You Know Me !
A Profile of ALBERT MAYSLES
1. How do we know you?
2. What is your latest project?
It’s my train project called In Transit. I get on long distance trains in half a dozen countries and as I film passengers, I discover people where there is a story about to happen when they get off the train. The film is a collection of those stories filmed as they take place.
3. Where are you living?
I’m living in a most beautiful brownstone in Harlem. It’s so beautiful because of the way the walls are painted, the bookcases are full of books, the paintings and photographs are so personal and many articles tell their own story.
It’s all put together by my wife who has a knack for creating comfort and beauty.
4. What don’t we know about you?
I love calamari more than any other food.
I love to crash good parties.
5. What is your favorite travel destination?
Home, just kidding! Brazil and Turkey.
6. What inspires you?
As I’m filming, catching it just right inspires me to think there’s still more to come.
7. If not yourself, who would you be?
My father, but not as a postal clerk–which he was–but as a musician which he could have been.
8. What book is your bible?
It was a book that I read when I was ten years old in the public library. I got bored doing my homework and as I walked by the row of books I noticed the title Architects of Ideas: The Great Theories of Mankind. There were 16 chapters, on people such as Copernicus, Darwin, Karl Marx and Freud. The biography of Freud fascinated me the most, the very idea of a ‘science of the mind.’ I went on to read his basic writings and by the time I was 28 I had completed 3 years of teaching psychology at Boston University.
9. What is your favorite word?
I’ve been making a film of children, aged 6, two at a time, friends or close relatives in spontaneous conversation with one another. At one point two children talk about their favorite word. The boy comes up with ‘help’ and ‘creativity’. The girl was about to offer her word when I gently interrupted to express surprise that neither had come up with my word: ‘Love.’ At that moment the little girl exclaimed ‘I was just about to say that!’
10. Who is your biggest hero?
My mother. I remember as she was dying she came up with the words she wanted on her gravestone: “Count on me as one who loved my fellow man.” Additionally, she gave me advice that has become a principle of my camera work, namely: “There’s good in everybody.”
11. How would you define success?
Obviously success is accomplishing what you set out to do, and of course that varies from one person to another. For me, it’s accomplishing the goals of being a member of a family and a maker of documentary films.
12. What would the last question of this questionnaire be if you were the one asking?
How can we make the world a better place?
For me, it consists of making documentary films that allow us to get to know each other much better as fellow human beings.
Two of America’s foremost non-fiction filmmakers, Albert Maysles and his brother David (1932-1987) are recognized as pioneers of “direct cinema,” the distinctly American version of French “cinema verité.” They earned their distinguished reputations by being the first to make non-fiction feature films–films in which the drama of human life unfolds as is, without scripts, sets or narration.
Questions by PMc Magazine
Photography by Patrick McMullan for Patrick McMullan.com
Design by Marie Havens
Albert Maysles, Grey Gardens opens on Broadway, Walter Kerr Theatre, NYC, November 2, 2006, Photography by Patrick McMullan for PatrickMcMullan.com