Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Jesse Moss Interview

With the forthcoming release of The Overnighters on DVD from Dogwoof, I had the pleasure to interview the director Jesse Moss and ask him some questions about the film and its production. To read my review of the film, please click here.

 Jesse Moss

What was the genesis of The Overnighters?
The genesis came from a clergy column written by Pastor Jay Reinke, that appeared in his local newspaper, the Williston Herald.  I read the column and called Jay, and he told me he was helping and housing some of these men and women who were flocking to North Dakota and had nowhere to sleep. I found Jay, but it took me while to come to understand what an extraordinary documentary subject he was.  He revealed himself slowly, and I found myself drawn in to his passion and his mystery. The overall filming took about 18 months to complete.


What is your background and have you always wanted to pursue a documentary film career?
I worked briefly in politics, but left in my mid 20s to pursue filmmaking and never looked back.  I had the good fortune to work with some exceptional filmmakers when I was young which was my film education.

What filmmakers influence you and does any particular documentary resonate?
The direct cinema tradition has strongly influenced me, including the work of Albert & David Maysles, DA Pennabaker & Barbara Kopple.  Salesman is one of my favorite films as is Harlan County USA.  

So why do these stories never get covered until the story turns sour in America's mass media market?
I think the mainstream media has a big blind-spot, and they're impatient.  The luxury I had was time to let this story develop.  I felt there will little serious long-form reporting about the ground-level experience of people coming to Williston and trying to survive.


Did you watch any films during the production?
I watched very little while I was making the film.  I read - or I should say re-read - some George Orwell, specifically Down and Out in Paris and London, and The Road to Wigan Pier, both moving, compassionate chronicles of the working poor.

Was a lot of the story start to develop in the cutting room or did you edit as you progressed?
I started editing while I was still shooting, and there was a constant dialogue between the field and the cutting room - which was very important.

Reason I asked earlier about watching films was because I sensed a similarity to American westerns, the lone crusader in a town and so on
I did come to see The Overnighters as a western.  The parallels were strong: a story set in a boomtown, a struggle between hope and fear, a flawed hero, who ultimately is cast out by the community.

Have you been surprised by the critical response to the film?
I have been grateful for the critical support the film has received, and how willing audiences and critics have been to embrace the complexities and ambiguities of Jay's character and the story.

What are you working on now? Will you follow in the footsteps of Kevin MacDonald and James Marsh into feature films?
I'd love to follow in the footsteps of James and Kevin, filmmakers I greatly admire.  In fact, I'm developing a scripted feature that is based on factual material.  And I've begun a new documentary on 1970s icon Burt Reynolds - which couldn't be more different than The Overnighters.

The Overnighters is out on DVD from Dogwoof on Monday 9th February

No comments:

Post a Comment