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Ray Carney's Mailbag -- This section of the site contains letters written to Prof. Carney by students and artists, announcements of news, events, and screenings, and miscellaneous observations about life and art by Ray Carney. Letters and notices submitted by readers are in black. Prof. Carney's responses, observations, and recommendations are in blue. Note that Prof. Carney receives many more letters and announcements than he can possibly include on the site. The material on these pages has been selected as being that which will be the most interesting, inspiring, useful, or informative to site readers. Click on the first page (via the links at the top or bottom of the page) to read an explanation of this material, why it is being posted, and how this relatively small selection was made from among the tens of thousands of messages Prof. Carney has received.

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A note from Ray Carney:

Joseph Podlesnik, Adjunct Professor of Art at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, Rowan University (Glassboro, NJ) and The Art Institute of Pittsburgh (online division) sent me the following link to a question and answer forum at Cinema Electronica with Jon Jost about the work of John Cassavetes and Robert Bresson: =0entry2627

I haven't had time to more than glance at the lengthy page of postings, but I must say, with all due respect for Jost's views (and I should disclose that Jon is good friend of mine and a filmmaker whose work I highly revere) that based on my brief look, I have some problems with what he says about both filmmakers. But what else is criticism for, but to stimulate discussion and debate about important works and artists? I thank him for expressing and defending his opinions in a public forum. And, putting Cassavetes and Bresson aside, Jon makes many other interesting statements about Hollywood and American culture that are worth considering and possibly responding to.

I encourage readers on the site to respond to Jon's comments in the Cinema Electronica forum and to send their responses to me if they feel they would be of interest to my readers. I will post the most interesting ones in the Mailbag. (However please note: If you do send something to me for posting on the site, please be sure to quote the statements by Jon Jost that you are responding to so that readers will be able to follow both sides of the discussion without referring back to this url and trying to figure out what has prompted your response.)

Dear Professor Carney,

You won't remember me but I contacted you earlier this year in August to ask about help with Independent American cinema for my PhD thesis and we discussed the possibility of you coming to XXXXX film festival to show the original of Shadows. I did approach XXXXXX who is the director now and gave her your details and I was wondering (since she never told me if she got in touch) whether she had contacted you at all? Sorry to be nosey but my curiosity has gotten the better of me now.

I have started writing up my thesis now (very slowly) and am finding it very hard. Is it always painful having to put your research into a coherent format? We had a set of tutorials on Cassavetes this semester and used extracts from one of your books; i really enjoyed the experience! many thanks,

(name withheld)

P.S Are Love Streams and Minnie and Moskowitz ever going to be available on DVD here in Britain?

RC replies:

No problem about asking. Not a peep from XXXX. I've found that festival directors and programmers need to be prodded if a film isn't in "the news." They live in a world of fashion and fads. Shadows' first version is not on the pop culture radarscope of course. So why don't you remind her if you can?

Neither M and M nor LS is on track for a UK video release as far as I know. And you realize, I am sure, that other videos already out there are cut or re-edited. Eleven minutes cut from all American videos of Husbands, for example. And from the so-called "restored" UCLA print. (Partly at Rowlands' request. I tell the story in detail my Cassavetes on Cassavetes book and more briefly at several points on the web site. Click here to read a summary. And click here to hear the audio of twelve minutes that were cut at the end of the singing scene and the beginning of the men's room scene in Husbands.) And other "unknown" Cassavetes work is still being withheld or suppressed. Rowlands has made it hard to get. (I know I sound biased, but them's just the facts. Alas.) You should see the Husbands novel, for instance. Quite amazing. I have my copy but GR won't let anyone else get to it. And then there's a work JC wrote and directed and filmed that no one but me (and a very few others) know about or have seen. I'd love to show it, but I'm sure I would be denied permission. Good old Gena.

Ah, the glamorous life of a researcher. I actually love it. Put something down and don't look back. Keep marching forward into the void and dark. That's the only way.



From: Joseph Podlesnik
Subject: JC Faces link

A note from Ray Carney:

Independent filmmaker Paul Harrill showed Dena DeCola and Karin Wandner's short, Five More Minutes, to his production students and reported back to the filmmakers about the response. I thought his report about how he teaches film and about the response of his class to the screening was so interesting that I am including excerpts from his letter here. There are many lessons in what he says. I already knew that Paul was a VERY thoughtful and perceptive filmmaker. I discovered, from his letter, that he is equally thoughtful and perceptive as a teacher. Of course.

