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Developing a new way of making documentaries

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Filming Psychiatry in Russia and making some money with it
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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I mean, everybody in the hospital knew that I somehow hadn't sneaked in, that I was an official guest and that I was- it was okay for me to film so it was okay for them to be filmed. And- The camera was- only ran for less than a minute before you had to wind it, you know, and, and could take a roll of film that was only three minutes long- all kinds of limitations. And it was a noisy camera and all that, but still I managed to get some very interesting footage, enough so that when I came back to New York the deal was that CBS would process that material and for whatever they used they would pay me a dollar for every foot which of course is ridiculously little. But for my first film opportunity it was great for me. And they used 14 feet of film, which was about half a minute, and so I got my $14. But I also got the rest of the deal, which was fine, which was, whatever I shot would revert to me and I could do whatever I wanted with it. So, living in Boston at that time, I went to the station WGBH which is an N.E.T- now a PBS station and I said- look, I've got this interesting material. All I would like to ask of you is that you let me use your equipment so that I can edit it and I'll end up with a film that we can show on your station. So that was the deal. And as I was editing it they had visitors one day from Smith Kline and French, a pharmaceutical company, that's very interested, of course, in products that are for psychiatrists and if they could do something special for psychiatrists they would want to do it. Well, this special would be to make 50 prints of my film once it was finished and they would pay me $2,000- much more than the 14 of course, right- $2,000 for this privilege of making the prints and using them. And so my trip, which cost me $1,700, was paid for with a $300 bonus. And of course I have the film as well. That was my first experience.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Tamara Tracz Rebekah Maysles Sara Maysles

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Tags: New York, CBS, Boston

Duration: 3 minutes, 10 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008