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Working at Milestone Films is sometimes like Losing Ground but oftimes there's a Strange Victory

Posted on January 29, 2015 by Dennis Doros | 0 Comments

     We have a guest blog from Maia Krivoruk, intern extraordinaire. Ms. Krivoruk is currently a sophomore attending the University of Pittsburgh. She is a social work major with a concentration in global studies. She grew up in New Jersey as an active member of Girl Scouts along with involvement in Habitat for Humanity International. While home, she works for Milestone Film and Video where she can pursue her side interests in film and history. 
     I am currently an intern at Milestone Film and Video; therefore, I might be a little bias when it comes to their films. Over the past month, I have been fortunate enough to work on two films: Leo Hurwitz's "Strange Victory" and Kathleen Collins' "Losing Ground." Both are incredible masterpieces that shed light on often underrepresented populations within movies. 
     "Losing Ground" was created in the 1982 by the wonderful filmmaker, Kathleen Collins. Collins has two successful black professionals as her main characters who are experiencing a crisis in their marriage. Instead of casting African Americans as criminals, thieves, thugs (the stereotypical roles) – Collin's is able to represent a more accurate depiction. The wife, Sara (Seret Scott) is a university professor who is researching the Ecstatic Experience in order to experience it for herself. Her husband, Victor (Bill Gunn) is an abstract painter who uses his talents to get involved with other women. The film is a great representation of a couple in trouble – a problem that most people have had or might have regardless of skin color. It is truly refreshing to watch. 

     The second film, which I have I have worked very closely on is "Strange Victory." The film addresses the hypocritical post-WWII society. After just having fought a war overseas against Fascism and Nazism, black veterans and citizens return home to a similar environment. Racism and discrimination is still present on home soil. A majority of the film is actual footage from the war. The script is incredibly poetic and unapologetic. While researching the background of the film, we were able to discover that one of the actors was in fact a Tuskegee Airman, Virgil Richardson. He truly lived up to his role in "Strange Victory" as a black Air Corps veteran. This film is timeless; the issues it addresses, unfortunately, can represent societies throughout history...including today's. I highly recommend seeing it. 
Both films fulfill the desire to be relevant to the world and committed to truth. 

Posted in Kathleen Collins, Losing Ground, Maia Krivoruk, Seret Scott, Strange Victory, Tuskegee Airmen, Virgil Richardson, World War II

Whatever happened to Ray Salyer? Now it can be told!

Posted on June 19, 2013 by Dennis Doros | 3 Comments

Milestone does an enormous amount of research for most of the films we distribute. Sometimes there's years and years of gathering of materials (books, letters, newspapers, magazines, photographs, etc.) and extensive interviews to write each one of our press kits. And many times, we're still revising them 20 years after the fact! Yet there remains several mysteries in Milestone's distribution career and now one of them can be answered! Out of the blue, Clifton Cardin, the "Official Bossier Parish Historian" wrote to us with his research. He took it on himself to discover what happened to the star of ON THE BOWERY, Ray Salyer. All we knew was that he disappeared. Now, with Mr. Cardin's permission, here's the rest of the story...

"Ray Salyer Life

Ray Salyer was born Dec 3, 1916 in Ashland KY to Shankland Salyer and Florence Hill. Shankland had been a soldier in the 26th US Infantry shortly before Ray and his twin brother were born. Military records show Shankland had been both a musician and barber. Ray and Roy were the middle children in a rather large family.

Shortly after Ray and Roy were born, the Salyer family moved 446 miles to Lumberton, NC.

During most of his childhood, Ray witnessed America’s experiment with legislated morality, Prohibition, while the resulting gang warfare ravaged the country. There is very little doubt Ray had relatives back in Kentucky involved with white lightning. The Ashland area they came from has been documented by none other than singer Billy Ray Cyrus as big in the moonshine manufacturing and distribution.

Between the ages of 7 and 12, Ray undoubtedly followed along while his father preached on the Methodist Circuit in North Carolina. His father then got a job as assistant manager of the Met Life Insurance office to support the large family. Ray’s oldest brother Lester joined the Navy and moved out of the family home.

Soon after, something happened that may have affected Ray. His oldest brother, Lester, who had joined the Navy came “home” on furlough. While in Lumberton, he stole an automobile, drove it to Fayetteville, and returned. He soon ran out of gas and left the car. Witnesses provided police with enough clues they soon tracked it to Lester, who pleaded guilty of the larceny.

Ray was an active Boy Scout earning merit’s, accommodations and such when he was a young man.

Ray’s first foray into infamy occurred when he was just 14 years old. He and bunch of other Lumberton boys went skinny dipping in the Lumberton River. Two boys started across the river, but one panicked and drug the other under with him. Roy and Ray came to the rescue, retrieved the youngest boy from the bottom of the River. Brought him to the bank and performed CPR. The boy coughed up water, and soon began breathing. The boys were declared heroes and were nominated for the National Life Saving Award from the Boy Scouts.

During this time, the Salyer family moved 75 miles away to Wilmington NC, so Shankland could become manager of the Met Life office there.

When Ray was 18, in 1934,  Prohibition was repealed.

By 1940, Ray had married his true love Gaynelle Swister. They had several children….

Ray joined the US Army, August 11, 1941. Sources suggest he was in the first waves of D-Day and went all the way to Berling at the end of the war. Today we would recognize Ray as having PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or shell shock as they called it then.

It has been said that Ray did not return to his wife and left them to fend for themselves.

The movie, “On The Bowery” brought more problems for Ray. He was offered $40,000 to become an actor. Ray turned them down. Soon after he was found, beaten, nine ribs broken and his left hand smashed. He had learned the dark side of the Bowery. His comrades did not like the attention he brought their hideout.

