CASSAVETES ON CASSAVETES

Author Unknown / Focus Magazine / September 2001

Prof. Carney was awakened by the telephone a few months ago. "It was past midnight and I couldn't imagine who could be calling at that hour," he said. "It was Harmony Korine. He's a complete nutcase. He said he had just read my newly published Cassavetes on Cassavetes book and couldn't go to sleep until he had told me how much he liked it. He said it was the best film book ever written, and the first that told the real truth about being an indie. It was every author's dream phone call ­ even at one in the morning!"

It's been like that for Prof. Carney ever since his two new books on Cassavetes appeared. One is the book Korine was expressing enthusiasm for; the other is a study of Cassavetes' first movie, Shadows. Both have garnered glowing reviews in more than 100 newspapers and magazines ­ including Variety, Film Comment, Filmmaker, MovieMaker, and The Times Literary Supplement ­ as well as praise from figures like Roger Ebert, Peter Falk, Ben Gazzara, and Gena Rowlands. But Prof. Carney says that the response that matters most to him is the letters, emails, and occasional late night phone calls he has received from young independent filmmakers and actors around the world. "There are too many to list all the names, but Steve Buscemi, Ethan Hawke, Caveh Zahedi, and Richard Linklater have been particularly enthusiastic ­ in a few cases writing or calling me over and over again as they read each chapter in one of the books. I presented the Independent Filmmaker award to Linklater at the Denver Film Festival and he bowled me over by reading a section from the book as his acceptance speech, telling the audience that if they really wanted to know what it was like to be an independent filmmaker they should read the book."

Prof. Carney calls Cassavetes on Cassavetes "the autobiography the filmmaker never lived to write." It is based on hundreds of hours of conversations Carney conducted with Cassavetes in the final decade of his life and tells the behind-the-scenes story of how he managed to make his films outside the system. Carney says that during Cassavetes' lifetime, his work was ignored or even jeered at by reviewers, but ­ in a repeat of what happened with Orson Welles ­ he and his films are undergoing an unprecedented rediscovery by a new generation. "Cassavetes and his work are more popular now than at any point in his career. I'm glad to have my books benefit from the media attention, but what is much more important is that Cassavetes can serve as a role-model for young filmmakers, showing them that they can pursue a vision of personal expression outside Hollywood and the studio system," Prof. Carney says. "If Cassavetes' life story can provide encouragement or inspiration to a single young artist, the years I spent transcribing taped conversations and compiling the book will have been worth it."

His web site (www.Cassavetes.com) has much more information as well as excerpts from reviews and letters young filmmakers have written him.