I just completed
principal photography on my first feature, 'Busgirl', shot
here in San Francisco this June. On most evenings of the four
weeks of the shoot, I would make time to read random excerpts
of your Mike Leigh, Pragmatism Modernism and the Movies, and
Path of the Artist series writings. This little ritual became
a kind of centering force during the storm of the film-making
process, with so many disparate demands and so much time spent
dealing with things that often seemed to have little or nothing
to do with the actual film itself.
I loved the process,
though, and know I will be making films for the rest of my
life. Although I'm not sure exactly what it is I've captured,
I'll surely send along a DVD when I've got a cut of a finished
When people ask
about my experience, I tell them I went to the Ray Carney
School of Film. My DP isn't convinced this is a reputable
institution, as I was a bit lacking early on in basic fluency
with certain blocking and framing terminology.
Still, under your
guidance I do believe I've learned something about /why/ to
make films, and hope that I've made for my first a piece with
some basic level of integrity. And now that I know the terminology
as well, I like to think I can only get better.
Though we've never
met, I consider you the finest teacher I've ever had, if for
no other reason than for pointing the way to the best film
artists that have ever been. Many, many thanks.
San Francisco, CA
Congratulations! Way to go! I'm so happy for you. And thanks
for the compliments too. "The Ray Carney School of Film"
is something I've always wanted to run. Even if it is something
many of my colleagues here at Boston U. are running the other
way to avoid! : )
as you point out, the lessons are really not mine, but the
ones taught by the great artists. Everything I say, everything
I know, was taught to me by an artist. Not by a teacher, a
critic, a professor, a book, but by a work of art. I used
to joke that I got my own education in the "Tarkovsky
Film School," the "Carl Dreyer Film School,"
the "Cassavetes Film School," the "Henry James
School of Fiction" and the "Emily Dickinson and
William Wordsworth School of Poetry." It's the artists
who are the real teachers. And above everything else, they
teach us not to imitate them but to forge onward in our own
directions, following our own instincts and intuitions, throwing
away the rule book and searching for new, fresh, personal
ways to express our own personal truths.
Good luck editing. And make another one soon! It's not the
selling and distributing that matter but the process of the
exploring and discovering that art is about. The secret of
life is to do. And to keep learning and discovering.
All best wishes,
Hello Prof. Carney,
Two quick questions
- is there a list of independent films that you recommend
that I can have or that I can find in one place on your site
( forgive me if I have missed this), and is there any dvd
collection of John Cassavetes films that you would recommend?
I have an old video tape of "Faces", (put out by
Fox Lorber; my reaction at first was very similar to yours
when you first saw the film) and there is a video of "Woman
Under The Influence" that I can rent, plus I own two
of your books on Cassavetes ( extremely enjoyable is the only
way I can describe it ). Any suggestions would be very much
George C Wilson Jr
PS - Please keep
"charting the course" you are on. Your site is refreshing
and a breath of fresh air in this stale cultural environment
we are in.
When will NPR
interview you? I have e-mailed Lenny Lopate some time ago...
have to confess I don't know who "Lenny Lopate"
is. Have heard of Philip, even know him distantly in fact,
recommended him to contribute to the Criterion box set and
put them in touch with him, but "Lenny" is not a
name I know. I doubt if NPR would have me on. They are addicted
to flash and trash. They need news "hooks" to interview
people. Intelligence is not enough. Interest in not enough.
That's what's wrong with NPR and PBS. They have the same insane
"news addiction" as the rest of our sicko culture.
(I'm interested in the "olds" not the "news."
I've devoted myself to things that will bear the test of time.
Not to what is "hot" and "flashy" in a
to recommending films, check out my "lecture for high
school students" (or a title something like that). I
list some films there. Use the search engine to find it. (Click
here to go to that lecture.)
really the whole site is a massive list of my favorites. You
can't read a page of it, especially anything in the Independent
Film Pages, and not come on five or ten titles that fall under
the heading of "Ray Carney's list of the best films you
never heard of." So go anywhere in the Independent Film
Pages and start jotting down titles. You could, of course,
also buy my packets
of material, but I realize that that is shameless self-promotion,
so I won't ask you to do that! : ) My packets are full of
Thanks for the
good words. Happy viewing. And please forgive the haste. Many,
many emails to answer.
Thanks. You don't
have to respond to this, as I understand how many e-mails
you must get-unless you want to!
I plan on eventually
purchasing all of your packets, unless they appear in future
books, at which point I will also buy those. Lenny Lopate
is actually the brother of the critic Phillip Lopate and he
heads up an interview show on the local NPR station in new
york-WNYC. I nevertheless remain hopeful that somehow one
of the stations I email for requests for guests will one day
respond. I always direct them to your website (which is probably
why they don't respond--too "radical" for them ).
