I've been reading about your efforts to make the alternate
versions of Shadows and Faces available
to the public. I am amazed at the problems you've had with
Rowlands, and wonder if you've considered releasing the movies
as downloadable files that are free to anyone who wants them.
I know that this would preclude any profits you might make,
but it seems like it might be a way around any and all licensing
questions. As well, it gives you the opportunity to thumb
your nose at her animosity toward you. It may be somewhat
immature, but it also gets these works out to the people who
want to see them. There might be indirect ways to make money
from this ploy such as selling advertising on the page that
is hosting the movies, and linking to Amazon pages selling
to movies. I would imagine that you would get a ton of free
advertising from news outlets that would be fascinated by
the whole story. It might even allow your story to reach a
for the good thoughts. You're not the first person to suggest
this or something similar, but what everyone seems to forget
is that Rowlands has lawyers and legal papers, threats, deadlines,
etc. out against me. In other words, I face the prospect of
going to jail, getting massively fined, getting tied up in
law suits for the rest of my life, or spending tens of thousands
of additional dollars on lawyers' fees. People who write to
me don't seem to take in the full consequences of what she
is doing (and has done). They act like it's a game of hide-and-seek
or catch-me-if-you-can. Forgive the comparison. I don't mean
to put your good ideas down. But do you see what I am saying?
This woman is not just "talking tough." Or "expressing
her opinion." It's not just a matter of getting around
Rowlands in a clever way. Making the film available on the
internet has life-changing consequences for me. Rowands is
playing financial hardball and it's not a game. She is doing
nothing less than ruining me, destroying me. It's already
happening. It's not just a war of words or opinions. It costs
thousands of dollars for me to defend myself. That's the way
the law works in this country. And there will be even more
serious and extremely expensive repercussions if I post this
film as a download. Legal, financial, economic ones. And if
you think she's bluffing or merely posturing, remember that
SHE GOT ME FIRED from the Criterion job. Fired. Money not
paid. A contract abrogated. That's not just posturing. That
had major financial and institutional repercussions for me.
(Do you have a job? I assume so. Well, imagine she had you
fired from it. That's what I'm talking about.) This is not
just a war of words or opinions. She's a millionaire and she
has her lawyer after me. She can afford to legally sue me
and/or keep me in court forever. It's not just a war of words.
And, in case you don't know the going rate, it costs a thousand
dollars an hour to defend myself. So it's not really just
about "sneaking the film out."
though it's a side issue to your letter, I might as well mention
that not one of the Michael Moore/Martin Scorsese/Sean Penn
"indie idealists" has raised his little finger to
rally around this cause. They all talk big in TV or magazine
interviews about indie film and distribution, but not one
has offered to pay my legal fees or even speak out against
this. And not one journalist as far as I can tell. Not even
to say a single word on my behalf in public. It's all about
my "bad attitude" towards her. Or my "snarky"
comments on the site. As if all that this was about was words.
That part of it has sure been an education for me......
no rivers there, Eddie. " - Cosmo Vitelli
Hello Mr. Carney.
My name is Michael
H. Smith and I am 21 years old. I live in Syracuse, New York
and work at the Library of Science and Technology at Syracuse
University. I have spent the last nine years of my life dabbling
in filmmaking from, at this point, VHS throughout high school
and digital video from after high school and on. My first
movie, made in my Sophomore year in high school, was called
"Jamesville" which was a very affectionate parody
of Robert Altman's "Nashville" and was shot in Jamesville,
NY, where I used to live. It employed the acting and improvisational
abilities of twenty-four of my friends and fellow students
in high school. From then on I gathered together a smaller
group of people with whom I made projects from high school
until now. I've been doing a great amount of writing over
the years and have finished three screenplays, " Routine",
" Zoo", and "Conversations", all of which
I have also started shooting to certain degrees of completion.
Less than twenty minutes of "Zoo" has been shot.
More than an hour and a half of footage exists for "Routine".
A few months ago
I took a gamble and shelled out one hundred dollars to purchase
the Criterion set of "Cassavetes: Five Films". It
was a gamble because I had seen not one of the films inside
and yet felt possessed to buy it and add it to my collection,
which was already considerable. The possession has not stopped.
