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Patti Cake$ was one of the the breakout hist of Sundancee 2017. Newcomer writer/director Geremy Jasper discovered Aussie Danielle Macdonald to play his title character, New Jersey rapper Patti Cake$. The film also stars Bridget Everett as Patti’s mom, lounge singer Barb, and newcomer Siddharth Dhananjay.

The producer of Patti Cake$ is someone who’s been in the lives of movie fans since the ‘80s. Chris Columbus produced the film with his company Maiden Voyage, which he runs with his daughter, Eleanor. The director of Home Alone, Adventures in Babysitting and the first two Harry Potter movies spoke with /Film about Patti Cake$ and Maiden Voyage, which also produced the film Menashe, about a Hadisic father and his son.

We had a long conversation with Columbus about the state of the film industry…and his plans for Gremlins 3.

Is Maiden Voyage different than your 1492 Pictures?

Yeah, Maiden Voyage actually began about four-and-a-half, five years ago. Prior to that I had been involved with taking a trip to New York once a week to meet with NYU film students and help them figure out a way to fund their first feature, try to find financing for them. I’d fly in for the day, we’d award some money to a documentary and maybe two features. Then I’d disappear, come back to San Francisco and maybe get a DVD out of it at the end of it. What I realized after doing it for about five years at NYU is that I wasn’t developing any relationship with these filmmakers. I really wanted to work with them. For me, I get re-energized by working with younger filmmakers, people who want to go beyond the superhero vision of making films, who want to make artistic statements, who also at times want to do movies that potentially could find an audience as well.

So I called my daughter, Eleanor, who was in New York working in independent films. I said, “Why don’t we start up a film company where I’m basically doing what I do with NYU but instead of leaving a project, we stay on board as producers and help them through the shooting of the film and the editing of the film, post-production and all of those things. That’s how it started. We started with Little Accidents and Mediteranea which subsequently went to Sundance and then Cannes. Then The Witch, which suddenly opened up our mercenary side a little bit because we were shocked at how well the film performed at the box office. Yet it was a towering artistic achievement for the director. For us, it was like, “We can do movies for two to five million dollars and maybe reach a big audience and still come out with our artistic integrity intact.”

Would Maiden Voyage be a company you direct films for?

It’s possible. It’s definitely possible. I’ve been so inspired, finishing Tallulah and then Patti Cake$ and Menashe, which opened a couple weeks ago, I get inspired by going to the sets, by hanging out with these directors, some of whom have been trying to make their movies for…on Menashe, Josh spent four years shooting that film for a mere $150,000. That was the final price of the film. That, to me, is inspiring. That, to me, is much more inspiring than going off and doing Thor 6.

Does Eleanor give you a new point of view on material?

Completely. Obviously being younger, she comes from a more contemporary place and we don’t always agree. It’s a three strike rule. First we’ll read the script. If the script is great, then we’ll look at the short. If the director has done a spectacular short, then we meet the director. If the director feels like someone who can command a set on their first film and has enough confidence and vision to bring what we saw in the script and the short film to their first feature, then we decide to get involved. We don’t always agree on the scripts. 90% of the time we do. A couple of movies haven’t been made because of our disagreements, but for the most part, we tend to go into it knowing that we both agree that it’s a film that should be made.

Is this sort of how you got your start too? You had people like Steven Spielberg and John Hughes believe in you and give you shots at writing and directing.

Yeah, they were coming more from a studio perspective, but back then, the independent film world wasn’t as prevalent. You basically were told in film school that if you want to become a director, the quickest and best way to become a director is to write a couple of successful movies. So that’s basically what I did. My relationship with Steven on Gremlins, Goonies and Young Sherlock Holmes was essentially my version of graduate film school. I learned so much from him just being able to have an office three doors down from him and dropping off pages of something like Goonies and having him make suggestions and I would go back and rewrite it. I became a much better filmmaker because of him.

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The hook of Patti Cake$ is the rap, but it’s really a mother/daughter story, isn’t it?

It is a mother/daughter story and it’s also a story about music. Music is very close to my heart and I love how Geremy was able to connect these two generations of music in this one movie. The movie begins with this incredibly intense rap hip-hop fantasy sequence and then it goes into a fairly obscure Bruce Springsteen song from The River Sessions in 1979 or 1980. Geremy has a love of music that spans decades. That was the first thing I responded to. The second thing I responded to is how well he knows these people. He grew up in New Jersey. He knows this world and he just brought a reality to it. So it is a mother/daughter story. It reminds me a lot of the first time I saw Saturday Night Fever and also Rocky a little bit. Obviously, people are going to compare it to 8 Mile, but I just love the entire idea that the best filmmakers bring you into that specific world. I don’t know New Jersey that well, but it’s a side of New Jersey I had never seen, nor did I know existed. That’s what I loved about what he did with the film. It is essentially at its heart a mother/daughter story, but it’s also a story about friendship as well and how friendship translates into music and how that can create something lasting, musically.

Bridget Everett is a movie star. Is she a secret undiscovered weapon?

I think so. She’s like the queen of the talk shows now. She just steals every appearance she does, whether it’s Jimmy Fallon. Everything I’m seeing, she’s spectacular. She’s endearing and also incredibly filthy. She’s, to me, one of the more amazing talents to emerge from this, as is Daniella of course.

Did we know Bridget could sing before Patti Cake$?

Well, yeah, because she had a cabaret act for years. I think Geremy saw it. I wasn’t aware of Bridget until Geremy told me about her and then I started looking up old YouTube videos and teaching myself about how important she was to the New York cabaret world.

Was Patti always going to be an unknown?

I think so. I think from Geremy’s point of view, definitely. The shocking thing about it obviously is that she’s Australian. We had screenings where suddenly there’s a Q&A afterwards and Daniella opens her mouth to speak and she’s got this heavy Australian accent and the audience just gasps. At the Sundance screening people were screaming. They couldn’t believe that she was such a convincing New Jersyan.

To me the fantasy sequences were about capturing the feeling of music, not just the literal sound of it. Is that what Geremy was going for?

I think the fantasy sequences are obviously capturing what Patti’s dreams are, what she thinks she wants. The interesting thing is musicians, because I’m obsessed with music and I’ve been friends with a lot of musicians over the years, they all say the same thing. Regardless of their level of success, the most successful ones talk about how there’s nothing quite like hearing your song on the radio for the first time. There’s nothing that can replace that feeling. Some very famous rock stars are like, “It never goes away.” It never stops being one of the most joyous moments of their lives. For me, this movie is all about that song being played on the radio. I’ve seen the movie 25, 30 times and I’m still crying at the end of the movie. That, to me, is what the real dream is. That boils it down to the reality of the dream and the fantasy sequences are again what really don’t matter in music if you take music in its purest form.

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