MAKE YOUR SHOW: theCreators
You Never Really Know...
with Filmmaker
Patrick House

In our third episode of "Make Your Show: The Creators", we sat down with filmmaker Patrick House, whose fascinating and particular history inspired him to want to tell stories that he hadn't seen.  To listen to Patrick, you can't help but be inspired.  His changing path in life found him jumping in to learn by doing, eventually bringing him to a personal place about storytelling.

HELPFUL LINKS FROM THIS PODCAST:

 

Patrick House Films

Syracuse University Newhouse School of Public Communications

School of Visual Arts MPS Directing Program

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John Cramer:

Thanks so much for joining us and taking the time to answer some questions for us.

 

Patrick House:

My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

 

John:

We're just going to jump right into it. I was looking at your list of projects.  You have listed that you were the writer and/or director on a couple of them and a couple I couldn't tell.  Do you do cinematography too, or are you strictly writer/director?

 

PH:

When I was in the military, I did everything.  I shot, edited, did everything.  I wouldn't call myself a cinematographer, but I definitely have those skills and knowledge and experience, but more on a documentary level.

 

John:

That's the other thing that definitely jumps right out when I look at your bio.  You served in the Navy for nine years. That's incredible.

 

PH:

Yeah, It was.  It was wild.

 

John:

You also say that your dad was a director and he was your inspiration.

 

PH:

Yeah.

 

John:

When you joined the military, did you already have it in mind then that you wanted to be a storyteller and a director and a filmmaker?

 

PH:

Absolutely.  To say that now, it's like, man, how did I know?  It's just crazy how you start off on a path and don't even really think about how it started.  I had dropped out of college and went to a community school and majored in television.  I ended up dropping out of there too, which led to me going into the military. But, when I, when I went to recruit out, I wanted to do something in the arts.

 

Jason Cicci:

Had you been making films that whole time through, all through college?

 

PH:

So, this is how it went.  My first semester I was playing (basket)ball, dropped out. The next semester, I went to a school in Chicago called Columbia, which is like the NYU of Chicago.  We did like television production in the studio at school, but other than that, I hadn't done anything until I went to the military.

 

Jason:

And you made mostly documentary stuff or did you start making narrative stuff then?

 

PH:

I went in as a photographer's mate when digital and film were kind of swapping it out.  So, I learned photography.  After, I went to photography school in the Navy, when I got to my first duty station in San Diego.  They were merging everything because of digital media so you can either write or you can shoot video.  I chose to shoot video.  I was doing 59-second news spots about Girl Scouts visiting the base, sailors going to an elementary school to read to kids... Then it went to deploying and doing long form, 30-minute, hour long documentary.

 

John:

So, “Relay for Life”, that's one of the projects that looks like maybe you did during that time.

 

PH:

That was towards the end. That was my last deployment in 2012. I did that in Afghanistan.

 

John:

I really loved that piece. The way that you cut together all those different locations like that, really, really impressive.  Did you do all of that yourself? Shooting, directing, editing everything.

 

PH:

Everything.

 

John:

One man band.

 

PH:

Funny, when I was in Afghanistan, there's a media hub.  All branches work together when it comes to media.  I had an Air Force supervisor, and he wanted to do a story on his guy, but nobody wanted to do it. How are we going to shoot somebody running? I was like, I'll do it.

 

John:

You had to have the vision.  You had to have a story in your mind for something that everybody else said, “We don't know how we're going to do this.”

 

PH:

Yeah. Definitely. It took a couple of days because everybody's schedule is crazy. And that guy who we did the story on lived right outside of where our office was.  I go back to him and say, “Whenever you go for a run, just let me know. I'll try to meet you.”  One time, I had a friend of mine drive me in the truck and I shot him outside.

 

John:

That was really cool.

 

PH:

Thank you.

"I'm open to anything and just kind of trying to keep my eyes open and keep as many irons in the fire as I can."

John:

So, at what point do you say to yourself, this is what I want to do when I get out of the military, I want to keep making stories. I want to be a writer. I want to be a director.

 

PH:

The whole time. I went in knowing that's what I want to do.  I did it nine years.  While I was in the military, I was selected for this program at Syracuse University where they select four from each branch, four people.  They do two videographers and two photographers and writers from each branch of the military. And we get to go to school for a year at Syracuse and study journalism. Essentially, we spent a whole year making a documentary, but we also do other news, kind of focus training and writing stories and stuff like that.  Doing it in the civilian world as opposed to doing it on active duty was like the handcuffs being taken off.

 

Jason:

I went to Syracuse.  Was this at Newhouse?

