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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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Dear Professor Carney,

I have been reading your passionate books on John Cassavetes and I am constantly bedazzled by your dedication and by the beauty of your language.

Quite apart from your subject matter, the man himself, I wish to congratulate you on your eloquence. I haven't read any other Film Literature that holds a candle to you. If you think I sound superlative, I apologize; it's just so refreshing to read such thought provoking arguments in the field of Cinema. Thank you.

I am currently studying for my PhD, the subject of which is, you guessed it, John Cassavetes, but more specifically, the professional relationship (director/actor) between himself and Gena Rowlands. In the pursuit of this I would very much like to be in contact with Gena. I understand you are a friend and I'm hoping you might at least alert her to my interest in the topic. Ultimately. I would love to fly to the US in order to meet and interview her (and maybe yourself).

Just to put you in the picture (so to speak) I am a professional actor, TV director and screenwriter with 15 years experience. Hopefully this provides some common ground.

Hoping to hear from you soon.

Warm Regards

Ian Dixon

Ray Carney replies:


Thanks for the good words.

I appreciate the value of your project, but I am sorry that I cannot be more encouraging about Gena Rowlands's involvement and assistance.

To start with, I am not at liberty to give out Ms. Rowlands's contact information. She does not want that done.

Secondly, she has shown no willingness in the past to help other researchers. As an illustration, I know of three different individuals, high-level professional authors all, who expressed interest in writing biographies of Cassavetes whom I put in touch with her. Their desire was simply to ask her a few questions. They were willing to do it in writing, on the telephone, in person, or any other way she requested. She turned all three down flat. She would not only not reply to their inquiries, she would not even acknowledge she received them. I could give you a dozen other examples, but that should make my point.

Ms. Rowlands has shown utterly NO interest whatsoever in assisting anyone, in any way, at any time since her husband's death. The interviews she has given are strictly to promote projects films, video releases, events. Nothing has been done to help researchers, biographers, scholars, students, or anyone else with a serious interest. Nothing in almost twenty years.

If it's any consolation to you, I would point out that I include myself and my own work in that generalization. She refuses to answer my own research questions. She refuses to talk about her life with Cassavetes. She refuses to clarify biographical facts, dates, events.

Of course, given the fact that I am so heavily involved in the presentation of the films, I have talked with Rowlands in person and participated in public events (including interview and question-and-answer sessions) that she participates in, but apart from these moments, even when I ask to interview her for my research, or ask her if she can clarify this or that fact, she turns me down flat. No sympathy, no advice, no help, nothing.

She has also evinced absolutely NO desire to make any of her husband's unpublished letters, screenplays, or other materials available for research to me or to anyone else.

The Hungarian edition of <i>American Dreaming</i>Of course, I count myself lucky. John gave me dozens of things before he died. He talked about his life and work, his fears, doubts, and despairs with me. He answered my questions. He was patient and helpful. He was the opposite of her. The opposite in every way. As far as providing help and assistance to others (and to me in particular), he was open, kind, giving, generous, thoughtful, caring, helpful. But she is not him. Her personality is entirely different. Her actions are totally different. If you carefully read between the lines in my Cassavetes on Cassavetes book, you will begin to see what I am getting at. But there is too much to say, to include it all - there or here.

A word to the wise: You would do well to take the preceding into account when you are inclined to wax poetic about Cassavetes' degree of artistic collaboration with Rowlands. Yes, they worked together. Yes, she starred in many of the films. But, no, they were not collaborators in the other sense. She resisted making many of the films. She often hated that he spent his money this way and tried to talk him out of it. She was out of sympathy with much that he did. She was and is a totally different person from him. Totally.

All best wishes,


Dear Ray,

Thank you enormously for your considered and lengthy response to my request.

Although I had noted that your texts were elliptical about Ms Rowlands, I am still flabbergasted and shocked at your email. Naturally, I have come to trust the authority of your voice through your works, so it is with regret that I accept the truth of what you say.

As a director of TV myself, I know all too well how charming and deceptive an actor can be, if they choose to be. What fills me with gratification is your reference to John as a thoroughly decent bloke. A man who can create such beauty on screen must surely have it in his soul. Not to mention his keen eye for the "truth" - "Truth in Cinema", incidentally, was to be the topic of my thesis, but I was advised to hone it all down and chose the Rowlands-Cassavetes relationship as the new core. Well, time to re-think again! (Not to mention some of my own post-feminist views.)

The original idea of "Truth" was to have an emphasis on Cassavetes and Mike

Leigh - so thanks for the Mike Leigh book as well. It seems ironic that in choosing the Rowlands-Cassavetes topic, I was, in part, relieved to avoid a confrontation with Leigh. A crisis of faith, perhaps?

