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Family epitaphs and empathy for our subjects


Autobiographical elements to the films
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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I think one problem with just about any art form is that when people put up a lot of money for it, as with a film, you're usually answering to the commercial needs of the person that is putting up the money or the one who is showing the film. And so it's not so often that you make a film that comes from your heart and from your own need to tell that particular story. We were very lucky when we made "Salesman" and "Grey Gardens" because we just went ahead and made the films and these were films that just popped up from our own experience and part of why they were so important to us, and perhaps why we made films of high quality, is that we motivated, in the case of "Salesman" certainly, by something in our own make up, something from some kind of family connection that made it very important for us to dig deeper and fuller into the life of a particular character, Paul Brennan who is the main character of the film. In many ways he was unlike my father. Paul Brennan was Irish; my father was Jewish- a very important difference in those days. But my father was brought up in a, in a neighborhood in Boston that was totally Irish so all of his friends were Irish, and like his friends who were Irish, who inevitably sought out jobs working for Civil Service: postmen, policemen, firemen, a postal clerk- my father became a postal clerk even though- even though he was very good with a cornet and, and loved good music. On the other hand, in an obverse paradoxical fashion, Paul Brennan is an Irishman who shouldn't be a salesman- should be, should have been the postal clerk, right? And, and also he was somebody who could have done much better at choosing his job than being a door-to-door salesman, he could have, perhaps been a writer because there's a poetic kind of consciousness in that man, as there was in my father. So that in a way we were telling my father's story in an obverse fashion. My father had died many years before my brother and I made that film and this was kind of a revisit, heart and soul, to a kind of a parallel paradoxical connection and, and therefore a beautiful fulfillment.

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: Rebekah Maysles Tamara Tracz Sara Maysles

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.

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: Salesman, Grey Gardens, Paul Brennan

Duration: 3 minutes, 42 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008