- ISSUE 2
- FANNY BY DAVID BELLEMERE
- ISSUE 3
- DIORA’S KEY STARRING DIORA BAIRD BY STEPHANIE VOVAS
- TOY STORY REDUX BY TONY KELLY
- ESTELLA WARREN
- SHE LOOKED THRU ME
- EMILY RATAJKOWSKI BY STEVE SHAW
- RITUAL BY SIGNE VILSTRUP
- HARRI PECCINOTTI
- AU LAIT BY BENEDICT REDGROVE
- IOAN GRUFFUDD
- 16 PELL STREET BY STEPHAN WÜRTH
- LE PREMIÈRE FEMME MODERNE
- JENNIFER WEST
- ISSUE 1
- BROOKE BONELLI BY STEVE SHAW
- TERRY O’NEILL
- TONY DURAN SHOOTS THE CASTING FOR TREATS ISSUE #1
- STEVE SHAW PHOTOGRAPHS JASON STATHAM, SPRING 2011
- ELSA HOSK BY ANDREAS KOCK
- RACHEL ROBERTS BY DEBORAH ANDERSON
- SAS BY TONY KELLY
- LAUREN, NIKKI, AMANDA, ABBY & FRANKI
- SHEPARD FAIREY
- KHOSI BY WARWICK SAINT
- DOWN IN THE FOREST SOMETHING STIRS
- THE GARDEN OF SIN & SEDUCTION
- ISSUE 4
- ALBERT MAYSLES
- SESSILEE LOPEZ BY MARK SELIGER
- FALLING BY GABRIELLE REVERE & JO BAKER
- MODERN ARTISANS BY TONY DURAN
- ANTHEA BY DAVID BELLEMERE
- ASTRAL TRAVELING BY PETROVSKY & RAMONE
- GOLD RUSH BY TONY DURAN
- NICO TORTORELLA
- KING LOUIS REIGNS
- ALANA MARIE
- AMANDA MARIE PIZZICONI BY BRETT RATNER
- WATER GIRLS
- TADAO ANDO: THE SIMPLICITY OF PERFECTION
- DUANE MICHALS
- STORK CLUB: THE MOST FAMOUS NIGHTCLUB ON EARTH
- ISSUE 5
- LE PRINCE DE PARFUM
- JOHN VAN HAMERSVELD
- EVA & KELSEY BY LUIS SANCHIS
- CISCO BY DAVID BELLEMERE
- BOB CARLOS CLARKE: THE LAST OF THE MAVERICKS
- TRIPTYCHS BY SAMUEL BAYER
- ZUZANA BY ANNE-CONSTANCE FRÉNOY
- VANESSA BY KESLER TRAN
- THE MAN WHO (ALMOST) FOOLED EVERYONE
- TABITHA BY STEVE SHAW
- JAMES GEORGOPOULOS BY MAXWELL WILLIAMS
- HOLLIE BY MARIANNA ROTHEN
- EUGENA BY JOSH RYAN
- BLACK TONGUE BY SAMUEL BAYER
- TEHILA BY JAMES MACARI
- TREATS! PARTY PICS
- BRETT RATNER SHOOTS AMANDA PIZZICONI
- BLACK TONGUE
- FALLING BY JO BAKER & GABRIELLE REVERE
- JO BAKER – WICKED LINER AND LASHES
- SIGNE VILSTRUP – RITUAL (VIDEO)
- TREATS! MAGAZINE ISSUE 2 PREVIEW
- “ASTRAL TRAVELING” BY PETROVSKY & RAMONE FOR TREATS! ISSUE 4
- SHORT FILMS
- THE SUMMER HOUSE BY JOE WEHNER
- TREATS! ISSUE #3 LAUNCH PARTY
- TREATS! MAGAZINE ISSUE 3 PREVIEW
- MARK SELIGER SHOOTS SESSILEE LOPEZ EXCLUSIVELY FOR TREATS!
- “WATER GIRLS” BY HERRING & HERRING
- DIORA BAIRD BY STEPHANIE VOVAS (VIDEO)
- TRICK OR TREATS! ANNUAL HALLOWEEN PARTY
- FRANK W OCKENFELS 3 SHOOTS MAY LINDSTROM FOR ISSUE #3
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS EMILY RATAJKOWSKI (VIDEO #2)
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS EMILY RATAJKOWSKI (VIDEO)
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS IOAN GRUFFUDD
- STEVEN LYON SHOOTS “FILLES DE NUIT” FOR TREATS ISSUE #2
- BROOKE BONELLI GETS A TREAT! OF A TAN!
