Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Film Producer (Beautiful Kid) Patrick McCullough

Pat on the movie set of Beautiful Kid. He plays the older brother Jimmy, the only brother not afflicted with a drinking problem. He tries desperately to keep the family from falling apart.

Patrick McCullough is the award-winning film producer of Beautiful Kid. Starring Frank McCourt (Angela's Ashes), John Carty (Best Supporting Actor Method Film Fest) and Dan Brennan (winner of best Supporting Actor Method Film Fest). Meeting him was inspirational, his Carpe Diem attitude is infectious.

What was it like working with Tatum O’Neal?

What? That’s the other Patrick McCullough, where did you do your research? (laughing).

Ooops, sorry about that. What about Good Friends Film Productions, that’s your company?

It was. It’s not up and running but I did a bunch of educational film productions back in the day. We made 5-6 films but it ran out of gas…

I also see you wrote, directed and produced A Dream Come True.

Yes, that is actually true. It’s like a doo-wop musical fantasy. You know, the street-corner-singing style back in the fifties…there’s some doo-wop in it…it was a world where dreams are not spoken, but sung…a short film.

How long is a typical short film?

This one was about fifteen minutes. Nowadays, they can be a lot shorter…some as short as two minutes!

I just interviewed an internet movie director, James Huffman and this is his specialty, his films are less then ten minutes and they’re brilliant. He thinks short films are perfect for our society today…we have such short attention spans.

I suppose. Well to summarize the plot, a depressed businessman makes his way onto the subway after a long day and a fight with his wife on the phone about him never seeing his little girl. It’s late at night and this homeless guy is begging for money. The beggar guy looks at this businessman and says, “It’s you, we sing together.” And he’s pestering the guy, “Sing the song we sing together.” There’s a cop in the car observing all this. They almost get in a fight, but he keeps pleading, “Sing for me.” The lights go out and a doo-wop song comes on. The businessman, the beggar and the cop are in purple tuxedosin an old tenement alley singing in this very fifties style, very magical change of scene. It’s kind of trippy I guess…and it’s this beautiful song. And as they finish it they’re back in the subway and the beggar guy is telling the businessman, “ You were great.” The cop who was just watching the guy being pestered in the prior scene loses it and kicks him off. The businessman goes home and for some reason he’s got the song still stuck in his head. From his formally depressed state, he’s feeling good and trying to sing the song. When his wife meets him at the door she’s upset because he’s singing loudly and she doesn’t want him to wake up their kid. She thinks he’s whacked. But she gives in and tries to join in and they have a really nice moment and the little girl is watching all this. Oh, Right before we got to the subway scene, we saw this little girl being put to bed by her mom and we go back into the moving subway. Basically, the watcher doesn’t know whose film it is. Does it belong to the beggar, businessman, the girl?…I like to think it’s the girl’s but it’s open for anyone to interpret.

Sounds beautiful, I like it. I love teaching short stories. I think it would be nice if it was the beggar’s story…that he could be asking for change in one minute and then the next be the business guy’s equal and dance around and not be looked down upon.

That’s a nice way to look at it. It was done so many years ago on film and back then there was no real market to sell your short film, I showed it at some festivals. I actually just showed it again at some art event in Connecticut…I was thinking of putting it on DVD so it will be for sale.

That would be good for kids I think.

It’s good for adults too. You know? It’s a good message for adults. It’s kind of saying don’t bring your attitude home…bring your music…don’t be a depressed businessman when you’re at home.
Wow, it’s deep. I want to see it now. What made you decide to open your own summer camp and what does it offer its students?

I’d been teaching off and on for about 10 years by then and I had worked for other summer programs for a few years and I realized no one was a rocket scientist. I could do it myself, and teach what I wanted how I wanted to. So I started Filmmakers Ink. I had a good first summer and it gave me some freedom to work during the academic year on my own film projects. This is my 5th summer. We teach screen writing, filmmaking, acting, editing and special effects. All the things I wish I was taught as a kid.

What types of artists do you usually hire?

I usually go about hiring people I work with because I know how they work. There are actors I’ve done plays with. Filmmakers I’ve worked with for the production side of things. And with the younger kids, I’ve had some of my former students teach the younger ones. They know what I like to get across to the kids.

They say that’s the best way to learn is when you have to teach it yourself, wow…you also teach at a Magnet school?

Yes, as an artist instructor.

Tell me about Sara’s Diary, the teen suicide prevention film you produced and directed.

