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Nat Katzman (center) talks with Teresa Bergman, Michael Wurtz, Chris Cannon, Mia Watts and Qiana Moore about the research work students have done for an upcoming documentary film on George Moscone ’53. Katzman is the director of the film.

Nat Katzman (center) talks with Teresa Bergman, Michael Wurtz, Chris Cannon, Mia Watts and Qiana Moore about the research work students have done for an upcoming documentary film on George Moscone ’53. Katzman is the director of the film.

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Pacific News

Pacific students dig into research George Moscone ’53

Work by undergrad, grad students to be used in upcoming Moscone documentary
Oct 11, 2017

Using a collection of George Moscone '53 papers and other materials, four University of the Pacific history and communication students are creating a mosaic of his career as one of California's most important progressive leaders. That research will be the basis for a new film on his life and legacy.

"It's an honor to work on this documentary about a man who changed San Francisco as we know it today," said communication graduate student Chris Cannon '16, '19, who had never heard of Moscone before he joined the project, but has since come to appreciate him as an agent of change.

George Moscone documentary director Nat Katzman (left) and head of the Holt-Atherton Special Collections Michael Wurtz
George Moscone documentary director Nat Katzman (left) and head of the Holt-Atherton Special Collections Michael Wurtz survey some of the boxes containing the Moscone Collection.

Moscone was mayor at a time when San Francisco was transitioning into a progressive city and led the way for inclusion of diverse groups. He worked to improve accessibility for people with disabilities, paved the way for Harvey Milk's election as the nation's first openly gay official as a San Francisco supervisor and fought for greater participation from other marginalized groups.

Students are combing through the archive of his papers, which includes thousands of letters that Moscone wrote or received, starting as an undergraduate at Pacific, as well as documents about legislation he sponsored. The collection was gifted to Pacific in 2015 by the Moscone family.

History undergraduates Mia Watts '19 and James Lyons '18 have created a summary chart of the bills Moscone sponsored or supported in the Legislature.

During his state Senate career, Moscone sponsored or shepherded bills that established California's school lunch program, mandated bilingual education in public schools and overturned the state's sodomy statute. He also worked on abortion rights, gun control, the death penalty and lessening of marijuana penalties.

"The project that was done over the summer by the history department undergraduates is essentially complete, and they were terrific," said the film's director, Nat Katzman, after meeting with students Oct. 4. "They just dug in and found stuff."

George Moscone documentary director Nat Katzman (left), communication professor and project producer Teresa Bergman and head of the Holt-Atherton Special Collections Michael Wurtz
George Moscone documentary director Nat Katzman (left), communication professor and project producer Teresa Bergman and head of the Holt-Atherton Special Collections Michael Wurtz discuss pieces from the Moscone Collection.

Cannon and fellow communication graduate student Qiana Moore '18 are looking through boxes of documents and watching previously recorded interviews of people who knew Moscone.

In going through the documents, Cannon and Moore have been reading communications between Moscone and San Francisco residents when he was mayor in the 1970s. The students, who are familiar with politicians who communicate through social media, were surprised to get their hands on a type of message that has all but disappeared from American life.

"Qiana said, 'Chris, have you ever seen a telegram?'" Cannon recalled. "I thought, 'Look how far we've come.' It was like a time warp."

"We're so accustomed to email and texts," Moore said. "I think it's interesting for young people to see forms of communication that don't exist anymore."

Pacific's contribution is overseen by communication professor Teresa Bergman, who serves as producer on this project.  She also worked on the 1984 documentary on Milk's life, "The Times of Harvey Milk."

"It's kind of a nice bookend to be asked to do this," she said.

Part of Bergman's job is to help the students make sense of the volume of information they are processing and help them determine which issues the documentary should highlight. By the end of the project, Bergman expects the students will have developed into more critical and independent thinkers.

Bergman and Katzman also hope students will draw parallels between today's issues and the issues facing California in the 1960s and '70s, such as the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Do they follow (the analogies that) gay rights matter? Can they understand, reading historically, that people were getting beaten up by the cops?" Katzman asked.

The film about the political legacy of former state senator, San Francisco mayor and Pacific alumnus is scheduled to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Moscone and Milk. The documentary's goal is to shine a light on Moscone's accomplishments, which many fear have been overshadowed by his sudden death on Nov. 27, 1978.

Katzman, a former station manager of PBS's San Francisco affiliate KQED, hopes to air the documentary on PBS stations in Northern California and possibly in other parts of the state.

"I really appreciate the role UOP is playing,' Katzman said. "It's been very helpful. It's provided resources. It has been a very positive and smooth-running process."

The university has launched a crowdfunding effort to raise the $50,000 to finish the documentary. To help close the $50,000 gap, visit the crowdfunding website at go.pacific.edu/MosconeFilm.

For more information on Moscone, visit the Pacific tribute page in his honor.