PH:

Yeah, it was awesome, man.  If you wanted to get a bachelor's in journalism, we do all the electives in one year. So, it was pretty intense and that was my first time coming to New York, so that even got the juices flowing even more.

 

Jason:

Then you began at SVA?

 

PH:

No.  After that year, I went back to active duty and had another four years left.  After those four years was up, I came to SVA.

 

Jason:

Was that the first time you wrote a fictional narrative?

 

PH:

Yeah, it was.  When I was in the Navy, one thing we got to do, especially deployed, is commercials.  On the ship we have a closed-circuit television system.  Any messages that the higher ups want to get out, they come to us and they ask us to do commercials or PSAs.  I had done some silly stuff there, but it wasn't written, there wasn't a script.  You get some friends together, be like, “Yo, we want to do this, that and the third, let's shoot this, let's shoot that.”  Just kind of off the top of the head, but SVA was my first time writing. Definitely the first time.

 

John:

That sounds like an incredible training ground. I mean, to have to learn how to do everything yourself.  You say that you started writing in SVA, but it sounds like that was just a more formal version of what you had been doing, probably without thinking of it as writing.

 

Jason:

There's a natural progression to it all.

 

PH:

Yeah, definitely.  Even when we shot video, we had to do voiceover, so we had to write a script.  “This is David's update, I'm petty officer Patrick House, on board, USS Peleliu.”  We had to write a script there. A lot of times, I would shoot a video and I would get an interview and they would say, “Hey, we need a print version of that. Can you write take those sound bites from your interview and write a print story out of it?”  We did a lot of writing all day but not narrative though. It was all kind of news.

Jason:

Once you could start writing your own stuff, what inspired you? Did you have particular stories in mind you wanted to tell?

 

PH:

A lot of things inspire me. I felt like there were more perspectives to be explored or different ways to tell the stories versus what's been put out a lot.  That was one thing I wanted to do, was to just have a different POV coming up as a black man in America.  What it looks like, what it feels like, what it sounds like, the experience and how (it) was conveyed.

 

John:

So, you get out of SVA and just kind of hit the ground running. You just wanted to make your own work. Did you have a plan as to what you wanted to do with that work?  How you wanted to use it for your career to further your career?

 

PH:

Definitely.  The last piece I did at SVA, “Blue Diamonds”, I really wanted to use that as a calling card.  The first one I did at SVA, “Night Job”, I guess you could say co-wrote it, but that was my first time writing completely original by myself.  It's almost like I taught myself how to write and then I learned more from that (“Blue Diamonds”) experience and (want to) turn it into a feature or a mini-series.  I had a plan, I had ideas, you just really never know which one is going to pan out.  I'm open to anything and just kind of trying to keep my eyes open and keep as many irons in the fire as I can.

 

John:

What would you say have been the benefits of having made “Blue diamonds” and “Night Job”?  How do you feel like doing that work has helped you move forward?

 

PH:

Oh, man.  People see a representation of your work.  It's from my point of view.  For me, it's just people being able to see what I'm capable of, what my vision is and how I like to do things. It's real life in your face. It's helped me a lot. I've gotten a lot of work from even “Night Job”, which is about four or five years old.  People still speak well of it.  Some of them film festivals I've been to, some of those people have kept in touch with me because they enjoy the project so much.  Several people from different film festivals keep in touch.

 

Jason:

What sorts of work have you gotten subsequently?

 

PH:

I did a music video in LA, (after) an artist reached out to me.  Two different people have written pilots and they reached out to me to direct.  I've gotten a lot of good feedback.  I actually got an agent based off of that work.

 

John:

Wow.

 

PH:

This is a “show me” business.  Show me what you can do, we can talk about it.  But unless you can show me, you know, that's where the rubber meets the road.

John:

Have you used crowdfunding to make any of your projects?

 

PH:

Not really.  One of the pilots that I directed, the lady who wrote it did a lot of crowdfunding, but I haven't.  I grew up in Chicago, I was in the military for nine years, now I live in New York. I moved around and then my friends are all over the place.  I didn't do a good job of keeping in touch with a lot of people. I've had people lend me money, but I haven't really used (crowdfunding).  I probably should. I wish I had explored that.

 

John:

It sounds like everything you've made pretty much has been self-funded.

 

PH:

Definitely self-funded. Yeah.

 

 

Patrick House Photo 2.jpg

John:

Our Make Your Show audience are writers, actors, maybe directors, maybe cinematographers who want to work.  They want to make their own work.  Another big question that a lot of people are going to be interested in, as you talked about getting an agent is, how do you get an agent?  Can you tell the story about how you got your agent?  Was it a specific piece of work?

