Screen Arts Mavericks & Makers

U-M Library  is home to extensive archives and materials documenting the careers of three American filmmakers known for coloring outside the lines: John Sayles, Robert Altman and Orson Welles. Together they make U-M a major destination for research on these American maverick filmmakers.

"These are three 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."

  • Poster of John Sayles

    John Sayles

    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.
  • Photo of Robert Altman

    Robert Altman

    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 An early adopter of new technologies, some of the materials are on outdated software and hardware platforms that present interesting and exciting challenges for librarians to retrieve and preserve.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 and marked the official opening of the archives to the public.

  • Orson Welles

    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.)

Page maintained by Philip A Hallman
Last modified: 04/16/2015