Where Ray went after that, is unknown.

In 1963, after his children had grown, his wife Gaynelle Swister Salyer filed for divorce in Florida. As soon as the divorced was granted, she married another man.

It is known that Ray returned to New York, possibly the Bowery area. For on Oct 6, 1963, he died from the affects of his life. He apparently drowned in his own vomit. His youngest sister, Frances paid to have his body returned to North Carolina, where Ray was buried next to his family.

It is an irony that his son, Ray Allen Salyer died at 38 years of age.

His wife, Gaynelle lived until 2003, and is buried in Florida. Her obituary lists four children, but it is not know if the were Salyer’s or Rollings."



A follow up to Amy's Pay Up!

Posted on June 12, 2013 by Dennis Doros | 0 Comments

To paraphrase the great Mel...

Judge: "Interns are not slaves! They're human beings!"
Fox Searchlight: "They are? Have you ever seen them serve coffee, wash my car, or pick up my laundry for my wife? For free!?"


"A Federal District Court judge in Manhattan ruled on Tuesday that Fox Searchlight Pictures had violated federal and New York minimum wage laws by not paying production interns, a case that could upend the long-held practice of the film industry and other businesses that rely heavily on unpaid internships..."

To read the rest of the article, click here!

Back to the Drawing Board: Or Why Art is Good For You (or at least, me) and a Great Art School is a Kind of Sanctuary

Posted on January 20, 2013 by Amy Heller | 0 Comments

First thing to know: I have an amazing sister. She knows me from way back—all her life, actually—and she is a kind and loyal friend. So, when she started to suggest that I get back to making art, I had to at least listen. She had been taking drawing classes and feeling really good about flexing new neurons and skills. And she knew that in my deep dark past, I had loved to draw and that I always loved to look at art.

But truly, I was terrified. Making art—strike that—trying to make art is really personal. It can be astonishingly liberating. But it can also be painful. I remembered that feeling of trying to do something and the utter frustration of just totally failing. I knew art could make me cry with helpless rage at myself, the drawing, everything. And my everyday adult existence allowed me to go day to day without that kind of angst. Did I need to invite it back into my life?

Maybe. I did feel an emptiness following the death of my father and the subsequent Sisyphean job of settling his estate, selling his apartment, finding homes and buyers and galleries for the art, books, rugs... I was worn out just remembering it all. And with our only kid in high school, I could foresee an empty nest in my future. And it sounded like fun—scary fun, but still.

Luckily for me, I actually did know where to start to look for a class. When he was younger, our almost-grown son loved to take art classes at a school in a neighboring town. So I knew that The Art School at Old Church was a welcoming place that treated art and would-be artists with love and respect. Even better, I knew and liked the director, Maria Danziger, who had become a friend when Dennis and I ran a film series at the school years before.

So I gathered my courage (really) and called Maria and asked her advice. I wanted a class where I wouldn't freak out--where I would be helped to get over my fear. She suggested I try Polly King's painting class.

I've now been painting in Polly's class for a couple of years and I have shed a few tears—although not many recently. I have made drawings and paintings I actually like and many others I plan to paint over. A couple of my paintings have been displayed in student shows at the school’s gallery and they didn't look too bad... I have made friends with some of my fellow students and occasionally been annoyed with others. This year one of our fellow painting students died unexpectedly, and while she sometimes rubbed me the wrong way, I was sad to hear the news and I remembered her best qualities—her humor, her bold painting style, her love for her family. I guess we have created a kind of community.

In class last week one of my fellow painters remarked on how inspirational the space we work in is. Of course the school itself was once a small church and our studio boasts soaring ceilings and wonderful light. And that reminded me that the school is a place we gather together to share something joyful and communal.  I am not a religious person, so I don't use the “sacred,” but perhaps it applies.

Last fall our school, our community lost a very great friend, leader, artist and teacher. Mikhail Zakin founded the school, inspired generations of potters, stood up for underdogs, hosted visiting artists and led by example and with courage. I knew her a little—and had the privilege of serving on the board for the school alongside her—but I think I really see her scope when I see how much she created and how much she is and will be missed. You can read about her at:

She lived quite a wonderful life—full of love and creativity and courage. Her legacy is in her pots, her friends and in that little building that looks like a church but is consecrated to art and community.

You should really come check it out!

Posted in art, community, Demarest, Maria Danziger, Mikhail Zakin, painting, pottery, TASOC, The Art School at Old Church

National Society of Film Critics Film Heritage Award to Project Shirley!

Posted on January 06, 2013 by Dennis Doros | 0 Comments

January 5, 2013


• To Laurence Kardish, Senior Film Curator at MoMA, for his extraordinary 44 years of service, including this year’s Weimar Cinema retrospective.

• To Milestone Film and Video for their ongoing Shirley Clarke project.

Milestone is thrilled to win a NSFC Film Heritage Award (our sixth since we won the very first one in 1995 for I AM CUBA) and even more so, that the films of Shirley Clarke are getting recognized by the critics once again.

And we're just as happy that our friend Larry Kardish won as well! On graduating from college, Larry's first job was at the Film-Makers Distribution Center where he was responsible for the distribution of PORTRAIT OF JASON! He went on to become the head programmer of the MoMA Film Department and has been a friend of ours since we started Milestone. Congrats to Shirley and Larry!

Posted in Ac, Academy Film Archive, Amy Heller, Association of Moving Image Archivists, chelsea hotel, Dennis Doros, documentary, historic preservation, LGBT, milestone, Milestone film, Ornette Coleman, Portrait of Jason, Shirley Clarke, The Connection

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