One thing for certain, you have a true gift for expression and I hope that one day, you'll catch one of my own films, but I'm still working on that illusive feature. Let's hope the spirit of John can help!

Ray, once again, thanks for your advice and if ever you come to Australia ...yada, yada, yada...

Drop me an email now and again if you feel like it.

Ian Dixon


We, in the international film community, directors and staffs of film festivals and cinematheques, producers, artists, critics and film studies teachers, are profoundly troubled and saddened by the drastic and ill-considered actions of the Greek government in dismissing Theo Angelopoulos and Michel Demopoulos from their respective positions as President and Director of the International Thessaloniki Film Festival. Over the course of the last 13 years, Theo Angelopoulos and Michel Demopoulos have nurtured and expanded the Thessaloniki Festival from a local event to an international showcase which did attract critics and film industry people from all over the world. It became an independent space, open to the living and innovative forces of the young international cinema and acting as well as a cross-road for the film industries of all the Balkanic countries. Theo Angelopoulos' and Michel Demopoulos' dismissal is part of the very criticized reform of the national cinematographic policy launched by the current conservative authorities, wishing to increase the place of Greek cinema in the festival for promotional reasons, for instance in re-establishing the "National Selection". It is obvious that Greek cinema can only get richer through encounters and will loose if returning to a more insular state of affairs. This regretful action is a regression, not a progress, as well as an ideological change extremely dangerous for the European creators.


WARNING! In order for your signature to be registered, you have to fill up every box. If you don't have any comment, please just type any sign in the box Comment".

For any question: Sylvie Rollet, Film Studies, Universit de la Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III


Nous, responsables de festivals et de cinémathèques, producteurs et réalisateurs de films, artistes, critiques et enseignants de cinéma, avons appris avec consternation le brutal limogeage, par décision du gouvernement grec, du cinéaste Theo Angelopoulos et de Michel Demopoulos, respectivement président et directeur du Festival International du Film de Thessalonique. Depuis 13 ans, Michel Demopoulos et Theo Angelopoulos ont fait du Festival de Thessalonique un événement de haute tenue cinématographique qui a su attirer les professionnels et critiques de cinéma du monde entier. C'était un espace indépendant, très attentif aux forces vives et novatrices du jeune cinéma mondial, mais qui jouait également un rôle de plaque tournante pour les industries cinématographiques de tous les pays de la zone des Balkans. Le limogeage de Theo Angelopoulos et de Michel Demopoulos s'inscrit dans le programme très controversé de réforme de la politique cinématographique nationale, mis en œvre par le pouvoir conservateur en place, désireux de renforcer la présence du cinéma grec dans le festival à des fins essentiellement promotionnelles, en rétablissant notamment la " compétition nationale ". Or, il est bien évident que le cinéma grec ne peut que s'enrichir dans la confrontation et s'appauvrir dans un frileux repli identitaire. C'est donc bien d'un retour en arrière qu'il s'agit en même temps que d'un redressement idéologique, extrêmement inquiétant pour l'ensemble des créateurs européens.


ATTENTION! Pour que votre signature soit enregistrée, vous devez remplir tous les champs. Si vous ne souhaitez ajouter aucun commentaire dans la case prévue à cet effet, saisissez n'importe quel signe.

Pour toute question, contacter: Sylvie Rollet Maître de conférences en études cinématographiques à l'Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris III

Dear Mr. Carney,

I just want to thank you for the work you did in putting together Cassavetes on Cassavetes, and for writing American Vision: The Films of Frank Capra. I've been reading and rereading these books for the past three years as I work on my novel/Master's thesis, and the books have given me an adrenaline rush every time I pick them up.

I realize this is none of my business, but I was wondering why you decided not to write the Keaton/Chaplin book you proposed in John Cassavetes: The Adventure of Insecurity.

Regardless, I love your work, and will keep my eye out for any new books you might publish.

Thank You,

Jamie Popowich

Ray Carney replies:

I wrote it but no one published it. I have six or seven or eight like that. Just life I guess. I used to tell myself they would be published after my death but I woke up one morning and realized that if no one is interested NOW, why in the world would they be interested THEN?!!!

But not to be consumed with mourning, it doesnt really matter. I work for the work, the discovery, the fun, the puzzle-solving, the challenge not for the reading of it and God help us, not to SELL it!

Glad you enjoyed the two books. Try the Mike Leigh. You might like it too. He's a certifiable genius and they are rare. His later work (Vera Drake, Career Girls, All or Nothing) is not as good as his earlier (Bleak Moments, Abigails Party, Home Sweet Home, Meantime, Life is Sweet) but that doesn't matter. Even Shakespeare has his weak plays.