- TONY DURAN, BEHIND THE SCENE PART 3
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS BROOKE AND MAY – BEHIND THE SCENES
- DEWY SKIN BY JO BAKER
- FILLES DE NUIT BY STEVEN LYON
- TREATS! PREMIERE ISSUE OSCAR PARTY
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS ABBY BROTHERS
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS JASON STATHAM
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS BROOKE & MAY
- RED LIPS BY JO BAKER
- SHIMMERY SEXY EYES
- METALLIC CAT EYE BY JO BAKER
- JO BAKER MODERN ROMANTIC
- TREATS! PHOTOGRAPHERS
- TONY DURAN SHOOTS THE CASTING: BEHIND THE SCENES PT. 2
- BEN WATTS SHOOTS BREAKING AWAY FOR TREATS! ISSUE 2 – PT. 1
- TREATS! MAGAZINE ISSUE 1 PREVIEW
- ELECTRIC BY HERRING & HERRING
- AUDREY AT THE GOLDSTEIN RESIDENCE
- TONY DURAN SHOOTS EMILY RATAJKOWSKI IN “LIKE IT HOT” FOR ISSUE #2
- TREATS! EVENTS
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS AMY HIXSON
- BEN WATTS – BREAKING AWAY FOR TREATS! ISSUE 2 VIDEO PT. 3
- BEN WATTS: THE INTERVIEW, PT. 1
- BEN WATTS SHOOTS BREAKING AWAY FOR TREATS! – PT. 2
- STEVE SHAW SHOOTS BROOKE BONELLI
- TONY DURAN, BEHIND THE SCENES PART 1
- BEN WATTS FOR TREATS! PREMIERE ISSUE: BEHIND THE SCENES
- BEN WATTS – THE INTERVIEW PART 2
- MODEL SCREEN TESTS
- WEB EXCLUSIVES
- RALPH GIBSON’S NUDE: REDUX
- TASYA VAN REE: THE FEMALE GAZE
- ERIC STANTON: IT’S A WOMAN’S WORLD
- TREATS Q&A: STEVE SCHAPIRO
- MALIBU’S LOST SHANGRI-LA
- WHERE MODERNISM FOUND ITS HOME
- CONRAD ROSET: THE MUSE IS THE MEDIUM
- DAVID PAUL LARSON: RAW APPROACH
- POST NO BILLS & FAILE
- BAKER’S BEAUTY MARK: SPF SHOWDOWN
- CHIC ROUGH SHINY WEARABLE THINGS
- FIFTY SHADES OF DE SADE
- THERE WILL BE HISTORY
- PROPRIETRESS OF PLEASURE, AKA OWNER!
- THE ZIGGY FILES
- BAKER’S BEAUTY MARK: OLYMPIAN METALLICS
- CARMEL VALLEY INN
- A ROUGE AWAKENING: IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LIPS
- CAMPGROUND CHIC MEETS LUXURY LODGINGS
- MODEL TALK – DIORA BAIRD
- ACHTUNG, BERLIN!
- SKIN RE’TREAT!
- ARMANI’S CREMA THE CROP
- MR MAXWELL WILL SEE YOU NOW
- PEACHY KEEN: SLIDE INTO SPRING WITH CHANEL’S HARMONIE DE PRINTEMPS LINE
- BELA BORSODI: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PHOTOGRAPHER
- TREATS! Q & A: DAVID BELLEMERE
- MODEL TALK: MAY LINDSTROM
- HELMUT 3.0
- A BALANCING ACT LIKE NO OTHER
- THE CHARMING BENEDICT REDGROVE
- BAKER’S BEAUTY MARK: MON SHU
- YEAR OF THE BUNNY
- ADVENTURES IN RIO: BRAZIL & BUST
- SEX LIT 101: CLASSIC EROTICA
- TREATS Q&A: JARRED LAND
- LA PERLA: COSA C’È SOTTO!
- NICK VEASEY: X MAN
- TOM O’NEAL: MOMENTS IN TIME
- TREATS! Q&A: EDOUARD MEYLAN OF CELSIUS X VI II
- TREATS Q & A: D.A. PENNEBAKER
- 2 1/2 HOURS
- LUXURIANT DESERT JEWELS
- BUTTERFLY DREAMS IN CHINA
- WHO IS DOUG BARTLETT?
