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Meet the Finalist: Yuanhao Du, "Patrick"

Tell us about yourself, and about Patrick.

My name is Yuanhao Du, the director and Executive Producer of the short film Patrick. Patrick is luckily nominated to the finalist of the Best Narrative Short in the New York Film Awards.

I come from China and studied filmmaking in San Francisco. Now, I am an independent filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Before I become a filmmaker, I was at a Financial University and nobody would believe I would be a filmmaker. No Matter how hard I tried, people still thought that I would just get an ordinary job and have an ordinary life. After all, filmmaking is way different from my life, and nobody in the family has ever done this before. So I just followed my parents’ wishes and did whatever they thought I should do. Until one day, I decided to chase my dream to be a filmmaker, to have a life that I want to have, to be who I am. And now, everything looks goes well. My film Patrick tells a similar story as my personal life, even though there’re some sci-fi setups in this film. This movie is telling a clone teenager struggling with the expectations of his family and friends and tries to find out the meaning of having an own life.

I spent one year working with my writer to create this story. In the beginning, we were thinking to put more sci-fi elements into this project. However, we realized there were too many sci-fi short films with those visual effects things and put too much attention in that instead of the stories. So we decided took the most of sci-fi things and only keep the concept of cloning. After all, this should be the story about a teenager finds out his self-identity. We almost wipe out the previous story and create a new one. I like to write stuff on my bed, and I remember there’s one day I sit on my bed to write a new outline and discussed the story with my writer Spenser for the whole day.

Share a memorable moment you experienced working on this project.

There are also many funny stories in this project. So my film Patrick is about a teenager’s story. I insisted to find a 20 year old actor to be our lead. But the thing is usually the actors at that age, either they are very talented but I can’t afford them, or I can hire them, but they are not that good enough. We did couple of castings in LA and San Francisco, but no luck. After the third casting at San Francisco, my casting director and other people in the creative team tried to convince me to give up. They told me if I keep doing this, we probably would lose the whole project. To be honest, I agreed with them in my mind, so I told them that I would check the rest of the casting tapes from the Internet and then make the final decision. Frankly, we don’t think those Internet casting tapes could help me to get my perfect actor. However, we did it! I found a boy from Tennessee who just was 19 years old and more important he is wonderful! He even doesn’t need to act, because he is the Patrick! So I told my producer to nail this boy, but my producer told me if I get this actor, I would spend a little more money for that, because he’s from Tennessee, but we are in California. Where’s Tennessee? As a Chinese, I might hear this state before, but I have no idea where is it. It comes out I need to bring this boy across the country to California. But I still did it. I canceled the budget for some lighting equipment that my DP wanted to use and bought a flight ticket for that boy so that get my perfect “Patrick”. My DP was so mad about that, but I have to say it's worth. We got into a lot of film festivals. That Tennessee boy and I become very close friends. Just my DP gave that boy a nickname – flight ticket.

Name 3 collaborators that you'd take with you to any other project.

Honestly, I would love to keep working with my crew of Patrick, but if you ask me to name 3 collaborators to work for any other project. I would say my lead the Tennessee boy Dakota Henry, my DP Mufeng Han and my writer Spenser Querry. Spenser and I are working my web-series and Dakota would be the lead actor of that.

3 tips you’d like to share with aspiring artists in your field:

I’m not sure that I can give good advice to aspiring artists, after all, I’m still finding the right way. However, there is no doubt that we need to stay humble and keep our heads low, be realistic. I think the good thing for me is that I have a financial bachelor's degree, which means when I was the director of the projects, I would be realistic, and if I was a producer, I would pay attention to the budget even more. The reason why I said that we need to stay humble is that even though we all know humble, but not too many people can do that, especially artist. Director, producer, writer, DP, etc, we are all proud of ourselves. Unless we learn how to respect people, they won’t respect us back. And we can’t do that, our project would not be good. One last suggestion is to stay positive. I think everyone knows why.

What do you hope to achieve in your career in the next 5 years?

Well, I mentioned that before, I’m currently working on my web-series. After that, I probably would set up my studio and build up a filmmaker community to help everyone. And then, I would try to make another project. Don’t say I’m too ambitious, but I want to get into Sundance. I hope that could happen.

Patrick is nominated for Best Narrative Short of the Year at the New York Film Awards.


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