Class of 1995 – HBA, CSI
You are currently completing your PhD at NYU. What are you specializing in?
Moretti: Actually, I am currently only very tenuously, and possibly not even technically (though very much spiritually) completing my PhD at NYU in Cinema Studies. In 1999, I completed all necessary coursework for my PhD, and all the necessary exams. [READ about Moretti’s dissertation]. But, also sometime in 1999, I met Shane Smith, the founder of what was then a small magazine from Montreal known as Vice Magazine, was recruited into the company and began a decade-long project of transforming that small magazine into a global, cultural force bent on challenging the status quo in media through, of all things, the non-linear cultural mathesis that we call the internet.
Tell us about your work with VICE Films and VBS.TV.
Moretti: I’m the Chief Creative Officer of VICE Media, which means I oversee all content produced by our various channels or divisions: Vice Magazine, the web video channel VBS.TV, and new channels Motherboard.tv, The Creators Project, and Noisey.com. I also spearhead all new channel initiatives which at the moment includes an online news channel, a fiction film channel, and also a next generation sports channel.
What is the most exciting part of your job?
Moretti: Winning, earning, job creation for young people.
Work has been hard over the last decade, but very rewarding. VICE is really a global cultural force now. We’ve built it by countless hours of hard work, and we really are using the internet to challenge the status quo in media. I’ve directed documentaries, sold screenplays, launched media companies and brands, made commercials, spoke at conferences, art directed multi-media projects, travelled and seen most of the world including time in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the tribal areas of Pakistan; I even “snuck into” North Korea.
What do you remember most about the Cinema Studies program?
Moretti: Bart Testa. Bart Testa’s classes, Bart Testa’s exams, Bart Testa’s “Questions, comments, observations?” Charlie Keil. Cam Tolton. Close textual analysis. Hitchcock: Vertigo and Notorious. And The Birds. Antonioni: L’avventura. Neorealism. Michel Foucault. Umberto Eco. The campus in the summer. The campus in the summer at night. A girl named Melanie. The library. The Annex.
What advice would you offer Cinema Studies students and young alumni?
Moretti: Read everything, read all the books in all of the footnotes and read them cover to cover and with a pencil in hand: mark them up in the margins. Then read them again. Know the canon of great thinkers. Know film history. Know all the works by all the great directors, all the minor works by all the great directors too. Find a companion early on who shares your love of cinema and literature or you’ll end up lonely later in life. Avoid the many traps of art history. They are seductive and will slowly drain your love of life. Avoid the many traps of popular culture. They are seductive and will slowly drain your love of life. Love life.
Tell us about your feature film directorial debut. How did you come to make the film Heavy Metal in Baghdad?
Moretti: The “business of truth” in America after 9-11 was a sad affair. Reporting was dominated by reactionaries on one hand and a**holes on the other. It was infuriating. The media had been completely co-opted by the Bush regime: fear and paranoia and a kind of all-pervasive victimized weak-mindedness. It was a terrible period to live through. From about 2003 onwards I wanted to go to Iraq for myself, but I didn’t really realize it as an actual ambition, it was just hovering around my being. Then the story of Accrassicauda surfaced — the only heavy metal band in Iraq — and that was it. I knew I had to go to Iraq. The filming/ directing thing came after birthing the desire to go, and it was simple and straightforward and kind of took care of itself: I pointed a video camera at some amazing young guys struggling through a hellish experience of war and pressed record.