Wendy Shepherd of Movie Vine: Hi Patrick, can you share a little about yourself with us?
Patrick: I’m an independent filmmaker with four feature comedies currently in distribution with “In Other Words” on HBO, “Divorce Bait,” and “Townhouse Confidential,” available on demand. And Lola’s Love Shack, my first film, is available on Amazon Prime.
I got my start in comedy working with Will Ferrell on his Spanish language comedy “Casa De Me Padre,” where I worked with the screenwriter to create the Spanish language script; I taught Mr. Ferrel Spanish and even wrote the lyrics to the title song! Since then, I’ve won many festival awards for my work and have had my movies fought over in bidding wars between the studios. I love comedies because they allow us to laugh at ourselves, our hangups, and even our prejudices. Our modern life is so absurd; there will always be enough material to write interesting and clever comedies! I co-write and co-produce with my wife, Cristina Nava, then I direct and edit my own films along with a talented team of collaborators. I consider collaboration my strong suit, as I love to work with a team and get input from anyone with a good idea.
I studied anthropology at Columbia University because it allowed me to see the world through other points of view and non-western ways of thinking. I think this is what we have to do as storytellers: see the world through strange and “foreign” points of view, and make that accessible to the average viewer. I am not a fine art filmmaker. I make movies for everybody. I want my movies to cross over and have a broad audience.
I’m also a Mexican American filmmaker, and that colors the stories I tell. In all my projects, I try to have characters who embody the image I want to see more of: intelligent, successful, diverse people with everyday problems of love, money, and family.
I also have three amazing kids, and I love being a father above all else.
Wendy: How did you get started with directing?
Patrick: The way I got started making films was that I first committed to filmmaking and directing as a definite goal. After university, I knew I wanted to try filmmaking but didn’t know where to begin. So I kind of floundered for a while. I taught high school drama class and earned some money, and bought my first video camera. That summer, I was 23 years old and traveling through Mexico and Central America with a group of artists. It was on that trip that I made the promise to myself to make a serious go of it. I figured if I didn’t make it in two years, I could always go back to grad school. I got to work right away, making over a dozen short films. I worked on a ton of indie film crews. Then I went to UCLA film school and got an MFA in Directing. I won a bunch of awards, got hired to produce television, then moved into professional editing for the next decade or so. But I never lost the drive to direct. I found time to make my independent films between jobs, using money my wife and I saved up. And it’s worked. I’ve carved out a career for myself. I’ve directed and got distribution for five feature films. But it took me significantly longer than two years, I’m afraid!
Wendy: What are some goals you strive to accomplish?
Patrick: I always strive to do my very best no matter what the budget. It doesn’t matter how much I’m being paid. That doesn’t affect the intensity of my drive and dedication. Once I commit to something, I’m all in. As a director, it is my mission to create an environment where actors can really shine. I hope I can make them feel safe and keep the mode upbeat and positive, especially since I direct a lot of comedies. If negativity finds its way onto the set, it can affect an actor’s performance. Lastly, I always strive to make the audience laugh. And that starts in the writer’s room. If we laugh at the script, we will laugh in the theater. Similarly, if an actor makes us laugh on set, then it’s sure to make the audience laugh at the screen.
Wendy: What is the best and worst part of being a director?
Patrick: The best part of being a director is the honor and privilege to take a script and lead a huge team toward the same goal of making it the best possible movie. I love people, I love collaborating with creatives, I love improvisation, and directing allows me to flex all of those muscles at once. The worst part of being a director is not directing! There can be big gaps between projects, but thankfully I’ve been really busy these past five years working almost non-stop.
Wendy: How do you prepare for directing a film?
Patrick: To prepare for directing a film, I first create a schedule together with the line producer that takes into account our budget to shoot for a given number of days. Then I prepare a shot list together with my assistant director. The fewer shooting days we have, the faster I have to move on set, the less time I have, and the less takes I get to have per scene.
Once I have a plan in place, I can begin to get creative, coming up with fun shots and camera angles together with the cinematographer. Often we will arrive at a location and find a better way to cover the scene than the one we planned. But the preparation allows me the flexibility to stick to the plan or improvise.
I like to rehearse with the actors whenever possible, but on indie films, this is not always possible.
Wendy: Tell us about your latest film project Townhouse Confidential.
Patrick: Townhouse Confidential is a quintessentially New York story about love and gentrification in the West Village. I read the script and loved it. It has a totally unique tone that I really found irresistible. While the structure and character in the script are based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the themes are totally modern, and the tone is fast and funny.
Wendy: How did you get involved with the project?
Patrick: Cinematographer Istvan Lettang, whom I worked with on two previous comedies, recommended me for this project to producer Lawrence Scott. I was interviewed and got the gig. I had directed a bunch of successful indie comedies in the past, but I also attended Columbia University for undergrad, just like the main character in the film, George Barrow, played by Lee Tyler. I’m not sure if that’s why they chose me, but it all worked out beautifully. My company ended up getting the contract for post-production, and I edited it in Los Angeles, where we also scored, mixed, and color-corrected it.
Wendy: What was the most rewarding part of being part of this film?
Patrick: The most rewarding part of any film is watching it with an audience and hearing the laughter! A comedy is so great that way. The laughter is definite. It either works or it doesn’t, there isn’t room for interpretation!
Wendy: What’s your advice for people wanting to be part of the entertainment industry?
Patrick: My advice for anyone who wants to be part of the entertainment industry is one thing: don’t quit. Don’t quit because it’s hard, don’t quit because somebody told you that you couldn’t do this, and don’t quit because you think you need to get a real job. Persistence is more important than everything. Even talent. Because if you keep at it, you get better and better with time. I made my first film over 20 years ago, and I’m just now starting to make an impact as a director.
Wendy: Where can we follow you online?
Patrick: You can follow me on Instagram @patperezworld
and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/patrick.perez.vidauri
and Twitter @ppvworld