Q & A with Producer and Director, Joshua Kessler
Recently, I was able to chat with Joshua Kessler.
Joshua Kessler is a versatile and passionate television and film producer and director who has worked with some of the top production companies and networks in the entertainment industry. He has producing credits ranging from Netflix, Amazon, Showtime, Discovery, History, HGTV, and MTV among others. Kessler has worked on a variety of series ranging from historical documentaries, life style, comedy and true crime.
(LaDonna) Q: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?
(Joshua) A: Sure, I'm a television and film producer/director and have been working on an assortment of different projects in the entertainment industry. I've been out in Los Angeles for roughly twenty years or so. I got my start working as a production assistant on Hollywood Squares with Whoopi Goldberg and worked my way up the ranks, doing almost every type of entertainment job you can imagine.
I grew up in northern New Jersey in a household with both parents who were educators, so ever since childhood I have had a strong passion and love for storytelling. My parents were huge supporters of the arts, especially movies and theatre. I remember images of Chariots of Fire, Reds, Gandhi, Gone with the Wind, ET, and Raiders of the Lost Ark – all which have stuck with me my entire life. Reading was also instrumental to my upbringing; anything with a good story kept me preoccupied. I loved reading the Hardy boys series, Scooby-Doo, Sherlock Holmes, Mark Twain, etc. – I would read anything where I could get lost in a compelling story -- especially a good mystery or thriller!
(LaDonna) Q: You have truly had an absolutely amazing career. In terms of subjects related to true crime, what has been one of your favorite projects to work on? I loved Killer Confessions on ID, by the way!
(Joshua) A: Thank you! I feel blessed to be a part of the shows that I have worked on. I have felt especially blessed by the many talented people I've been able to work with, as well. Killer Confessions on ID was very cool because it focused on the process law enforcement would use to get a killer to crack. The premise of the show was to highlight the actual interrogation footage – which allowed the viewer to go on the journey of getting a confession from the suspect. It's incredible to watch the good cop/bad cop approach or the way good detectives will build a rapport or trust leading to a confession.
In terms of other series I have worked on that are related to true crime - I have loved everything I have worked on and all for different reasons. I spent almost 6 seasons working on Unusual Suspects for ID. I produced and directed for that series. They cases we covered were adjudicated cases, so we already knew who the killer was - usually, they were either in prison or dead. I enjoyed working on that series because it was fun to figure out who the suspects were, and usually the killer was still someone you least suspected! I think the team on that series did some really solid work.
Most recently, I worked on the series Breaking Homicide also on ID. (As you can probably tell, I do a lot of ID series work!) This was an incredible experience because they were all unsolved cases. The investigators and on-camera talent on the series had many years of law enforcement experience, and we would enter into each case, with a clean slate, and try to solve it. It was always a tricky balance of trying to get new information about the case and trying to move it forward somehow. I dealt with the families of the victims, and that's the hardest part. These families have suffered so much losing a child or sibling, and it was always our intent to help them solve the case in some way. These encounters with family members are something I take very seriously. They are the reason we work so hard to get some movement, even the littlest of evidence could move a case from breaking wide open. The amazing part is we had a lot of success and worked with seasoned homicide detectives all over the country. There have been arrests made, new evidence presented, and we were able to bring closure to a serial killer case.
(LaDonna) Q: Outside of improved DNA technology, in your experience, what are the most effective tools in solving cold cases?
(Joshua) A: DNA technology is incredible and only getting better every day. For example, look at the Golden State Killer case. It was unbelievable when they finally caught Joseph DeAngelo! All because of DNA! Even beyond DNA, I think the key to solving a cold case is passion. I have so much respect for law enforcement and detectives who don't give up. I've worked with investigators who would keep a photo of a victim whose case was never solved leaving that picture up every day as a constant reminder of not to give up. I think at the heart of it, it's a passion for justice. There's a drive they need to overturn every rock to get to the truth. So, I think it's looking at a case from a fresh perspective, revisiting interviews and any sources that come up, reviewing evidence. I think having a different set of eyes and experience is always a positive thing to solving cold cases. Make no mistake cracking open crimes is arduous work, and it takes a toll, but wanting justice served for heinous crimes is always a great motivator!
(LaDonna) Q: When you and I initially met, it was to discuss the murder of Melissa Witt. You know how passionate I am about finding justice for Melissa. Are there any cases that have grabbed your attention that you would like to see solved?
(Joshua) A: I still believe that the Melissa Witt murder is a solvable case. I applaud the work you've done to help make that happen! I mean, a young girl murdered and left out in the woods like that -- it's beyond horrifying. Someone knows something, and I pray they'll be a break in the case. There are many cases I've worked on and or followed that I desperately would love to solve. I just did a story about Shannon Gilbert, who was a victim of the Long Island Serial killer. There were multiple victims discovered, and the killer is still out there. I would love for the Gilbert family to rest easier, knowing that the killer has been caught. There's also the Cody Joyce case that happened in Pittsburgh. Cody went to a party one night and was beaten by four other kids at the party. He was beaten to death, and yet nobody has been held accountable. Everyone knows who the killers are, but not one arrest. I feel awful for the Joyce family. Then there is the tragic case of Jennifer Kesse from Florida -- a beautiful girl who goes missing in broad daylight. There's a video of a suspect who dumped her car, but it's challenging to identify him. There's the Judy Rawlings case out of North Carolina, which we covered on Breaking Homicide. One of the main suspects, in that case that we highlighted, was recently arrested for rape. They should charge him with murder since the evidence is overwhelming that he was involved in the murder. It's a tragic case, and the victim, Judy, was only 16 years old. There are just so many cases and not enough resources…..I truly hope they all get solved.
Thank you, Joshua! It's been great learning more about your career and passions. I look forward to announcing soon the exciting ways we will be working together on cold cases!