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Benjamin Caro

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I promised an update when I was able to figure out who the copyright holders were for “Cathedral,” the Raymond Carver story I’m adapting into a short film. I am a man of my word.

In the vlog above, I describe the journey it took me to get there, from hunting through the U.S. copyright archives to asking New Media Rights. In the end, all it took was a Google search, and the word “estate.” I also talk about interviewing Greg Shane from CRE Outreach, an organization devoted to empowering blind people, for the Kickstarter video. He directs all the productions at Theater By the Blind, so he’s a great advocate for the blind and a huge asset to have in our corner.

Greg Shane of CRE Outreach

Greg Shane of CRE Outreach

My Letter about why this project should be allowed

It hasn’t been all roses, though. We still have to convince Tess Gallagher, Carver’s widow and executrix, to allow this film adaptation of his story. She was hesitant at first because of the departures from the original story, but I wrote the agency a letter:

This project is so important to me. Would it be possible to chat on the phone with her? I would really love to get tell her about all the great things we’re going to do to help blind and disabled artists with this adaptation, the fact that we have partnered with CRE Outreach to raise opportunities for the blind through Carver’s work, which I think is a wonderful thing. I’d love to tell her that by adding these departures, I’m incorporating elements of Carver’s story “Fat,” enriching the story not from any bastardization but by infusing Carver’s greater universe, as Robert Altman did with Short Cuts. I want to tell her about why this film will be talked about–not only because it’s a “Cathedral” adaptation, but because of some awesome and filmically experimental sound design, and because we are taking a risk by casting a blind person rather than going the easy route. Our production team has produced both The Hammer (2010) and The Championship Rounds (2013), movies that both starred deaf actors and brought a lot of interest on the film festival circuit, and attracted big names, because of it. We’re not using Carver’s name to get our movie out. We’re using our movie to get Carver’s name out, and hopefully introducing Carver’s work to a new legion of people who otherwise wouldn’t have read him, and would perhaps pick up a book or two because of it.

Tess Gallagher (right), a distinguished author herself, and Raymond Carver.

Tess Gallagher (right), a distinguished author herself, and Raymond Carver.

Tess is a writer, and I think that if I make a writer’s appeal to her, she’ll understand why the departures are a great way to incorporate Caver’s voice into film format, as many other adaptations failed to do. As we know, Carver is especially known for using narrators with strong voices and perspectives, and by framing the Cathedral story, we get to hear that voice, that unique perspective, coming from Phil as he tells Rita about what happened, just as the narrator does with the reader. For me, it’s important that when somebody Googles “Cathedral short film adaptation“, they don’t get a smattering of half-assed college assignments, as it stands now. It’s important to me that Birdman (which seemed to poke fun at him) doesn’t come to be the biggest Carver touchstone in this decade. It’s important for me to make something enduring that does Carver justice and represents him correctly, which is why it would be great to have Tess as a collaborator. I would love to listen to her concerns and make any changes to the script that she feels uncomfortable with.

I think we all want the same thing. Ms. Gallagher wants to honor his writing. The agency wants to honor his writing and grow his audience. And I want to honor his writing and grow his audience, all through raising awareness for a great cause: benefiting blind and disabled artists.

So there it is. There’s my appeal. Hopefully that strikes a chord in her and to anybody who wants to come on board! Please like the Facebook page to keep up to date with the latest developments.

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I’m at a loss. A blockage. A road obstacle.

Before I go any further with the film adaptation of “Cathedral,” I figured it was time to make sure I was in the clear, legally, to reproduce Carver’s material.

From what I’ve seen in the copyright section my Carver books, it looks like the sole copyright holder of the story was the man himself. The problem, you can guess, is that he’s not around. I can’t call him. I can’t tweet him. He’s in a better place, bless his heart. #blessed Because of this, though, there’s no one I can talk to in order to get express permission. I can go for it and hope that nobody pops out of the woodwork to sue me, but I’d rather just say “hey!” first, buy them a coffee, and we can work on that woodwork together.

Thanks to Loren Cochran for the advice so far, but I was wondering if anybody else knows the answer: if the copyright holder is deceased, who can I talk to make a derivative work? Please get in touch! Maybe leave a comment on the Facebook page. I’ll let you know the answer once I find out.

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