Obituary Raymond Ravar
EAVE mourns the loss of our admired founder and great visionary, Raymond Ravar.
It is with great sadness that EAVE, received the sad news that our founding father, Raymond Ravar, passed away on April 1, 2020 at the age of 92.
Raymond Ravar was the founder of EAVE in 1988 and its first director. He was also the founder and first director of the Belgian film school INSAS, and Secretary general of CILECT from 1970 to 1990.
Founded in 1988 by Raymond Ravar and Eckart Stein, head of the Das kleine Fernsehspiel unit at German public broadcaster ZDF, European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs (EAVE) has trained over 2,500 film professionals around the world during last 3 decades via our workshop programs based on the pedagogical method originally invented by Eckart Stein and Raymond Ravar.
We collected some fond memories among our pedagogical team and board who remember Raymond vividly and the impact he had on their professional lives:
« Raymond Ravar was in many ways an anachronistic figure. A petite, super elegant man with a huge temper, a flowery language that he would parade in very long speeches, glossy shoes and very colourful socks - decades before that became fashionable.
But Raymond was also a visionary. Together with Eckart Stein he created EAVE, a program that would empower European producers and filmmakers to co-produce with each other, almost before it was even a term in the language, let alone a film business practice. Their idea of co-producing was not only about financing - not at all. It was a bold attempt at creating cultural inclusion and cooperation, a European identity, a will to experiment, and among all about enhancing the art of filmmaking by expanding the opportunities, educating and challenging the filmmakers and enlarging the common pool of inspiration.
For more than 30 years now, their grand idea has attracted film producers and filmmakers from Europe and the rest of the world. And they keep coming and benefitting from his visionary initiative.
In the very early years of EAVE, Raymond Ravar took a chance and included me, a 34 year old Danish producer, in the group of EAVE experts and group leaders, and EAVE has been my professional family ever since. For this I am eternally grateful.»
Lise Lense Møller, EAVE Head of Studies
«Raymond Ravar is a kind of film related genetic link to all of us, more or less directly but with a direct impact for sure.
Accepted as „observer“ - Austria was not even in the EU but EFTA member - I did participate in the European Cycle of EAVE in 1992. Beside benefiting from EAVE itself a lot, there was this strict real observer standby taking care of everything. Do you remember his social advises and orders - like „mingle“ I remember it very well, don’t you? Raymond forced our characters to do things like that while he was standing aside using his hands like a conducter in front of his orchestra. We all were his orchestra an he could simply enjoy the sound of talking people. Or when he announced an introduction speach..bing bing bing.. This was his side of being a teacher a pedagogue.
But even the roman empire would still exist with such a startegist like Raymond. His visions were always two steps ahead of what was going to come - the other side of that man. Brussels - Rue de la Presse 14 - how could I ever forget this address, the meetings, the question marks he had sometimes drawn into our faces when he spoke about issues we did not really get. He was ahead of time considering the European dream, he was the European dream to me in person by all means. When I remember his smart behavior during the meetings with the representatives of the commission as well as his policy of charming embracement of the regional hosts we were cooperating with - always underlining his clear position of autonomy for culture and film in particular.
EAVE kept until today its fundamental human and individual respect and maintains the integrity of principles which are deep-rooted with the name Raymond Ravar.
He has moved on to his next orchestra and leaves us behind with his everlasting echo of his smile, his special head banging when he wanted to express his satisfied appreciation.
Danny Krausz, EAVE President and EAVE 1992 graduate
“Establishing EAVE as one of the first 5 programmes to be funded by Media, Raymond had to put together a Pedagogical team across the continent who were not only to speak the same language and share the same vision about European film, but to envision European film as an industry. This was our challenge, and he had a great partner in this cultural crime - Eckart Stein from the quixotic Das kleine Fernsehspiel. Our meetings, initially in French, and which went on and on and on and on, until we managed to switch the discourse to English, were legendary in length and breath, but always we were rewarded with results followed through, and excellent food and wine - at every workshop lunch too. Those were the days, and nights…
One of my most precious memories of Raymond, whose demeanour was alike to a red-haired pixie, was during the closing dinner of a workshop in Leeds. In the great Victorian Town Hall, the speeches began, and then up popped our host, a peroxide blonde Mayor in a black leather mini skirt and lime green shaggy jacket, who after a rousing speech about Europe, dragged a bemused Raymond over to a hidden jukebox, kicked it into life, and boy, did Raymond begin to jive like Little Richard - revelation or what, and the whole workshop erupted with him onto the floor!
Raymond was a man who knew when, and how, to move, and EAVE is his outstanding legacy. Merci, Raymond.»
