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Filming Salesman, problems getting the film shown and meeting my wife


Salesman: the idea and finding the right subject
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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"Salesman" came a little bit later. Not that much later, actually. But it came about because of our interest in making that leap towards a new kind of documentary filming, that is, the non-fiction feature. And so, having gotten to know Joe Fox, my brother had luncheon one day with Joe and at some point told him of our plan to make a non-fiction feature film; and Joe came up with the idea of filming door-to-door salesmen and that excited David. And so when David and I got together to discuss it, we thought- yeah, that's a great idea. Let's get somebody to research the notion, to find out just what kinds of stuff were being sold door-to-door. And so it took several months before we found a guy in Providence, Rhode Island who was selling a, a book with some special thing with magazines and so forth. It seemed very interesting because- because the son was in- was in Vietnam and so the whole family picture seemed to be an interesting one, besides the guy selling the stuff. But it somehow wasn't a big enough idea at that point. And certainly just going around selling Tupperware or, or various other products- it's okay; but when we discovered that there were guys, some 4,000 of them, selling a bible door-to-door- oh, that was great, because then it became a story of, of America; with the bible, the man coming to the door who represents, really, the rugged individualism of a capitalist society. It's up to him to, and him alone, to make that sale. And then of course on the other side of the door is the, the housewife- unsuspecting that she's going to have to lay out, if she buys the product, 50- 50 bucks. And then again too, it's so much a reflection of the community- of the consumer society where the most sacred text is offered as a product rather than for its spiritual value. All these things conspired to give the film a, the possibility of- of being a great American document. And so with that excitement, and especially upon finding that there were four guys from Boston- Irish guys at that- the Irish kids that we fought now become the men that we can try to understand and portray for- with what's going on in their lives; get to know them and like them. So when we found that there were four guys working for Mid-American Bible, which had its offices in Chicago- that there were these four guys from New England, from Boston as a matter of fact- our hometown- it had that autobiographical value that motivated us all the more so.

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: Salesman, Rhode Island, Vietnam, USA, Chicago, New England, Boston, Joe Fox, David Maysles

Duration: 4 minutes, 18 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008