- ALLAN TEGER: PEAKS & VALLEYS
- MAKE IT NEW: THE STORY OF MODERN ARCHITECTURE
- GUSTAV KLIMT: THE SHAPE OF A WOMAN
- THE MOST INTERESTING TOWN IN THE WORLD
- JIMMY STEINFELDT: IN THROUGH THE LENS
- FOREVER YOUNG
- TREATS Q & A: JOHN URBANO
Muhammad Ali, The Beatles, JFK, Castro, Marlon Brando & The Rolling Stones were all authentically captured by his camera. Jean-Luc Godard called him “the best American camerman,” while Norman Mailer said his film Salesman was “more about America than any other film.” The documentary filmmaking duo, Albert and David Maysles, pioneered and perfected Cinema Verite with their revolutionary fly-on-the-wall films. TREATS! heads to NYC to talk with Albert about helping to introduce The Beatles to America, capturing the audience homicide at The Stones’ 1969 Altamont concert and why Martin Scorsese has him on speed dial.
In 1955, were a psychology teacher who decided to leave school and go to Russia to make the documentary Psychiatry in Russia about mental hospitals. But it was your 1964 documentary, Here’s What’s Happening Baby, The Beatles documentary capturing the inside story of the band’s first two frenzied weeks in America, that made you and your brother sought-after filmmakers. How did you go from mental hospitals in Russia to The Beatles?
On February 7, 1964, I got a telephone call from Granada Television in England, whom I never had worked with but I think they had seen my film Showman. And they said, “The Beatles are arriving in two hours at JFK Airport. Would you like to film them?” So I put my hand over the phone and turned to my brother David and asked, “Who are the Beatles? Are they any good?” Fortunately, David knew. “Oh, they’re great,” he said with a big smile on his face. We both got on the phone and made a deal for TV and rushed out to the airport just in time to see the plane coming in to land. David had his sound recorder and I had my camera. We jumped in the limo with them and off we were running. We drove with them into New York City and spent the next four or five days with them.
You then went with them to their famed Ed Sullivan Show appearance, right?
Yes. But I didn’t go inside and watch the performances. Better than that, when they walked into CBS, we realized there was no point in going with them because to film them we would have to go through the whole union process. And by the time we started on that they would be out of there. So, instead, we just walked down the street, got into an ordinary tenement building, heard music from a household, knocked on the door, and filmed a family watching the show. So that was much better.
The birth of Cinéma Vérite!
It’s always trying to get behind the scenes to get close towards what is going on. We also went to the Beatles’ Washington, D. C. show; there were two versions of the film. Their management said, “Make it more commercial.” That was broadcast in 1964 on CBS-TV known as The Beatles in America.
Did you have any clue at the time you’d be talking about The Beatles nearly 50 years later?
I was as mystified as the public was! People have said when they arrived at the airport maybe 10 or 20 people would show up. But instead 5,000 were there.
Did you guys have all-access?
Yes. But we weren’t aware at the time we were a witness to history.
You and your brother David had an almost telepathic relationship, it seems.
Well, I think we had it and always will have it. It’s sort of a special talent for access. Everything seemed to be a natural process for us—becoming friends simultaneously with the filming. But more than that, I think we really like people and they see it right away in our eyes. There’s a constant empathy. An empathizing process that goes on. David was very important to the films. He was a visual sound guy and when people looked at me they often times couldn’t see me because I’d have the camera hiding my face and it was very important when they looked at my brother that they looked at somebody who was as loving as I was. And there was always a positive thing that emanated from both of us. He also supervised the editing.
In 2011 The Love We Make was released, where you followed Paul [McCartney] through the streets of New York City just after the 9/11 terrorist attacks as he organizes an all-star benefit concert. Had you seen him since 1964?
I don’t think I had seen any of the Beatles since ‘64. I got a call one day from Paul several weeks after 9/11 and he said he was in town and that we should get together because in two weeks “something is gonna happen that you gotta film.” So we got together and he explained to me that he was putting on a concert to bring up the spirits of those who had suffered so much, especially the police and the firemen. You know, Paul’s father was a firefighter in World War II. It was the same old Paul. When we showed him the final film he didn’t have any changes that he wanted to make. It was completely the way it was. I’m glad he called.
After The Beatles, you guys moved on to the Stones and Gimme Shelter.
We got a phone call one day from Haskell Wexler who said the Rolling Stones were in town in Los Angeles and they were about to go on a nationwide tour. “Maybe you should look them up,” he said. Again, in this particular case, neither one of us knew their music but we trusted Haskell. So we knocked on their door at the Plaza Hotel and we started talking to them. “Well, we’re going to be performing the next evening in Baltimore. You are most welcome to attend,” they said. We went to the show…and they were good. And we followed it up by making a deal with them and we then filmed them at Madison Square Garden.