Clare Downs, EAVE script consultant
«The legacy that is EAVE was just a small part of what Raymond brought to the world and to the world of cinema. A great teacher and mentor who inspired many young filmmakers and provided them with the tools to pursue their art, Raymond was a visionary who always saw ahead to how European cinema could grow and sustain itself, seeing in it the life force of our collective dreams. He was a key figure in the degree to which European institutions have supported and nourished film-making - and especially independent film-making - in Europe.
Gracious, generous and erudite: to truly honor him I would have to make a very long and meandering toast to him (as was his way) elaborating at least some small part of what he brought to us.
To you, Raymond, we will miss you but you have left us so much.»
Martin Daniel, EAVE script consultant
«Exactly 25 years ago I stood for the first time in a plenary in front of EAVE participants – in March 1995 in Sevilla. Pretty stressed as well as curiously excited, as I sensed it will be the biggest first step in my life. But I also felt safe, safe with the energy of a man behind me, who just smiled knowingly, even laughed: “go Sibylle… you’ll make it!”… Raymond, how right he was - he knew more than I did. He was indeed responsible at that moment for all what followed in my professional life. It was his fine sense for people’s talent… Merci Raymond.»
Sibylle Kurz, EAVE pitching expert
«Raymond Ravar was like a pixie: short with reddish hair that haloed his head. He often had a mischievous smile and was always enthusiastic. He had a brilliant idea: intensive training for young producers, who were – in the late 1980s – not getting the training to work across borders. In the nascent EU where multiple co-producers were essential, where teamwork on development was even more essential, the lonely road of the independent producer was not easy.
Raymond saw a way of using the largesse offered by the EU’s MEDIA Program, another brainwave of the elegant and devilishly clever Head of the MEDIA Programme, German diplomat Holde Lhoest. Get young independent producers from each of the 12 countries, expose each to the problems of the others and by cameraderly teamwork solve those problems.
His Head of Studies – the moral guide as it were – was Eckhart Stein. Brilliant visionary of Das Kleine Fernsehspiel – the arthouse section of ZDF where auteurs were given freedom to make, well, arthouse movies.
In 1989 I was introduced to Raymond and Eckhart by the mercurial and somewhat mysterious Renee Goddard, with whom I had dinner in Munich one night (she worked for Channel 4 and I thought it might help me make connections there). Instead she insisted I send faxes to them (this was well before email or mobile phones) asking if I could attend an imminent workshop in a picturesque Bavarian ski resort village.
I would have to pay my transport and hotel but no fees and – she said – it would be life changing. So a few days later I was there and was introduced to the 40 or so participants as a script doctor. I don’t know why Renee thought I was a script doctor, because as a writers’ agent I read a lot of scripts but was not trained to deconstruct them and help the writers to reconstruct them.
Also, there were no writers: this was a producer training course. One thing I did know was that – especially at that time – the majority of these young producers couldn’t read, and certainly couldn’t write. Two things happened: the immediate one is that I was given 20 pretty aweful scripts to read and comment on within less than a week, and secondly I vowed never to come back.
The scripts were in the main hopeless by my criteria, which were essentially: could I sell this, and was there a discernible audience for it? It seemed that in the auteur world of these producers there didn’t need to be an audience and they hoped to find uncritical subsidies to enable them to make their masterpieces.
The week was miserable: everyone seemed to be having fun, there were excursions, I vaguely remember a jacuzzi that I never managed to get to, drinking sessions in the evening which I missed out on and I existed in a kind of corona virus lockdown in my rustic hotel bedroom reading until my eyes bled.
On the last day I went to reception to pay my bill and was told it had been paid. I said there must be a mistake and sought out Raymond. “Dear boy he said, you worked harder than anyone. Of course you cannot pay the hotel bill and we want you be our script doctor.” I never let on that paying the hotel bill would have been a blessing if I didn’t have to be the script doctor. But I felt that there was a special energy in the group, something stirring that was definitely worth being part of.
Soon after there was a strange event. We almost had what seemed like a disastrous setback. At the end of the ‘trial’ period for the first EU MEDIA Programmes (one was EFDO to do with distribution, the other the European Script Fund run by Renee Goddard), there was what was described to me as ‘the inquisition’: each programme was interrogated by the ‘Commite des Sages’, chaired by an Englishman who – I think – chaired the Horse Racing Betting Levy Board. Don’t ask….
There were four very experienced producers doing the interrogation. It took place in London and even though I was not really properly inducted into EAVE as one of the experts, I was asked to accompany Raymond as his English was not confident. In fact, he spoke it perfectly well, but he felt more persuasive in French.
Renee went first and I was shocked at how brutal the questioning was and how much of it was about value for money. She was given a torrid time. Then it was Raymond’s turn. He said he would prefer to speak in French (in which he could be voluble and unstoppable). The Chairman said he didn’t speak French and that it all had to be in English. Raymond insisted and the atmosphere became very icy. Raymond simply started and talked non-stop. There was no professional translator.
