Patrick is the first MFA graduate from DePaul University Digital Cinema. Throughout his career, he has written and produced films, commercials, and TV series all over the world.
Pat is the co-founder and owner of Digital Hydra, an Emmy award-winning production company that has crafted commercial and creative content for a variety of major brands and entities including Facebook, HBO, McDonald’s, The Chicago Bulls, Cubs, and Blackhawks. It is also one of the largest content producers in Middle Eastern markets.
Pat has made films in Europe, Hollywood, and all across the United States. Along the way, his work has screened at the Chicago International TV Festival, New York Television Festival, Cannes International Short Film Corner, and others.
Recent accolades include winning Best Writer at SeriesFest Season 3 and Best of Fest at the International Television Festival as writer and co-creator of the indie TV pilot, Public Housing Unit.
What was your first break?
My first break came shortly after I finished my MFA at DePaul University. The film school was a sponsor of the Chicago International Film Festival that year and they commissioned a series of five advertisements that were going to run throughout the fest. They hired me, and my business partner Hamzah, to write, direct, and produce the spots. It didn’t magically open some kind of doors to success, but it was the first time I became aware that that people were willing to pay for what I did creatively and put it on a bigger stage.
Worst thing that ever happened to you to remind you that you are Black?
So being bi-racial and not easily ethnically identifiable spared me a ton of the harsh persecution that a lot of people of color are made to suffer. I’m well aware of that privilege. I also grew up in a community that, though predominantly white, almost unanimously made me feel accepted and included, especially as a little kid. That made me a little bit naïve for a long time.
But as I grew up, “passing” afforded me a disturbing look into the subversive bigotry that lives behind closed doors. Being invited to houses with bizarre racist caricatures and statues, or hearing negative conversations about affirmative action or Ebonics or the ghetto — the coded language people use to dehumanize African Americans — this stuff has always stuck with me psychologically. It’s not a horrific event, but it is foundationally disturbing to see up close how normalized prejudice is for some people.
Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are Black?
The thing that has always made me feel really special about my ethnic background is my family. That goes for my African-American family and my Irish-American family as well. But my dad’s side has some really fascinating ties to black history in Chicago and the U.S. Growing up, as a part of that family was kind of the opposite of the “worst thing” experiences I’ve had. Just by being born, I was allowed to belong to a beautiful, unique, and regal culture, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not proud of that heritage.
Work you are most proud of?
I’m very proud of my company, Digital Hydra, which my business partner and I built from two guys shooting videos with DSLRs into an award-winning international TV and film production studio.
I am extremely proud of the pilot for Public Housing Unit, a series I was fortunate to become the co-creator and writer of last year. It was humbling to act as the creative custodian for the life stories of some very brave individuals, and craft an authentic, diverse, Chicago story that is timely and (in my opinion) important.
How has the business changed since you broke in?
High quality production has become way more affordable and accessible. I came in during the height of DV Tape and watching the transition to HD, then digital cinema, 4K, 8K etc has been really interesting. I think creatives benefit enormously from this evolution. However as a byproduct you’ve got a ton of competition.
We’re also sitting in a major content boom with all the VOD and OTT platforms out there. Again, great for content creators because we have more opportunities than ever to get work out there in front of sizeable audiences. I’m also seeing a lot of desire to acquire and produce content in the under 10 minute space.
Trapped on an island, what are the creative essentials you must have?
Laptop. Notebook and writing utensils. Coffee…maybe some decent whiskey too. Ideally the methods to reproduce those beverages en masse.
If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self?
Save more money, write all the time, narrow your focus and think about what you are going to do with a project before obsessing over making it.
If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why?
Tupac Shakur. I think this has been my answer to this question since I was about 12 years old. He was a brilliant writer, and insanely charismatic, but also this highly conflicted and complex person. His words, interviews, and songs often contradict one another—in interesting and human ways—and I’ve just always wanted to understand went on in his head from the first time I discovered his music.
To read about others on The Reel Black List, click here