Kim Moses: Ghost's Main Mind
Kim Moses, executive producer and director of Ghost Whisperer, sits down with SheKnows for an exclusive chat about the show’s big May 21 finale.
We spoke with Moses to get her take on Ghost Whisperer's resonance over the years, Jennifer Love Hewitt's impeccable ability to embody Melinda Gordon and how Moses rose from small town Pennsylvania to become one of Hollywood's go-to female producers.
Moses and her production partner and husband, Ian Sander, are also the minds behind the wildly successful web series, Ghost Whisperer: The Other Side. Moses tells SheKnows that one of the things that most inspires her, and thus why audiences see it on screen, is powerful women. "I feel very strongly about developing shows about female empowerment and rule breaking," Moses said.
Moses moves on HollywoodSheKnows: How did you find yourself in show business after working on Capitol Hill?
Kim Moses: I was working in sports information at Notre Dame and from there I decided to try something different. A friend of mine said come to Washington, DC and check it out because I was in my early twenties. I got there and got a job up on the Hill for the Committee on Science and Technology -- a subcommittee on natural resources. Actually, it's fascinating. On our subcommittee was a young congressman named Al Gore.
SheKnows: You're kidding!
Kim Moses: We held the first global warming hearings. He had a very specific message. Most people were like, "Global what?" He went on to the great things he's done. When I went and saw An Inconvenient Truth a few years ago, when I saw it, I was astounded that the message that he gave when we first had those hearings is the same message that he gives today. That's a true lesson in crafting a very specific message that you keep giving over and over again and you can change the world.
SheKnows: So did you grow tired of the Capitol Hill grind?
Kim Moses: I did miss sports and entertainment. I stayed on the Hill for about six years and when I got to the point where I had learned a lot, but knew it was not the place I wanted to be forever, I came back into the entertainment industry through my sports connections. I went to work for Don Ohlmeyer, who created Monday Night Football. Don crossed his team all over from the MTV Awards and the Emmys and live entertainment. We used our sports production skills and storytelling. I liked being on the top of my toes telling a story on live television. Eventually, it got us into long-form drama television.
Ghost Whisperer is born
SheKnows: What first gave you the idea for Ghost Whisperer? Where did that genesis come from?
Kim Moses: It's a Sander-Moses production in association with ABC Productions and Paramount for CBS, which means we still have an overall deal at ABC Studios, thank goodness, and we were developing in the first year of the deal. Ian and I got together with our old friend, John Gray to create the show. We all met working with Ohlmeyer productions. John had never done series television before. We had been talking about doing something in the paranormal world for series television. We thought there would be something in the ghost world that would be interesting to CBS. There's a woman named Mary Ann Winkowski, who is a real-life ghostbuster. Mary Ann got together with us and told us what she did. She inspired Melinda, Jennifer Love Hewitt's character, in Ghost Whisperer. Mary helps people cross over into the light after they finish their business. When we pitched it to CBS, we got Mary Ann on the phone and she described the room we were in, it was incredible. By the time we got to the parking lot, we got a call that CBS was moving it into development.
SheKnows: Was there anyone else ever in mind for Melinda other than Jennifer Love Hewitt?
Kim Moses: Interestingly, Love was in ABC studio's offices, right next to Ian and me. For nine months, we got to know each other and talked about developing a show. But when Ghost Whisperer got ordered, she was not available. She had already done another pilot owned by another network. We were doing this worldwide search from England and Australia for Melinda. But, we always knew that the Ghost Whisperer was sitting next to us in the next office [laughs]. As soon as Love's show did not get picked up, Ian and I were on her doorstep saying, "You've got to read this pilot." She read it and loved it. She said the reason she wanted to do it was that she believed that this character, Melinda Gordon, can be the most beloved character on television. Which, I think she is, she is Love. When the show went on the air, we weren't sure how it would be received. At the time, there was a lot of gritty programming, but it was well received and we think the reason is because it was after 9/11 and even at this moment in 2010, there are still people who are looking for help with the uncertainty in the world.
SheKnows: Do you still confer with Mary Ann, the ghostbuster, or have the stories taken on a life of their own?