Were you blown away by Jagger on stage?
I don’t know how to put it into words to describe Jagger on stage. You just have to see the footage. We joined after the tour began and, of course, a moment in American history. Mick Jagger was very invested during the process of the movie without in any way trying to control it. That was important. He never said, “Oh, you need to get this. And you need to get that. Do this.” And we had a lot more cameras at Altamont.
What was it like being at Altamont, where there was a homicide in the audience, and filming it?
It was interesting the way the press handled it. There was a very good reviewer at The New York Times, Vincent Canby, who in the middle of his review said: “The Maysles must have said, ‘A-ha!’ when they saw that they had captured the killing on film in the editing room.” The title of his piece was “Making Murder Pay.” Well, he was wrong, really. We weren’t doing it just to make the money. Secondly, it wasn’t a murder. No one was able to prove the motivation. I was on the stage just behind the Stones for most of the filming and I could see them and the immediate audience. My brother, with another cameraman, was on a truck to the side of the stage out of my view but in view of the killing. It’s interesting, just before the concert began I had myself placed just down below, filming the audience in exactly the same spot where the killing took place. So I’m there and I’m filming and the guy just below me with his child gets up and says, “If you don’t leave this place right here, right now, I’ll kill you.”
After principal filming and you are in the editing stages, the movie sort of becomes a documentary about a documentary, or at least moments on screen where band members Jagger and drummer Charlie Watts are commenting about a work in progress.
Mick said at some point after the film was shot they’d like to take a look at it. It was their idea. And then when Charlotte [Zwerin] was editing it, she said, “Let’s call them up on that and let’s film them watching. It would be just great.” It was their idea and her idea and it worked beautifully of course. For example, when I was shooting the Stones listening to the playback of “Wild Horses,” my brother whispered in my ear, “Take a look at Keith’s boots.” And I shot them. When we showed Mick the film he didn’t say, “Eliminate this.” But he was taken by the horror of the events and he couldn’t give us the release. So we waited six months and one day my brother happened to meet the director of Performance, Donald Cammell, who directed Jagger in the movie, and David told him that we had some problems in getting a release. So Donald said, “Let me take a look at it.” So he saw the film and said, “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.” And that’s it. That is how we got the OK.
Did the 1970 premiere and the first screenings of Gimme Shelter support or help your subsequent long-form documentary work?
Well, we’d already triumphed with the theatrical showing of Salesman. But to see Gimme Shelter on that big screen with full audiences is equal to the actual moments you spend filming it.
You were a part of Martin Scorsese’s Rolling Stones documentary Shine the Light, too, right?
I got a call one day from Scorsese and he said, “I’ve got eighteen 35mm cameras and we’re going to be filming the Stones at this theater and I’d love for you to come along with your video camera and shoot whatever you think should be shot. And besides, Keith and Mick have both asked that you come.” So off I went. In fact, just the other day I got a call from Scorsese. “There’s a film we should make together,” he said. That’s gonna happen next year!
It’s widely known that your movie, Salesman, which Norman Mailer said was “more about America than any other film,” had a direct influence on Scorsese’s Mean Streets.
In a recent lecture I gave, I quoted Hitchcock: “The director is God in Hollywood. But in the documentary world God is the director.” You have to choose the right subject at the right time. And, whether you’re knowing it or not, you’re probably at your best if that subject has a personal aspect to it—something in your childhood that is re-enacted directly or indirectly, if you are on the right course, but not to be afraid that it is very personal. Because that’s probably gonna make it all the stronger. The problem with people giving you a subject to film is that it’s very unlikely to be that personal. And like Hitchcock’s advice, let things go along and keep your eye out for what should be in the film. The movie was about selling Bibles door-to-door.
You and David did some door-to-door brush selling in high school, right?
Yes. But I think it’s the identification with somebody that you are so sympathetic with that really makes the film. Paul [Brennan] is a salesman and I suppose he should have been a poet. And I guess when you are being dragged through hard times…but you really like these guys and feel for them. Today, I don’t feel people are bothered by its out-datedness. The first questions people ask at showings and events are, “How do you get people to be so natural?” “How do you get the camera not to interfere with what is going on?” And I answer that by saying there is something more important that’s taking place. And that is the empathizing process—which people understand I am doing. When I shot Salesman I always had a light with me and one on the camera as well. I very rarely used it but there were times when I needed a light and I bounced the light right off the ceiling in the room and that was all.