Our culture indeed is sick and in need of writings/sites like
yours (the insanity of the Spielberg/Cruise craze and other
ilk, for example). I read your site because it is the only
education I can find for truthful direction about the real
purpose of Art and how to experience it-until, that is, I
can get out to Boston and take your course!
for the info, and I will seek out those titles!
George C Wilson Jr
Dear Mr. Carney,
I just wanted to
thank you for writing the book "Cassavetes on Cassavetes."
I am 21 years old and currently making a film on my own and
reading your book was incredibly inspiring, definitely the
best book on film I've ever read. I've read some of the articles
on your website detailing the problems with the Criterion
Collection situation and it's very depressing to think that
a man who worked so hard to express his personal vision has
had his work so neglected both while he was alive and after
his death (usually a time when great artists, if unappreciated
during their lifetime, finally are recognized for their genius).
I read a Playboy interview with Mr. Cassavetes on the internet
about a year ago and that's what first got me interested in
both him and his work. When I got the Criterion boxset, I
was blown away by his films and looked forward to the "Constant
Forge" documentary. Thank you for clarifying what I felt
when I watched it, that it was an insult to Mr. Cassavetes
and his work. I can only hope that someone with balls is someday
in enough of a position of power that we can all see Mr. Cassavetes
work the way it was intended. I fear that there aren't many
filmmakers among my generation who fit this description. It's
really a joke that Love Streams, Husbands, and Minnie and
Moskowitz are not available on video. After reading your book
I'm dying to see them.
I relate to the
passion, energy, fire, and overall approach to life of Mr.
Cassavetes more so than I do to any other filmmaker (or person
really) and it saddens me that I will never be able to meet
him. Your book should be mandatory reading for all film students.
I wish you luck in your continued efforts on behalf of Mr.
Cassavetes legacy. If I am ever in a position where I could
be of help, I will do whatever I can. All the best, and a
sincere thank you.
for the kind words! And I am glad the Cass on Cass
book inspires you. It was inspiring to write too! And yes,
the story of his life remains to be told in a documentary.
Kiselyak's doesn't cut it. Someone else should do it right.
All best wishes,
I've been checking
on your site pretty regularly, and I noticed on your letters
page that you felt it was like an albatross 'round your neck.
Most of the emails you get are either attacks or people looking
for favors, and I can understand how that can be discouraging.
I just wanted to take a moment and thank you for your writing
and your site: it is a constant storehouse of inspiration,
and when I am tired and weary of this life, it sends a jolt
of living through my blood. Your thoughts and feelings have
not only made me a better artist, but a better person, as
well: on my library card-- the piece of ID I use the most--
I have scribbled something you said once, that the only thing
that counts in this world is the love we send out to the people
in the fifty foot circle around us. This is a comforting thought,
and it puts life (and art) into perspective.
Thanks also for
directing me to Indie Wire; I sent my film to a couple of
the festivals listed there (fingers crossed). My wife and
I are gearing up for our next feature. Thank you for your
encouragement, your kind words, and your work. Hope things
are going more-or-less well for you, in spite of your Rowlands
trouble. Keep agitating, exploring, and truth-telling!
The material on
your website regarding the Gena Rowlands/Al Ruban backlash
is an extremely interesting follow up to your wonderfully
written book Cassavetes on Cassavetes. I will be
re-reading my copy of the book very soon. On one hand, I might
be able to empathize with Rowlands. In a way, she is trying
to be the good widow. However, she has taken this to a disgraceful
level. She has revealed herself to be an out of touch and
extremely manipulative woman.
I won't be buying
the Criterion Collection Box Set which I had planned on buying.
A few years ago when I discovered Cassavetes in college (from
a compelling article you wrote), I was lucky to find his films
at a library at the University of Florida so I've already
I'm debating whether
or not I should be getting rid of some of my DVDs produced
by Criterion. It's incredible that they could be so low-brow
when they have positioned themselves as wanting to preserve
the integrity of different works of art.
that you have done to create a following for the films of
Cassavetes, I am truly sorry that you have had to go through
this mess. Rowlands should be ashamed. If I can donate or
help in some way I would like to. I'm going to be starting
a film within the next few months from my hard earned savings,
but I'd like to help you if even in a small way. We need more
people like you to buck the system. I once read a tagline
along the lines of "A cinematic Noam Chomsky or Ralph
Nader" but I've never thought that was accurate. This
situation proves it. Those people don't take real risks. Chomsky
and Nader will always be popular among the beautiful people.