Kim Moses: She's still very involved with the show. She helps us with the rules of the living and the dead because that is the truth. That is the last great mystery of the world, right? What happens to us when we die? She gives us inspiration.
Sander & Moses meld TV and new media
SheKnows: You have also bridged the worlds of television and the Internet and beyond.
Kim Moses: Yeah, Ian and I developed the Total Engagement Experience, which gives platforms between the television broadcasts of the show. People can pick and choose how they put their experience together. They experience the world at the intersection of the living and the dead like Melinda does. After all, we are in the experience era. We use Mary Ann a lot for that. We've done the web series Ghost Whisperer: The Other Side for four years and featured her in that. That web series, why we did that is we were getting so many emails from around the world asking what it's like to be a ghost. They know what it's like to be a ghost whisperer, but they wanted to see the world from the ghost's point of view.
SheKnows: That's what struck me was the congruence that you have with the Internet presence along with the broadcast network show. Did you have a feeling you were onto something when you started the web series four years ago?
Kim Moses: When we sold the show, we also had online components. That was before anyone else was doing it. Ian and I were working online for the last nine years. We've been crossing television talent with the Internet. We really feel the Total Engagement Experience is an invaluable aspect of television and eventually everyone will be producing that way. Our responsibility is not just to sell it, develop it and get it on the air, but our job is also to deliver the eyeballs. So, we do stuff through the Total Engagement Experience.
the moxie of Ghost Whisperer fans
SheKnows: Your fans of Ghost Whisperer, their passion must drive you to keep the show at the best you can be.
Kim Moses: The loyalty, in this day and age, is very unusual. We think the show is really good and our biggest challenge is getting people to sample the show. We believe they'll come back if they're engaged and experience it in some way. That's what's happened. I think it's because we've been able to give them something beyond the television experience. It feels more dimensional for them. The beautiful stories have created this strong viable audience.
SheKnows: We did a feature when you hit 100 episodes that featured all of the ghost stories. Some of them are downright whimsical. Are there episodes that are especially meaningful to you personally?
Kim Moses: The pilot is extremely meaningful, as you can imagine. But, there is a particular moment in that pilot that was very powerful for Ian and I. When you do a pilot for a show, it's always difficult the first couple of days because the actors are finding the characters, we are figuring out the style. It is a dance where you've got a centipede that is learning a new dance and all the feet have to go in the same direction at the same time. That takes work and time. I remember the first moment that Love stood in front of the camera and her first couple of lines as Melinda. We were standing at the monitor, I am not kidding you, all of us dropped our jaws. It was incredible how she embodied that character. That was a great moment as a producer -- that you knew you had a great piece of material. It was a perfect match to a talent. We knew the show would have traction at that moment. The episodes I directed, I really love them because it's not that I love my own film, what I really love about it, those are the times I actually get to be down on the floor moment-to-moment working intimately with the actors, the crew and the writers. We have such a great group of people, like a family. Those are great moments.
Moses directsSheKnows: As a director, was it a different challenge as opposed to being the producer?
Kim Moses: Directing is different from anything else that you do because it is. Writing is very solitary. Directing is all encompassing, but it is always dealing with many, many people. It's not solitary in any way. Yet, when you call action for the first time during a day, you look up again and it's time to wrap. It goes so fast because it is so creatively consuming and exhausting. When you have a really strong cast like we do, it is really creatively joyful. It all just flows into the creative. As a producer, my job is to create an environment where everybody else feels safe to create in their own way. Each element is very different. Each one capitalizes on different kinds of skills. But, directing is a real special kind of experience in the entertainment experience.
SheKnows: Did you ever think you'd be directing a prime time show when you were living in Washington DC?
Kim Moses: No [laughs]. I grew up in a small coal mining town in Pennsylvania, and back there, I never thought about this industry. I only knew there were movies that came out and they had stars and directors. Those were the two terms I knew. Transcending that world that I came from to this world, I feel so incredibly lucky. I have been given a gift to do something that moves beyond the boundaries of most of the people I grew up with and I feel responsible having been given that, that I need to produce.
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