is that Cassavetes is dead and cannot speak for himself; Mark Rappaport is very much alive and has made his case clear.  Carney is in hiding.

Legally, Mark has been – a frequently used tactic in the American legal system – squeezed out of the capacity to defend his rights to his own work.  While there may be some room for further legal actions against Carney it would require a lawyer taking on the matter pro bono.  Plain and simple, Mark can not afford to throw money at lawyers anymore.  [If there is a lawyer out there willing to take this one, contact me.]  Thus, owing to Ray Carney’s actions, for which he is 100% responsible, the matter is thrown into the public arena.

Carney previously trailed a very contested reputation, and has a record of questionable behaviors and legal squabbles.   In the actions he has taken with Mark Rappaport’s work, he has confirmed the worst-case views of himself.

Once again, I call on Ray Carney to promptly return to Mark all of his materials, and to issue an apology for putting Mark through this.  There is no reasonable excuse for Carney’s actions, though it is obvious there are some “explanations” which are likely better left in the hands of psychologists and psychiatrists to fathom.

In his writings on the BU blog and elsewhere Mr Carney is a very loud user of words like “truth”  and “honesty” – it’s time he ceased being so rhetorical about it and practiced it himself, regarding himself.

Collage by Mark Rappaport

If Ray Carney does not promptly arrange to return Mark Rappaport’s materials to him, in following posts I will print Carney’s correspondence with me, and, in collaboration with other other parties will seek out assistance to assure that the costs of Carney’s behavior far exceed any imaginable gain for him.  We will also seek to restore access for Mark to his own work by trying to raise the funds to make K2 transfers of his work.  Your help and assistance, in any way, will be appreciated.

UPDATE: This morning, Sept 21, 2012, I received an email from an admirer of Ray Carney, who expressed great sadness at this unhappy saga.  They ask to remain anonymous but passed along the information that by email they’d been in touch with Carney in the first half of July, and then later on towards the end of August, when he indicated he was in Boston.  This clearly undermines the story that he’s holed up somewhere, off the grid, out of email contact.  Which sadly fits with the rest of this tale.  Carney’s evident furtiveness, telling false things to some who’ve contacted him, and so on, all betrays a very bad conscience.

Photo-montage by Mark Rappaport

This week, along with many others, I received a notice from Mark Rappaport detailing circumstances involving elements of his work – specifically DigiBeta tapes of his work, along with papers and such items, which he’d left with Ray Carney, Boston University Professor, Cassavetes expert, and enthusiastic promoter of so-called “independent film.”   I’ve known Mark since the 70’s, and also have known Carney for some time.  Here’s the notice:

CARNEY INTERNET LETTER 2ND VERSION

AN OPEN LETTER FROM MARK RAPPAPORT TO THE INTERNATIONAL FILM COMMUNITY
September 2012

To all filmmakers, film critics, film archivists, film academics, curators, festival directors, and film enthusiasts everywhere—
I am writing to you because something very unforeseen, very unexpected, and most unpleasant recently happened in my life,
When I moved to Paris seven years ago, I had to decide whether or not to take with me copies of my films, video masters, early drafts of scripts, duplicates of reviews and announcements, etc. When I mentioned this to Ray Carney, tenured professor at Boston University and author of several books on John Cassavetes and who also claims he is “generally recognized to be the leading scholarly authority on American narrative art film,” he eagerly offered to hold all of my materials. I accepted his offer, with the understanding that he would return them to me upon request and that they remain at BU. Five years later, in 2010, I requested the return of some of my video masters to make copies of them for various film archives in Europe. Carney duly returned those video masters to me. They were in excellent condition.

Since that time, various companies have expressed interest in streaming my films, and UCLA, in conjunction with The Sundance Institute, have volunteered to archive video masters of Sundance alumni films. In early April, I made several requests to Carney for the return of my materials. I sent Carney several e-mails (to various e-mail addresses), and I called his home and office and left numerous messages. Carney ignored all of my attempts to reach him. As a result, I hired a lawyer and filed a lawsuit in Massachusetts, where a judge issued a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Carney. The court entered a default against Carney (who had not responded to my complaint) and ordered Carney to return the materials to me, or else be held in contempt of court. After that, Carney hired a lawyer who stated Carney intends to defend his conduct by arguing that I “gave” him the materials outright as “a gift.”

