Bingham Ray, Indie Film Distribution & Marketing Legend, Dies While Attending Sundance
|Photo by Michael Rauner, courtesy of San Francisco Film Society|
Over the past 25 years, Ray has been as instrumental as anyone in founding and fostering the independent film marketplace, of which Sundance has been a key flagship.
I didn't know Bingham well, but outside of run-of-the-mill film festival encounters, I have two personal memories of him. A little over two years ago, the night after I moved from New York to Los Angeles to take my current job at the LA Weekly, I was seated next to Bingham at the LA Film Critics awards dinner. I hardly knew anyone in the room, and was actually kind of terrified, until I started talking to Bingham, who was so full of great, juicy stories that he made me forget all my self-conscious bullshit. A few months later, after a Facebook back-and-forth, I sold Bingham my ticket to see Pavement in Central Park (as documented here). He sent a $50 bill as payment, with a hand-written note, which I still have hanging on the bulletin board in my office. It says, "Don't worry, it's not counterfeit!"
News of Bingham's passing spread around the festival this afternoon, and cast a palpable pall on the proceedings. Moments after I heard, I wandered in to a screening of a film I knew little about, which turned out to be a painfully conventional romcom, starring a handful of TV actors, about the dating foibles of underemployed 20 somethings living in fabulous lofts. Through the whole film, in the back of my mind I was reeling through the list of films Bingham had a hand in releasing -- the above mentioned titles, plus Life is Sweet, Bowling for Columbine, Synecdoche, NY, The Addiction -- while here I was, watching Friends: The Movie.
Maybe it's a cliche to say "he will be missed," but it couldn't be more true.