In your movie, Meet Marlon Brando, we watch Brando confront the press during a media junket with television journalists. It premiered at the New York Film Festival in 1966 and Variety’s review was… “…enchanting…clever…delightful…beguiling.” How did this very unorthodox film come together?
Brando had just finished making the film Morituri, but it was not his most successful film. However, the producers of the film needed some promotion for it, to get the word out, so they arranged for television interviewers from all over the country to come to New York to interview Brando. And just a day or so before the interview took place they called us up and said, “We’d love to have you film these interviews and we’ll edit each film down to a couple of minutes and send it off to local broadcasting channels around the nation.” So we began filming, and we half-turned our heads to each other and said, “Yeah…We’ll put this film together and make our own film.” That occurred to us almost immediately, and that’s what happened. It turned out to be a template of the modern press junket. What was especially entertaining was the interviewer would ask his or her question and Marlon Brando would take off on an idea of his own.
When you began, Hollywood was so tied to structure, soundstages, prepared location shoots, and the independent voice was hardly given a forum. In the mid-to-late 60s things really began to change, didn’t they?
Well, actually when you examine those major films of mine, Salesman, Grey Gardens, and Gimme Shelter, we got no money from anybody. Sometimes you just have to go ahead with it. When we came out with Salesman we were hoping to get it into movie theaters, but nobody was interested in distributing it. So we thought, Okay, we will at least get it into a theater if we rent a movie theater. But we can do that only if we raise some money. So we show some of the film to maybe a hundred people and as they’re walking out to congratulate us I noticed through a crack in the door there was one person left in the theater. And when she got up to leave I saw that she had been crying and as she got closer I saw how attractive she was. I elbowed my brother and said, “She’s for me.” And that woman became my wife.
How did Grey Gardens, about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ aunt and cousin living in squalor in their East Hampton mansion, come about?
One day I got a call from Lee Radziwill, Jacqueline Kennedy’s sister, who knew of my work because her boyfriend Peter Beard, the photographer. He recommended that she speak to my brother and me because she wanted to make a film of her childhood in the Hamptons. And so we got to talking about that and we started making the film. And several weeks into filming she got a call from Little Edie Beale saying that she and her mother, Big Edie Beale, were in trouble because the Board of Health was after them and could she come over and help out. So Lee turned to us and asked, “Maybe you would like to go along with her?” I said, “Do you think we should bring the camera?” She said, ”Oh, yeah!” So we started filming and then several days later Lee sort of lost interest but weeks later we said, “We’ve got to go back there and make a film.” So that’s how it started and we did it over six weeks. In fact, when we did the movie, at the end of days that were particularly successful, Edie would shout, “It’s been a banner day!” When the film was finished we brought the film to Grey Gardens and showed it to them. After the screening was over, Little Edie got up and shouted, “The Maysles have created a classic!” One day Edie got back to us when her mother had just died and she told us during one of her last moments she turned to her mother and said, “Is there something more you want to say?” And her mother said, “There’s nothing more to say. It’s all in the film.”
It’s a classic.
It’s funny, when I meet somebody and I start to identify myself and I say I’m a documentary filmmaker, right away they say, “Have you seen Grey Gardens?!”
The great documentary filmmaker, D.A. Pennebaker, told me that when he is behind a camera he gets into a zone and does not want to come out. What is the shooting experience like for you?
The camera is my way of conversing, making friends, capturing touching moments. It’s my way of relating. And I don’t have to say a word. I know that when I am getting something really good, they know it as well. And they think, This guy knows what he is doing.
What equipment were you using in the early days?
I used a 25-pound camera that I had built myself from existing parts. I put it into a shape that was just right for me so that the weight was such that when it was put on my shoulder it was balanced and that I could carry it all day long without getting tired. The portability was an asset and that you could hold it so steady and had no problems. It was battery-pack operated and that must have been a four- or five-pound battery. I used a standard zoom lens that has a broad range. And I didn’t want another lens because if I changed lenses all the time I’d miss the shot.
In many of your films, you sometimes leave your voice off screen and heard on tape when the interview subject responds, instead of editing out the original question or a thought you might have. Was this by design?
Yes, because I don’t want to fool anybody. It is an interview and let’s look at it as such.
It also brings you further into the process, right?
That’s right. Because people get kind of spooked out when they wonder, Who is this guy shooting all this stuff? Of course, one of the secrets of a good interview is asking the right questions.
