OUT AT THE MOVIES: An Interview With Filmmaker Patrick McGuinn

Pics 1-3: Three views of Patrick McGuinn
Pics 4-5: Scenes from “Sun Kissed”
Pics 6-7: Scenes from “Eulogy for a Vampire”

An Interview With Filmmaker Patrick McGuinn

     Prolific musician and filmmaker Patrick McGuinn truly does things his own way. Born in Los Angeles, McGuinn began making Super 8 millimeter films at age nine.   A graduate of NYU Tisch School of the Arts, the 43-year old now calls New York City his home.  McGuinn has directed fourteen films, both shorts and feature-length movies.  He produced almost all of them independently.  Two of his films, the 2006 metaphysical gay romantic drama “Sun Kissed” (now available on DVD) and the 2009 homoerotic horror “Eulogy for a Vampire” (available on DVD later this year), enjoyed much-publicized theatrical releases.  Like many filmmakers, McGuinn has dealt with negative reviews of some of his flicks; one mean-spirited critic of “Eulogy for a Vampire” wrote, “Someone really needs to take away Patrick McGuinn’s camera equipment.”  McGuinn dismisses the criticism with a hearty laugh.   He is quick to declare that he makes movies simply because he loves making movies, not for the sake of pleasing the critics.   Patrick McGuinn and I met in New York City’s West Village to speak about his latest cinematic endeavors, as well as the challenges of being a bona fide “DIY” artist:

JR: Hello, Patrick.  Thanks for meeting me!
PM: It’s always a pleasure, Jed!
JR: So, recently you completed the script for a movie called… “Boobs”, right?
PM: Yes, I completed it back in 2004 along with another script called “Ten Minutes to Creepy”, and of course “Sun Kissed”.  Back in 2004 I went into production on “Sun Kissed”, and the other two scripts have kind of been waiting to blossom.  “Boobs” was slated to become my next project.  However, a friend read the script and loved it so much that he asked if he could option it from me, and produce and direct it himself.   So, I’m in the process of negotiating that with him, and he’s in the process of raising money to produce it.  He’s re-titled it– for fundraising purposes, I believe– because I think it’s hard for him to look investors in the eye and say, “I’m making a film called ‘Boobs’.”!  (Both laugh) He has re-titled it “Corporate Cougars” in the meantime… which I think might date very quickly, but if he produces the cash, then it’s sort of up to him.  So, in the meantime I have actually been exercising my muscles with some short films and some exercises with film stock tests with cameras, etc… and it’s been very interesting.  I’ve enjoyed it very much.  It’s inspired me to want to make something very… I’ll call it “lo-fi”, you know– just something very intimate and low to the ground.  I’m hoping that will allow it to become a project that will happen a lot quicker and faster than a big, lumbering feature.
JR: Wow!  So, just to clarify, “Boobs” had no relation to the musical that was running a while back with Gennifer Flowers, right?
PM: No!  In fact, there’s a documentary that was released this past year also called “Boobs”.  Tom Arnold was one of the interviewees.  They were interviewing a bunch of different men and women about their attitude toward breasts and boobs or whatever…  
JR: If Tom Arnold was in it, it should have been called “Man Boobs”.
PM: (Laughs) I know, I know… Anyway, I am definitely interested in producing a new film.  I want it to be a very small cast and small crew, and I want to shoot it on 16 millimeter, in the country… kind of a bucolic setting.  So, that is something that’s kind of slated to happen if all goes well with the beginnings of the script that I’m working on.  It’s thrilling and it’s also a bit of a challenge, and like I said, I want to keep it low to the ground so that’s it not a huge lumbering project.
JR: That’s great news.  Now, I know that “Eulogy for a Vampire” is also scheduled for DVD release.  
PM: Yes.  That’s come out on DVD in France, and it was re-titled “Mon Vampire”.  The sales are going well.  I believe it’s going to be reviewed by a couple of British publications, so I’m curious about that.  “Eulogy” will also be out on DVD in America just before Halloween 2010.  It will be on Netflix as an HD streaming, or of course people can buy copies of it on DVD… but there are fewer and fewer outlets in America anymore to buy DVD’s except through Amazon.com, of course. The Virgin Megastore is gone.  I don’t think my film is the kind of film that’s gonna be in Walmart! (Laughs)
JR: (Laughs)Congratulations about that!
PM: Yeah, but that’s where most people buy DVD’s now.  They buy two DVD’s for $5 from Walmart.
JR: I admit, I’m a Netflix kind of guy.  If I can’t see it in the theater when it first comes out, then my next option is the DVD from Netflix.  
PM: I’ve seen the HD streaming of “Eulogy for a Vampire”, and it looks fantastic.  It looks just as good as getting a Blu-Ray, as far as I’m concerned.   It just looks great.  And, as long as you’re a member, it’s free.