Dena and Karin -

.......First, some backstory:

After I initially wrote you about using the film in class, I decided to take a different direction with the course and make it almost exclusively a documentary production course. My reasoning was that the biggest problem I encounter with student films is that they just regurgitate plots and stories that they've seen a million times. (I call it "karaoke filmmaking." Except I like karaoke.) Limiting their projects to documentaries would mean that each student would be forced to think about the world around her/him. Plus, I was asked to offer an advanced production course in the Spring, so I decided that this would be a good time to introduce fictional work.

Having said all of that, I still wanted to screen FIVE MORE MINUTES because I find it so unclassifiable. The students were offered the opportunity to make one of their three main projects a documentary/ fiction hybrid. So I showed your film as an example of that. (Had I had more time, I probably would have also screened Kiarostami's CLOSE UP as an example of this in a feature film.)

In all of this vastness, we are one of only 27,000 (according to the Verdants).  Oh, miracle of miracles.  One bright pearl. Rejoice at the good fortune. And work for change.
In all of this vastness, we are one of only 27,000 (according to the Verdants). Oh, miracle of miracles. One bright pearl. Rejoice at the good fortune. And work for change.

When I screened your film, I set it up very minimally. I wanted them to feel the surprise of that first moment when Dena breaks "character" and has to go off-screen -- the moment where the narrative becomes a documentary, at least for a little while. I did let them know that what I was about to screen was a hybrid of sorts, but I pretty much kept it to that.

(Oh, by the way: this is a SMALL [as in, 6 students] Film Production class. Before this class the students have had no formal training in movie-making before, and most hadn't been exposed to -- or chosen to expose themselves to -- anything except Hollywood and mainstream indie fare.)

After the screening was over, a couple of the six were visibly moved to the point of tears. Three of the others were also -- how should I put this ? -- pleasantly flabbergasted. They had never seen anything like this, they knew they had been touched by it, and yet its newness made them uncertain that they had seen what they'd seen. Their questions were sort of like:

STUDENT: "So, she [Dena] really broke up like that?"

ME: "I presume so. But I think you could wonder if that was staged too, albeit utterly convincingly"

STUDENT: So it was real and fictional?

ME: Yup.

(pause. brow furrows. brow unfurrows.)

STUDENT: That is so cool.

A final student said, flatly, "I would never want to watch that again." When I asked why? He responded that it was so raw, so real, that it was painful. I asked him if he had ever seen a movie that went "that far" emotionally. He hadn't, and in saying this he acknowledged that, while it wasn't his cup of tea (he's definitely interested in movies only as capital-E Entertainment) he was startled that a movie could do what yours does.

All in all, it was a very good, but not great discussion, which happens, I've found, with some of the better films. If a movie is "strange", something they've like nothing they've ever encountered, they need time to process it -- especially if they're moved AND confused by it. They're so busy thinking that it's like they can't be troubled to talk. I don't blame them, really -- I'm saying this stuff about students and how THEY respond to art as if I'm not the same way! But in a word, it was warmly received. All said they'd remember it for a long time.

Well, anyway, that's the story of the screening. I considered it a real success, and I'll be screening it again for future students..........

Best regards,


A note from Ray Carney: I asked for responses to several different letters I have recently received, which are posted on previous pages of the Mailbag. The following response came to me today about Sean Corbett's letter (on page 47 of the Mailbag).

Subject: response to Sean Corbett

Hi Ray,

This is a response to Sean Corbett's letter on Page 47 of the letters pages on your website. (Click here to read it.) I just saw it now and wanted to throw my two cents in.

At 24 and somewhat fresh out of college, I may be totally young and naive and inexperienced in the world...BUT, my advice to Sean is this:

Last January I started working full-time as a cashier at a supermarket that I was already working part-time at. I didn't even make it a week before I said, "wait, there's something very wrong here." I am not alive right now. I am doing the exact same thing over and over again, day after day, and I am not alive anymore. I am in stasis. I am dead."

Not only did I feel that being "dead" was completely uncool and un-fun, but I actually went so far as to call it a sin. Yes, a sin. I said to myself, "treating my body like this - abusing the very human spirit that God blessed me with - is evil and God is really pissed at me now." In other words (and perhaps I'm speaking figuratively here but may not be) I thought I would go to hell if I kept working at the supermarket! So I quit. Immediately. Goodbye supermarket! Kiss my friggin' ass! Ha-ha!

