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Mark Moskovitz – Film Director (Part 1 of 2)

By Admin | July 21, 2008

Mark Moskovitz directs political commercials and is a documentary filmmaker. His documentary film The Stone Reader was based on his search for the mysterious and little-known author Dow Mossman, author of the book Stones of Summer, which had a profound effect on him when he first read it as a young man. We recently had a chance to get his thoughts.


Where are you from?

Philadelphia. Born in Wynnefield. Moved to Penn Valley when I was 4. Lived out in Chester Springs last 25 years.

Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?

University of Pennsylvania. English.

What has been your career path from college to today?

Worked through college and graduated without any real direction. Always interested in music, worked at WXPN after graduating while holding day job and became interested in media.

Worked for a local film company as low man on totem pole, liked it, learned the craft of filmmaking and eventually became a producer, went out on my on, started directing, never looked back – well, once or twice when times were lean.

What recent political commercials have you directed?

Michael Nutter (Mayor of Philadelphia), Jeff Bingaman (US Senator, New Mexico), Ed Rendell (Governor of Pennsylvania), Steve Kagen (US Congress, Wisconsin) among many others.

What did you think of the Hillary Clinton “3 am ringing phone” commercial?

I thought it was kind of an old-fashioned hardball ad. The message was very clear. And message is what politics is often about.

It was an attempt to re-frame the debate.

This sometimes works in primaries. We did an ad in the 1984 Presidential Democratic Primary for Alan Cranston (Senator, CA) on the Nuclear Freeze. It served the purpose of re-framing the debate for a period in our favor and forced the other candidates to re-examine their national security positions.

The style of the ad – commercial quality rather than “newsy” and “informative” like many political spots try to be was an attempt to lift the importance of the spot from the clutter and get the news talking about it, which it accomplished.

What was it about Stones of Summer that provoked such a strong emotional response in you?

I have been asked this many times, and as years go by my answers keep evolving.

I think, at the heart of it, was the coming-of-age story in a time close to me and (the author) somehow nailed the inexplicable feelings I had at the time as a kid and a teenager. The feelings back then, rather than the feelings now, caught in a reflective way and just looking back now.

That’s strong stuff. Like getting flashbacks. On top of that, the excessiveness, of the stories, the characters, even the prose, is something I was attracted to as a young man in all the arts (movies, music, literature) but is not something you see much of now.

As Dow once said, the sixties ended five minutes after he finished writing the book.

Was your search for the author ultimately fulfilling to you?

Oh yes. At first, though, no. I was depressed. I couldn’t work on the film for a year. I felt I blew it. I felt that having the reality of it just killed all my imagination and drive and fun about it.

Dow himself proved to be the best of friends. We connected on so many levels, especially books – remarkable how many books we both have read and mutually loved and can discuss with enthusiasm.

So, movie aside, the friendship we have made has become a nice part of my life.

Was The Stone Reader a commercial and/or critical success?

Certainly critical. As the most independent of films, both in how it was made and distributed, it made many ten best lists for the year. The attention it received, and long-running discussion it provoked, both were things I was unprepared for.

Financially it did better than I would have ever expected, especially theatrically. In the end I wouldn’t call it a financial success but that’s not why I made it.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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