A year ago, today, I received in the email – along with many others – a note from filmmaker Mark Rappaport, detailing the sad story of himself and Professor Ray Carney of Boston University. I won’t repeat the story here, but refer you to the previous posts, Chained Relations, 1 through 10. Here, a year later, I unhappily report that Ray Carney still holds Mark’s materials. While he has never communicated with me – despite my emails to him – it seems clear that he is adamant on holding onto these items, come hell or high water. I had, I guess foolishly, entertained a bit of optimism that he’d come to his senses and silently, or with an apology, return it all. I asked a handful of some of his friends and supporters to talk with him about it, which they did, only to be rebuffed. So, belatedly I must join Mark in resignedly accepting that Professor Carney is apparently intent on holding these materials of Mark’s, and no appeal to reason or passion is going to change that. What Mr. Carney’s reasons are can be fathomed only, evidently, by himself.
Below is an “Open Letter” to Mr. Carney. I toss in the towel in regards to trying to persuade the man to do the right thing and return Mark’s films, tapes, papers. It is clear he is not going to do so, whatever it costs him. A matter of warped pride? I frankly have no idea. In the coming months I will do what I can, and ask others to do with me, to try to find the funding to go back to the film originals – housed in a handful of archives (Eastman House, MoMA), and see if new prints or K2 copies can be made from these. For an independent filmmaker like Mark, the cost of doing so is prohibitive and out or reach, though in the big “real” world of the film business it is actually rather marginal. So if anyone reading this knows any major figures, it would help to contact them. Meantime likely we’ll try a crowd-funding path. I’m open to any suggestions and help.
September 6, 2013
I hesitate to use this greeting as it implies a certain familiarity, a level of “friendship” which never existed in our case, though in your public persona you sometimes referred to me as your “close friend,” something which you’ve done with a number of others. I spent at most a few hours in your presence, usually occupied with others. I think perhaps I spent perhaps 20-30 minutes actually talking with just you – not, in my view, the foundation of a close friendship. And in turn this makes your other assertions of “close” friendships with others seem suspect to me. So I use the “dear” rather rhetorically, as occurs in business letters.
A year ago and some, I sent you numerous emails to inquire about what had happened after I printed, at your request, your long broadside against Boston University. You replied several times, and then, precipitously, at the end of March, your emails ceased, and I wondered about your health or worse and sent you a number of queries, to no response. And then on Sept 6th, 2012, I received Mark Rappaport’s public notice that you’d in effect seized his work, with the legal shit hitting the fan more or less exactly when you dropped, evidently willfully, off my radar. It all clicked together rather directly.
Having spun around the sun a good many times and learned a good many things for my bother, on reading Mark’s public notice, I surmised, on my own, that for Mark the result would be a few “oh, so sorry” notes, a good many silent kept-to-self sighs of people thinking what a nasty world this is, and then an ominous silence, and a week or two later it would all be forgotten, and Mark, exhausted, would toss in the towel and resign himself to an unwarranted fate. In my life I have seen such things a good handful of times, and I have, in my turn, picked up whatever was needed and done what I could to correct the obvious abuses. I did so long ago on the Board of Directors of Canyon Cinema; when the Independent Feature Project in 1979 gave birth to itself with a totally fraudulent and rigged gathering in NYC; when my own work was illegally copyrighted by my erstwhile “friend” and “producer” in 1994; and when my daughter was kidnapped by her mother in 2001. And of course I did so in 1964 when I refused to participate in America’s military. In each case trivial and empty people castigated me – people who knew little or nothing of the circumstances of these matters – for daring to speak in public. It left me what is called a “reputation” - one as a hot-head, a loose-cannon, and all the usual epithets for dissidents of all stripes. I’m used to it and not bothered. My real friends know otherwise, and I care not at all for the broad “public opinion” which seems to govern the behaviors of most people. So when I took up Mark’s cause, it was 100% on my own initiative and fully knowing that once again, there would be those who would scoff, make shallow he-said-she-said false arguments, and all the rest. He did not ask me to do it, as you’ve imagined in your public words; rather I had to ask him if it was OK for me to do so.