There is much at stake here for me. Without the digital video masters, my films, everything prior to 1990, Casual Relations, Local Color, The Scenic Route, Impostors, Mark Rappaport—The TV Spin-Off, Chain Letters, plus the High-Definition version of Exterior Night, cannot be made available for streaming, commercial DVDs, video-on-demand, or any electronic delivery system down the road. My life as a filmmaker, my past, and even my future reputation as a filmmaker are at stake. I gave Carney no rights to my materials except the right to hold them and return them to me on request. His lawyer has refused to disclose the current location of my materials.

Carney tried to cast doubt on the truthfulness of the inventory I presented. Furthermore, under oath, he stated “some of the items I received I no longer have because I gave them away to third parties. I discarded other items due to the degraded and unusable condition they were in when I received them. Finally, I discarded other items at later dates after they were worn-out by the normal wear and tear of being used.” This is sworn statement from Carney who, earlier, on his website bragged, “Mark is a great friend and gave me almost everything he owned when he left New York for France… So I am now the ‘Mark Rappaport Archive.’ I have the largest collection of material by him in the world: file cabinets and storage bins full of amazing things: production notebooks, film prints, rough drafts, revisions, scripts, film stock, DVDs, tapes, notes, jottings, journals, etc. etc. etc. It’s a dream come true for me and one of the major film collections by one of the world’s greatest artists. All being preserved for posterity at any cost.” http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/aboutrc/letters57.shtml (PLEASE NOTE: If this interests you, go to the website before this entry is removed.)

Elsewhere, he describes me as “a genuine national treasure.”

The judge, at a pre-trial hearing, demanded that Carney supply the court with a full inventory of what he still had, what he gave away, and what he destroyed. Carney subsequently delivered a full inventory—which included absolutely everything I gave him. None of it had been given away or destroyed. Although he clearly had perjured himself, I was ecstatic to learn my materials were intact. After four and a half months of this, Carney got in touch with me to propose a deal, saying, “I sincerely wish you well and I am sorry this issue has come between us.” “I am willing,” he writes, to “ship everything back for a modest consideration, simply to cover my costs and the time and trouble of having stored the material for the past seven-and-a-half years.” In return for my own films, I was to pay him $27,000! Some may call this extortion, I call it merely outrageous. Just to put it in perspective, that would equal 3 years of the monies I get from Social Security. To continue the suit to trial would have cost me about the same amount, in addition to the thousands I had already spent. I couldn’t afford to continue.

Just when I filed for a dismissal of the suit, Carney demanded back, because he claims they were part of “the gift” I gave him, the video masters that he returned to me in 2010—namely From the Journals of Jean Seberg, Postcards, Exterior Night, and John Garfield.

I’ve heard somewhat similar stories from other filmmakers, although none quite as breathtaking as this.
For a variety of reasons, I think this is a cautionary tale you might consider emailing to colleagues, friends, and acquaintances who are interested in the conservation and protection of works by non-mainstream filmmakers, film preservation in general, and archiving not just films but film-related artifacts of the recent past by independent filmmakers. Please feel free email this letter, post this on Facebook pages, and submit it to various blogs.

If you want to write about this situation, I have much more information.
Sincerely,
Mark Rappaport
marrap@noos.fr

Last winter, at his request, I printed on www.jonjost.wordpress.com  a long long “letter” Ray Carney had written regarding his (mis) treatment at Boston University.  At his request, colluding with him, I went along with the charade that I’d just received this letter and chose to print it on my own.  I included some comments of my own on my own little academic career and an experience I’d had at BU.  In my view his letter was far too long winded to be effective, and suggested to me a person rather obsessed.  In fact I did not read it all, nor do I imagine anyone else did.  Perhaps I should have taken more serious note of this.  After the blog was published I was in contact a few times to inquire what fall-out he’d had there from it.   There seemed little.  And then 5 months or so ago (April 4, 2012), after writing him again, I received no reply.  And likewise to a few other emails sent, one on the morning of the day I received Mark’s notice.