But there was one little problem: I was broke. And I needed money. Well, I THOUGHT I needed money.

After I quit the job, I thought about my situation long and hard. I remembered how, in the Bible, Jesus says you can't worship both God and money. I applied that bit of wisdom to my own contemporary reality and I figured I can't worship both capitalism (the system my job at the supermarket and almost all other jobs in America are a part of) and God. Because capitalism (where profits=good and losses=evil) is a system where all of one's faith is put into money. I had to choose between one or the other.

So from that point forward I said I wasn't going to work for capitalism anymore. I was just going to work for God, and, to me, working for God was simply creating art (in my case, writing screenplays, making films etc.) and reading good books, watching good movies, writing essays, playing fun sports, going out with friends, picking up chicks, falling in love - in short, LIVING.

But this wasn't as easy as it seemed (obviously). Immediately after I left the world of capitalism I assessed my finances and I determined I would only be able to go about two months before I hit "rock bottom" and be totally broke. The logical, rational and "sane" person would foresee this fact and immediately start looking for another job within the capitalist world. But I decided to be illogical, irrational and insane. I said, "Tell ya what, God! If I work for you, you better help me out, man, because if I do anything else I'm going to be working against you and, thus, sinning!"

So I worked for God and God only, and not only did I go further than the two months before hitting rock bottom, but I have actually, to this date, made it just shy of a year. How am I getting the money? Well, in very weird ways that no rational, logical, sane person could ever imagine. The problem is that it doesn't come until the very moment that I need it. And when I say NEED, I mean NEED. After I quit my job I said to myself, "Oh, man, I need money. I'm totally screwed!" But the fact of the matter was that I didn't need it. I THOUGHT I needed it.

Fear of going broke is the devil messing with you. It's what the broken system of capitalism is based on and why it still exists and is so powerful. People are always saying to themselves "I have to CAPITALIZE, CAPITALIZE, CAPITALIZE"...because they fear that if they don't, they will go broke in the near future. But the fact of the matter is that they don't need this money. They only think that they do. I would go out on a limb and say that about seventy-five percent of the money capitalism makes for people is not needed. It all just ends up being hoarded.

Anyway, for about a year now I've been taking what I now refer to as a simple "leap of faith" - putting all my trust in God and no trust whatsoever in the capitalist system that is so broke it's almost absurd. So far, I've been ok. Every time that I've gotten to a point where I literally have no money in my wallet (and in my bank account) I either stumble upon more money (in the form of an odd job or two) or I think of a creative way to get some. And the key word there is 'creative' - when you are creative you are alive and thus the process of making that money is not a sin.

The BIG TEST is whether putting all my faith in God will, at some point, allow me to live in this life as a financially independent being. In other words, if I keep taking this so-called "leap of faith" will I actually get to a point where I will make a living as a truly living (and not a spiritually dead) being? I am, after all, still living with my parents, so I can't say that taking my leap of faith has led me in this direction...yet. I do, however, believe that I will be able to leave home without surrendering my spirit to capitalism at any point. But it takes work and patience and a lot (and I mean A LOT) of trials and tribulations.

The devil is going to pull out all the stops to try and make me abandon God and join the much 'safer' world of capitalism. In fact, he already has. He's taken away my health insurance. My car. My CD collection. My DVD collection. My Video Games. My dignity. My respect. My freedom (i.e. the kind of freedom money gives you). He's made me look like an absolute bum in front of friends, family, grandparents and a couple of really hot chicks I wanted to get with one time. He's also managed to successfully convince ME that I am a bum and that I don't deserve to be alive. And then, on top of everything, he's made me into a total ASSHOLE, a dude who's oftentimes too depressed and pissed off at the misguided world that nobody wants to be around him! The list goes on and on and on.

But I think it's only a matter of time before I will win this war between good and evil and put the devil in his place. I'll let you know when I do. I'll also let you know if I don't, because I'm not sure if I will.

So that's my advice to Sean. Take the leap of faith. Work for God and make your films. He'll be a better employer than any boss you'll work under in the capitalist world. You'll get a salary to survive off of. It won't be an hourly one, or a weekly one, or a bi-weekly one. But you'll get your money. You won't starve.

Best Wishes,
Matt Burns

NOTE: Nothing I said above is guaranteed. I cannot be held liable for any starvation you or your family endures as a result of taking my advice. Thank you.


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© Text Copyright 2006 by Ray Carney. All rights reserved. May not be reprinted without written permission of the author.