You should know about this kind of thing, firstly because you too trail a “reputation” – of squabbles with BU, with Gena Rowlands, with claims of “gifts” unsubstantiated, and other things. And now the matter of claiming ownership of Mark’s materials. You also have a reputation among former students as an inspiring and influential teacher. More or less like me, you have both your harsh critics and a cluster of strong supporters. And you did exactly the same with me, as I’ve seen with Mark and others: make a great statement of support, and then turn around and issue insult or worse. Here I will quote from your own record, public and private:
Written to me in an email, 12/22/11, when we were conspiring to print your erstwhile letter, purportedly innocently sent to me, regarding BU:
“Keep fighting the good fight. And thanks, Jon! You’re a mench!! (sic)”
“Stay well. Keep going. And keep telling the truth, even if (and when) people may not recognize it, or want to hear it. We have to both keep giving our gifts, even if only a few people understand or want them.”
After that you wrote two further emails requesting I hold up publishing your BU piece so it would be up as students were signing up for courses. And then, on March 27, your emails ceased, more or less at the time your situation with Mark Rappaport took a nasty turn. You did not answer numerous emails inquiring what impact the item had had, and as your silence took on a vaguely ominous quality, I wrote with questions about how you were. You never wrote or contacted me again – curious treatment of a person you’d publicly called “my good friend.”
Subsequently in your very long public piece of March 18 2013, you excoriated me in various ways – I link so readers can go check if they wish.
So while I was conspiring with you, and evidently before, I was in your eyes a heroic truth-teller, and like Mark, a major-if-little-known American filmmaker, battling those ever-present forces of evil. But when I asked for some truth from you, I instantly became a demon.
For much of the time since Mark’s circumstance was made public, I held out with some optimism that at some point you’d come around, return his materials and perhaps issue some kind of apology. It seemed the reasonable, honest, and wise thing to do. I thought you’d do it. At my request, three or four of your supporters – former students, some people in the small little non-commercial film world – talked to you about all this, but it seems you rebuffed them. And in the interim a few people pointed out to me some things which suggest that my early hunch that you are simply around the bend is all too accurate. So, sadly, I guess I join Mark in his resignation that you are simply not going to return his materials, for whatever mangled reasons you have.
In one of your notes about Mark’s film Casual Relations, you make the observation:
“We are all under somebody’s thumb–to quote the Jagger lyric Rappaport uses–if we’re not thumb-wrestling ourselves and pinning ourselves down.”
Perhaps you should glance in the mirror.
And likewise, at the conclusion of your very long March piece on BU, you end thusly:
“People are very loath to change their minds, once they have come to a conclusion, however misinformed, however mistaken. That is another lesson of these events. People cling to their simplistic understandings, their incorrect theories; they fight to defend their mistakes; they refuse to see the truth when it is pointed out to them.”
Again, as with many of the assertions you apparently make in your classes, and in your blog, one could readily nod in assent, but only if they seemed also to apply to you – things about honesty, integrity and so on. But in light of what you have done with Mark’s things, and in other instances, these things all ring hollow – a great rhetorical fog which, like our classic American tale of Elmer Gantry, seems to serve to cover up unhappy truths and overt lies. In light of your actions, your words appear to 100% pure hypocrisy.
I don’t happen to read books of the kind you write, so I don’t know if in your work on Cassavetes , or others, you quote him or others, but if you do, I imagine I would find myself taking any such with a rather large boulder of salt. Just as I take your claims of friendship with him with skepticism. [There are some in his retinue who apparently assert you were deemed a twerp and pest.] Indeed while you are very loud about your academic record I find your behavior suggests instead someone who is very insecure, who must trumpet his place in the world in case someone just doesn’t get it. Like your entire resume tacked on the end of each letter or email.
So, despite these things, and despite my pessimism that it will beget a positive response, I will, one last time, ask that you return Mark’s materials to him. It would be, even at this belated date, the best thing to do – for him and for you. If you don’t, well, I guess you’ll figure you “won,” whatever that might mean to you.
And I will in turn try to help raise the funds for Mark’s work to be transferred to 2K digital form so it can be seen and appreciated as you claim it should be.
Sincerely not your friend,
Anyone wishing to help in raising the funds required to transfer Mark Rappaport’s films to 2K, so they can be screened and streamed so that people might see them, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.