In Conversation with Patrick Stark

It was funny to talk about fear with Patrick Stark on Friday the 13th. A well reputed local director, Stark currently has two projects in the works; One Life, No Regrets, a documentary that challenges his own fear of singing in public, and Any Wednesday, a drama he’s co-directing with Allie Light.

Patrick met Allie Light, a prolific American documentarian, through a mutual friend right as he was wrapping up his first and only documentary. Allie has not only produced, directed and edited award winning films for more than 25 years, she is also the author of one novel and four short stories. Any Wednesday is one of those four. 

Filmmaker Patrick Stark

Filmmaker Patrick Stark

The drama, which is based on a true story, brings together the most unlikely travel companions—Agnes, a 79-year-old woman in the early stages of dementia, and C’Mo, a 25-year-old African American war veteran with PTSD. The story begins on a Wednesday night with Agnes’ husband and son fearing for the worst. Agnes didn’t find her way home after choir practice that night, finding C’Mo instead. The two embark on a journey together, Agnes struggling to remember, C’Mo struggling to forget. 

“At first, Allie and her daughter were planning on filming Any Wednesday in Austin,” Patrick tells me. Allie’s daughter and co-producer, Julia Hilder, lives in Austin while Allie is based in San Francisco.

“Because the story mostly takes place at night, I suggested we shoot in Vancouver, as the dollar and tax cuts would work in our favour.” The team bit his bait, and Patrick feels very fortunate to be working side-by-side with a master filmmaker in the same city that his wife and two kids are located.  

When Allie and Julia flew in to discuss how Patrick and them would pull this production off, they also organized a huge casting session. While it was difficult to choose amongst all the talent, the team behind Any Wednesday chose Mary Black to play Agnes and Shane Dean to portray C’Mo. Originally, filming was set to begin in December 2016, but Vancouver’s Ice-pocolypse caused Mary to slip and fracture her pelvis. She’s healing well at age 81 and the shoot has been pushed back to March 2017.

Dementia and homelessness are unfortunately things that Patrick is familiar with. His grandmother was in the early stages of dementia before passing away, and his nephew is living on the streets in East Vancouver. 

“With PTSD, I’m working on getting as much background in that area before going to shoot,” Stark tells me, adding praise for Shane Dean and how he’s immersed himself the role of C’Mo.  Stark has been working with psychologist Joti Samra who he hopes will be onset as an advisor come production time.

His two ongoing projects are incredibly different from one another but Patrick tells me that, regardless of it being fiction or fact, not one movie is produced the same way. 

“You have to do everything: find the material, raise the money, get the crew and cast, handle legal and accounting, etc. Even after all of these years, I feel like I’m just figuring it out—all of the pieces are coming together. I started when I was 22 and now I am almost 50. Life is just starting for me.”

Patrick was born in Vancouver, but he and his family moved to Dawson Creek when he was just two years old. It was a friendly place where everyone knew each other, but not a place that fostered a childhood dream of working in film. 

“From the moment I saw Jaws in 1975 I knew I wanted to work in the film business,” Patrick says, adding that when he was only seven years old, he spent reading period and free time at school slowly absorbing the Jaws novel.

“I wasn’t sure whether to I wanted to act or direct, but I was fascinated with that mechanical shark.”

Patrick feared being made fun of for his big Hollywood dreams, so when people asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he’d lie and say “a gym teacher.” Luckily, by the time Patrick graduated high school, Vancouver was starting to form its own film industry. He moved to the city to study at Langara, which lacked a film program but did offer a screen writing class. His original plan was to transfer to UCLA, but he ended up skipping classes to work on sets. The film business eventually took over and he dropped out of school. Eighteen years later, Patrick was a 3rd assistant director and, realizing he hadn’t necessarily taken the path that leads to directing, began thinking about self producing. He was assistant directing An Unfinished Life at the time and the producers he worked with suggested he adapt a book into a film.

Stark found Century of November and signed the writer behind The Pirates of The Caribbean to adapt it for screen. The process of producing the film was a long and exhaustive one that cost 30 million dollars and caused Patrick to languish for years. That’s when he got an idea for a documentary. 

“My big fear when it came to singing was what other people would think of me and my voice and to be ridiculed or criticized,” Patrick, a fan of singing by himself in his car, tells me. He felt he had a story to share and knew he had a start to a documentary where the end goal was singing on stage with U2. All he needed was a sound and camera guy. 

One Life, No Regrets, has been in the works for 8 years and is now in post-production. 

“I learned that I have no control over what other people think.” Patrick shares of his takeaway. “What am I afraid of? What people will say about me or not like me, but is that any of my business?”

Patrick asks me if I’ve ever watched a variety show where contestants are put in booths full of bills of money flying around. I have. 

“That’s what my life feels like right now. I love jumping out of bed in the morning because I’m excited to work on so many things. My career is not work—it’s my art, and that’s one and the same.”

Success for him has nothing to do with money. It’s about having the freedom to move forward on projects he feels passionate about, knowing that he can make them happen. The process and the people bring him joy. 

“I feel so lucky to work with [Allie], who’s so smart, worldly and talented. I couldn’t ask for anyone better to be co-directing with. She’s my mentor and collaborator. I get to co-direct a drama with someone so wonderful while finishing up my first documentary.”

Both One Life, No Regrets and Any Wednesday do not have scheduled release dates. While Patrick encourages people not to pay attention to what others think, I’d like to suggest setting some Google Alerts so that you don’t miss out on what will surelybe two impressive pieces of art.