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Fund This Film: ‘ACTION! Master Class With Nicholas Ray’

By  · Published on January 19th, 2013

Fans of our regular series highlighting filmmaking tips from great directors ought to be interested in a project that’s in the works called ACTION! Master Class With Nicholas Ray. The legend behind Rebel Without a Cause, Johnny Guitar and In a Lonely Place would have been 100 years old in 2011, and to mark the occasion The Nicholas Ray Foundation has been honoring the man’s legacy through the Nicholas Ray Centenary Project, which consists of a triptych of films focused on the final ten years of his life. The first was a digital restoration of the most complete version of his ultimately unfinished experimental work We Can’t Go Home Again. The second is a documentary companion to that called Don’t Expect Too Much, which was directed by the filmmaker’s widow, Susan Ray. Those are presently available on a disc from Oscilloscope.

Susan Ray is also at the helm of this third effort, another documentary, which deals with Nicholas Ray’s later gig as a teacher. The film will feature recordings from class lectures and private conversations along with footage from his films and his video archives. On the Kickstarter page for ACTION!, we’re told of what we will be directly learning from Ray in this “master class”:

He’ll offer you, in his own words and voice, behind-the-scenes accounts from the sets of his classic films and insights as to how and why he did what he did in the scenes you remember – at the Planetarium in Rebel, for example. He’ll share his knowledge of the crafts of filmmaking and acting – how to move with the camera; how to direct the non-actor; how to handle props; how to work with sense memory – along with his often prophetic insights on a range of subjects from the psychology of color to technology and sexuality.

Susan and her team at the Foundation are crowd-funding through Kickstarter to get ACTION! finished with $12,500 that will go towards digitizing and transcribing costs. As of this writing, they’re only $520 away from their goal with seven days left, but they hope to raise more than the initial asking amount in order to digitize the picture. Among the collectibles Susan has put forward as incentives are leather-bound scripts of Nicholas Ray’s, most of which are already sold out, and some of the filmmaker’s clothes he wore in We Can’t Go Home Again. Of course, there are the usual items like a copy of the film and autographed DVDs and such.

This is going to be a must-see documentary for any cinephile or film student, so if you’re one of these you can’t go wrong at least the $12 pledge that gets you a one-time download – though if you’re the latter you’ll probably be watching more than once, so go ahead and spend the $30 for the DVD. Check out the Kickstarter campaign trailer below for a glimpse of what you’ll be getting:

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.