Since then I’ve written him 3 times, requesting a reply, and an explanation of Mark’s notice.  Again, no reply.  I take this silence as indicative that Mark’s story is true, and that Ray, for reasons presumably best explained by him, can’t respond.  Along with some others, who also know him in one way or another, I speculate that he’s slipped off the range of what we’d normally call “sane” and into another self-enclosed space where he unreachable to reason.

Ray Carney, 1995, in happier days

In the past years I have met a good many of Carney’s ex-students, all of whom found him an excellent and stimulating teacher, someone who truly touched and changed their lives.  I’ve also met others, in other areas of the artsy film/critical world,  who have suggested that he’s a troublesome person given to stirring up hornets nests and that they have themselves steered clear of him and advised me to do so.  I know aside from his tangle with BU, he’s also tangled with Gena Rowlands over Cassavetes’ film Shadows. I am not interested enough in this to have bothered to have followed it, or read anything about it, so I don’t really have any view.   In sum he’s left a trail of mixed reviews, which, in my view, is to be expected from anyone who is passionate, takes unpopular stands, and so on.  I know from personal experience since I myself trail such a reputation, whether warranted or not.

Why Ray would act in the manner described in Mark’s letter, alienating a person whom he has praised to the skies and championed, I cannot fathom.  And of course, in turn he has shredded whatever reputation and credibility he had in the independent film community – the filmmakers, critics, programmers, all of them – in taking such actions.  I cannot imagine what he could think he would gain in doing so.  So I must conclude, in a way charitably, that Ray has slipped into some mental twilight zone, and does not perceive the damage he is inflicting, and has inflicted on himself.   In some way it is explicable to me, given the stresses of his years long combat with BU, and with Rowlands.  It must take its toll, and it appears it has, and he’s tipped over into terra incognito.  My guess, even though I don’t actually think such things work, is that he’s in need of some dead serious therapy work.

Here are the letters I have written Ray in the last days:

[Sept 6, 2012; morning, before I received Mark’s letter.]

Hi Ray

Not having heard from you for a long time I wonder how you are etc.  I’ve just finished shooting 2new narrative things in Butte and am hitting the road shortly to shoot for the essay film.  One of the new ones I think will be very good, the other not so sure.  C’est la vie.

Anyway drop me a note, however short, to let me know you’re OK etc.  School started again.  More hell?

best

jon

[Sept 6, 2012, after getting the internet letter from Mark.]

Ray

Is the attached remotely true?  Or what is your version of this story?  I sort of don’t care what it is, though perhaps this entanglement explains why you haven’t answered the last 2 or 3 of my emails asking how you are.

I don’t know the whole story I suppose, but I’d suggest that you return all of Mark’s things – prints, papers, tapes – everything.  Without any conditions or argument.  If you don’t, and quickly, your credibility in the independent film/arts and academic world will be totally shot.

I’d like an answer.

I’ll be posting the letter on cinemaelectronica in 24 hours.

I hope it isn’t remotely true.

Sincerely

[Sept 7, 2012.]

Ray

Mark’s letter is out, and spreading.  I don’t wish to see you hurt or hurt yourself, but if you don’t act, and fast, your reputation is going to be in shreds.  How about an answer?

jon

[Sept. 8, 2012]

Ray

Not having heard from you my better nature would like to think it is something benign – that the email system doesn’t work, things like that.  The realist side says something else: that you don’t reply because you don’t want to, or in some way, psychologically, you can’t.

I am in touch with Mark, who advises that an attempt to intervene and get this settled is in his view useless, but I’ll give it a try.  I’d like to see him get his work back, promptly, with no further hassle.  I’d like to see it done with no further damage inflicted on you – which at this point is probably pretty considerable: it’s a very ugly story seen from Mark’s letter, and it sort of jibes with other stories that circulate around you.  If indeed you are holding his material, and its gone to lawyers, and you don’t have a hard contract from him – which the legal story suggests you do not – and you are relying on that old legal maxim “possession is 9/10ths of the law,” then you’ve painted yourself pretty deeply into your own corner.

