Space is the Place

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#1 Wed, 2011-08-24 15:14
Jim Newman 3
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Space is the Place

As the producer of the film Space is the Place, I'd like to clear the air regarding certain assumptions and misconceptions. There is no "Sun Ra edit" of the film. The film was originally edited under the supervision of Barbara Pokras at her LA studio, and the longer version released on DVD by Plexifilm is that version. They (Plexi) decided to refer to it as the "director's cut" as a marketing decision. The director John Coney had nothing to do with it, although both he and I endorsed that decision after it was made.  Plexifilm currently holds no distribution rights to the film. It is being prepared for release by another company, based in San Francisco. That will most probably be the same version as edited by Pokras and released by Plexi.

The shorter VHS version (with scenes cut with the help of Mark Gorney) was released by Bruce Ritter of Rhapsody Films. Bruce decided (apparently for financial reasons) to stopped reporting sales after a few years into his contract. I had to hire lawyers to force him to release essential materials. I have no idea what he owed us, since he didn't continue to report sales.

The VHS version was edited in part to respond to Sun Ra's continuing to express his hope that the film contain more beauty. Specific scenes (i.e. those that were cut) never were a part of any of our discussions with Sun Ra. There was also a feeling that a shorter version would conform better to potential TV distribution deals. None ever materialized. I sat in on a number of viewing sessions with Ra, all of which included the scenes that were cut from the VHS version. He and his entourage laughed throughout and seemed to be enjoying themselves. At one point I shipped several boxes of outtakes, work print material that was shot during the production. This was done to allow him to have some hands on experience with the materials and to see if he could put together something that would better express his idea of "beauty." Nothing ever came of this effort – at least nothing that I ever saw.

That's pretty much the story as I lived through it during the 70s and early 80s.

Jim Newman, Producer
SPACE IS THE PLACE

Wed, 2011-08-24 16:35
the.fugitive
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Space is the Place

Thanks Jim for your verification here of what John Szwed documents in his
book Space Is The Place, pp 331-333. For those interested, Ra appeared to
waver concerning his opinion of the film. According to Szwed, Ra "seemed to
enjoy the humor in sone of the sex scenes at first" (332), even though he
later asked for them to be removed in 1973. Yet, when granted the
oppportunity by Jim, Ra did not produce his own cut. Much later, as Szwed
writes, Ra seemed to want them back in:

"And by 1988 he [Ra] bitterly talked about putting even the objectionable
scenes back in ("I want to put earth things back in there so I deceive
people a bit. I want them to think that I'm a phony.")" (333).

So regardless of whether one likes the blaxploitation scenes or not, they do
serve a purpose in regards to Ra's vision of the film. I don't see them as
extraneous to Ra's message; they are scenes that depict everything Ra is
not. They show the evil he is fighting against. This can even be seen as a
double-parody: it is blaxploitation itself Ra is fighting, precisely by
countering blaxploitation with Afrofuturism in a film that is both yet
neither.

What I remain curious about, however, is that the DVD did not include the
restored version of what Szwed describes as "a scene in which Sun Ra saves
some white people" (332).

I am curious if this scene ever existed.

Frankly I am glad the nearly-complete 90 minute version exists on DVD. When
Szwed wrote his book, the film is described as more or less completely lost.
I'd love to see the cutting-room tapes and whatever remains of the outtakes.
Restoring this for archival and historical purposes would be worthy.

best/

tobias.

> As the producer of the film Space is the Place, I'd like to clear the air
> regarding certain assumptions and misconceptions. There is no "Sun Ra edit"
> of the film. The film was originally edited under the supervision of Barbara
> Pokras at her LA studio, and the longer version released on DVD by Plexifilm
> is that version. They (Plexi) decided to refer to it as the "director's cut"
> as a marketing decision. The director John Coney had nothing to do with it,
> although both he and I endorsed that decision after it was made. Plexifilm
> currently holds no distribution rights to the film. It is being prepared for
> release by another company, based in San Francisco. That will most probably
> be the same version as edited by Pokras and released by Plexi.
>
> The shorter VHS version (with scenes cut with the help of Mark Gorney) was
> released by Bruce Ritter of Rhapsody Films. Bruce decided (apparently for
> financial reasons) to stopped reporting sales after a few years into his
> contract. I had to hire lawyers to force him to release essential materials.
> I have no idea what he owed us, since he didn't continue to report sales.
>
> The VHS version was edited in part to respond to Sun Ra's continuing to
> express his hope that the film contain more beauty. Specific scenes (i.e.
> those that were cut) never were a part of any of our discussions with Sun
> Ra. There was also a feeling that a shorter version would conform better to
> potential TV distribution deals. None ever materialized. I sat in on a
> number of viewing sessions with Ra, all of which included the scenes that
> were cut from the VHS version. He and his entourage laughed throughout and
> seemed to be enjoying themselves. At one point I shipped several boxes of
> outtakes, work print material that was shot during the production. This was
> done to allow him to have some hands on experience with the materials and to
> see if he could put together something that would better express his idea of
> "beauty." Nothing ever came of this effort ­ at least nothing that I ever
> saw.
>
> That's pretty much the story as I lived through it during the 70s and early
> 80s.
>
> Jim Newman, Producer
> SPACE IS THE PLACE
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Saturn mailing list
> Saturn@lists.outerspaceways.info
> http://outerspaceways.info/ for subscribe and unsubscribe options

