The U-M Library is home to extensive archives and materials documenting the careers of several American filmmakers known for coloring outside the lines: Robert Altman, Ira Deutchman, Alan Rudolph, Nancy Savoca, John Sayles, and Orson Welles. Together they make U-M a major destination for research on these American maverick filmmakers.
“These are independent thinkers and artists, not traditional filmmakers consistently supported by the studios,” says Philip Hallman, the film studies librarian at the U-M Library. “They are all American mavericks with much to teach us not only about film but about our shared heritage, culture and society.”
From Robert Altman — best known for films like Nashville and MASH, and who spent time at U-M in the 1980s — U-M has a vast array of materials including working drafts of his scripts that show his production process. An early adopter of new technologies, some of the materials are on outdated software and hardware platforms that present interesting and exciting challenges for librarians to retrieve and preserve.
In 2013, the library presented an exhibit on Altman’s work and hosted a three-day symposium —including screenings and scholarly presentations — to mark the official opening of the archives to the public.
On his website, Ira Deutchman describes himself as follows: Movie Producer, Distributor, Exhibitor, Columbia University Professor and Cubs Fan. His Twitter handle reads: @nyindieguy. As one of the founders of Cinecom and later Fine Line Features, Ira is the go-to guy for all things Indie and one of the most respected names in the independent film business.
He has been involved in producing, distributing or marketing some of the most important indie films of the 1980s to the present including “sex, lies and videotape,” “A Room with a View,” “Stop Making Sense,” “Hoop Dreams” and “El Norte.” He acquired and distributed fellow maverick Robert Altman’s “The Player” and Short Cuts,” marketed fellow maverick John Sayles’ “The Brother From Another Planet” and “Matewan” and was the executive producer of maverick member Alan Rudolph’s “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.”
His archive includes film festival catalogs, one-sheets and distribution materials and numerous letter, correspondence and memos between himself, filmmakers and other leading figures in the business world and gives users a unique insider perspective.
Alan Rudolph began his professional filmmaking career as the assistant director to fellow maverick Robert Altman and worked on Altman’s “The Long Goodbye” and his masterpiece “Nashville.” The two remained lifelong friends and collaborators as Rudolph struck out on his own as director (with Altman remaining as producer on many of the projects), making quirky ensemble based examinations of lonely people often in troubled, desperate situations, among them “Welcome to L.A.,” “Choose Me,” “Remember My Name,” “The Moderns” and “Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.”
The Rudolph collection covers the careers of both Alan Rudolph and his wife, photographer Joyce Rudolph, and includes production notes, script drafts and revisions, and the wondrous photographs Joyce Rudolph took as on-set photographer.
A graduate of NYU’s noted Tisch School of the Arts, Nancy hit it out of the ballpark when her film “True Love” took the top prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1989. Born in the Bronx, New York to Argentine and Sicilian immigrant parents, Nancy used her unique perspective on the world to comedic effect in her debut feature which The New York Times called an “exuberant, raucously funny film about a big Italian-American wedding and all its abundant fallout. If ‘Moonstruck’ had been made by, for and about real people, it might have been a lot like ‘True Love.'”
Together with husband and producing/writing partner Rich Guay, Nancy’s work foregrounds the female perspective and explores topics like unrequited love (Dogfight), three-generations of Italian-American women (Household Saints), abortion (If These Walls Could Talk), working mothers (The 24 Hour Woman), Latino lesbians (Reno: Rebel Without a Pause), illegal immigrant maids (Dirt) and estranged sisters (Union Square).
Her archive represents nearly three decades of genuine indie filmmaking and includes notes, notebooks, photos, and script drafts.
In 2013, Sayles and his longtime producing partner, Maggie Renzi, donated about 230 boxes of archival material spanning Sayles’ entire career, from his 1979 directorial debut “Return of the Secaucus 7” up through “Go for Sisters,” which was still forthcoming.
Sayles’ films themselves are housed at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. The U-M collection includes scripts, production documents, legal documents, photographs, storyboards and correspondence regarding such films as “Matewan,” “Brother from Another Planet,” “The Secret of Roan Inish” and more. There are personal journals and notebooks, business records and props. Also included are manuscripts of some of Sayles’ novels, short stories and plays. The archive even showcases his uncredited work as a writer on such films as “Apollo 13.”
U-M is home to the most extensive international collection of archives on filmmaker, actor, director and writer Orson Welles.
Welles, who died at age 70 in 1985, is best remembered for his innovative work in radio, theater, television and film. His 1938 broadcast of H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” and 1941 film “Citizen Kane,” which he co-wrote, produced, directed and starred in, are among the memorable creative works of the 20th century.
Recently, the library added two archival collections to their already substantial Welles holdings. The additional material includes information about different periods of Welles’ career, from his youth to the end of his life. The previously held materials include detailed work for his unfinished projects, including “It’s All True,” a documentary fictional film about Mexico and Brazil, which he worked on in the early 1940s.
The collection totals nearly 100 linear feet, including thousands of documents, letters, telegrams, scripts, production and financial statements, photographs, illustrations and audiovisual materials. (Please see our finding aids for more detail.)
Special Collections Library
Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library (South)
913 S. University Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190