One Day in New York

Profile Spotlight: Peter Haas

Check out our film ambassador, Peter Haas!

1. Who are you and what is your profession?

In the words of Douglas Adams, "[I'm] just this guy, you know?"  My promoter keeps telling me to stop telling that joke.  I'm a New Hampshire born and educated filmmaker and writer transplanted to New York City.  I’m very lucky in that my full time job is working on film and television. On those occasions when they let me out of the depths of the editing cave, I like to get outside and go running or swimming. I’m also a big reader and science-fiction geek. My absolute favorite activity is playing Pinochle with friends while sharing a big bottle of cheap white wine.

2. Can you tell us a little about your background and upbringing?

I come from a little city on Lake Winnepesaukee, in New Hampshire. I grew up also visiting New Jersey a lot, since that’s where my parents’ families are from.  Telling stories was always a very important part of family get togethers.  I think this played a lot into my career choice.
My first professional job in TV was at a public-access station while I was studying multimedia communications at a vocational high school. Then I headed out to Keene State College, a state school with a fantastic film program.
Since moving to New York, I’ve gotten to work on a variety of documentary, reality, and narrative film projects.  I used to work mostly in post -production; I did editing and graphics work for places like PBS, NBC, Discovery, TLC, and so forth.  I’m most proud of the independent work I’ve done, making films with my long -time friends Paul Docherty, Keif Roberts, the lovely and very talented artist Roxanne Palmer, and my cousin Larry McGovern.  It’s wonderful to have such a talented team that works so well together.

3. What inspired you to become a filmmaker?

Mostly the experience of being dazzled and entertained by the magic of the big screen.  When I was a kid there was this rundown theater that always showed some combination of second-run shows with older films, so I got to see all sorts of classic B-monster movies side by side with Hollywood's newest features.
I had some great family influences as well.  My uncle (who is also my godfather) is an engineer and a lover of radio, film and television. It was important to him that I understood the technology behind the stories.  He taught me how to use a video camera in late 80's and early 90's so this definitely had a lot to do with where I am now.

4. Who or what do you most admire?

Honest, good-natured, hard-working, creative folk: Kurt Vonnegut, Fred Rogers, and Jim Henson, for example.  I never had the honor of meeting any of them in person (which is what I hear we’re never supposed to do with our heroes anyway), but when I hear them talk about their outlooks on life and art, I can’t help but find myself motivated to do new and better things.

5. What do you love about NYC?

I love that the city is fighting so hard to keep active, creative, and alive! Keep New York weird!  Also, the history of the city is extremely fascinating.  I love that this place (for the time being) acts as a center for creative individuals to come and share their experiences, education, and talents.  It’s like creative social networking that doesn’t require any website, just straight up, plain ol’ ambition and curiosity.

6. What do you fear most for NYC?

You know, there's nothing wrong with wanting to make a living, but what I fear most for NYC is that the attitudes of the financial and political "elite" are becoming the template for how most people want to live their lives.
I see it even in creative fields -- folks seem to have fewer and fewer non-commercialized hobbies, you know the kind that just sort of fulfill you?  Watching a TV show like "Game of Thrones" (which I love by the way) and buying T-Shirts and action figures isn't a hobby, it's consumerism. This commodified living is so widespread: look at these parents who stuff their kids schedules to the brim with classes in Mandarin or violin, all trying to figure out what their kid is not just good at but what they're marketably good at.  I think that makes it much harder for a kid to figure out for him or herself what moves them.
I fear these kids are all going to have a complex; if they're not good enough at something to sell they're not going to do it, and this would be a real shame.  What's life without humming a song that isn't on the Top 100, painting a terrible watercolor portrait of your cat, or writing a soulful amateur poem that you'll never show anyone? These are the types of escapes that make our souls happy, and I see a lot of New York getting away from that or, worse, bastardizing and branding happiness with a logo and a price tag.

7. What do you hope for NYC in the next 20 years?

Oh, lots of things.  What I most hope for is a city that finds a balance between not going bankrupt (again) and also realizing that not everything has to yield purely financial dividends.  Happiness and success can’t always be measured with metrics and dollars (I promised myself I wouldn’t rant about information culture, so I won’t).  The city really has a lot of decisions to make, and I hope that they involve a shift towards making the city more affordable and accessible.

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