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Interview: Nadine Patterson's Talks Her Reimagining Of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth' Which Screens 4/23 In Harlem

Shadow and Act By Sergio | Shadow and Act April 19, 2014 at 1:42PM

Nadine Patterson's 'Tango Macbeth' will premiere in new York very soon; but first a talk with the director herself.
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Tango Macbeth

Filmmaker Nadine Patterson’s provocative and original film version of William Shakespeare’s Macbeth will be screened in Harlem in New York City this coming Weds April 23rd, starting at 6:30PM, and the filmmaker herself will be there in person as well.

To reserve a ticket you can go to the film’s website HERE.

The film is currently in a limited theatrical run through Tugg, a web-based platform that allows audiences to choose what films play at their local theaters and will play at the AMC Magic Johnson Harlem 9.  

But a few days ago I also had the chance to talk to the Philadelphia-based filmmaker herself for whom Tango Macbeth is her first feature film, after working for several years in the documentary field and television.  The London Film School Masters graduate spoke to me about the genesis of her feature and what it takes to be an independent filmmaker.

SERGIO: As always the most obvious question first - how did this project come about?

PATTERSON: Well I developed the idea when I was in London. I studied at the London Film School from 2003 to 2005 and I worked with several Black British actors while I was there and they said that in order to advance in their careers they had to they really had to do the canon of Shakespeare’s works. But because they’re black, they’re not really considered for any of the major roles. 

So I initially started out creating a film version of one of Shakespeare’s works to provide opportunities for people of color. That was my original intention, so when I was thinking about which play, I wanted to focus on and spend the next five or six years (laughing) creating a film of it, I selected Macbeth. That’s how the project started. 

SERGIO: So how long did it take you to see this project through, from inception to the final finished film?

PATTERSON: So I started work-shopping the film in London in the summer of 2008, and I completed the script in 2010, had the cast together and shot the film in 2011, and went into post-production the end of 2011 into 2012, and completed post-production in 2012.

SERGIO: The reason I asked that is because I wanted any aspiring filmmakers out there to get some idea of what it takes to make a film, even a small budget independent one. A lot of people think you can just take a camera and go shoot something, but, in reality, if you want to do it right, it takes years of dedication and determination.

PATTERSON: Yes it is! You’re absolutely right.

SERGIO: So what kept you going despite all the hardships and setbacks I’m sure you faced making your film? At any time, you could have said, I give up, this isn’t going anywhere, but you stuck with it.

PATTERSON: Well I love Shakespeare and I’ve always enjoyed his plays. I love the use of language, I think the lessons that we can learn from his works are endless and I liked the idea of exploring the relationship between the Macbeths. They are a very passionate couple, they’re totally in love with each other, but they happen to be evil and I wanted to explore that dichotomy. Like how can you have a couple that is so in love, and so caring in terms of each other, and yet, commit such heinous crimes against others, like friends and family? So it was a puzzle that I wanted to explore through creating a film adaptation. And that’s what kept me going - that hunger; that search to figure out why, why, why. Why do people do bad things? (laughs). Or why do people start off with good intentions, and then just screw everything up?

SERGIO: And what about the naysayers. Those people who don’t believe in you and always try to shoot you down? Why are wasting your time with this? Can’t you find something else better to do?

PATTERSON: You know because I’ve seen so many bad films, (laughs), really, really crappy films. And I know I could make a film that was better than those crappy films that I had seen. I knew I could do that. And because I was working with one of best writers on the planet, living or dead, Shakespeare, I knew that I could create at least a compelling story that people could sit and watch and feel that they weren’t wasting their time viewing. So I knew that. And because of my earlier training as a documentary filmmaker, and my training at the London Film School, I learned from some of the best filmmakers on the planet Earth. I really understood the craft of filmmaking and the language of cinema. I knew I could do it. I knew I could do it. I believed in myself.

SERGIO: Is it necessary to go to film school?

PATTERSON: No, but for me it helped because I was making the transition from documentary and television work into narrative cinema. And my plan was to make as many short films as I could. So I made four short films while I was there, in a two and half year time period, which was important for me. And I wanted to actually touch the film and I wanted to shoot on film, so I asked myself, where is the place where I can actually work in film? Not video, not HD, but actually touch the celluloid; and that was the London Film School, so I went there.

SERGIO: And the other most obvious question - what’s next?

PATTERSON: Well my next project is… (takes a breath) Black Paris! I want to do an experimental documentary about the black presence in the city of Paris, looking at seven different points in its 2000 year history. It’s big (laughs) and it requires that I’m going to have to spend a lot of time in Paris…

SERGIO: Like you’re complaining…

PATTERSON: (laughs) Like I’m complaining, yeah exactly! For me, part of my ability to persevere as a filmmaker is that I select subjects or topics for films that I know I will enjoy; that I know I can spend the next five or six years of my life working on it, obsessing about it, day in and day out. Because if you don’t love it with a passion, then you’re not going to be able to get through all the naysayers; you’re not going to get through all the rejection letters from potential funders; you won’t be able to get through all the hassles with the cast and crew. You just won’t. So you have to love it. It’s the love that carries you through.

Check out Ms. Patterson’s website HERE for her production company, to find out about her projects: 

This article is related to: Nadine Patterson


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