Dispatch From Doc Class: Week 4

I am not sure how to fully express how much I feel this week’s class has changed my life. I know lots of folks say these things offhandedly, but this week was truly different. Our class began with the normal review and we watched and discussed a few film segments. But what made this week different was that we were able to meet and spend time with Albert Maysles, the founder and benefactor of the Maysles Institute, where I trek to every Saturday.

On Sunday, I tweeted this. And I still feel that way.

I have had nowhere near a linear life. My life trajectory, if drawn, would probably look more like an old oak tree–branches going this way and that, curving back in on themselves, and starting all over again. Watch out for the big knots on the side! This weekend’s class put so much of that in perspective for me. While talking to Maysles, although I was in a group of 14, I felt like he was talking directly to me.

Although he gave some tips on filming, what I found most fascinating was his process, or personal reasons behind his work. It’s all about getting to know the unfamiliar, unknown or other and finding common ground. His early film, Salesman, is all about Irish door-to-door bible salesmen. Why? As a Jewish kid who grew up in an Irish neighborhood, he had few friends. He and his brother David were often victims of harassment and ridicule. Salesman was his way of getting to know and humanizing folks who had been, for all intents and purposes, monsters in his childhood.

Lightbulbs continued to go off in my brain the longer we met and I took about three pages of notes based on our group conversation. I’m still processing what this means for me, though I do know it means change.