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my reasoning is that Carney is a user of the internet, as shown by his once highly successful BU blog – still up but no longer active owing to his conflict with BU.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’.
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.
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.