DEBORAH S. PATZ has been a filmmaker on award-winning productions since the mid-1980s, primarily as a production manager and coordinator, and then as production executive. She has worked with Lucasfilm, IMAX, MCA/Universal, Alliance/Atlantis, Nelvana, BBC, CBC, the Disney Channel, and the list goes on. A peek at her filmography includes L5: First City in Space, Mission to MIR, William Shatner’s TekWar, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Ewoks & Droids, Maniac Mansion, The Magician’s House, and The Big Comfy Couch, to name a few. Her first book, Surviving Production (on coordination) was published by MWP in 1997, and was then incorporated into her second book, FILM PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT 101, which was published in 2002 and remains on sale around the world. She'll be in Seattle teaching a teen filmmaking workshop based on her third book Write! Shoot! Edit! on March 14th at Concordia Lutheran School.
Dave Watson: Howdy Deb. What's new?
Debra Patz: Seattle is what’s new for me! I’ll be there on March 14th to conduct a teen filmmaking workshop based on my book “Write! Shoot! Edit!” and I can hardly wait! It’s going to be a very interactive workshop. My book, you see, is a choose-your-own-path type of book where you can follow the path of the writer, director/shooter or editor and learn how to create filmed stories from each perspective… so the book is already interactive. My challenge for the workshop is to bring that path – or rather those paths – to life in an introductory and fun manner. I’m talking about creating movies in a thoughtful manner – not just point and shoot at the speed of a social media scroll.
There is already a lot of terrific support for the workshop. Generous thanks has to go to Concordia Lutheran School for hosting. Also to all the terrific sponsors, including Third Place Books, the Seattle Film Institute, Seattle’s Child Magazine, and IndieFlix, and of course to my publisher Michael Wiese Productions for bringing it all together.
DW: What kinds of filmmakers are using your books?
DP: Now that I have a teen filmmaking book, wow, it’s quite the range! My other book, Film Production Management 101, was written for production managers and coordinators. It was designed to be used open and on the desk during production – and I’m thrilled every time I hear it is used just that way. Producers, P.A.’s and post secondary film students use it too, because it covers the entire production process with a ‘tell it like it is’ conversational style, and since it’s so comprehensive (it’s a whopping 500 pages), the book grows with you as your grow your career with more complex productions.
This teen filmmaking book Write! Shoot! Edit, however, was written with a middle and high school audience in mind – and that’s who it’s reaching. I made my first movies when I was nine and was shooting movies all the way through high school. I guess it’s the book I would love to have had back then! This book takes the professional concepts of my P.M. book and distills them down to just what you need to know to get started making movies now. It also covers the entire filmmaking process from writing to camera and sound work to editing – not just from the point of view of a manager or coordinator. Because of its nature and focus, people starting post secondary film production studies have also embraced the book. I know of a post secondary program who bought a class set to grant to arriving students when they come to campus for their first preview visit.
DW: What’s new on the Canadian film scene?
DP: I think what’s new in Canada, is what’s new in independent cinema everywhere: new talent. With smartphones and tablets, everyone has access to a movie camera, and with the plethora of apps out there to edit raw footage, there is a host of opportunities to really experiment with making movies. So instead of consuming media on our phones and tablets, how about thoughtfully creating it? Doing so is creating a new generation of storytellers, and that’s just wonderful.
But experimenting with the technology is one thing. Sure, it’s important and it’s fun. But understanding how to craft story using technology… well, professional filmmakers have been using that power using older technologies, a.k.a. “film," for years. What’s truly exciting is the bringing together of the two perspectives: new talent and new technology with the existing lessons learned crafting filmed stories over the years. We learn about us as humans through media, we teach through entertainment. The next generation can have impact on life so much sooner in life with their stories than any generation has had every before.
DW: Do you sense many mainstream films using the process outlined in your book for teens?
DP: Absolutely! All the concepts in my book emulate the professional industry. They come from the professional industry because I’ve worked in it since the mid-80s, based in Toronto and Vancouver, but on productions that have shot around the world and even in space - I worked with the IMAX Space Team. Production is what I know. And teen filmmakers of today will be the film pros of tomorrow. Why not learn professional concepts now?
Indeed, that means that Write! Shoot! Edit! was a serious challenge to write. I had to distill the ENTIRE filmmaking process down to a book short enough to get the reader out there right now making movies, not sitting and reading a book about making movies. My production management book? The 500-page one? Well, let’s just say that I reduced the content of that entire book down to 12 pages in Write! Shoot! Edit!. Yes, I even teach teen filmmakers how to create mini-cast contracts, schedules, and budgets – because if you act professional enough, you’ll get people to help you make your movie, plus you’ll have a preview of what you’ll be doing as a matter of course on future, professional productions. But, if you look too professional with long, detailed agreements, etc. then people will think you’ll have money to pay them. It’s all about the right balance. (She smiles)
DW: What about Film Production Management 101?
DP: Oh, it’s still out there! The first edition was published back in 1997 and it’s been updated twice. It sells around the world and is known as the Swiss Army Knife of production management, which I think is very cool. It’s also still the only book on the market for production coordination.
I teach workshops based on that book too. My next one is at the end of May in PEI, Canada. A four-day super-intensive workshop running alongside the Screenwriter’s Bootcamp to ensure that the industry is training up business folk in the industry as well as screenwriters.
DW: What’s next?
DP: Well, there is always writing in the works, but this year you’ll mostly see me via workshops and panels. This year’s highlight – after the Seattle teen filmmaking workshop, which I’m super-jazzed about – will probably be the UFVA Conference in Tallahassee, Florida. Basically, it’s a conference of post secondary film professors from all across the country. The panels are awesome and diverse, and this year’s theme is “Imagination Untethered.” A number of the authors published by MWP gather at the event at our publisher’s booth – a fabulous opportunity to meet each other, network and speak on panels.
I’ve also recently retired my website blog for a FILM & INK newsletter of Tips and Tales about the film industry. I’m hopeful it will connect me better to people who read and are inspired by my books. I love to help people realize their cinematic dreams. I’ve done so myself many times over, so it’s deeply satisfying to help others along their path. If you’d like to subscribe, you’re invited to swing by my website at www.debpatz.com.
DW: What’s your favorite cinematic moment?
DP: Oh, that’s such a hard question! In my FILM & INK blog, I often highlighted magical or inspiriting movie moments! So, I think I’ll share, instead, a recent magical moment in a movie trailer rather than in a movie.
I was in the theater watching the coming soon trailers, which I love, in front of Jumanji: The Next Level and there was this one trailer which took us, the audience, on this amazing emotional journey. At first, I thought the movie was going to be a family drama, then it segued into what might be a horror-suspense film, and then with a bit of humor so the horror wouldn’t be too dark… and finally it revealed a surprise to the characters and to the audience. And I was surprised! Now, I can’t tell you what the surprise was, in case you see the trailer; I don’t want to ruin it for you. All I can say, is that when you go to the movie when it’s released, you’ll know the title and you’ll know overall what the movie’s about, so the surprise in the movie itself won’t be a surprise for you. It’ll only be a surprise if you see the trailer. How cool is that? That means that trailers today have a unique opportunity to create an emotional ride for the audience that even their own movie can’t replicate. When was the last time you watched a movie and didn’t know at all what it was about? Well, there was this one time… but, that’s a story for another time.
Clip: Jumanji: The Next Level
Founder and editor of Movies Matter, Dave Watson is a writer and educator in Madison, WI.