Reading the body language of the five wise men I could see we were doomed. Our visionary was so convinced by his vision (he was of course quite right) that he sped on. I caught Holde Lohest’s eye and she drew her index finger under her throat: “kill him?”, no, I realised, interrupt.!
So I did. ‘Excuse me’ I said loudly standing up. The entire direction of the questioning was that a budget of 800,000 euros for 20 projects was simply far too high. As I don’t speak French I have no idea what Raymond had said, but the fact that they asked the same question in English several times was enough to realise he wasn’t giving them the answer that they wanted.
I took a deep breath and said that we had plans to overcome that, namely there would be 40 participants not 20 at each workshop so in fact the cost per participant (I suspect Brussels had asked for figures to be quantified like this) was not 40,000 but 20,000. And in fact we were going to go even further: I pointed out that I had spent many years in publishing and one of my roles was to plan an EAVE publishing programme: we were planning to edit and publish the lectures and talks given by the outstanding experts assembled by Raymond and Eckhart (many of them really were outstanding) and the dissemination therefore of the wisdom conveyed at EAVE workshops would be spread even wider. 800,000 euros seemed a bargain!
To give Raymond his due he nodded sagely even though I was making it up on the hoof. We never did publish but I later designed and ran another EU Media programme, PILOTS – to develop long running TV series – and through the Media Business School we published two volumes on WRITING LONG-RUNNING TELEVISION SERIES which to this day people still refer.
EAVE got the blessing of the wise men. There was no way I was going to read these essentially uncommercial scripts. So I decided that there were two conditions before I accepted a role that included being the first UK co-ordinator: one, that the scriptwriters had to be invited to the first of the series of three workshops, because it was no good telling the producers how to make the scripts better and trusting them to inform the writers in a meaningful way. And second since all the southern European participants spoke predominantly French, there needed to be two script doctors: one French speaking and one English speaking.
I made two suggestions: Pascal Lohnay from Belgium and Clare Downs from London. Clare had been working at the Ladd Company and was therefore comfortable with the notion that scripts could and should be commercial, that difficult subjects can be made accessible. Raymond said they sounded wonderful but what would I do?
I had no idea but I had to say something: I was an agent; what did I do that was relevant to producers (other than try to make them pay as much as possible to my clients): pitching! I would do the pitching training. I don’t think it was Raymond but in that first year a number of people queried the usefulness of pitching; they simply didn’t know what it was. The word was not used in the film industry in Europe in the early 1990s.
EAVE went from strength to strength: Clare and Pascal were brilliant and patient with the participants; the quality of script improved to the point that they were becoming commercial. That gave me another problem.
EAVE was a series of three workshops. In workshop one the writers and producers did development. In workshop two directors came and financing and coproductions were talked about. There was always some pitching so I was legitimate. In workshop three I thought I would come into my own: buyers, real money, was brought in for the producers to pitch to. It was a market and I was completely at home.
Until Eckhart and Raymond declared that it was not a market. I was not allowed to coach the participants to behave as if it were a market. The participants were all desperate to get their hands on money and to do deals (after all the old joke is that independent producers are the most dependent of them all). So I ignored them and treated it as the market it was.
This led to the mother of all rows with Raymond who thenceforth wouldn’t speak to me – I don’t think I was barred, but I was certainly in great disfavour. I tried reasoning with Eckhart but I think he as the champion of auteurs and Raymond as the head of a famous film school, both feared the incursion of commerciality. They didn’t want the money to talk. I think the non-speaking lasted for several months.
Judith Ravar, Raymond’s wife brokered peace and, driven on by his bustling energy, Raymond built EAVE up and it has performed possibly far better than even he could expected. I have nothing but fond memories of him, even the row didn’t seem to affect our affection for each other. I have a great deal to thank him for – and also of course Renee Goddard. It was a golden time and because of visionaries like Raymond, Renee, Eckhart and Holde, European producers are a far greater force in the global film and television industry that they would have been without EAVE.»
Julian Friedmann, EAVE’s first UK Coordinator and expert
«Coordinating the first session of an EAVE workshop in 1991 started my 7-year journey into and through EAVE and was what launched me into the world of film, through production and finally into film education. I grew and matured through this time and learned an enormous amount from Raymond, the pedagogue, and we also had a grezat deal of fun, as he knew how to do this ! »
Gina Bonmariage, former EAVE coordinator & Dean of AFDA, South African Film School.
Video tribute by Enrique Nicanor, one of EAVE’s co-founders and former Spanish National Coorindator
Interview with Raymond Ravar on cinergie.be (in French only):
Page published 30 April 2020. Updated 20 May 2020.