It was just this great story. I hadn’t started getting into the documentary-style films yet. So it’s like a short story, a short film. In this one. It’s about a girl who was getting picked on a lot and committed suicide. She left a diary behind and it was picked up by a male student who was one of the ones who had picked on her. He reads it and has to come to grips with what he has contributed to and who she really was. He gets depressed also but he seeks help for it.

The moral of the story is about

It’s about getting help and in each film there is information for students to reach out and get help for themselves or others. The purpose was to get the kids emotionally involved so they would want to talk about it in their classes.

Where did you go to school?

I did not go to school for film (laughing). I went to college in Marist College in Poughkeepsie and I graduated with honors. I majored in communications. It was pretty much advertising, marketing, public relations…I mean I don’t know what I learned that I’m still using but I’m sure I picked up some things….

How did you ever hook up with Colum anyway?

Um…let’s see. We had met going on a bus to the Fleadh, some Irish music festival….and I began to see him around at book readings and the like…I really liked his books and I’d seen him in 2001 and he was doing a reading and I was working on putting together a feature film and I told him what I was doing and a few weeks later, he called and told me about this script that he had been reading. When I heard him say there’s this great script I said I wanted to read it. These guys were revved up and wanted to make the film the next week (laughing). And I was like, “Let me just read the script.” The next day I had only read ten pages and loved it and thought it would be a powerful movie and I went back and I said, “I know you guys want to do this next week but can you give me like, two weeks?” I asked some crew members that I had worked with on a previous film to read it before they agreed to do it for little money. I questioned them when they told me they liked the script to make sure they really bought into it and we didn’t lose one crew person which was very important….except the one we found in our trunk…James Capria, the DP, was cleaning out our production vehicle (my 12 year old Honda hatchback), and he came up to me very urgently and said, “I found Ross.”…that’s a long story.

There was so many awards for this….

Best Actor Award at the Method Fest for Dan Brennan who was the lead. Best Supporting for John Carty who beat out Eric Roberts (Julia Roberts brother). It was also nominated for Best Ensemble at the Method Fest, a Maverick Award, Best Film nomination up against films with budgets of 5-10 million dollars, a Boston Irish Film Best Movie Nomination. That’s incredible, with a budget of $15,000! It cost us a lot more than that.

How long did it take start to finish?

Till our first screening about a year and half.

Terror said, the Woodlawn trip was the best…

I missed that. I lived there and moved to Connecticut after living in NY…I remember we filled up 2 theaters for one screening, we filled up a 500 seat theater in a snap! They rigged it so the film would show on 2 screens at once and that one filled up as well with the overflow.

What was it like working with Colum and Mike?

It was a great collaboration. Mike is the best screenwriter I’ve ever worked with, and he and Colum were passionate about the direction of the film.

Do you have a favorite actor?

It was a pleasure…all these young and inexperienced actors walked in the door and it was trial by fire. They had to deliver and they all did and we were very lucky. There was not a weak link in the bunch.

You made this film just after 9/11?

Yes, we were scheduled to start the film on 9/11.We took Gullianni’s words to heart…‘we gotta keep working.’ We waited a few days and began. One of the things that was most important to me as we made this film was the involvement of the police and fire department, not to mention the carpenters and other Ground Zero workers. They wanted to work with us on our film just to escape for a few hours. It was important that we could be that outlet for them.

Haven’t you been featured somewhere, I feel like I‘ve seen you on the screen a lot?

I’ve done some soap stuff and some plays that have been nominated and I was Jimmy as a supporting actor in Beautiful Kid…I was always getting cast as a character actor on soaps as the bad waiter or something, which is a good thing, getting the character roles…I’m actually gearing to head back into the city and do that as well.

Where did you study acting?

Two years at Carnegie Hall…Meisner Technique.

What’s that?

It’s living truthfully within imaginary circumstances….I went to boot camp as an actor. Robert X. Modica was the hardest teacher but a great one…He’s still teaching, still going strong in the city.


I started studying a few years after I graduated.

What was your biggest inspiration to go into acting?

My brother‘s death. At the time I was graduating college and I basically said (I was doing IBM marketing) to hell with this, life is too short. I’m gonna do what makes me happy. And that’s why I decided to pursue acting. I’m still in the Screen Actors Guild. I became a working actor in NY, after that I went to LA….acted in and produced plays on my own. I’ve learned when you want to do something you really love, don’t wait for someone to give you the opportunity. Go out and do it yourself and make it happen!

You were also a well-known singer once upon a time.

I don’t know about well known, I was one of the Founding members of the band Gaelic Storm, they kind of made it big for awhile.


