Moss Frames Career in Experimental Film

  • Jeremy Moss, assistant professor of film and media studies at Franklin & Marshall, began a tenure-track position at the College this academic year. (Photo by Tim Brixius)

Part VIII of the 2011-12 series on new, tenure-track faculty members. 

Reflecting on his well-traveled past, Jeremy Moss ticks off the hodgepodge of places he has lived since his childhood: Utah, Florida, Georgia, Brazil, Ecuador, Venezuela, Chile, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The assistant professor of film and media studies at Franklin & Marshall College credits his diverse travels for his development as a filmmaker.

“Moving around has given me an open mind,” Moss said. “The films I make reflect that.”

Moss joined F&M in 2008 as a visiting professor of film before starting a tenure-track position at the beginning of this academic year. An experimental filmmaker, his work often blurs the line between narrative and documentary approaches. His research focuses on Latin-American and avant-garde cinema, and his short films have been screened at venues throughout the United States and internationally.

The professor traces his interest in film to an introductory film course he took as an undergraduate student at the University of Utah. His class explored the work of Maya Deren, an avante-garde filmmaker in the mid-20th century who was also a renowned choreographer.

“Maya Deren’s work blew my mind. I saw things I’d never seen before, like how editing can change and shape screen geography,” Moss said. “We learned in the course that [film director] Gene Kelly consulted Deren for choreography in [the 1952 film] 'Singin' in the Rain.' It was a great example of the discourse between those experimenting and those working in the mainstream.”

Moss, who earned his M.F.A. from Ohio University in 2008, has screened his work at the Maryland Film Festival, Big Muddy Film Festival, Cinequest International Film Festival and other events around the country. He said he is especially proud of "Muzzle," a 10-minute, black-and-white film about isolation, repression and despair. Among his other work is "Give Me a Dram," a period piece about a supernatural force in a swamp, and his most recent film, "Those Inescapable Slivers of Celluloid," a Super 8 abstract landscape documentary that takes place in Arizona and Utah.

The professor’s next project is a feature-length narrative on Mormon missionaries in Brazil. The film is personal for Moss, who spent two years as a Mormon missionary in Brazil after graduating from high school.

“It’s cliché to make a film about your youth, but I feel strongly about exploring that world cinematically,” Moss said. “It’s eye-opening to me now because I’m less connected to it now. I’d like to take a documentary approach exploring the cultural tensions between Mormondom and Portugese-speaking communities in Brazil.”

Closer to home, Moss is collaborating with Pamela Vail, assistant professor of dance at F&M, on a modern dance video piece/installation. The professors expect to present their work at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in September. “I’m interested in purely visual experiences,” Moss said. “Pam is looking to expand beyond live performances, and I’m interested in working with a fixed piece of choreography for camera.”

In the classroom, Moss teaches “Film History,” “Video Production” and a “Documentary Workshop,” among others. The liberal arts environment is an ideal setting for aspiring filmmakers, the professor said.

“In my documentary class, I have students who are majoring in history, anthropology, sociology, film and theatre,” he said. “The liberal arts allows students to go beyond the discussion of film. With broad backgrounds, people become more interesting filmmakers.”

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