I came down with the flu shortly after the purchase and was
bed-ridden with Cassavetes for four days. Throughout those
four days I was frustrated, confused, elated, overjoyed, saddened,
enlivened, and bewildered. I was swamped in the world of Cassavetes'
work and I came out feeling all tingly and strange. I was
surprised by the humanity of his work and that it had, indeed,
challenged and frustrated me, an already long standing student
and fan of Stanley Kubrick (who had died on my birthday, the
year of my freshman year of high school) and Robert Altman,
two filmmakers whose works I find to be tantalizingly polar
Ever since then
my project, "Routine" fell apart and all of my friends
whom I had gathered around me to shoot it had left me in the
cold and I felt, for the first time, the true pain of what
it is like to see a dream crumble in your hands. I had experienced
troubles and complications before, but with "Routine",
we were more than half-way through filming it, halfway through
editing it, and on the way to set up a premiere at a local
theater (the Palace, which had just re-opened after remodeling
and was now showing independent works from Syracuse and beyond),
when everything just fell apart. With the knowledge I had
gained from the extraordinary wealth of documentary material
on Cassavetes in the Criterion set, I felt like I had truly
identified with a filmmaker for the first time. Really identified.
At that point, "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie"
was my favorite in the set (it has since shifted to "Opening
Night" and I'm sure it will shift again and again...
"Faces" hasn't left my DVD player for a week...)
and I really felt Cassavetes in that film. I felt his affection
for Cosmo's 'art', which to others seems like sleazy trash,
boring, and not worth paying attention to. I identified with
what he had told Gazzara about the 'interferers in the dream'
and how I realized that all of my friends had become those
interferers. It was terrifying to realize it and then truly
empowering to know that John Cassavetes had put it into words
for me many decades ago, before I was born. He had felt so
alone and despairing.
After the collapse
of "Routine", and many relationships with it, I
wallowed in self-pity and a miserable frame of mind for about
a month and then, by beginning to read your book, "Cassavetes
on Cassavetes", with his words at my side and his incredible
point of view inspiring me to stop feeling so damn down on
my self, I started writing again and planning my next independent
project. This has been written to you in hopes that it is
not a waste of your time but a heartfelt thank you for all
the work you have done to bring an appreciation and understanding
of such a kaleidoscopic man and his complex work to those
who desperately want to delve deeper and deeper into the 'what'
and 'why' and 'how' of it all. It has certainly inspired and
aided me to no end. I am ready for the new challenges that
lay before me.
- Michael Hawthorne
enjoyed your books on film and your website. You impress me
as a no-bullshit kind of guy. Have you read Chris Hedges new
book, "Losing Moses On the Freeway?" A forceful
let's-cut-through-the-obfuscation kind of viewpoint that reminds
me both of your writing and that of John Cassavetes.
I've heard that parts appeared in the New York Times. That's
about the worst recommendation possible, since the Times (like
the New Yorker or Charlie Rose's TV show) is the very definition
of enbourgeoisement--the middle-brow sensibility at work--something
I cross the street to avoid. But maybe it's better than that.
Thanks for the recommendation.
hi prof. carney,
this is david chien.
i contacted you in february (?) this year. i was the usc film
student who was trying to get an article written about the
museum of tv/radio retrospective on john cassavetes. of course,
you were right - the retrospective was something of a sham
in its starstruck programming, and the usc newsletter wasn't
interested in my article anyway. so...that didn't go far.
but i did manage to catch "the killers" - which
i thought was a slight but entertaining movie. it is just
amusing to see cassavetes and lee marvin share the screen
(i admit to being a fan of "the dirty dozen" so
the glee goes without saying).
but anyway, i wanted
to contact you again with an article i wrote - something i
wrote just because i needed to...it isn't for a paper or any
publication. last night i attended a screening in l.a. of
caveh zahedi's new movie, "I AM A SEX ADDICT." it's
really amazing and i just had to write something immediately
to gather my initial thoughts on the film. i just sent the
article to aintitcool.com - hoping that they would post it.
they usually only post what people thought about the new michael
bay movie or "war of the worlds," but i'm hoping
that they will take the article seriously. they did, after
all, support movies like "ghost world" and "dogville"
- so there's a smidge of hope.
anyway, i attached
what i wrote and wanted to share my thoughts with you. LA
is far from boston, so it's moments like this that i thank
the miracle of e-mail. the key thing is that i discovered
"A LITTLE STIFF" through your writing, so it's only
fair that i send you thoughts on a new zahedi movie - something
that doesn't occur as often, sadly, as a jerry bruckheimer
PS: i finally got
around to finishing the mike leigh book you wrote. i have
to revisit "abigail's party" - that's the one that
really challenges me. i can't figure it out. it's so strange.
would you believe i got a copy of your book in the usc library?
at least their books are well-stocked. but then again, there's
like 10 copies of "Saving Private Ryan" on the shelves.
seems like a give-and-take.
love your review. And you're right that indie fans have to
support indie artists. We all ultimately get the films we
deserve! If we go to a mainstream movie and don't boo at the
end of it, we're financing and supporting junk. Just like
if we buy junk food at the supermarket. We're subsidizing
the junk food industry. We vote with our feet--and our "taste"
(in both senses of the word) in both things.
