Born and raised in Los Angeles, Tristan Patterson talked to Indiewire about “Electric Slide,” which tells the story of famous bank robber Eddie Dodson. He’s familiar with icon-centered chronicles – his last documentary, “Dragonslayer,” followed a local skate legend. Talking about this new project in comparison, Patterson calls both works “portraits of outsiders in the city of Los Angeles, structured like mix tapes.”
Biggest challenge in completing this project? I wrote the script for “Electric Slide” awhile back. It was a film I was completely obsessed with making, but the financing kept falling apart. I went off and made my first film, “Dragonslayer,” instead. There are certain overlaps between the two films—both are portraits of outsiders in the city of Los Angeles that are structured like mix tapes—but it was a bit surreal to go from documenting a 23-year gutter punk skating through the California wasteland to a story about a bank robber who wore designer suits, sold high-end Art Deco pieces and cruised the mansions along Mulholland Drive in a jet-black ’65 Ford Galaxie LTD. The attitude is similar but the references are completely different. When the financing for “Electric Slide” finally came together, I had to quickly re-acclimate myself to this very specific world of 1983 Los Angeles and fall in love with it all over again.
Did you crowdfund? We didn’t crowdfund, but maybe that’s because it didn’t even exist when we first started trying to get “Electric Slide” financed. I love how potentially democratic crowdfunding is and I’m definitely for anything that helps artists get films made on their own terms. I also think sometimes it’s nice to be able to create inside of a vacuum with some privacy, so maybe you can hear your own thoughts a little better. The internet can have such a ferocious mob mentality and there’s such a fine line between crass populism and art. I get really scared every time I hear an expert talk about how filmmakers need to brand their content and market themselves. It sounds like the kind of pseudo business-speak you’d here in an early-80s Cronenberg film and, not coincidentally, kind of makes my head want to explode, “Scanners”-style.
Did you go to film school? I graduated from Yale University, where I majored in American Studies and Film Studies. The film program was a lot of theory and a lot of Godard. I really loved it. I remember writing a very long paper on Paul Schrader’s “Hardcore” about the complicity of subject and object in neo-noir cinema, or something like that. It focused on the scene where Peter Boyle takes George C. Scott into an adult-movie house in the red light district of Grand Rapids, Michigan and forces him to watch a porn film starring his missing daughter. I think I got a B+.
What films have inspired you? “Electric Slide” is about a man trying to turn his life into a movie, so the inspirations are endless. It’s that strange thing about the city of Los Angeles where you find yourself walking down a street you’ve been on before but can’t quite remember why or when and then suddenly you realize you saw it in a movie. There are two scenes in “Electric Slide” that take place in movie theaters and I wanted the films onscreen to be absolutely specific to the real Eddie Dodson’s taste and sensibility. The first film is Jim McBride’s remake of “Breathless” starring Richard Gere, which I think is a completely underrated classic. I love its obsession with artifice and the way it nails the kitsch culture of early-80s New Wave L.A. The second is Barbet Schroeder’s first film, “More,” about lovers-on-the-run shooting heroin in Ibiza in 1969, with a soundtrack by The Pink Floyd when they were still a garage rock band with a definite article in their name. I love the collision of decadence and sunshine, and also the total emotional blankness of his characters. It’s a film that takes place in a beautiful void.
What do you have in the works? Since finishing “Electric Slide” I’ve been recharging with a lot of short-form work. I directed a couple of music videos for the new solo album from Hamilton Leithauser, the lead singer of the Walkmen. I also just finished up a collaboration with Wieden+Kennedy on a film for the Japanese watch company Citizen. We flew a 8-seater prop plane from Reykjavik into the Arctic Circle filming sunsets across the Earth’s time zones. Stepping off the plane into -42˚ C at Resolute Bay was like arriving in another dimension. It felt like we broke out of the space-time continuum only to suddenly find ourselves in an extremely cold David Lynch movie.