Your films display a world where the environment and reality just happen, almost as an organic directive. Your drama was realism without a budget or motive. Did coming from the world of psychology give you an insight into the human condition?
In a way you’re right. Suddenly, in 1955, teaching changed and I was so excited by the change—the possibility of having students participate in the process. It was no longer a lecture. The assumption was that it was a conversation with the student. Also, a very important thing that took place in my life was when I met up with Bob Drew, Richard Leacock, and D.A. Pennebaker. And they had exactly the same kind of vision of letting things happen. When we made the revolutionary documentary Primary, about presidential hopefuls John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey during the 1960 Wisconsin primary, the revolution was this: no host, no narration, no staging. Letting things happen, forming a relationship of trust and confidence so that the subject goes with what’s going on without concern over the camera. The result is the viewer experiences the subjects’ experiences—the full authenticity like what it was like to be there. Oftentimes something that would appear to be irrelevant gets to the heart of the matter. For example, there’s a scene in Primary where I walk behind John F. Kennedy and go on the stage. Then all the cameras are focused, fortunately, on Jackie. Then I slip around back and get her hand, which told more than what was seen in her face. So you have to be just totally open to looking carefully and getting what’s relevant.
What were your observations on filming Fidel Castro?
When I went to Cuba in 1960 I had no assignment. Well, let’s just see what happens. I got off the plane, got into a cab, turned to the driver, and said, “Where’s Fidel?” He said, “He’s at this big auditorium where he is addressing women.” I asked him to please take me there. I get close to Fidel, maybe 20 feet, and as I am raising my camera, with an extreme telephoto lens on it, over my shoulder, Fidel happens to look in my direction as he is giving this powerful speech. And I can tell from the look in his eyes that he has caught something in my eyes, that somehow it’s okay to carry it up to my shoulder to get this fantastic shot of him. I think it was that very day I got to talk with him and make that connection with him. I was then spending 24-hour days with him and one day he said that he was going to go to the Chinese Embassy and would I like to come along? And, of course, I said yes. And during the course of that evening, where we were standing shoulder to shoulder, a messenger comes rushing in and hands him a telegram. He opens it, reads it and turns to me. “Should I translate it for you? Your state department has just broken off relations with Cuba.” Had I had a little Flip camera in my pocket I certainly would have pulled it out in time to have gotten his statement on film and I would have gotten a great moment in history.
A couple of years ago, along with co-director and producer Bradley Kaplan, ESPN had you participate in their documentary, Muhammad and Larry, about boxers Muhammad Ali and Larry Holmes. It was a movie project that you had actually started in 1980, right?
In 1964 I saw Muhammad Ali in Miami; I also saw Muhammad Ali in Zaire in the 1970s. There was a period of over 20 years where I hadn’t seen him at all. I remember walking down Broadway and hearing somebody shout, “Hey, Al! Hey, Al!” It was Muhammad Ali rolling down the window of a taxi. I had really not gotten to know him that well, but he remembers everybody. So, I wound up filming him in 1980 with Larry Holmes—only about a half an hour of film. ESPN got in touch with us and I recalled we had this Muhammad Ali film. But I thought, How are we gonna make it into an hour? Well, we decided that we would film some conversations with experts that were at the fight and knew what they were talking about, and it became a very popular film for ESPN.
You now are fully involved with The Maysles Center, a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to the exhibition and production of documentary films. You also offer education programs and a filmmaking curriculum as well as a 16-week documentary filmmaking course. Your first commitment is to serve the Harlem community. How did this come about?
The reason we moved to Harlem was that we had four kids that needed their own apartments and we needed a place we could get cheap enough. My wife and I were having lunch one day in Brooklyn and I said, “You know, we should look more into Harlem.” So we walked around and got so excited we thought, Yeah, this is it.
I know a handful of major directors who chose their profession after seeing your movies. That must be flattering.
Yeah. So many people who are now well-known filmmakers have told me that is what got them started in documentaries. Mostly the film Salesman. I’ve also helped a lot of people make their own films. I’ve done a lot of that and enjoyed it very much.
Do you have a favorite film?
As I look back over all the years I’ve done a lot more of what I really want to do with my brother than in the years that have gone by. Those three films—Salesman, Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens—really stand above almost anything else.
You once said, “Faith and fate create the reality and then you let the stories emerge.” But in your career, it does seem destiny is involved.
Yes. I don’t have a problem with chance. I remember meeting and having a discussion with a newsperson, and his favorite word was “random.” And it’s mine, too.