First-time writer/director Geremy Jasper—a musician and past music video director—showcases his music chops in this brash and bombastic story of unlikely MC Patti “Killa P” Dombrowski. In working-class “dirty Jersey,” Patti and her best friend and music partner, Hareesh, dream of escaping their dead-end jobs and pursuing their dreams of hip-hop superstardom. When they meet reclusive Goth newcomer Basterd, he provides the missing link to elevate their sound. Breakout talent Danielle Macdonald plays Patti with the magnetism and stage presence of a seasoned recording artist, matched by the prodigious talents of Bridget Everett as Patti’s disillusioned mother, who saw her own aspirations of stardom pass by long ago.
Geremy Jasper, who will also be recognized with the New Voices in Screenwriting Award at the Screenwriters Tribute on Friday, June 23, gave us a few minutes of his time to chat about PATTI CAKE$. Take a look below, and join us for the only screening on Saturday, June 24 at 2:45pm!
NFF: How did your background in music and music videos affect or influence your use of light and sound/music in the film?
Geremy: Hmmm. The film encompasses two worlds - an objective rough & raw Jersey reality and Patti’s subjective fantasy world. These two different worlds are lit differently and sound different. One is very natural, minimal lighting and “real” sounding while the other is bold, colorful and kaleidoscopic. My DP Fede Cesca and I were not shy in pushing more color and more smoke into a fantasy scenes. My music video background gave me a love for and vivid colors and surrealism but also a handle on how to capture musical performances that feel dynamic and visceral. It’s magic catching a song on film.
I wrote around 25 original songs for the film, so sound was a major focus in how things were shot, edited and mixed. There a many performances that needed to feel raw and authentic and at other times take over the film almost like score.
NFF: Can you talk a little about casting, and how you found the incredible Danielle Macdonald?
Geremy: The character of Patti Dombrowski is so specific physically, emotionally, and musically that it was going to take someone incredibly special and gifted to play her. Luckily my producer Noah remembered Dani from a small role she had in a film called The East. She looked IDENTICAL to the image of Patti I had in my brain so she joined me in Utah for the Sundance Director’s Lab even though she was Australian and had never rapped before in her life. She’s so brilliant and hard working it didn't faze me so we spent the next 2 years training her to rap while developing the character. Dani carries the film on her shoulders and I think she should win every award on the planet.
NFF: Tell us a little about your inspiration for the film. Do you have a connection to New Jersey?
Geremy: I grew up a chubby blonde, hip hop loving kid from suburban Jersey who filled secret notebooks with endless rhymes. At 23 I was stuck living in my parent’s basement working crappy jobs while nursing an unbelievable hunger to move to NYC and be a musician. I was also raised around big, sarcastic Jersey women who were always called “The Boss” as in you wanted / needed something, “Go ask the Boss.” All this got mixed up into what would become the world of PATTI CAKE$.
NFF: Are there directors (or musicians) whose style or body of work have influenced you as a filmmaker?
Geremy: Oh yes, they all seem to be named BOB: Bob Dylan, Bob Fosse, Bob Redford, and Bobby Digital (AKA The RZA from WuTang).
NFF: Why are you excited to screen in Nantucket, and what do you hope Nantucket audiences take away?
Geremy: Growing up in Jersey my family used to spend summer vacation at a trailer park in the Poconos (no joke) and to me the idea of “Nantucket” seemed like a mythic East Coast paradise - as well as well as a wonderful word for limericks. This’ll be my first time on the island & I couldn't be more excited. My hope is that the audience will be transported into an exotic blue collar fantasia and will be dancing in the aisles.