Jay Craven

Commentator

Jay Craven is a filmmaker who teaches at Marlboro College and directs Kingdom County Productions.

Craven: Strawberry Time

Jun 30, 2017

I treat each year’s strawberry season as a special holiday. The dates change according to the weather, but it lasts longer than even Hanukkah or the 12 days of Christmas - though not much longer.

Recent demonstrations in Vermont and across the country show newly invigorated grass roots movements around issues of climate change, economic inequality, health care, and rights for women and people of color.

Chuck Berry’s passing reminds me of a summer night in 1987 when the rock n’ roll legend played a concert I produced in Lyndonville.

At the close of each year, we pause to remember people who have recently passed away. This is especially true in the arts where, for 2016, we remember, among others, actors Gene Wilder and Alan Rickman, musicians David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Merle Haggard, Sharon Jones, and Prince. The theater world lost playwright Edward Albee and Liz Suedos. Film will miss Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.

Craven: Perverse Logic

Nov 21, 2016

One of the more worrisome features of this election is that, of our last three presidents, two will have moved into the White House without having won the majority of the popular vote.

Craven: Foreign Meddling

Oct 25, 2016

Some have called this year’s alleged foreign interference in our Presidential campaign unprecedented. But while the circumstances are unique, the idea of a power play by a foreign government during election time is not new.

At the recent Burlington Book Festival, I looked over a selection of poetry for sale by Vermont writers, and a wave of sadness came over me when I spotted editions by Leland Kinsey and David Budbill.

Even beyond his twenty years as headmaster, Bernier Mayo acted tirelessly to improve his beloved alma mater. And he toiled behind the scenes to strengthen St. Johnsbury.

Bill Eddy was an explorer of places and ideas. At Williams College he studied literature, poetry, and philosophy and it was then that he developed an intense interest in how the human mind looks at nature and how that perception evolves over human lifetimes and generations.

Craven: Sundance

Feb 9, 2016

The Sundance Film Festival is really the only U.S. festival that doubles as a market. Sometimes, it sets trends. Other years, it provides an opportunity to simply note new developments, especially in distribution. For the independent filmmaker with a hot title, it’s the place where distributors stay up late, competing with each other at the bargaining table. But this year’s top bidders were not the traditional indie distributors hoping for an art house hit with the potential for Academy Award nominations and crossover to the mainstream.

Craven: War Talk

Dec 9, 2015

Like all Americans, I was shocked by the recent ISIS attacks in Paris, Beirut, Mali, and Egypt - and by mass shootings in Colorado Springs and San Bernardino. Some presidential candidates insist this is the start of World War III - and urge an all-out response.

I wrote to my students recently, to tell them about a reasonably priced film pass to the Sundance Film Festival that could save them money and the hassle of long festival lines and waiting lists. Several logged on to the Sundance site at the precise moment passes were available, only to find them sold out within seconds.

Arizona Senator John McCain made news recently when he singled out Putney’s Sandglass Theater and posted a Sandglass image and description below a “wanted” sign on his website as an example of public arts funding that should be – quote – “arrested.”

Craven: Train Travel

May 19, 2015

I like trains - and always enjoy my trips to New York on board the Vermonter. It’s not the fastest or smoothest ride but it’s relaxing to sit back, get some work done,  and look out as the rest of the world goes by.

Craven: Upbeat Oracle

Feb 23, 2015

News of David Carr’s death stunned people who believe in the importance of probing journalism in our turbulent world. Carr’s passion and precision inspired new reporters and he took great pleasure in mentoring young writers still finding their voice. One budding journalist he took under his wing was my son, Jasper.

I was stunned by the brutal killings of cartoonists and writers at the French satirical weekly, Charlie Hebdo. My heart went out to the families and the Parisians who poured into the streets holding pens to declare, “I am not afraid.” And I was glad that SONY decided to release The Interview even though I wish the film itself were a more effective satire on North Korean tyranny.

Craven: Galway Kinnell

Nov 5, 2014

Vermonters will miss poet and neighbor Galway Kinnell—for his graceful and deeply human verse and his caring way of being with friends and fresh acquaintances alike.

I knew Galway through my arts work—but I’ll always remember an experience during the frigid winter of 1991, when I worked on a screenplay at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, New Hampshire. I arrived at MacDowell, frazzled and ready for the long silences made possible at my own cabin in the snowy woods.

The colorful leaves and tidy small towns of our state remind me of why we’re here. Our communities are well-kept and people care about each other. They start-up cafes; support farmers markets; and pull together for arts organizations, libraries, and schools even in the face of curtailed public funding. Sure, we struggle – and often fall short in our commitments to relieve poverty and injustice, even close to home. But in our small state, individuals and small groups of people working together do make a difference.
 

Movie touring provides a passport into the distinctive worlds of each town – where every audience is also different. Thanks to the local library, the crowd at the Montgomery Town Hall braved a deluge to pack the house, and our friends at the Weston Playhouse, Bennington Museum and Rutland’s Paramount also wrangled big crowds – thus proving yet again that community arts partnerships are essential.

Craven: Bruce Dern

Feb 20, 2014

I was introduced to Bruce Dern through a late afternoon phone call to his home in Pasadena. I’d always liked Bruce in movies going back to They Shoot Horses Don’t They and The King of Marvin Gardens and I was deeply moved by his Oscar - nominated work in Hal Ashby’s Coming Home. Some critics dismissed him for the unstable characters he sometimes played but he always struck me as an imaginative and fearless actor willing to explore complex psychologies.
 

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