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The benefits of video over film for the documentary filmmaker


Helping other filmmakers
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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I'm about to make a film which is the film of my autobiography, and I plan to have excerpts of various films in it; conversations with fellow filmmakers. But I think what would be some of the best material will be my conversations with people who ring me up in order to get advice on how to make their film, people who may be, in some instances, they've never made a film before but they're in film school. Or they've made a film but they're kind of stuck. So I got a call one day from this woman who said she's got to talk to me, she has to talk to me about a film. I said- come on over. I said- now look, don't tell me anything yet, but do you have a title for it? And she said- oh yeah, "In Good Conscience". Oh, well, tell me more. And she told me that the film would be about a nun that she knows, who's been a nun for some 40 years, so she's a true believer, but she's run into problems with the Vatican because she's not only worked- done missionary work with homosexuals but she's written a book about it. And they put a silence on her. And so I said- well, wait a minute now, so she's in battle with the Vatican? So I said- and she said- yeah. I said- what a fascinating story. She said- in fact she's having her birthday in a couple of days. I said- I'm going with you. And it was to Baltimore, right? And so I helped her. But had I been filming her, as I will other people as these opportunities come along, I would have had a nice piece for my autobiography. But, in any case, with her permission, I'll put a scene or two of the film into- into what we're doing now. On another occasion two young filmmakers- a young woman and a man- they called me up. And when they came they began to tell me that- or he began to tell me that his grandfather was in the Second World War and that he was taking his fellow soldiers, his comrades, a whole group of them, back to where they fought- in the Normandy beach and the Hertigan Forest in Germany. And so they wanted to make a film of it. And I said- oh, that's great. But then they added one more thing that made it so interesting that I joined them in making the film, and that is that they were not only going together but they were meeting up with German soldiers with whom they had fought. And so I came up with this title for them: "On Common Ground", because on common ground they tried to kill one another, on common ground they were trying to become friends. And that's the film, and it's a beautiful film at that.

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: In Good Conscience, Vatican, Baltimore, World War II, Normandy, Germany, On Common Ground

Duration: 3 minutes, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 29 September 2010