JR: Now, I have to ask: How did you react to the bad reviews of the movie?
PM: Of “Eulogy”?
JR: Well, one reviewer was reviewing “Eulogy” but he even took a swipe at “Sun Kissed” too in the review.  Now, I
was at the premiere of “Eulogy”, and the people in the audience liked it… but the reviewers were exceptionally harsh.

PM: Yeah.  One reviewer in particular who writes for the New York Times is very critical, but he also makes personal attacks– which is interesting to me.  It doesn’t bother me.  Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but it is fascinating how people respond to certain things.  I enjoy the films I make.  I make them because I enjoy making them, and I enjoy watching them.  For someone not to like it and to feel so strongly against it just tells me that they are probably the kind of person  that I wouldn’t get along with in other aspects of life.  So, I guess that he just happens to review for The New York Times and that he happens just not to like it. (Laughs)  I’m always disappointed when somebody doesn’t like my film.  I always feel that they didn’t quite “get it”, and that there was a missed opportunity for them to have fun or enjoy something.  That’s my attitude when people don’t understand what I do.  Again, everyone is entitled to their own opinion.  I think I make films that are pretty quirky, and not easily understood by a lot of people.  I’m able to do it because I keep the budgets down. They really are films that I enjoy.   If I didn’t enjoy them, there wouldn’t be anybody else to make them! (Both laugh)  It seems that there’s a lot of conformity with independent films these days, to try to make a hit film, and to try to get stars in your film, and try to make something that everyone’s gonna see, like a “Blair Witch Project” or, what’s that one…?
JR: “Paranormal Activity”?
PM: Yeah, “Paranormal Activity”.
JR: I’ve seen both those movies, and I know that they really broke the mold when they were made.  But a lot of movies do break the mold.  But the public just happened to pick up on those, and then the movies were perceived as better than they really were.
PM: It’s the hype!
JR: Yes, the hype!  So, you’re right.  Everyone tries to imitate that formula, not realizing that it’s a combination of  atmosphere and timing… and with what’s going on in the cinema at the time.  People may have also been sick of all those dumb, big-budget, overstuffed movies.  People try to make lightning strike twice, and that doesn’t happen too often!
PM:  I love low-budget filmmaking, and I love watching low budget independent movies.  I’ve always been intrigued by how somebody works with  limited resources and what they come up with.  I’m honestly excited about how people deal with shortcomings in every aspect of life.  When I see low-budget films, I’m always wondering what I would have done differently, or what do I appreciate that they did in an innovative way?  It’s always just some surprise element or discovery that people have when they “take the world by storm”, so to speak.  So, I enjoy my place in there, yet I’m not trying to make a “big hit movie”. If I did, I would be doing different stories, I guess.
JR: Being an independent filmmaker, what’s the hardest thing about getting your film made… especially from someone like you who breaks the mold?
PM: If you have made small films before, I think you get an idea of how difficult it is to make a bigger film.  But, making a film is only fifty percent of the battle. (Laughs) The other fifty percent is getting your film seen; getting exposure for yourself and somehow getting it out in a way that people can see it, whether it’s in the theater or on DVD or whatever.  Obviously more and more people choose to stream their film online.  I really think that getting a quality viewership for your film is one of the hardest things.  I mean, making a film– if you’re dedicated and feel passion for your story–  is not as hard as a lot of people think it could be.  Of course, raising money to make your film can be hard, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and if you really believe in your story enough, then nothing will stop you.  You’ll shoot it on the cheapest format possible if you really want to tell your story.  If you have very high standards and you decide to shoot it on film or some kind of film format, and you decide that you’re gonna wait and raise the right amount of money to do it that way, and if you believe in it enough, it WILL happen.  I really believe in human will and perseverance and getting through what you need to do to make your film.  So, there are two parts to what’s most difficult.  The first is definitely getting the money together to make your film.  The second is getting people to see your film once it’s done. Once you have money and you know what constraints you can work with, then making your film isn’t that hard if you have people who believe in you, and have some dedication and drive.  Even if you don’t have a lot of talent, you can at least get your film made! (Laughs)
