[indieWIRE invited directors with films in 2011 AFI Fest’s Breakthrough, New Auteurs and Young Americans section to submit responses in their own words about their films. Get to know the films before they screen. AFI Fest takes place November 3 - 10 in Los Angeles.]
Young Americans Program
Director: Tristan Patterson
Producer: John Baker
Executive Producer: Christine Vachon
Director of Photography: Eric Koretz
Editor: Jennifer Tiexiera, Lizzy Calhoun
Music: T. Griffin
Director’s Bio:Tristan Patterson is a screenwriter living in Los Angeles. He has written screenplays for Disney, Fox and Warner Bros., and is writing “American Cigarette” for director Tony Scott. He is attached to direct his screenplay “Electric Slide” starring Ewan McGregor for Killer Films and Myriad Pictures. “Dragonslayer” is his first feature.
Your movie: In 140 characters or less, what’s it about?
“Dragonslayer” is a vérité portrait of a 23-year old skater from Fullerton, California named Josh Sandoval. Some people also call him Skreech.
OK: Now tell us what it’s really about.
It’s an attempt to capture the mood of a specific time and place in a brand new way. It’s about skateboarding, love, drugs and beautiful California sunsets. It’s about what it feels like to be young. It’s a love letter to the suburbs and really loud music. And it’s maybe a little tragic.
How I got started…
When I graduated from college, I realized I was pretty much unqualified to do anything else. Plus, I really like movies.
A new kind of cinematic hero…
I drove out to Chino, CA to see Rikk Agnew from The Adolescents play—they’re one of my favorite bands from the first suburban wave of punk. I couldn’t believe their guitarist was going to be performing in the driveway of a house party 30 years later. This was right after the American economy collapsed and the party was really crazy. Kids were destroying everything in sight. It was like all the prophecies of the punk generation had come true and now a new generation was being forced to confront what comes next, after the decline of western civilization. Skreech was at the party. When I met him, I thought he might make for a new kind of cinematic hero. He was a total original and by skating abandoned swimming pools he had figured out a beautiful way to find joy in what felt like really apocalyptic times. The more homes that got foreclosed in California, the more pools he had to skate.
A language that was all our own…
I wanted to make a movie that was cinematically alive, but also absolutely true to Skreech’s experience as it was unfolding in real time. Going in, I imagined this might feel like the first album from some garage band you discover that no one else even knows about yet. Maybe the recordings are a little fucked up here and there, or a track gets interrupted by cops banging on the door, but then out of nowhere, a moment crystallizes and something strange and beautiful takes hold. It sounds kind of absurd to say, but making it was really about figuring out how to make it. There was no road map for what it might look like, nothing I could point to and say, “We can do what they did.” We had to figure out a language that was all our own.
The biggest influences aren’t the most direct ones…
When I was a teenager, I discovered all of these 80’s punk movies on VHS. Things like “Over The Edge,” “The River’s Edge,” “Suburbia.” Later, Dennis Hopper’s “Out of the Blue.” I felt like I wasn’t seeing any authentic portraits of youth being made anymore, and wondered if there was maybe a new way of trying to do this for today. But I also think sometimes the biggest influences aren’t the most direct ones. There’s a photographer named John Divola whom I really admire. He did a series of photographs called “Zuma” cataloging the destruction of an abandoned house overlooking the Pacific Ocean in the late-seventies. There’s something so primal and universal about the photos, and I love the idea that you can find beauty and tragedy simply by returning to a place and quietly observing the way it changes with time.
The movie of my dreams…
I wrote a screenplay called Electric Slide that’s based on the true story of Eddie Dodson, an art deco furniture dealer in early-80’s L.A. who fell in love with a girl and robbed 63 banks in nine months. He wore immaculate suits. He drove to the banks in a Lincoln Continental blasting The Clash. I have all these amazing Polaroids he took that basically amount to the movie of my dreams. Christine Vachon and Jamie Patricof are producing it with Kirk D’Amico at Myriad Pictures. Hopefully, we’ll be shooting it next year.