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Wed, 2011-08-24 22:00
Kevin Loy 2
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Space is the Place



http-equiv="Content-Type">


Thank you for providing this
insight, Jim. I was actually going to respond with similar
thoughts (mainly regarding that, although Sun Ra is a very large
component of the film, I think it is a folly to regard it as
being a Sun Ra film). I have my own issues with the film (the
biggest one, I guess, is the disappointment after learning that
you guys had first attempted to do a concert film with Sun
Ra...which I personally think would have been tremendous
regardless of the venue), but I am glad to have access to it,
especially when there are a great many other films that, as of
this writing, have never made it into the digital realm (and may
never do so).



One question that I have -- given the larger capacity of Blu-Ray
discs in contrast to DVDs, might it be possible for us to see a
release of the film someday that contains both edits, or perhaps
even any existing outtake footage so the viewer can get a better
understanding of what sort of creative decisions were made in
arriving at the final edit(s)?



Thanks

Kevin Loy



On 8/24/2011 6:14 PM, Jim Newman wrote:
type="cite">
As the producer of the film Space is the Place, I'd like to
clear the air regarding certain assumptions and misconceptions.
There is no "Sun Ra edit" of the film. The film was originally
edited under the supervision of Barbara Pokras at her LA studio,
and the longer version released on DVD by Plexifilm is that
version. They (Plexi) decided to refer to it as the "director's
cut" as a marketing decision. The director John Coney had
nothing to do with it, although both he and I endorsed that
decision after it was made.  Plexifilm currently holds no
distribution rights to the film. It is being prepared for
release by another company, based in San Francisco. That will
most probably be the same version as edited by Pokras and
released by Plexi.

The shorter VHS version (with scenes cut with the help of
Mark Gorney) was released by Bruce Ritter of Rhapsody Films.
Bruce decided (apparently for financial reasons) to stopped
reporting sales after a few years into his contract. I had to
hire lawyers to force him to release essential materials. I have
no idea what he owed us, since he didn't continue to report
sales.

The VHS version was edited in part to respond to Sun Ra's
continuing to express his hope that the film contain more
beauty. Specific scenes (i.e. those that were cut) never were a
part of any of our discussions with Sun Ra. There was also a
feeling that a shorter version would conform better to potential
TV distribution deals. None ever materialized. I sat in on a
number of viewing sessions with Ra, all of which included the
scenes that were cut from the VHS version. He and his entourage
laughed throughout and seemed to be enjoying themselves. At one
point I shipped several boxes of outtakes, work print material
that was shot during the production. This was done to allow him
to have some hands on experience with the materials and to see
if he could put together something that would better express his
idea of "beauty." Nothing ever came of this effort – at least
nothing that I ever saw.

That's pretty much the story as I lived through it during the
70s and early 80s.

Jim Newman, Producer
SPACE IS THE PLACE





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Thu, 2011-08-25 05:55 (Reply to #3)
Gary Lawrence Murphy
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Space is the Place

Having seen both and having seen a great many concert films and concerts, I'm quite happy to have the 65-minute version because it comes the closest of all to explaining to the adolescent mind just why the rest of the opus is worthy of attention.  It could do with a clean-up in the sound quality perhaps ;) but beyond that, I don't think it is a work anyone should really be terribly disappointed with.


Now, if there was a re-make ... or a se/pre-quel :)


On Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 12:59 AM, Kevin Loy <haciendacaliente@verizon.net> wrote:
Thank you for providing this
insight, Jim. I was actually going to respond with similar
thoughts (mainly regarding that, although Sun Ra is a very large
component of the film, I think it is a folly to regard it as
being a Sun Ra film). I have my own issues with the film (the
biggest one, I guess, is the disappointment after learning that
you guys had first attempted to do a concert film with Sun
Ra...which I personally think would have been tremendous
regardless of the venue), but I am glad to have access to it,
especially when there are a great many other films that, as of
this writing, have never made it into the digital realm (and may
never do so).

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Thu, 2011-08-25 10:20 (Reply to #4)
Kevin Loy 2
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Space is the Place



http-equiv="Content-Type">


Gary,



My disappointments with the film stem from my belief that the
film tries to do too much, and when trying to sprinkle bits of
Sun Ra's ideology in its constraints, it just becomes...a mess.
Even "A Joyful Noise", which provides a much more thorough focus
upon Sun Ra, has its problems. "Space is the Place" is
ultimately more prone to them, however, because it feels like it
can't decide what it wants to be -- concert film, documentary,
cheapo sci-fi, comedy, exploitation, social critique...it's all
there in varying degrees, all vying for your attention, and all
ultimately canceling out each other (in my opinion).