You know the scene in the movie, Titanic? The Irish band in the steerage. That’s them. I had left LA before all that went down. Now there’s only one guy left from the original band, Patrick Murphy. He’s a good entertainer. I always hated the name of the band, so cheesy.

Did you play an instrument?

No, my part was mostly singing the ballads and harmony or the fun stuff like playing the cheesy percussion. I did this in LA… I jumped into it because I always loved Irish music. Two guys asked me and we made it happen…got us our first gig and I was paying the rent with it for a while.

What was it like working with Malachy and Frank McCourt?

I knew both of them before Angela‘s Ashes…

You did?

They were doing a play adapted from the Leon Uris book “Trinity” and I had written Leon to ask for the movie rights and when he wrote back to tell me that that wasn’t going to happen and that even now they were working on the play in New York, I asked for a job. They paid me a stipend to work behind the scenes….I came back from LA at the time and Malachy was working on it…and I met Frank around that time. It was the late 80s. Then the next time I saw them they came to a Gaelic Storm show!

That’s a sign… it seems like you were all meant to do a movie together!

They’ve always been great guys. Shortly after I saw them at the show I went away to Europe for a few years. When I came back I picked up a copy of the Irish Voice and read that Frank had just won the Pulitzer Prize.

That is just incredible. What were you doing in Europe?

I wrote two screenplays and did some teaching of English and acting.

So, you didn’t go to film school.

How did you become a filmmaker? Shortly after that time in Europe, I made about four or five educational films. Made lots of mistakes but learned a lot. After my short film, I was trying to raise money for one of my features but instead I got hired to create a business plan for someone elses film and ended up producing it.

What’s your usual title?

I consider myself what ever each project needs to get it done…I’m a producer if a really good film comes along. I really like to do my own films…Getting Beautiful Kid out there and getting a movie of my own are one and two on my list right now. I made a few movies this past year that were funded by the Department of Justice.

Very cool.

Yeah, it’s nice making films that are fully funded….with this economy. One of the bright spots in this economy for me is I’m getting more time to make my own movies. The problem is all I really want to do is spend my days with my kids.

What is your philosophy on life?

John Patrick Shanley says and I‘ll paraphrase, “Sometimes in life, doing the things that you really want to do requires a little more courage than you currently have. What it takes is a deep breath and a leap.” During the times when I’m present in my life, I think of that quote or whenever I’m facing a wall.

That’s good advice, I’ll take it. Are you from Ireland? You look very Irish.

No, my great grandparents were from Ireland. I’m from one of those Irish American families that was in the Civil War draft riots. My family went on to become train conductors and detectives and newspaper men. My grandfather was the editor of the Stamford Advocate during WW11…

You’ve lived in LA, NY, MA

And Vienna. I also studied in Ireland my junior year, I loved Donegal, Prague at night,…I love Florence, Italy, hung out with some street venders there and played music.

Is LA superficial?

As Louise Lasser said to me once, “LA is like Saturday night without a date.“ I found that in order to have a foundation, you have to actively create. It’s not going to present itself to you. That’s why I had to form a group when I was there.

How ironic, that’s what the producer, James Huffman had to do when he moved to LA from NY.

In NY, you just do your own thing but in LA you have to actively protect that…I saw people go off the deep end.


There’s just no footing….it’s too glossy, you can slide right off,. You have to work hard to keep your footing.

You did really well a few years back with your play “Spittin Image” by Stephen Metcafe, tell me a little bit about it.

It was a long one act, about an hour. A two-character play that I produced and acted in, and we ran it for awhile. We got a “Pick of the Week” in the LA Weekly. I ran it so long, 2 years, that the playwright sent me other plays to do.

Did you travel with it?

Yeah, it went to Ireland, LA, NY (Signature theater), Mexico…

Mexico? You‘re kidding!

No, my friend was getting married over there and we got the US Embassy in Mexico City to sponsor us!

That was smart…I am really getting jealous!

When we went to Ireland and Air Lingus flew us over to do the play there.

No one gave you this hand book you just figured it out? I can’t believe the US Embassy…

My friend’s mom ran a theater in her home, she was very much a theatrical persona and she was the diva. As a gift to the family, we did the play there…just for the family and friends when they were preparing for the wedding.

You are very adventurous.

You only live 3 or 4 times. Once I went hitchhiking from the West to go through East Germany into West Berlin…this is before the Berlin Wall came down. The couple that picked me up even gave me a place to stay…I helped them move their furniture.

Wish times were like that now, there was so much freedom back then to explore!

Learn More:

No comments: