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Meet the 2011 SXSW Filmmakers | “Dragonslayer” Director Tristan Patterson

Meet the 2011 SXSW Filmmakers | "Dragonslayer" Director Tristan Patterson

“There’s a bunch of empty pools and a bunch of fucked up houses. That’s why I’m here. I’m here to skate. But besides skating, I want to go see waterfalls, I want to go see rockslides, I want to go fishing, I want to go in a canoe, I want to go exploring in the woods… There’s no woods here, but we’ll find something.”

Killer Films presents the transmissions of a lost kid, falling in love, in the suburbs of Fullerton, California. Featuring skateboarding, the usual drugs, and stray glimpses of unusual beauty. [Synopsis courtesy of SXSW]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in the SXSW Narrative, Documentary and Emerging Visions sections to submit responses in their own words about their films. These profiles are being published through the beginning of the 2011 SXSW Film Conference and Festival. To prompt the discussion, indieWIRE asked the filmmakers about what inspired their films, the challenges they faced and other general questions. They were also free to add additional comments related to their projects.]

Documentary Competition
Director: Tristan Patterson
Producer: John Baker, Christine Vachon
Cinematographer: Eric Koretz
Editor: Jennifer Tiexiera, Lizzy Calhoun
Music: T. Griffin

Responses courtesy of “Dragonslayer” director Tristan Patterson.

Falling into cinema…

My last semester of college I found a copy of “The Biographical Dictionary of Film” by David Thomson in the library. If I saw a movie I liked, I would look up the director, maybe sometimes the actor, and bounce through different movies based on that. I knew who Robert Altman and Terence Malick were, but in the course of six months I ended up watching Monte Hellman’s “Two Lane Blacktop,” James Toback’s “Fingers,” Bob Rafelson’s “King of Marvin Gardens” and John Huston’s “Fat City” – also, Godard. I had no job skills and the only thing I knew how to do was watch movies, so after college I wrangled an interview with Scott Macaulay. He’d produced “Gummo,” which I’d seen and liked a lot. I accidentally stepped on his girlfriend’s dog during the interview. He asked me what movies I liked and I told him. He hired me and it changed my life.

The inspiration for the film…

I went to a party in Chino, California because I heard Rikk Agnew of the Adolescents was going to play and I thought it sounded kind of crazy.  The scene reminded me of all the great suburban wasteland movies of the Reagan era – “Suburbia,” “Over The Edge,” “The River’s Edge” – only this was 25 years later.  It suddenly occurred to me that these kids were the sons and daughters of the characters in those movies.  I wanted to know what that felt like.

Shooting strategy…

Give them flip cams. Treat them kindly.  Film them well.

The challenges of a documentary… 

Besides ever mounting debt? I was adamant that the subjects in the movie not see a frame of footage until I was done shooting.  More importantly, I was trying to capture lives unfolding without interfering with them.  It was wild, because they didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t know what they were going to do. It’s frightening and unusual to make a movie where everything is happening in real time.

An unusual encounter…

The first day of filming, Josh took us to an old casino in Delano, California that had burned to the ground years before.  We broke onto the property and filmed him cleaning its abandoned swimming pool.  The second he started to skate, a beautiful, freaked out old lady came out of nowhere, screaming she was going to call the police. We thought the place was empty but I guess she still lived there. After she kicked us off her property, I had to go back to get her to sign a release.  She claimed she was a Broadway showgirl who ran away from home when she was 16.  John Wayne used to sunbathe by her pool and fuck all her cocktail girls.  I believed her.

The next project…

There was a guy in 1983 who robbed 64 banks in 9 months in LA. I’ve been working on that for awhile. I like criminals and California sunshine.

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