Ryan Harper Gray & Jon Jost’s collaboration spanned over a decade & five feature films.
The first film, HOMECOMING premiered at the La Biennale di Venezia was made for $2000 in the quiet beach community of Newport, Oregon. I flew in from Austin, Texas to assist Jost in any way I could. In Austin, i was doing theater as an actor & begun making short experimental films for my ex-wife to watch. I wanted an apprentice from Jon Jost . I thought might end up holding a boom pole & get to ask questions after work. I ended us the lead actor in his next 4 features. It was about the American family in post 911 America. Which was in flux… still is. Homecoming is apart a trilogy of films on the subject & one more COMING TO TERMS which is magical & challenging in a only Jon Jost sort of way. I love it. I Love them . His films are all changing but then again so is Jon. He is a singular artist of his time. He is a complete artist through & through. His work should be seen by the masses. He was doing high art on sub-par equipment & making it work. DIY is how he survived his whole life. If you watch one, Let me know what you think. I would love to talk about it.
As you move through this page I suggest starting with the HOMECOMING our first film together. I think it’s a wonderful contemplative piece. My second would be our last feature COMING TO TERMS. Which is full of great performances by the likes of the esteemed filmmaker James Benning but also the sister of Sam Shepard, Roxanne Rogers whom Jost has worked with several times over many decades.
Lastly, this is a private page… so please don’t share on a Facebook page but you can show a friend if you want. If you like Jon’s work, go watch his screening & take his workshops. He’s a true weirdo & you will want to meet him before he is gone.
Enjoy, Ryan Harper Gray
The Jon Jost Post 911 America trilogy:
Homecoming: number 1
“HOMECOMING is not a “plot” film, but more a tone-poem; its meanings arise from its broader ambiance, its moods, its sense of time & place.” – Jon Jost
Venice Film Festival – La Biennale di Venezia
Split Film Festival – Grand Prix Award
International Film Festival Rotterdam
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival
Munich Film Festival
Aswell, as many more all over Europe, Asia, & the Americas
Digital Video | Color | Sound | 104 minutes
*I had to compress quite a lot
A parable of the Bush era; swiftly jumping genres, a cowboy surrogate/Bush is thrown out of his house, is picked up by a man who needs a driver, buddy-bonds with him, they sing a Christian camp song, do a robbery & killing, & cowboy then rapes & shoots his new buddy. We arrive in a bucolic farm where a woman is kept on a rope, a man attempts to untie a knotted rope; & after a long & weird interlude including some heavy breathing, the cowboy arrives, seduces & is screwing the woman, & is killed & dumped with other bodies from Abu Ghraib.
PARABLE works on a visual & visceral level for which a synoptic summary is impossible. It is a reflection of The Time of Bush in America, a squalid period of corruption equal to our country’s worst, or, as if possible, even the worst. The film tackles this era with a melange of genres typical of our culture, a culture which distills in reality down to cartoons & in which a trajectory from domestic melodrama leads axiomatically to Abu Ghraib. PARABLE is history as farce, an American tragedy limned by the Flintstones & Simpsons, where seriousness has been subsumed by “reality TV,” & the populace has been reduced to zombie-like consumers busy eating themselves.” – Jon Jost
Jon Jost’s Parable -Premiered at Cinequest 20
Starring Ryan Harper Gray
Cinequest wrote this about the film :
“You have the right to not be in charge of your own freedom.
For two decades, Cinequest has celebrated the work of thousands of film artists, & we proudly present the latest work from Jon Jost—recipient of our very first Maverick Spirit Award in 1990.
Representing the restraints on freedom experienced during the The Time of Bush in America, Josts Parable remains true to his unwavering approach of crafting indelible, thought-provoking & incredibly vital art.
Having just left his wife, Jim hitches a ride with a needy stranger. After the two men seem to bond, Jim inexplicably rapes & kills his companion. Two new characters are subsequently brought onto the scene, portraying the relationship of master & slave. A potent symbol of confinement, the slave’s legs are bound with a rope that the master continuously unravels. Their fates intertwined, the slave & Jim together experience the unexpected.
