From Connie Josefs

In the summer of 1973, I arrived at Wilson Hill Road for the first time, a house and a barn a couple of miles up a hill from the town of Hoosick Falls, NY, an unlikely place for a film school. I was interviewing for a space as an “apprentice” at The Gray Film Atelier, a romantic notion that appealed to my 20-year-old sensibilities. The teacher, Paul Gray, had been the Head of the Drama and Film Department at Bennington College, according to my friend Abby, who had known Paul at Bennington.

Paul and I walked in circles around the grassy area between the house and the barn, talking about film, the school, what my interests were. (I was to learn later that he had serious doubts about accepting me and only did because I was reading Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandrian Quartet.) It was the first of many walks around that grassy area, many talks about films that were working or not working. Paul’s large brown shoes pointed out to the sides as he walked. He’d stop periodically and rock back on his heels, bending his knees, usually to punctuate a pun or off-color joke, while two boxer dogs raced in circles around us.

There was nothing romantic about my two years at The Gray Film Atelier. It was creative boot camp, an initiation into the risks and rigors of the creative process orchestrated by someone who knew more about risk-taking than anyone I had ever known.

I learned about failing, failing again, failing better, in full view of my peers. I learned that “art is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration” and that the bottom line was “seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” I learned about dramatic structure, subtext, mise-en-scene, how to look at the world through the lens of a view finder and how editing is storytelling - things that would form the foundation of my work for the next 40 years. “You think in images,” he once told me. He did that too — and while cutting through the bullshit and always keeping us a bit off balance, he saw us as artists.

It’s been many years since Paul and I were in touch on a regular basis, but when I got the email of his passing, it stopped me cold. An immediate sense of the ground falling out. A hole in the world were Paul Gray was. This is the point where Paul would crack an irreverent joke. He wasn’t one for sentimentality, except maybe when it came to Gretchen.

Anyone who knew Paul knows what I’m talking about, and it’s always been next to impossible to describe him to anyone who didn’t know him. He was - as was said in the email - “person extraordinare.”
My love to Gretchen, the “kids,” and the many friends who knew and worked with him.