Keep going. Keep making people think. That's what matters.


Dear Professor Carney,  

I'll keep this short...

Just letting you know, I finally acted on the decision I had actually made over a year ago ever since I started working in an office: I left my job...I'm in the middle of my third film PALANGGA, that's Ilonggo (one of the many Philippine languages and my ethnic group) for The Beloved or Dear or Dearest or "Love".

The fear of what is to come, the fear of the lack of security, is still at the back of my head, but it's not controlling me. I let that fear go with my tears in the chapel...
We've just completed shooting the first scene and that's already around 12 hours of digital video. This certainly is not going to be a short work...
I never thought it would feel this lonely or frustrating. I've been trying to shield myself from a lot of what Tarkovsky calls "trivial topicality" that's just messing with my mind and distracting me from what I have to explore and show. But it's really a learning experience. I'm learning things about the people I'm working with and myself. Some not nice, some great, some surprising, many things...and then there's the never-ending struggle with my self...
I wonder if you feel like you've sometimes been made like an advice column for a lot of artists out there or a listening ear column...It's certainly been more profound and inspiring than that for many of us.

Thanks again.

Stay true,


Dear Prof Carney,

Hello. I hope you remember me from my innumerable queries to you about the research opportunities at BU vis a vie my own research interests!

I want to share the wonderful news with you that I have accepted admission offer at Tisch School of Arts, NYU. The department of cinema studies has offered me a full scholarship and a research assistantship. Im very excited about it and am already looking forward to begin with my research work.

I would like to thank you once again for your invaluable time and guidance.


Dear Prof. Ray Carney,

First of all, sorry for my bad English!

I am associated to a communication agency from So Paulo ( Brazil ). We know extracts from your articles on John Cassavetes work. Congratulations! It is a very good and serious and dedicated work.

We are great fans of John Cassavetes work and very, very interested in producing a complete exhibition of his films in Sao Paulo. This would be the first time that all of his film work would be shown to general public in Brazil .

To start this process, we would like to ask you: would it be possible that you have any information concerning the whereabouts of his films? Any information will be of great value.

We are grateful for your attention.

Best regards,


Ray Carney replies:

As you realize, the American availability (which I deal with and am knowledgeable about) is not relevant. Talk to the Buenos Aires ( Argentina ) Film Festival. They got foreign (subtitled) prints and the rights to show them two years ago. They might be helpful.

I would love to come to present the films and talk to new viewers. Let me know if I can be of service.


Dear Mr. Carney,

Thank you for your quick reply. I actually have picked up the Mike Leigh book but quickly put it down again until I can go through all his films. I swear that Leigh book is electric.

Have any of the sections you wrote on Keaton been published in magazines?

Jamie Popowich

Ray Carney replies:

No. Too busy trying to do things and help people. Forgive the haste.

Dear Professor Carney,

I am a fan of John Cassavetes and I have found that you are one of the few people out there who are intelligently and thoughtfully preserving the legacy of quite possibly the most overlooked American film maker of all time. I found the portion on "Woman Under the Influence" in your "Cassavetes on Cassavetes" book to be a fascinating window inside the creative process of one of my favorite films. I am writing this email because I am curious about something and I figure that you would be the person to ask. A friend of mine and I are seeking to make a film of our own. Since we are on a seriously low budget, we are doing plenty of research and inquiry into what technology we should use. One of the ways we are going about this is taking some of our favorite directors and finding out how much their films cost to make and what type of film they were using. We were curious on what kind of budget Cassavetes was usually operating on and what his "weapons" of choice were. I realize that this sounds like a strange request, but it would be immensely helpful in our deliberations on how to go about doing our project. Thank you in advance.

Jared Demick

Ray Carney replies:

4 AM Night Thoughts (It's late so this will be brief): Technology has changed completely since JC's day. As have budgets. As of the past few months, I'd recommend using one of the smashing new $5000 Sony or JVC HDV (high-def) cameras. Dirt cheap but still state of the art. Avid has just released an editing program for working in post with them. The output is fully commercial TV studio video quality and, after a little tweaking in post, almost as good as 35mm film. Look in any recent issue of American Cinematographer or Filmmaker magazine. They have the details. You can make a movie for the price of a used car. (A mid-2005 postscript from Ray Carney: The Canon XL2 HDV Camera is the one I would now recommend. It has exceptional video quality, great audio input capability, a 24-fps mode for transfer to film--be sure any camera you buy to make a feature has this, comes with a 20X zoom standard, and can be used with a wide range of other Canon lenses, prime and non-prime. It sells for less than $5000 as of the date I am writing this.)

