The following is a response to a letter to the editor from Paul Russell Laverack, a screenwriting graduate student, on April 12. It addressed an internal Sundial matter that had already been addressed and discussed between the Daily Sundial, CSUN’s CTVA department and the Cinematheque. This is photographer Khristian Garay’s account of Mel Gibson’s presentation in March. Mr. Garay sold photos to an outside party, an incident no one at the Sundial knew about until after the fact.
– Lauren Robeson, Editor-In-Chief
Just so you can understand a little more about the situation, Mr. Paul Russell Laverack, I am a staff photographer for the Daily Sundial. Therefore, the only condition I ever agree to when I photograph for the publication is that I photograph the story. I don’t have any “arrangements” with other parties, such as the CTVA department or the University’s publication.
Now, you are right about me committing an ethical breach. I let down not only all the editors, reporters and other photographers of the Sundial, but also myself. And for this I sincerely apologize.
As for Gibson and all the other students and faculty present that night, I don’t apologize to you because such blatant racism and machismo should not be permitted anywhere, especially in a university setting where, as we have all heard before, questioning an authority is encouraged and expected.
Professor Estrada waited patiently for her turn to talk and “question the authority,” which was a simple question about his research on the film. A simple question about the film content, which obviously Gibson, being the professional you claim he is, should have responded in a more dignified manner. I don’t think anyone would benefit, as you said, from Gibson. Now, it is my understanding that the event was not only open to the public, but also primarily about filmmaking. Isn’t the content and symbolism of a film just as much a part of the filmmaking process as anything else?
Mr. Laverack, for you to say that our campus is “NOT an environment where internationally known filmmakers can come to speak to an audience of adults without fear of receiving damning press” is completely ridiculous and besides the point. The point is that Mel Gibson, a man with great Hollywood clout, verbally abused a university professor, a CSUN professor, our professor. But many people have been so star-struck that they have failed to figure this out.
I am not justifying the ethical breach I committed and the loyalty to my newspaper that I bruised. And I welcome more serious consequences that may come my way with my head up, because I have learned important things from this incident, things that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I am only 21 years old, and I have a long career ahead of me. So thank you for taking the time to compliment my work, even though those photos don’t belong to me anymore, a consequence much greater than anything else. Thank you for saying my “photos sold the story.” There is not greater compliment to a photojournalist.
I didn’t walk through the doors of the Armer Theater that night with intentions of being paparazzi, or even a “CTVA photographer.” I walked in as a photojournalist for the Sundial. Let’s remember now, I didn’t make Gibson do what he did; no one did. I was just fortunate enough to document it.
Now what happened afterwards was entirely my fault. I let some paparazzi animal take advantage of my inexperience. But understand this: The story was going to come out and it would have caused a big uproar either way.