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A film about Mark Van Doren and Archibald MacLeish


Finding the missing link in film and filming Salesman
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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When I was in high school I was very ambitious. I thought that maybe I'd be another Darwin, or somebody of that sort, and possibly find the missing link. What I didn't know was that in my studies of psychology, which I took very seriously, that it would eventually bring me to the missing link that I might have been looking for, that is a connection- a special connection with reality that the movie camera, held in my hand could, could give me. By recording reality with such authenticity that people could experience what I experienced through the people that I'd be filming, and also they would get the experience itself. And that, to me, is of- is of a major tool in, in understanding the world around us. And I still am very much inspired by that notion, that through giving people an understanding of the real world, that they might be all the more prone to be better neighbors with people that they would never otherwise have met, and people of every walk of life in every status. When we made "Salesman" we had exactly that in mind- making a film of ordinary people, many of them people that we filmed as we met them. Because in "Salesman" the bible salesman would knock on a door and right away we'd be filming. Now, people have told me that although that film was made in 1968, that nowadays you couldn't do that sort of thing. People are more sophisticated about cameras and more savvy and more, more prone to distrust somebody with a camera in their hands. I don't think that's so. I think that- and certainly from my studies in psychology, I've, I've come to learn that it is possible to get access to people, all the more easily so when you consider that people really would like to be filmed if they trust you. And if you can be trusted, if you're confident of that- of that trust that you deserve, that people pick up on that through the way you look at them and through the empathy that you may give them. So that it's such a basic need that people have, that attention be paid to them, that they be recognized for whom they really are- no better, no worse, no different- that if you have that confidence, that people really would like to be filmed. And if you really feel that you deserve that kind of responsibility, and are quite eager to take that responsibility of treating people fairly, with the feeling that- and the confidence that you can make an authentic and truthful account of what you witness, then you've got everything going for you. Well, anyway, people picked up on that right away, even at the door, and there were very few people- very few women- that, if they would allow the salesman in, that they wouldn't allow us in. Some might say we had a score of 80% or 90%. I remember one woman just wasn't ready to be filmed because her hair wasn't done right. You had that sort of thing but otherwise- And, and I don't recall that anybody, once the film came out, got hold of us to say oh, I don't want to be in that film. They were dealt fairly. And that's been true of, of all the films that I've made.

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 Rebekah Maysles Tamara Tracz

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.

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.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Tags: Salesman, Charles Darwin

Duration: 5 minutes, 17 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008