I post your review on my site? I haven't seen Caveh's film,
but I'm sure it is worth seeing. And I think your review says
a lot of good things. Thanks for sharing it with me.
thanks for replying
so quickly! it would be so great if you could post the review.
after a fairly thorough search, i could only muster up four
other reviews of Caveh's movie, and while they are all positive
- the sheer lack of word thus far is just disheartening. you
know, last night at the screening, something really appalling
occured. in the Q & A session, caveh mentioned that because
he had such a hard time deciding on how to film certain scenes
- this ended up in delays...delays which cost a lot of money
- so much, that it ended up being nearly half-a-million dollars
in budgetary expenses. for me, this made sense because any
artist worth a dime has to keep his/her work open and vulnerable
to interpretation and evolution. but some jokers in the audience
laughed out loud and pointed mockingly at mr. zahedi for revealing
this. now, certainly $500,000 is a lot of money to spend and
i myself was a bit surprised at first that the movie cost
that much. but the movie was great, and i trust that someone
like caveh zahedi needed to let this happen for the benefit
of the movie - too make it more original and unique. the fact
that the buffoons in the audience laughed upset me because
they fail to realize that hollywood spends $500,000 just to
buy gifts to woo overhyped, a-list celebs. would the same
jokers laugh if they knew that a tom cruise or a brad pitt
gets half-a-mil just in ass-kissing door prizes? at least
the money spend through caveh's film was FOR something, not
just wasted on needless flirtations.
anyway, it's a
long process as you've long predicted - but slowly and surely
i hope that people begin to tire of the same retreads. it's
somewhat hopeful that i've not spoken to a single person who
actually liked "mr. and mrs. smith" or "war
of the worlds." fewer and fewer people are buying into
the hype, now if they only just kept their wallets closed
- hollywood will begin to hear us more.
on a last note,
i just got a copy of the new dvd edition of "signal 7."
i only recently heard of rob nilsson because of that res column
by donal foreman that you recently posted. "signal 7"
is quite a movie. i still have to see it again. i rarely like
to make an opinion only upon one viewing - but i suppose in
the case of "i am a sex addict" i just wanted to
share immediately - it was as though someone told me a secret
and i had to share right away. something along those lines.
thanks again for
the kind words. hopefully caveh's movie makes it in boston
sometime soon. the programmer for last night's event, a woman
named julianna (?), was very kind. she gave me hope that there
are some programmers out there who aren't as concerned about
drawing some being pseudo-indie name like todd solondz or
don roos. they treated caveh with the respect he deserves.
it takes guts to be honest, and even more guts to base one's
entire career on it. especially in america.
have a great weekend!
problem is that most people have a screwed-up notion of what
a movie should be because they get their ideas from TV and
the newspapers. If all you read is the newspaper and all you
go to is mainstream movies, you forget how many different
ways there are of making films, how many different kinds of
films there are. Caveh makes a different kind of movie in
a different way. That's not what's wrong with what he's doing,
it's what's RIGHT about it! Art is never mass-produced. It
is always different. Films are not supposed to look like each
other or be made in the same way. Only Hollywood does that.
Beethoven sounds like Haydn or Mozart (as he does in his first
symphony and most of his second), he's not yet become Beethoven.
He's not yet an artist. He becomes one only when he breaks
the pre-existing forms in the third symphony and thereafter.
He becomes original. He becomes himself (harder than it sounds--most
of us are born clones and only with great difficulty can become
ourselves). Art is always different from all other art. It's
always individual and unique and personal. That's what the
film reviewers at the Times and the New Yorker
and on TV will never understand.
Nilsson is another artist. His work is important. I agree about Signal Seven. It's a very interesting
film. Just one more undiscovered gem in the American indie
movement. How many there are. While the world of journalism
chases after Tarantino for the ten thousandth interview.
for permission to post the review of Caveh Zahedi's I
am a Sex Addict. (Note to readers: Click
here to go to it.)
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