In a world where everything is so protected, you have taken
risks with your own money and your own reputation for your
Well, we may disagree about Noam Chomsky and Ralph Nader,
both of whom I regard as great American heroes (and as people
who do put their money where their mouths are), but that's
a trivial quibble. Thanks. I appreciate your kind words.
your kind offer. I always need help with my publishing and
research projects since I get little or no financial support
for them from my university. Most of them could not have been
done without an army of volunteers helping out. (The Acknowledgments
pages in the back of the Cassavetes on Cassavetes
book lists the dozens of students, former students, and lovers
of film who helped on that project.) But I'll have to put
on my thinking cap and let you know if there is anything you
could do at a distance. It's always easier when someone is
in the area.
I wish you luck on your film. And don't let the Criterion
fiasco get you down. I'm sure not letting it get to me. I'm
busy with lots of other positive projects. There is plenty
of good, creative work to be done and I'm not wasting a minute
looking backward. And the resistance or indifference of the
world is just proof that what I am doing matters. Some of
us--artists, writers, ballerinas, musicians, and other caregivers
and lovers of all sorts--have to do the work that the world
doesn't do on its own, the business that the world doesn't
appreciate, promote, or celebrate. That is why we do what
we do. So that those values will be preserved and protected.
A few of us are here on this planet to care about things that
don't make money or get press coverage. The world needs us
precisely for that reason. And the fact that those things
are not popular or covered in the press is proof of their
value. If the world already cared about the things I am doing,
if they made a profit, if they were on the cover of People
magazine, there would be no point in doing them. They would
get done on their own.
All best wishes,
Subject: more ridiculous
Did you hear that
Oliver Stone is making a movie about the collapse of the World
Trade Center? Maybe I'm being too uptight about it, but I
just think there's something reprehensible in that idea. If
I was family to any of the victims in that tragedy, I'd be
steaming. I'd be thinking to myself, "He and Paramount
are making millions of dollars off of my misfortune and grief."
In fact, I didn't lose anyone in that horrible tragedy, and
I'm still steaming. There should be a way to protest this
sort of thing. It's just like the news. They want to shove
the camera into newly widowed faces. If it bleeds it leads.
Etc. When will Hollywood and the media finally realize that
capitalizing off of tragedy is the worst way to try to tell
any kind of story, no matter how altruistic their intentions
may be or no matter how much they've fooled themselves into
thinking they care?
Thought I'd vent,
since you're one of the few sensible voices out there.
agree. But it's been done already. Look at the cashing in
on terrorist themes on TV, in shows like 24 or The
West Wing. Look at the "if it bleeds it leads"
obsession with pictures of violence and destruction on the
evening news, the playing on our fears. Heck, look at Steven
Spielberg's current War of the Worlds. Friends dragged
me to it the other night and it's a shameless, disgusting
attempt to cash in on 9/11 and post 9/11 terror about a world
out of control. Shot after shot is meant to look like New
York and the response of people to the World Trade Center
event. Stone, Spielberg, and all the rest are obscenities.
There really is no limit to the pornography of their imaginations.
They would hock their mothers' corpse if they could make a
buck off it. And they are no different from anyone else out
there. First Hollywood contributes to the causes of the 9/11
tragedy by broadcasting an obscene version of America throughout
the world--an America of bombs, explosions, and violence;
an America of sexual promiscuity and personal cruelty; an
America of laziness and indifference and decadence--in short,
a vision of America that makes people hate us. Then when the
hate is expressed in terrorist attacks, Hollywood tries to
cash in on them back here at home by pandering to Americans'
fears and uncertainties. These directors are no different
than our politicians. They are willing to sell anything, to
sell-out anything, to make a buck or get their names mentioned.
They have no principles, no values, no morality higher than
the almighty dollar. Someone once said that Hollywood would
make movies about genocide if it thought it would sell tickets.
When that was said the person saying it thought he was making
an extravagant, outrageous statement about the power of money
in filmmaking. But in the world we live in it's no longer
an exaggeration. It's simple, plain truth. Spielberg converted
that idea into cinematic cash years ago. And there is no end
in sight. And Stone has similarly been converting American
tragedies into box office dollars for decades. These men know
no shame. But, of course, they would not recognize that description
of themselves and their work. Greed and cravenness never can
never see themselves for what they really are.
If Tom Cruise had
any real principles, over the course of the past couple months,
he would not have been fighting with reporters over Dianetics, Scientology,
and L. Ron Hubbard's legacy, but condemning the immorality
of the movie he agreed to star in. But taking that kind of
stand would be asking entirely too much of Mr. Cruise.
That would take real courage and independence. That might
jeopardize his next paycheck. That's where his values and
principles clearly end.
And note a crucial
point: None of these news broadcasts, none of these TV shows,
none of these movies is an attempt at real understanding.
None of them is an exploration of why things are the way they
are. None of them is an attempt to help us become wiser or
more sensitive or more caring. They are acts of sheer exploitation,
titillation, and voyeurism. That's what makes them obscene,
pornographic, and immoral. But what else is new? Look at how
politicians get elected.
< Page 25 < 26