Let Mark know you will promptly return all his material.  Unless you have a contract signed by him stating that he agreed you would charge him $4000 a year for the service of holding his materials, drop the $27,000 demand for payment; otherwise you are blackmailing.  If it makes it easier for you, I will inquire with some archives, with Mark’s consent, to see if one of them would be willing to take hold of the material, and foot the cost of shipping.  I don’t think Mark can afford it – this kind of filmmaking, as you should know, is not exactly a fount of money-making wealth.  And besides, he shouldn’t be having to foot that bill.

We artists, whom you have championed in your books and public voice, are an odd bunch.  We tend to be “sensitive” and often all too trusting.  I know I have been in my life, and severely burned for my bother.  Though I am still highly trusting, only because I prefer to live that way.  I lived in Italy some time, where the national (Roman) motto is “Fidarsi bene; non fidarsi meglio.”  “To trust is good; not to trust is better.”   They live that way, and my observation is that it makes for a collective and individual unhappiness.  Which makes sense.  As Shakespeare had it, “Et tu, Brutus?”  Who needs waiting for your best friend/supporter to slip the knife in your back?

Back in winter, when you asked me to print your BU letter on my blog, I did so.  Frankly I thought the letter was far too long and detailed, and that few would actually read it.  It suggested someone – you – obsessively wrapped up in your provincial battles, so much so that you lost that thing which artists must have to work effectively: a sense of perspective, scale, proportion.   In your battle with BU you lost that sense, and it shows in that letter.  Meantime it seems you’ve gone on to other battlefields, where you’ve done the same.

I can’t assure you in any way that it would “turn things around,” but it would be a step in that direction, and morally and ethically it is the right thing to do:  let Mark know immediately you will return his materials, and take immediate practical action to do so.   I will inquire with a few archival people I know and see if they will be willing to receive the materials on his behalf if it is OK with him.

If instead you choose to try to hold on to his work and materials, you will gain nothing from it, and you will definitely lose one friend: me.  And I will do whatever I can to see Mark’s work is returned to him.  As you’ve noted yourself, I am a tenacious soul, and when I take something on I see it through.  I did you a favor last winter.  Now you do me, and yourself, one.

Sincerely

jon

[Sept 9, 2012]

Ray

Not having heard from you, I’m not exactly sanguine about the odds on hearing from you now.  You seem to be in hiding, in denial, caught up in a web of unhappiness which appears largely of your own making.  I’m not the only person who imagines you might have slipped off the realm we customarily call sanity and into something else.

The hole you’re in now is pretty deep.  I’d suggest you cut your losses to what they already are – and at this point I’d judge they are pretty serious – and try to recoup.  You need to start by returning Mark Rappaport’s materials to him, promptly, no strings attached.  And issue a statement of apology for what you have done, whatever the cause – a misunderstanding, or a pathological shift from being an enthusiastic supporter to imagining you are owner of things which are not yours.

It’s your choice.  Silence will only confirm the worst.

I’ll be posting Mark’s letter, and my own commentary on this whole matter, tomorrow on cinemaelectronica unless I hear from you with something positive regarding this whole matter.  And failing a positive and constructive response from you, now, I will help initiate an international campaign to get you to return Mark’s work as quickly as possible.  If this ends up being required, your reputation will lie in far more tatters than it already does.

I am sorry to have to say all this.  I am far sorrier that what you have done, on your own, requires having to say it.  You can lessen the self-inflicted damage by correcting yourself now, or you can dig the hole ten times deeper by digging your heels in.

Sincerely,

jon

All of the above elicited no response from Ray.  Emails didn’t bounce back so I presume they still function.  Some other friends and former students inform they’ve also sent emails, to no response.  My personal conclusion is that Ray Carney has, in some form, had a mental breakdown and very likely is in need of serious help.  My instincts lead to compassion –  if I were in Boston and I knew where he lived I’d be at his door.  I know nothing at all of his personal life, whom his friends are or if he has any.  Or a wife or companion. I don’t know.