A mid-2006 note from Ray Carney:

Good news! The technology keeps being improved. Here is the updated information from Canon and Sony. I print excerpts from the press releases:

Canon debuts two HD camcorders
Cannon today unveiled its XH A1 and XH G1 three-CCD HD camcorders, designed for broadcasters, cinematographers, an dproduction facilities. Building on the image quality of the XL H1 model, the XH A1 and XH G1 HD camcorders offer a Genuine Canon 20x HD zoom lens, Super Range Optical Image Stabilization, as well as 60i, 24F, and 30F frame rates. Both camcorders feature three 1/3-inch native 16:9 1440 x 1080 CCDs that capture images at 1080i resolution, and can utilize the 24 Frame rate to create the feel of movie film. Users can also send their cameras in to Canon's Factory Service Center for an optional 50i/60i upgrade to conform to PAL standards. The XH A1 model is slated for shipment in late October for an estimated price of $4,000, while the XH G1 model adds HD-SDI output with embedded audio and timecode; Genlock synchronization and Timecode In/Out is expected to ship in mid-November 2006 for $7,000.

Sony Handycam HDR-FX7 1080i  3X-16:9-CCD HDV 1080i is equipped with three-chip ClearVID CMOS Sensor technology to deliver exceptional high-def video and the ut ...most in creative control.For videographers on the move, the HDR-FX7 sports a compact body design, weighing in at about three pounds. It is approximately 40 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter than Sony's first prosumer HDV model. Like previous HDV models, the HDR-FX7 can record and playback both 1080i HDV and standard definition DV video on standard miniDV tapes. Recorded HDV video can be conveniently edited with a choice of available HDV, non-linear editing software. Its HDMI interface offers simple, one-cord connection to compatible display devices so you can just plug and play into instead of struggling with multiple cables. Price: $3500.

Dear Mr. Carney,

I'd like to thank you for bringing me so much inspiration over the past four years that I've been in college. Your work has really spoken to me, opened my mind to new ways of portraying things in movies. Every day I've striven to find a new way of creating something original, something personal and unique. Three weeks from now, I'll be graduating from a little college down in Maryland called Villa Julie and I plan to live my life as an indie filmmaker. I know it won't be an easy task, but there's no better way to remain true to oneself. The main reason was to say thanks and to bring to your attention a movie I helped create last summer, which is just about to arrive on DVD this upcoming Friday, called Thunder and Hurricane - which is kind of a quirky look at superheroes. If you're interested, you can check it out at their website: I can't wait to read your works in the future, and perhaps we'll meet up some day.

Paul Oakes

Great Professor,

What was the Chinese bookies name? Mr Cheng? If you have time to answer I'll be very grateful.

:-) Ola

Ray Carney replies:

What is an Ola? What is your name? Who or what are you? I'll give you four guesses:

1) Benny Woo
2) Harold Ling
3) The man
4) The heaviest man on the West Coast

And where the hey did you get Mr. Cheng?!!!!!! Mr. Cheng??????????



Subject: A Woman Under the Influence Script

Hello! I'm a filmmaker who loves Cassavetes, and I'm wondering if any of his scripts have been published, especially this one. I have your book, Shadows, and I thought if anyone knows, it would be you. Thanks!

Alisa R. Lomax

Ray Carney replies:


Tell me about yourself. I'm always interested. Where are you from? What films have you made? Features or shorts or what? How did you discover Cassavetes' work?

My web site has detailed answers to your question. The short answer is: Screenplays to Faces and Minnie and Moskowitz were published during John's lifetime but nothing is currently in print and available. And nothing about the film you ask for: Woman Under the Influence.

Gena Rowlands has everything but won't allow it to be published or distributed under the idea that "John only wanted the final work to be available." That was and is why she won't let me show the first version of Shadows and why she has resisted the release of the first or earlier versions of The Killing of a Chinese Bookie and Faces. She has a very primitive notion of art. Only the released films count.

I myself have much of this material since John gave me drafts and scripts before he died, but I cannot send them to anyone. Gena simply won't allow it and has no sympathy with inquiries. I have asked her to make it available for scholarly research dozens of times and she has turned me down every single time. I have also offered to contact publishers about getting it into print, but she has no interest in preserving or expanding her husband's cinematic legacy in this way.

It's part of a larger problem that I don't have time to go into here and now, but if you are interested, see the Ray Carney's discoveries section of my site for more about her attempts to prevent material from being seen or read. It's all there. Enough to make you laugh or cry -- or pull our your hair. : )

All best wishes,



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