Their film has been tearing up the festival circuit since Sundance.
If you haven’t heard of the film Patti Cake$ yet, then you’ve either been living under a rock or you haven’t the slightest clue what an indie film is. Regardless, that’s perfectly ok. We got a chance to speak with Geremy Jasper, the director of this film and Danielle Macdonald, the lead of the film at New Directors / New Films opening night at MoMA. Geremy shed a lot of light on the film, the very personal connections he’s had with it and the long and hard process that’s been the creation of this film. Danielle shared a lot of interesting bits of information as well, such as the fact that prior to filming, she didn’t know how to rap. Generally speaking, that leads to an interesting set of days on set when the character you’re playing is an aspiring rapper. Check out our interview with these two amazing people as they slowly ascend to stardom:
Tell me about your movie, in your own words.
It’s a film about a 23 year old Jersey girl named Patricia whose obsessed with hip hop and it’s kind of this epic journey she goes on to find her voice.
What inspired you to write this movie?
It was a mix of my early obsession with hip hop which kind of followed my entire adult life. Me being from New Jersey, where this film takes place, growing in a family with women who are similar to Patti and the others and it was kind of a way for me to create an alter ego through Patti and mix it up with my own story and music loves.
So the movie was a very personal story for you?
Yes, we shot it in the town where I grew up, around the towns I grew up in.
What’s it like filming a movie in the town you grew up in?
It was hard. Shooting in the city or Yonkers was easy. People were suspicious, lets put it that way. I was surprised, they obviously don’t want me back.
What directors inspired you?
Fellini is probably my biggest hero. Bob Fosse I really love. PT Anderson, Spike Lee, Hank Williams, Scorsese.
What was it like working with actors who didn’t have a lot of training?
It was good. We were lucky. Sid, who plays jerry in the movie, never acted before. I got to work with him on and off for two years leading up to the movie developing the character and getting him feeling comfortable in front of the camera. The film has a lot of musicians who are not actors and a lot of actors who are not musicians and it’s an interesting mix of people who are out of their comfort zone. It kind of freaks them out. Danielle had never rapped before, so she had to learn to rap. Sid had never acted before but had done music and like, Mamoudou who plays Basterd played music. Everyone kind of did something differently that what they normally would do and I think that kept it very on their toes.
How long did it take to make this movie?
This idea came at the tail end of 2012 and we finished it in 2016, so it took a long time. It was the first screenplay I had ever written. We recorded like 25 songs for it, so it was a long process.
Did you write the songs?
I did. I was a musician first, then I kind of taught myself how to write a screenplay during that period.
What kind of musician were you?
I was in a garage punk band for many years, but I’ve been making hip hop music since I was 17.
Tell me a bit about your role in the movie
I play a rapper whose trying to make it in the industry with people who’s trying to tell her she can’t. It’s a coming of age story for sure.
Geremy told me you had no rapping experience before this movie, how was the learning curve for that?
It was hard. Honestly, I just put a lot of time and effort and I just listened to a lot of music. I practiced and I listened to all these different songs in different tones and voices and I tried to find what was natural to me. I learned melody better and it was just a process of figuring it out over time.
Tell me a bit about your character
Patti is growing up in Jersey, she’s got a difficult relationship with her mom, she’s not had an influence of a dad in her life, she’s missed out in that respect, she’s got a best friend, she’s never been in love, she’s feeling really stuck and she just wants to break out.
Do you feel a personal connection to your character?
Definitely. I understand a lot of her. The dreams, I understand her heart really well, the insecurities, the love, the passion. The every physical attribute I had to learn basically. I had to learn how to walk and talk and run and rap. That you can learn, but the rest of it I learned.
Why did you choose this movie?
Geremy had this crazy belief that I could do this and it was an incredible script that I loved. I was definitely scared of it at first but we did the Sundance directors lab in 2014 and working with him, I wanted to keep working on this. It was growing so much in the 3 and a half week period we were doing that so after that, it was something I wanted to continue.
How was working with Geremy?
He’s definitely an actor’s director. He listens and he understands, and he’s really nice.
How was working with the rest of the cast?
It was great. All the crew was amazing. There was this really great vibe on set where there was just no levels and everyone just connected and got along and everyone kind of felt passionate because it was such good vibe, which really helps when you’re trying to have a connection with someone on screen. We were really lucky with that. I met Sid and Bridget at the Sundance labs so that really helped. We established a connection two years before filming.
What inspired you to become an actress?
I don’t know what it was. I just, I wanted to do it. I can’t even tell you when. I just remember thinking there is nothing else that I want to do and this is the only thing that I want to do, so I’m going to do. There was no like one aha moment. I was just feeling it and I wanted to make it happen.