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FIRESIDE CHAT: Cinema Purgatorio's Ray Privett Chats about Eating What You Kill

Daylight, a film by David Barker opened this Friday in New York City at the Red Room on 85 East 4th Street with Cinema Purgatorio's Ray Privett at the helm of its release. With two boys, ages 4 and 6, it seems as if I can't go to the cinema these days without having to put on a pair of 3 D glasses. So to sit with a nice cold Heineken (yes they allow beer in this theater!), without popcorn spilling all over me, was a real treat. And believe it or not, there was more gun blasting in Cars 2 than in Daylight. Fortunately, I had a chance to catch up with Ray Privett and invite him to my Fireside Chat.

Fireside Chat with Cinema Purgatorio's Ray Privett

Q: When did your love for films begin?

Ray Privett: I was born the weekend Star Wars came out. My earliest memories include seeing Star Wars at a drive-in (a few years later I guess), E.T. in a movie theater, and the U.S. vs. the U.S.S.R. in ice hockey on television in the 1980 Winter Olympics . My whole memory is completely tied into my experiences with movies, sports, and other media arts. I don't know that such connection is always love. For me it's more about identity, I guess. Q: For young readers out there, how did you jump into the film industry? Ray Privett: Well, I didn't jump into the industry, I backed into it by not following the advice of people who said I was wasting my time watching movies no one wanted to watch, and writing about movies in a way that no one wanted to read. Also, I made myself a resource to people who had big, interesting ideas but few resources. That got me a lot of work. Of course, being someone else's resource comes with a certain set of problems, too. Q: What are the challenges you face in running your own distribution and production company? Ray Privett: Everything. You eat what you kill. And you have to feed the people with whom you collaborate, too. Sometimes I feel like a hunter in the woods who has to go home and feed an extended clan, though he might go hungry himself. Q: What drives you and keeps you chugging away? Ray Privett: It's just what I do. I try to grow and teach myself new and related skills, and sometimes I succeed. Hopefully I am getting better. Q: You've worked with some really incredible and highly regarded artists. Could you tell us about one or two of your most memorable experiences? Ray Privett: Here are a few with relatively famous people. Meeting Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips in a field outside Oklahoma City, under a storming sky, and pitching him on the spot to let me work with his movie, then him nodding and shaking my hand. Meeting Lech Majewski randomly in an empty cafe overlooking a valley in the Czech Republic, and beginning a ten year friendship and collaboration. My first - and only - meeting with Youssef Chahine really blew me away. I also spent a memorable few days with Soleil Moon Frye, whom you may know as Punky Brewster. She was very sweet. But I think experiences with less well-known people witness and are affected emotionally and intellectually by a film or other artwork have really stuck with me most. In Chicago, I once showed a documentary about Mexico's Tlatelolco massacre. Beforehand, somehow I found out that a guy who worked in the same building as me had survived the massacre. I invited him to say a few words beforehand. It was the most painful and cathartic experience I have ever witnessed in a movie theatre (actually it was a gallery of Polish art, but that's another story). He almost completely lost it. I don't think he had ever talked about it in public, and barely in private, before that. Afterward, I was embarrassed at having invited him but also profoundly moved. I didn't know how to talk to him. At New York's Pioneer Theater, we showed some amazing Belarusian political documentaries and afterward all these Belarusian immigrants looked just devastated walking out. They were completely devastated but also cathartically relieved. And in a more individual vein, some plays I was in and some concerts I went to when I was young, and later the day-to-day exhilaration, exhaustion, and paradoxes of running the Pioneer Theater (2004-2008), were really important to me personally. Q: Now tell us about Daylight, your latest release. There are so many potential independent film projects out there. Why did you choose to become involved in this one? Ray Privett: David Barker is a terrific filmmaker whose work I believe in very deeply. His work, and his personality, incarnate some tensions that I find very fascinating. We showed David's first film, Afraid of Everything, soon after I started at the Pioneer in 2004. I loved it so much. I have encouraged, and perhaps annoyed, him endlessly since then to make more films and have done everything I can to help make it happen. Daylight is again a wonderful and powerful - and contradictory - work. He worked with a terrific team of technicians and performers to make it happen. I am honored that he chose to work with me again this time. Daylight is a different kind of thriller, a fascinating kidnapping story that also explores the dangers and potentials of pregnancy. It is very haunting, and I hope everyone has a chance to see it. Q: What do you think of the state of independent films given all the changes in Hollywood & technology? Ray Privett: I don't know enough to speak globally on the topic. A lot of people like to make big claims. I used to do that, too, and sometimes I still do. But in general, when possible, I now think it is best just to be quiet, efficient, and effective. Q: Any advice to any young readers who'd like to pursue a career in film? Ray Privett: Don't. It's not a good idea. But if you must, come to the field very well skilled in a professional trade or two, such as accounting, finance, law, or computer science. And study manners and interpersonal communication. Attention to such topics will make you do better film work, and have a better life in general. The last live Q&A with Director David Barker, Producer Jan van Hoy and cast members is tonight after the 8pm screening. Daylight screens at the Red Room, 85 East 4th Street (3rd Fl.), NYC until July 21, 2011. Please visit for tickets or to purchase a DVD. Tip: Visit the KGB bar on the 2nd Fl. & grab a cold drink to cool down while you watch the movie. Just don't spill it all over the person next to you. Interview with David Barker to come! -- Jeanine Jeo-Hi Kim (first published under Metropolitan Arts League's blog 7/11/2011)

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