a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Cuba: filming Fidel Castro


Developing a new way of making documentaries
Albert Maysles Film-maker
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments
I was naive enough to think, well- that CBS would have something very small where I could shoot sync sound, and the camera would be quiet and all that, but none of that stuff existed at that time for anybody. And it wasn't until five years later when I met up with three guys who had actually more experience than myself and one of them, Bob Drew, was a Life Magazine picture editor who had gotten a grant to study what he felt would be a new form of documentary filmmaking, namely taking the idea of the Life Magazine photographer and the correspondent and instead having a photographer using a movie camera accompanied by a correspondent who was adept at taking sound with a sound recorder. And those two people, that team, could go and film anything. What remained was the financing for the development of this special kind of equipment- didn't exist for anybody. And so he got a grant of $1 million to do this and the equipment was just about ready to be put into practice when I met these three guys. And I became the next member of that team and our first film that we made together was a film called "Primary"- the primary election campaign between Kennedy and Humphrey. This was 1960, and the equipment allowed us to practice a new kind of documentary filmmaking where we didn't need lights or, if we needed lights we could use lights that were very affordable and battery operated. But, more important than that, we would have a camera that could be used without a tripod. You'd hold it on your shoulder, the tape recorder would be separate from the camera; you weren't connected with an umbilical cord. That could be done away with because of a new device- a watch that was electronic- that would be part of the camera attached in such a fashion through transformers and such to the motor that it would keep the motor at a constant speed. And then in the tape recorder a similar device, another watch, quite separate of course from the camera, would control the speed of the tape recorder. And things like that allowed us to make films in an entirely different way. That film was remarkable because of the approach that we used. We didn't have to narrate the film; we didn't have to use tripods. The film magazine held enough film to run for ten minutes without stopping or without reloading. But, more importantly, more importantly we felt that we didn't need a narrator or a host or music or anything artificial to add to what we were getting because what we were getting was more important than anything than we could add to it. And with that experience I felt that I was on my way to doing something great.

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: Sara Maysles Tamara Tracz Rebekah Maysles

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.

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.

Tags: CBS, Life Magazine, Primary, Bob Drew, Hubert Humphrey, John F Kennedy

Duration: 4 minutes, 19 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008