 

PH:

It was, again, going back to having work in the can.  A friend of mine who was in the military, he’s a photographer in L.A., he was going to Brooks Institute.  He knew somebody from that school that knew somebody, and they were looking for new talent.  So, he reached out to my friend, I sent my stuff back to him and he said, “what'd you think about this guy?”  She (the agent) took a look at my website and was like, “I love your work. I think you have potential.  I want to represent you.”  I was like, okay, let's do it.

 

John:

I might have to edit that out because that might make a lot of our audience upset at how easy that sounded.

 

PH:

Yeah.

 

John:

That's amazing.

 

PH:

No, no, no it is. It is. But from what I've heard, a lot of stuff don't come that easy, but a majority of everything you get is from your network.  The people you meet and come in contact with. I did an internship at Nickelodeon and they would come speak to all the interns every now and then.  One of the HR people (said that) online applications is the very last place we'll look.  The majority of the jobs are already filled because such and such knew somebody, or this person is moving up and this person moving over.  That's the last place where we look.  It's all about who you know.

 

Jason:

It's all about who you know.

 

John:

I'd say there's two lessons there, right?  It's your network, your relationship with a community of people that is going to help.  You're all there to kind of help each other, hopefully. But also, you had work that you felt good about representing you.

 

PH:

Exactly.

 

John: 

You had to put that work in to have that product to share, right?

 

PH:

Absolutely.

 

John:

That's interesting about the Nickelodeon internship. What was that experience like?

 

PH:

It was good. It was interesting.  It was really seeing the corporate side of entertainment, you know? Um, so it was a good experience as far that. I didn't get to do any directing and being on sets and stuff like that.  It wasn't very much of that.  We got to pull clips of things for spots and stuff like that.  It was interesting just to be a fly on the wall in meetings and seeing how pitches go down and stuff like that.

 

John:

Can I ask, what was your motivation for pursuing that internship?

 

PH:

Like I said, keeping as many irons in the fire.  Again, network.  I did a story about 9/11.  The guy's a vendor in Times Square and he works right outside of the Viacom building.  I did a story on him probably like 2011, but we kept in contact.  When I moved up to New York for good, I would go by, see him every now and then.  One day he said, “Bring me your resume because I was just talking to the CEO of Nickelodeon.”  He sees her coming and going every day and they talk to each other because he had just got his son an internship.  He personally handed to her, I got an email a week later.

 

Jason:

There's another story we can't share because no one will believe it.

"This is a 'show me' business.  Show me what you can do, we can talk about it.  But unless you can show me, you know, that's where the rubber meets the road."

John:

We're going to have to do a lot of editing on this one, Patrick. Again, it does sound easy when, the way you tell the story.

 

PH:

Yeah.

 

John:

If it sounds easy, it's because you're not paying attention to the work that you had to do to be in that position in the first place.

 

PH:

Definitely, definitely.  The work I did with him and the quality of it and then to maintain that relationship, you know?  You just really never know and that's why it's always good to maintain relationships and put your best foot forward.  When I was in the military, nobody wanted to do “Relay for Life”, but I was in a mindset of, “just do everything and try to do it as best you can or as unique as you can”.  I remember when I was in the military, it was me and two other guys, we would regularly get in trouble for breaking the rules.  Like doing a non-narrative documentary where there's no guy sitting there with a microphone.  We were like, “No, we're not doing that”. Or to use music in a news piece.  We would always look for ways to break the rules and push creativity.  So, it's years of doing that (that) kind of culminated to that moment.

 

John:

That's amazing.  What's your experience been with taking your work to festivals?

 

PH:

It's been valuable.  Again, you meet people, you get relationships.  It does help having laurels.  It does make a difference.  From having an agent, she says when people see laurels and awards won, it does help in that respect.  For me, it was good going to film festivals to see what other filmmakers are doing, networking with them.  There are some festivals where it feels like it's all just a money ploy where they just throw anything up. They don't really curate the different nights.

 

Jason:

Right. Everybody gets a prize.

 

PH:

Yeah, but when I've gone to some really nicely put together festivals, and it's just a great experience to watch films.  Sometimes they have guest speakers come and talk.  So, it has its benefits.  It has this purpose, I think.

 

John:

How would you recommend people find out which (festivals) would be worth their time and which would not? Do you have a method now?

 

Patrick House:

I had (profiles on) Without a Box and Film Freeway and would just scroll through.  If (the festival) looked presentable, then I would go to the website.  If that looked good, I would go to the social media, I'll read the comments.  I would see what's been there before who's connected to it.  If you feel like it's worth it, pay the $50 or whatever.