JR: Yeah!  So, tell me about the new film you are working on.
PM: I want it to be a dreamlike, bucolic film set in the countryside: very earthy and mysterious, yet at the same time very sexual and intriguing; sort of like a French movie! (Laughs)  Some people don’t like French movies, but I love them, so for me that would be fun.  I want to shoot it on 16 millimeter so there’s a really beautiful, cinematic look… and I want it to be playfully sexual but also have a dark side and a little bit of conflict that’s not completely resolved at the end, necessarily.  I’d also like to make another horror film down the line.  I have a script that I mentioned earlier: “Ten Minutes to Creepy”.  It’s a zombie film for children.
JR: Oh really?!
PM: It has to do with children whose parents get eaten by zombies, and then they become zombies themselves… So how do they go about their lives?  I won’t give away the rest of the plot, but it raises a lot of questions about family life, and asks questions like “Who’s your leader?” and “Who do you answer to in your life?” It’s kind of a sad film, actually, because they become orphans… but at the same time, it’s sort of a comedy as well.  At some point, I’d love to make a werewolf film.  I know that there was recently a big-budget werewolf movie.  But I’d love to do a low-budget exploration of what it means to have this secret side and to deal with the metamorphosis from human to something else.  However, in a movie like “The Hulk”, when he transitions from one kind of creature to another, it always traipses around the whole sexual side.  They never explore that.  For instance, his pants always fit, even though he changes his whole height and size.  You never see him naked!  So, that’s another aspect about becoming a werewolf, which I actually thought was very well-handled in  “American Werewolf in London”.  He wakes up nude a few times in different places.  I thought that was an interesting conundrum: How do you handle this metamorphosis?  So, that’s obviously something in the future that I’d love to do someday.    Maybe you could play that role!
JR: Me, a werewolf?! (Laughs)
PM: Yeah!  (Laughs)
JR: I better start growing my chest hair back! (Both laugh) So, Patrick, when you’re not making movies, what do you like to do for fun?
PM: I just enjoy watching and observing people.  I like to be in situations where I can observe.  Sometimes it’s just a walk in the park or something.  Of course, I love seeing movies, so that’s one aspect of observing.  I generally fill my spare time with going to see old films, or new films, or films that are generally sort of quirky.  Last week I saw Harmony Korine’s “Trash Humpers”.  We live in such a stimulating city.  Just taking a walk downtown, you get a lot of exposure to really interesting people and things.  I also love swimming.  I try to swim every day for about a half hour.  It’s a lot of fun and also an opportunity to enjoy some visual stimulation.  You know: swimmers! (Laughs)
JR: Oh, yes!  A guy in a Speedo is always sexy!
PM: We have some interesting characters in our city.  I always wonder about what these people think of themselves.  I think they’re interesting and quirky. Do they think they are?  I notice men peeing a lot in the streets these days too.  Like, there are these guys who pee in between parked cars and wherever.  I don’t know if it’s a downtown thing, but I’m walking home at night and suddenly I’m hearing a trickle or a tinkle, and I look around and someone will be peeing in a corner somewhere.
JR: I admit, I have done that on occasion.  I mean, what are you going to do when there are no public restrooms in this   f***ing town?
PM: I suppose that’s what it is… but I have difficulty doing that!
JR: Not me!
PM: It definitely makes things kind of interesting when you realize that there are people just whipping it out to do
something like that on the street, in public, in the shade somewhere… and it’s not like I’m trying to find this or see this!
(Laughs)  It just happens to be that wherever I’m walking, I notice that.
JR: The latest trend in New York City…
PM: Public peeing.
JR: Well, that’s one of the good things about being a guy, that you can pee in public!
PM: True…!  

     Patrick McGuinn’s “Sun Kissed” is now available on DVD. “Eulogy for a Vampire”
is coming to DVD October 2010.

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