I do know he’s run a great blog at BU, one that engendered a large and long on-line conversation among filmmakers and interested parties, until it was closed down by BU; that he’s written many books and done research and from an academic viewpoint was highly respected.  And I know he’s had a positive and formative impact on many students.  All to the plus side.  On the other side is his reputation as a cantankerous and argumentative soul, who, in my view tends towards hyperbole and exaggeration, though that is a common matter among people who are in some way propagandists and fighting for transparently minority positions – a kind of necessary rhetorical flaw required simply to be heard above the din of capitalism’s worship of fashion and money-making “popular” tastes.  Ray’s tastes are most frequently at sharp variance to mine, as are his (as with many critics) announcements of “the best” of whatever.  I have a distaste for such listings, always wanting to interject, “have you seen everything, and if not how about amending that phrasing to ‘of what I have seen’ (which is .001 percent of what I am declaiming about), and how about changing that ‘best’ to ‘what I like’?”   Places things in perspective, which critics seem, as part of their job hazard, to often lack.

Mark Rappaport

Mark moved to Paris some years ago, and having never talked with him about it, I don’t really know why.  Though I suspect it was for similar reasons that have found me out of the USA for long periods:  in our increasingly commercialized culture, where the only thing that is allowed to “talk” is money (see the Citizens United ruling of our corrupted Supreme Court; see our national politics; see what is allowed to be reviewed in our corporate news organizations, see Jeff Koons, etc. etc.), support for arts which do not embrace the concept that the only thing worth anything is, yep, money, is, shall we, minimal.  In that good old American maxim, “Money talks and bullshit walks.”   I am 100% sure Mark is not rolling in dough from the proceeds from his work.  Nor are any of us who make work remotely in this realm of making films as “art.”  If we make anything at all it is by teaching, or doing the occasional workshop, or things like that.   Of those I know, those not teaching tend to live hand-to-mouth.    Ray Carney knows all this, which makes it all the more imponderable that he’d demand of Mark $27,000 in “storage fees” to get his work back.  Does Carney have a written agreement to such effect?  I am 100% sure the answer is no.   Nor has he any written contractual paper that Mark “gave” him his work.

What Ray Carney has done is unconscionable, and flies in the face of his long support for independent filmmakers.  It flies in the face of the teaching he has done, and, well, pretty much everything he has stood up for in the past.  So it makes one wonder.

Still, that leaves Mark holding an empty bag, and a sour taste in the mouth.  To be clear – as word out on the net hasn’t been quite so clear: what Ray Carney has of Mark’s are his papers, and DigitalBeta tapes of his films.  He does not have the originals, which are dispersed around a number of institutions, MoMA, Eastman House, the Cinematheque in Paris.  For those unfamiliar with some current film-world realities, getting new digital copies, aside from the hassles of getting the materials from institution X to a lab, would cost roughly $2,400 to make another DigiBeta copy (HD, which is what ought to happen – see this – is far more costly).  This is beyond Mark’s means, and is needless in any event: Carney has those tapes.  For current purposes the tapes have much more utility  –  for streaming or other modes of distribution, than do the prints and/or originals.  Though ideally the films should be transferred to 2K HD, though economics likely dictates against this occurring.

As unfortunately can be seen in Carney’s non-response to the letters I have sent, as well as those others have sent, he seems unapproachable by the avenue of reason and evidently to the simple matter of instinctual logic: this is Mark’s work, his livelihood, and it properly belongs to him.  Carney’s non-response makes pretty clear he has no legal or on-paper accord with Mark for holding this material, and he seems to be caught in that legalistic item I mentioned, “possession is 9/10th of the law.”  The preliminary court ruling seems to affirm this.

As Mark has noted, he couldn’t afford to pursue the legal procedures (something with which I am painfully familiar), and left dangling, he’ll be out tapes of his own work, and in a practical sense, given all the economics of the matter, minus an ability to turn his work into something that can be seen, or even make some marginal living income from it.

Hopefully Ray will come out of his self-imposed isolation and will seek whatever care and treatment he evidently needs.  Hopefully he will see the error of his ways and without further ado return Mark’s materials, and promptly.