A dramatic & symbolic mixture of both neo & magical realist imagery, Parable illuminates the horrors of suppression imposed by the previous administration. The juxtaposition of beautiful scenery with shocking actions will grab your attention & leave you mystified.”
This was the final chapter in the three-part Bush trilogy Jon Jost & Ryan Harper Gray collaborated on.
Coming To Terms:
W/ James Benning & Roxanne Rogers
Dead End would have been our final collaboration but the edit was never completed.
In this surreal film, my character finds himself fresh out of jail & back on the road to how I got there in the first place. The film also starred Frank Mosley.
Ghost of Empire Prairie:
Directed: Blake Eckard
DP, Music, Actor: Jon Jost
Here is something Jon Jost wrote about me on his blog:
I met Ryan in a bar in Austin, maybe in 2002. I’d screened 6 Easy Pieces, not exactly an actor’s film, and he’d liked it. I don’t recall meeting him at all – though I do remember going to a bar in Austin (where, apparently I also me Rachelle LeValle, who ended up playing with Ryan in Parable). It isn’t that I got drunk or anything, just a lot of travel and meeting a lot of new people scrambles my brains, it seems. After that Ryan pestered me on the internet, asking to work with me. Not usually a good approach for me. In 2004, as I was preparing to shoot a new film in Newport, Oregon, Ryan pressed harder. I finally relented and told him to send a few pictures, but admonished him that if he sent an industry-style headshot, I could guarantee him I would not work with him. I suggested some casual snapshots. He sent some on the internet and I found his look, and perhaps his persistence, interesting. I showed the pictures to Kate Sannella, whose house I was staying in and who would be in the film, and she nodded: interesting. So I told Ryan if he’d get himself up to Portland I’d grab him at the airport, and if I thought he was good in front of the camera, he’d get some kind of role, and if not, maybe he could help me otherwise. And I said if we didn’t hit it off, or he was useless, I’d tell him to leave. On those terms he got a ticket to fly up from Austin, and I met him in Portland and we headed down to Newport. As I’d done the route many times, I decided to take a new road, smaller, just to see some other landscapes. I did a wrong turn, and we ended doing about 30 miles on muddy logger’s roads through a mess of clear-cut devastation. Welcome to Oregon! But the detour gave us time to talk and by the time we pulled up to Kate’s house, I’d concluded maybe this was a good deal. Ryan turned out good on camera, and about 20-30% of the way through the film it became clear the film was focused on his character. So for his pestering he landed a lead role, and I got a very good performance (along with all the others), and a good film out of it. And a friend. The film, Homecoming, was invited to the Venice Film Festival, and Ryan and Steve Taylor, also in the film, on their own tabs, went with me for a little taste of film world glitz and glamor. They had a great time – it’s not my kind of thing, so for me it was “business.” Ok, fun too, but mostly a job.
Subsequently, the film won first prize in the little festival in Split, Croatia – but no American festival deigned to screen the film, and for all practical purposes it has been unseen here. I take it as an indication of the political winds of the time – with the Iraq war in full bloom, Bush riding high, and the nature of programmers. The film ends with a crawl calling for the indictment of Bush, Cheney et al for war crimes.
A few years later, living in Portland, I decided to make another film addressing the Iraq war, and its impact on the USA, and I asked Ryan if he’d like to play the lead. I said I’d pay for the airfare this time. He came up from Dallas, where he was then living, and in a much shorter time, we made Over Here, where again he gave a really good performance. This film was shown at festivals abroad, but again, no US takers. In 2007 making another film, Parable, I asked Ryan if he’d come up to Lincoln Nebraska to do a lesser role, and he obliged me.
This past spring, in Stanberry Missouri, I shot a film, Ghosts of Empire Prairie, for my friend Blake Eckard, and also acted in it – with Ryan, who was cast in the lead. Had a great time, and while there asked if he’d join me on making a new film, setting at the time unclear. He said yes, and I’m very glad he did.
We have since had a falling out. As Jost has done many times in his life with friends, collaborators & family. He was like a father to me in many ways. I miss him dearly. We have not spoken in years.