 

Jason:

It's sort of a combination of research. Who's going to be there.

 

PH:

Right. Right.

 

Jason:

Where is it, how much…

 

PH:

How much it is. That's true. That's very true. Although you can write it off on your taxes.*

 

John:

Obviously, a major motivator for a lot of people to go to festivals is to build their community. It sounds like you do a very good job of maintaining relationships with people. Have you figured out a way to meet people at film festivals and then do it so it doesn't feel (inauthentic or) icky?

 

PH:

I don't know if I figured out a way, but the relationships that I have maintained are mostly through social media and engagement.  A friend of mine teaches social media.  One thing he told me is when you engage with people, it's valuable.  Even if it’s just commenting on a post or liking something or asking about something more.  I don't try to force anything, but just engage with people.  And some of the festivals that will keep in touch with you, especially if you place or win a prize.  The Hip Hop Film Festival reach out to me for questionnaires that they'll post on their website or they'll screen the movie.  Throughout the year, they'll shout me out on social media and I'll repost it. That's, that's mainly it.  I think It's leaving a good impression and doing good work.  People just connect to ask me questions.  A lot of actors that I know, they'll say I wrote this, can you read this script?  Or what do you think about this?  Or what do you think about this movie that just came out this whatever.  Most of it is organic. That's why I say, I don't know about “found a way to”, I've (just) kept in touch.

 

John:

Some of us are more comfortable with social media than others.

 

Jason:

It's a necessary evil.

 

PH:

It is.

 

John:

Hopefully we don't consider it evil, (just) necessary.  Do you have a favorite social media network and where can people find and connect with you?

 

PH:

Instagram at Pathouse13. That's what I'm on the most.  I follow all kinds of film pages, cinematography pages, acting pages, film festivals. I never really got into Twitter too heavy...

 

Jason:

Do you maintain a LinkedIn profile?  Is that something you frequent?

 

PH:

I do.  I check it out.  I've got some pretty good interviews. I didn't get a job, but I've gotten some great opportunities.  I keep that for corporate stuff, television production.  LinkedIn is a good place with that.

 

Jason:

So, what are you working on now, Patrick?

 

PH:

So just so right before the shutdown hit, I had directed two pilots.  (I’ve been) editing them the whole time we've been locked down. When that is finished, I'm going back to writing. I have three scripts, still been working on “Blue Diamonds”.  A friend of mine who is bipolar wrote a book about it and asked me to turn it into a screenplay.  A cinematographer that I use a lot, we've been talking about wanting to do a war movie about the Harlem Hellfighters, so I've been reading books…

 

John:

Sounds really like you’ve got a lot of exciting stuff going on.

 

PH:

Definitely. It's good to have, especially in this day and time, something to keep your mind occupied.

 

Jason:

One final question.  When you're on a set, Patrick, as the director, do you have a favorite part of it?  Do you like the organizing of the entire thing?  Do you like working with the actors?  Is there one part you like better than another?

 

PH:

Since I shot myself and I learned photography early, I love composing the shots and the lighting.  When that gets good, then talking to actors feels like you're in the movie and we're on set and I'm now in it with you.  It just feels more real when you're talking to an actor with the moody light and already set, you can paint a picture and it feels like you can paint a better picture in their mind when they get to see how cool this place looks.  I'm a real visual guy, so I love that part of it.

 

Jason:

I definitely see that in your work.  The light's important for you.

 

PH:

Yeah, definitely.

 

John:

Patrick, thank you so much for taking the time again to talk to us.

 

Patrick:

My pleasure, my pleasure.

 

Jason:

We wish you luck with all of these balls you’ve got in the air.

 

Patrick:

Yeah. Thank you, man. Hopefully, when the world opens up, we can get back to work.

* We are not professional accountants.

Patrick House Photo 3.jpg

Originally from the South-side of Chicago, Patrick House's interest in directing started as a child, watching his Dad direct a local T.V. show about life on the south-side of Chicago. Growing up in that environment exposed him to filmmaking and trained his eye for detail and craft.  Patrick started his directing career in the Navy as a Mass Communications Specialist, where he wrote, produced, shot and edited videos and documentaries on various military operations all over the world. Over the course of 9 years, he traveled to 16 countries, including a deployment to Afghanistan.  After his military career, he attended the School of Visual Arts where he received his B.A. in Advertising followed by a M.P.S in Directing. Patrick has directed several short films and commercials that have been featured in film festivals around the country.

 
www.PatrickHouseFilms.com
 

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