If, however, he does not, I think public pressure needs to be applied and if things haven’t altered to make it unnecessary, I will – hopefully in conjunction with others (let me know if you can help: contact me through www.jonjost.com if you will) – commence an organized, public, social net-working process of such a kind that will make Carney’s losses far exceed whatever imagined gains he thinks he secures in keeping Mark’s work in his hands.

If you read this, Ray, please just return Mark’s full materials, a.s.a.p., and spare yourself any further damage.   If you don’t, you will find your horizons constricted in ways you cannot imagine.  I deeply regret having to write this, and I hope for a resolution that quickly restores Mark’s work to him.  And I hope you find whatever psychic reserves are needed for you to see the profound error you have made, and to promptly correct it.

Imagens de uma cidade perdida

In the last few days received a few more festival rejection notices.  Or in one case it wasn’t a note, but me looking it up:  the Taiwan Documentary Festival said no to Imagens de uma cidade perdida, though they didn’t bother to notify me.  I had to look it up on their schedule.  And today an email informed the the Montpellier “Mediterranean” festival likewise said “non.”

I now forget how many festivals said no.   One in Lisbon did.  Another in Bilboa.  Toronto.   And I forget which others.  Festivals – go figger: in competition in Yamagata, considered these days one of the best, and pink slipped by all the others so far.  Oh well, either way there isn’t a dime to be made off it, so…   And on the other hand Dennis Grunes put it in his best ever 100 films.

[Sept 6: and today another ‘nyet’, this time from Iceland: no to Dissonance and Imagens.  As usual they sent along a little letter (not evidently usual for Taiwanese folks):

Dear Jost Jon,

The Reykjavík International Film Festival would like to thank you for your submission to our 2012 edition.

We regret to inform you that your film Imagen de uma cidade perdida was not chosen for the festival programme. Due to the vast amount of submissions of high quality and merit, our decisions were exceedingly difficult to make.

Unfortunately, the exhibition limitations only allow for a small amount of films to be screened in comparison to the overall number of submissions received.

We want to congratulate you for having completed a cinematic work. Finishing a film is an extraordinary feat, one that you should take great pride in. We would like to encourage your contributions to filmmaking and we hope you will consider our festival for future submissions. We appreciate your submission and interest in the Reykjavík International Film Festival.

Thank you and best of luck for your future projects.

Italics above mine.  What twaddle.  Making a film is a job like any other.  It’s what you do.  It’s no big deal, it’s not heroic, it’s nothing to brag about or think it makes you special in any way.  If you make a film or do anything else it’s because you want to or you have to.

Hell’s Gate, near Missoula MT

The last two months have been hectic with preparing and then shooting one longish (80 mins?) and complex film, Coming to Terms, and then, on a whim, another, Dead End.  (See www.jonjostcomingtoterms.wordpress.com for a diary on these.) These wrapped up a few days ago, and I’m in the mixed process of catching my breath, slowing down, and preparing to hit the road for 3-4 weeks in Wyoming to take video and still pics of nature, human mucking around (strip mining, fracking), and to try to get into the frequency needed to draw and paint.  See how that goes.

Kate Sannella and Steve Taylor in Coming to Terms

This film was a very serious one, about, well, dying.  It involved some demanding acting, and a lot of technical stuff with green-screens, tight shots, and, said the actors, it was difficult.  I may try for Sundance with it, or if not that, then Cannes.  Wishful thinking, I know.  It has zero to do with present day art/film fashions.

Roxanne Rogers and Ryan Harper Gray in Dead End

This one was done a kind of lark, impromptu, as we finished the other a week earlier than anticipated, and since they were here, and we had the time and stuff, we rolled the dice on another.  Totally different thing.  Actors did a great job, though I am not (yet?) sure it’ll add up to a film.  Maybe with some editorial magic of some kind….

Now it’s on the road to let it all go away for a while before getting into the final editing (both were rough edited as we shot).  Autumn has arrived in Montana, with brisk nights, and for the moment very smokey skies thanks to a mess of forest fires.  Hope they soon subside.  I’ll be going to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Devil’s Tower, and many places between, shooting nature and man’s assault on it – strip mining, fracking, and all the rest.

Walkerville, MT.Butte, MT.The Berkeley Pit

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