That's not to say the film *doesn't* have value, of course, to
Sun Ra fans, because it absolutely does (the fact that we are
still discussing the film, whereas I've never once seen a
discussion of, say, Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow here, says
something to me). But that value is less as a foundation to
learning about Sun Ra as it is to a side track. And for as
dismissive as I might appear to be toward the film, there are
definitely worthwhile moments for me (my favorite is the club
scene, which I imagine is a favorite for a lot of people).



In regard to Knoel's passionate declamations regarding the
film's content...Not having met Sun Ra myself, it is worth
noting that Sun Ra himself would make provocative statements
(such as his "subhuman" bit at a concert in Germany, or his
opening discussion at the Knitting Factory in '88, both
documented by Szwed), so if you really consider "Space is the
Place" to be a Sun Ra film (myself, I consider it to be a John
Coney film starring Sun Ra), then why is it inconceivable that
it could be another provocative statement? When you really get
down to it, nobody in the film is portrayed in a 'good' light
except Sun Ra, and I can't help thinking that was intentional.
The fact that Sun Ra pulls a Judgment card early in the film
says everything -- the film is not supposed to be about the
triumph of good (Sun Ra) over evil (the Overseer), but about
redemption. Even that is ultimately problematic within the scope
of the film, or at least in the longer edit.



Either way, since Knoel mentioned Sun Ra's message being diluted
in the film...I don't truthfully think that any single film
could contain the real breadth of his message. Nor could one
album, or even one book. Sun Ra's message was one that he spent
almost his entire earthly existence developing and refining, and
I think that believing a single film could present anything
approaching the full breadth and importance of that message is a
greater folly than anything the director and editor did in
making said film.



Kevin Loy



On 8/25/2011 8:50 AM, Gary Lawrence Murphy wrote:
cite="mid:CAE=O9tYb4n=s_QQrAQqULPVBYu9NFMaeTx1OmV5hrmV3NOJ3AA@mail.gmail.com"
type="cite">

Having seen both and having seen a great many concert
films and concerts, I'm quite happy to have the 65-minute version
because it comes the closest of all to explaining to the
adolescent mind just why the rest of the opus is worthy of
attention.  It could do with a clean-up in the sound quality
perhaps ;) but beyond that, I don't think it is a work anyone
should really be terribly disappointed with.


Now, if there was a re-make ... or a se/pre-quel :)


On Thu, Aug 25, 2011 at 12:59 AM, Kevin
Loy < href="mailto:haciendacaliente@verizon.net">haciendacaliente@verizon.net>
wrote:
face="Arial">Thank you for providing this insight,
Jim. I was actually going to respond with similar
thoughts (mainly regarding that, although Sun Ra is a
very large component of the film, I think it is a
folly to regard it as being a Sun Ra film). I have my
own issues with the film (the biggest one, I guess, is
the disappointment after learning that you guys had
first attempted to do a concert film with Sun
Ra...which I personally think would have been
tremendous regardless of the venue), but I am glad to
have access to it, especially when there are a great
many other films that, as of this writing, have never
made it into the digital realm (and may never do so).

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href="mailto:Saturn@lists.outerspaceways.info">Saturn@lists.outerspaceways.info

target="_blank">http://outerspaceways.info/ for
subscribe and unsubscribe options





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Blog, Will Travel:
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Thu, 2011-08-25 10:45 (Reply to #5)
lenni b
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Space is the Place

I LOVE "ART FORMS OF DIMENSIONS TOMORROW"

All that early stuff floats my boat. Especially 'Searchlight Blues' from "BAD AND BEAUTIFUL"




That's not to say the film *doesn't* have value, of course, to Sun Ra fans, because it absolutely does (the fact that we are still discussing the film, whereas I've never once seen a discussion of, say, Art Forms of Dimensions Tomorrow here, says something to me). Kevin Loy


 

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Thu, 2011-08-25 01:55
Knoel Scott
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Space is the Place


inresponse to  c:c. and  Sweds qoutes about Sun Ras   I can admit that Sun Ra could be diplomaticaly ambiguous at times however it is my strong opinion that this directors cut of Space in the Place would of not had Sun Ras approval.  Sun Ra abhorred violence and brutality as well as glorification of .earthbound lifestyles;   Sun Ra would never tolerate his message being overshadowed or diluted by such bad taste, for want of a better way describing those horribly OFFENSIVE scenes;
I repeat..........this version is a disrespect to SUN RA      They dint even have the dectcy to release BOTH versions as in common in cases of difference of opinion;  But again such consideration is raely extended towards people of color;  Yes, m saying that therelease and marketing of this
 distorted and thats what it is DISTORTED Space is the Place is an insult, to Sun Ra and African American people in general,  actually it dosnt make white people look,that good either:  And in my opinion SUN RA would of never approved it.  In fact Sunny would of made his dissapproval quite intense  ie;  he would of kicked some ass!!!!!!
or sent Jackson and Elo to handle it  better  ask somebody.............................This has only occured because Sunny is not here to act on it  but dont worry, people who defile Sun Ra.s vision have very bad luck!
Knoel Scott