John Donates His Film Archives to University of Michigan

We are thrilled to announce that John and Maggie have recently found a new home for over 230 boxes of screenplays, story boards, photos, props, notes, legal documents and other materials which span John’s 34-year movie making career.


John and Maggie on the set of Sunshine State in 2002


These materials have been donated to the University of Michigan’s Special Collections Library, for the creation of the John Sayles Archive.

Maggie says, “We chose the University of Michigan over other excellent archives and libraries because we wanted to see John’s work studied as part of the curriculum at a great university.”

John gives a little background:

“The idea of archiving at the University of Michigan comes out of two major considerations- a)  Putting all this stuff, much of it paper, somewhere where it won’t serve as low-cost housing for rodents (our garage and basement), and b)  Putting it all together somewhere with people who can organize it into some kind of useful, coherent body. We considered a couple of places, and chose Michigan partly because our stuff won’t get ‘lost’ or just become a footnote in a much larger collection, and partly because much of the bulk of the collection is related to my work as a screenwriter for hire (I’ll hit the 100 screenplay mark this year) and Michigan has an excellent screenwriting program.  They also impressed us with their curating ideas and abilities, and I hope professors there will find it useful in their teaching.”

The University has already begun the work of organizing and curating over three decades of film-making history into a useful and dynamic teaching tool, and putting the word out about what the future holds for this collection (see video below).

“The John Sayles Archive is a scholarly treasure trove for students, faculty and anyone interested in exploring the inner workings of this artist.” — University President Mary Sue Coleman, in an official statement.

Once ready (around in Spring 2014), the archives will be open to the campus community in Ann Arbor, as well as the general public.  And when you visit, you can also check out the university’s documentation of the careers of American filmmakers Orson Welles and Robert Altman.

“These are three independent thinkers and artists, not traditional filmmakers consistently supported by the studios.  They are all American mavericks with much to teach us not only about film but about our shared heritage, culture and society.  [John’s] is what we call a ‘living collection,’ providing researchers with unparalleled opportunities for discovery and insight.” — Philip Hallman, Film Studies Librarian at the University of Michigan Library

The University has released a great short video about the acquisition, which you can watch right here.


Read more about all this at the links below:

  1. ABC News

  2. Detroit Free Press

  3. Albany Times Union

  4. Charlotte Observer

  5. Fox News

  6. History News Network

  7. The Big Story

  8. University Herald

And of course, as the John Sayles Archive at the University of Michigan evolves and edges closer to its opening date, we will keep you posted with all the latest info right here on the blog and our social media channels.

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A message from John & Maggie

What a great time we had on the YELLOW EARTH book tour. We loved seeing all of our old friends. Lots of hugging and kissing and shaking of hands. That was then! We were very lucky to return home – la

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