Interview Done By Mike Wilkerson
MW: Please introduce yourself to the readers of Blastzone Online.
JP: I’m John Pata, writer/director of Pity and owner of Head Trauma Productions.
MW: When did you decide you wanted to make a movie?
JP: I’ve been interested in filmmaking since I learned about the troubles the crew of Jaws faced when I was probably 6 or 7 years old. By the time I was 10, I saw The Evil Dead and that was the final push I needed. After that, my best friend and I started making backyard horror movies.
MW: Is this your first movie? If Not please give me a rundown of what else you have done?
JP: In 2007, I released a zombie movie full of stupid dick jokes called Better Off Undead. It was something my friends and I made for fun during my last year of college. It was basically a bigger-backyard movie made for $700.
After that, I co-wrote/directed my first feature film, Dead Weight. This was basically as big of a departure from the tone of Better Off Undead one could do. Now, instead of dick jokes and drunk college kids, it’s a very character-driven, bleak, post-apocalyptic love story. The film follows our lead, Charlie, as he treks across the Midwest to reunite with his girlfriend after society crumbles due to an outbreak. It takes place in a zombie-like world, however, we don’t focus on the infected. They’re present, you know what they are capable of, but we keep all the attention on the characters and their survival. We released the film in 2012 and traveled around the film festival circuit until we got distribution in 2014. You can check out the film on Amazon, Hulu Plus, iTunes, and more.
MW: Tell me about filming Pity?
JP: I’ve written about ten scripts, and Pity is my first time adapting a story. The film is based upon a short story written by JR Hayes, the singer of Pig Destroyer. In the band’s record, Prowler in the Yard, there’s a four-paragraph long story. A friend of mine showed me the story in college, and I remember thinking it was the most beautifully disturbing thing I ever read. I knew I wanted to make it a short.
Making the film was truly an instance where everything came together at the right time. Once Dead Weight received distro, I knew it was time to make another film. While I’d rather concentrate on features, cranking out a short just felt like a good idea. A way to refine my craft some more. I knew Jake Martin was going to play the lead and only role for about five years, and after working on my buddy Tony Wash’s film, I found the crew that was going to be able to bring my vision to life. That last part sounds so cliche and lame, but it’s true.
MW: How long from start to finish did it take to make the film?
JP: From when I first read the short story to having a completed film, it was about eight years, maybe nine. That said, things didn’t get completed serious until the beginning of 2013 when I secured the rights to adapt the story. We had about two months of pre-production, shot the film over the course of a weekend, and then three months of post. So, in short, over eight years of thinking about it, and five months to make a seven-minute short film.
MW: What do you think of the finished product?
JP: I’m completely stoked on the finished product. I wanted to make a short, dark, unsettling film, and I believe we were very successful. More importantly, I’m incredibly proud of the work everyone did on it. Especially Jake who plays Anonymous. He absolutely fucking nailed it. I knew he was going to do terrific, but he brought something so much more to the performance than I anticipated. Seeing him, who I’ve been friends with for over close to a decade, come in and take control of the character like that was remarkable. We all felt it on set. And, he’s working by himself. He had no other actors to feed off of. It was just him and me shouting directions at him through a walkie-talkie. He brought pure emotion to the character. While it’s a disturbing story, due to Jake’s performance, I also believe it’s very tragic and heart-breaking.
MW: Is Pity being distributed?
JP: Now that our festival run has ended, we’re finally releasing it online. Since it’s a short, there’s not many options for distribution. That said, we are putting together some really in-depth, special features for our own physical release.
MW: Has Pity won any awards?
JP: We won Best Horror at the Wildwood Film Festival in Appleton, WI (where we premiered) and Best Noir Short at the PollyGrind Film Festival in Las Vegas. On top of that, we picked up a handful of nominations at the Diabolique International Film Festival (Best Actor and Editing), FilmQuest (Best Editing), Macabre Faire Film Festival (Best Super Short), and the New Orleans Horror Film Festival (Best Actor and Short).
MW: Do you plan on making another movie? If so what is it?
JP: Absolutely. There’s always plans, just a matter of being lucky enough to act on them, aka getting our funding. Nothing is set in stone just yet, so it’s a little too early to say for certain, but we’re in the process of developing a new feature that *should* shoot next spring. I’ve also had some conversations about directing a segment for a new anthology flick, just need to work on the script for that. Either way, yes, there will certainly be more movies.
However, I’ve been editing The Stylist for Jill Gevargizian, and am pretty close to having a picture lock. I believe we’re planning on a fall release for that.
MW: How can potential fans buy Pity?
JP: Well, for starters, everyone can watch the film for free on Vimeo. If you like it, we are releasing BluRays and DVDs that are loaded with special features. We’re talking a super in-depth and thorough making-of, commentaries, on-set featurettes and even a black-and-white version of the film. So, if you happen to like the film and want to know more about it, the physical release will do just that.
MW: Did you make any merchandise for Pity? What did you make? If so how can fans purchase it?
JP: Other than the BluRay/DVD, there’s no other merch for Pity. Although, we do have Schplatz shirts and hoodies. Schplatz is the fake beer that I came up with to use in all my films.
MW: What are your social media?
JP: Pity: pityfilm.com and facebook.com/pityfilm. To keep up with our projects, be sure to follow Head Trauma Productions: headtraumaproductions.com, facebook.com/headtraumaproductions, twitter.com/ihaveheadtrauma , and headtraumaproductions.bigcartel.com.
MW: What would you like to say in closing?
JP: Thanks so much for talking with a dude from Wisconsin about a little film we made. We don’t strive to be famous and shit, but having people take interest in the work we do is very flattering and appreciated.