Please note that additional letters to Prof. Carney, with his responses,
are available in the blog postings from November 2013 on.
Please note: Since Boston University administrators claim the right to read faculty and student emails sent through the university system (and since the Dean of the College of Communication has, in fact, read, commented on, and distributed copies of personal emails Ray Carney has written and received), Ray Carney highly recommends that anyone writing him who desires confidentiality not use the B.U. email system. He may be reached at his gmail.com account via the name: raycarney1.
|Photo of Ray Carney by Mark Backus. All rights reserved.|
I might as well add that even viewed simply from a practical basis,] their decision was beyond stupid, since the site got 50,000 hits a month, more than the main university pages did, and was the major source of students in my department, but when it comes to stupid decisions and stupid administrators, BU is full of them. They didn’t like what I wrote, and censorship is BU's all-purpose answer to anything it disagrees with.
I just found your page on the BU site [www.Cassavetes.com a.k.a. http://people.bu.edu/rcarney/] and needless to say found it fascinating. Your analysis is spot-on as far as it goes. But you neglect one factor in the formation of a filmmaker: vocation. If one is driven to be a filmmaker, whether or not one goes to film school, whether or not anyone sees one's work, makes no difference at all.
I went to a very good film school (UCLA -- whence Francis Coppola and Charles Burnett also came, so I would take issue with your statement that no good filmmaker has come out of a film school in the last 50 years). Nevertheless I could have gone to a bad film school and it still would have been hard to suppress my enthusiasm for the medium and my desire to make films. You are entirely right -- writing with pen and paper or on a keyboard is more immediate, more personal, and in many ways more rewarding, than hours spent on a film set. But film, unlike writing, is a collaborative art form. As such it is as exciting and as valid a medium as the theatre.
You're right too that Godfather is overrated by the academy, and that Star Wars and The Matrix are terrible. So what? These are the products of a corporate production line. They are not the films that you or I would want to make. Some of our students are not fooled by them, either.
Our job as academics (yes, I too have fallen) is surely to encourage those with a genuine vocation, to help those who are struggling (they are enrolled, and we are their professors), and to continue to do our own work - because that is what we do. Consider Grotowski's Towards A Poor Theatre. There is no shame in producing good art, any more than there is shame in being an auto mechanic or a plumber. [A note from Ray Carney: The writer's reference to "being an auto mechanic or a plumber" alludes to something I said in an interview I gave several years ago--an interview that is reprinted elsewhere on the site. If you would like to read it, click on the entry "Censorship, Punishment, Abuse, Threats--Being Banned in Boston," in the menu in the right-hand margin of this page, and scroll down to the interview text: "Let's Replace Film Production Programs with Majors in Auto Mechanics."]
We need all these skills!
Many thanks for your thoughtful pieces,
Very true. I say you can't make an artist (they are born), but you can make an artist better. [Just as you can make an artist worse.] So few have the particular kink in their DNA, the doom of the artistic calling; but even fewer can move ahead without having to waste time unlearning a thousand stupid, wrong, silly things their teachers and the entire culture teach them.
I am the un-teacher… unteaching the mistakes everyone else teaches. The golf pro who corrects the errors of previous coaching.
The majority of the faculty here consists of incompetents, know-nothings, fools proud of their lack of wisdom, fearful and scornful of any real truth that might sneak up behind them. [The film students are getting cheated. I've spent more than a decade fighting for their interests. They are paying a heck of a lot of money and are being defrauded. They deserve a lot better. They would storm the department office and demand their tuition dollars back if they understood the mediocrity of most of the people who are teaching them—but of course it’s in the university’s interest to keep them from finding out—so only the most perceptive of them will ever realize how much they are being taken for a financial ride.]
It's why Boston U. has, for ten years and counting, been on a campaign, more like a rampage, to force me out, to make me quit. That's the real world at work again, in one more way…..
Cheers … and forgive the mad rush, I'm typing at the speed of consciousness. No time to twirl into a full lotus today.
I received an anguished email from a respected senior film studies professor teaching in another university who despaired about the state of contemporary film study—noting how the deracinated abstractions of “film theory” have replaced the understanding of art as a uniquely powerful and irreplaceably valuable human expression; observing how “gender and cultural studies” approaches to film have created a generation of students who value works according to their ability to pass “social and political correctness” tests; commenting on how in the American university the understanding of aesthetics has been superseded since the 1980s by an almost exclusive focus on race, class, and gender politics. He told me he was extremely discouraged—all the more because of the hostility of his colleagues to his own approach and their (often openly mocking) references to him as a “critical dinosaur”—so demoralized that he was thinking of retiring and leaving the profession. Since his email names too many names and cites too many specific examples for his identity to be concealed, I cannot print it here. But, for what it is worth, an excerpt from my reply to him follows. — R.C.
[To site readers: For information about how the BU situation became so polarized, so ad hominem, and so nasty, see the following site pages (available in the right-hand menu): "Lynch Mobs--Secret and Surreptitious Meetings to Foment Students Against a Teacher," "Playing with Souls/Death Threats--Cynical Administrative Power-games," and "Letter to the University Ombuds--Events That Almost Defy Belief...." Those pages describe how the College of Communication Dean, the Chairman of the Film and Television Department, the Film Studies Program Director, and several other BU administrators or faculty members, over a period of years, participated in a systematic campaign to attack my teaching and publications, by holding a series of secret and surreptitious meetings with students that had the effect of pitting them against each other in warring camps in order to pressure them to make statements against me and my work. The willingness of these administrators and faculty members to use students as pawns in their own personal power-struggles--and knowingly to abuse their good faith and trust--is, obviously, shocking and reprehensible; but that is unfortunately the situation these authority figures were willing to create in their efforts to attack me and my work. They know no shame.]