I connected with documentary filmmaker Harry Moses recently, here are some excerpts from our conversation about producing the television show 60 Minutes, the importance of editing in documentary films and why he continues to make documentaries.
Gary Komarin: What brought you to 60 Minutes?
Harry Moses: I had produced a film for Motorola on the Family Crisis Intervention Unit of the Oakland, CA police department. I screened the film for Don Hewitt, the executive producer of 60 Minutes, who ran it and later hired me, with a huge assist from Mike Wallace, whom I’d never met but who liked my work. Mike became my mentor and was a father figure to me, but that’s another story.
Gary Komarin: What qualities does a top producer of a news show need to produce the most excellent programs?
Harry Moses: Curiosity. Creativity. Determination. Critical acumen. Not yielding to one’s own biases.
Gary Komarin: Were you involved in the editing process of 60 Minutes segments?
Harry Moses: Editing is where every film is made, particularly documentaries, where there is no script to follow. I was and am totally involved in the editing, sometimes going through 15 cuts of a story before I show it to anyone else.
Gary Komarin: What How did growing up in New York City prepare you, if it did, for your work as a producer?
Harry Moses: New York City has more energy and more vitality per square inch than any other place I’ve been. If my youth was spent on a farm in rural Kansas, I doubt I’d be doing what I’m doing.
Gary Komarin: You did a very well regarded documentary titled: ‘Who The #$&% Is Jackson Pollock?’ How did your past experiences at 60 minutes, and TV in general, prepare you for this film?
Harry Moses: I prepared for the Pollock story the way I prepare for any story. It’s not enough for the story to be worthwhile; the main characters need to hold your interest. If Teri Horton, (the truck driver who bought the painting in the thrift shop for five bucks), had been a dud I wouldn’t have made the film. All my films tell their stories through the experiences of their characters. You don’t make the film until you know that the character is interesting enough to engage an audience.
Gary Komarin: If you could conduct your ‘dream’ interview now, who would be the guest and why?
Harry Moses: Galileo comes to mind. But really anyone who’s been fucked over and eventually triumphed, or at least proven right. I was born with an overdeveloped sense of moral outrage, which helps explain why I continue to make documentaries.
Watch a clip from Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock: