Patrick Gannon is a filmmaker, originally from Ames, who relocated here from New York City last winter. He's worked on major motion pictures and has produced his own short films. Recently he finished his first work in Iowa -- a music video for Des Moines electronic group Maids. The video was shot in the Des Moines Building, at left rear.
YP Spotlight: Young filmmaker finds Nirvana in Des Moines
Published on June 10th, 2014 | by Josh Hafner
Patrick Gannon’s favorite project he’s ever worked on as a filmmaker is a short film based on a poem by Charles Bukowski.
The film features a man who, in the midst of an aimless bus ride, settles in at a diner during a snowfall. Amid a frustrating journey, he finds peace: The food is warm, the coffee is good and the waitress is beautiful. He considers not leaving, having found nirvana in such an unexpected place. He eventually boards the bus with his fellow passengers and goes back on his way.
When Gannon, an Ames-area native, visited Des Moines during a holiday home from New York City not too long ago, he too found a bit of nirvana. In New York, Gannon found exciting work on films with actors like Olivia Wilde and Jason Bateman and smaller projects like promos for the fashion designer Alexander Wang, but it felt exhausting and without direction. In Des Moines, he found a city where the rent was cheaper, the filmmakers fewer and the possibilities more open.
Gannon moved here last winter and plugged immediately into the city’s arts scene. His first Iowa project, a music video for the local indie pop group Maids, is slated to debut this month. Gannon spoke about what it’s like to work on major Hollywood films, why he prefers smaller gigs and how he settled in so quickly to Des Moines’ creative class.
Q. So you grew up in Ames?
A: I actually went to Gilbert, a little school north of Ames. I wrote all through high school, but I was a farm kid. I showed chickens and cows at 4-H. Went out into the forest and shot birds. I was practical, but I loved writing. But nobody told me I could do writing outside of having fun with my stories.
Q. So what did you grow up wanting to be?
A: I went to Iowa State and dual majored in chemical and industrial engineering for two years. It was not fulfilling at all. It was lucrative, but I wasn’t interested in it. My father had a friend who went to a liberal arts school called SCAD — Savannah College of Art and Design — who was doing film out there. He said, ‘I know this is something you would be interested in.’ I rolled the dice, went out there and fell in love with it. Have you ever been to Savannah (Ga.)?
Q. No, but it’s a pretty up-and-coming city, isn’t it?
A: It’s a gem. I lived in the South. I was writing and shooting a lot. I graduated from there with a bachelor of fine arts in film and television. I targeted writing and directing.
Q. Where did you go after school?
A: I moved to L.A. for a bit. It didn’t really catch on. The scene out there is way wacky. Then I moved to New York City and started working on feature films. I worked with Olivia Wilde, Billy Crudup and Jason Bateman on a feature. This film is called “The Longest Week,” and it hasn’t been released yet. It got shot two and a half years ago and it hasn’t freaking come out yet.
Q. How did you get involved with that?
A: It was posted on Craigslist. In the industry, they do a lot of unpaid internships, which are supposed to be illegal. But there are so many people who want to be in the industry that they do them anyways. I was a cinematographer’s assistant — in the thick of it, close to all the actors — but that was a union shoot. Anytime the union rep would come around they would tell me to hide. I did it, because I needed the experience and contacts.
That’s a story that’s not rare at all.
Q. Dang, feature films sound crazy.
A: When you work in feature films, it’s your life. It’s 80-100 hour weeks. You don’t have time for friends or to go out. Preproduction might be 2-to-3 months, shooting might be 2-to-3 months and post production might be 2-3 months. For six months, you’re with the same people every day. You don’t have breaks, usually, especially if it’s a small indie film. And I got burnt out.
Q. So you don’t have much interest in doing full feature films, then?
A: If it ever happens again, sure. I’m really interested in short format stuff. Things that don’t take away from your life for six months.
I look at pictures of myself from my time making feature films and I look like a ghost.
Q. So how did you end up in Des Moines?
A: I knew moving to New York wasn’t my long-term plan. After three and a half years, it was time to change it up. A friend of mine from high school who lived in Des Moines recommended the city. I didn’t know Des Moines had a creative culture at all. Then I did some research. I read the story behind the Des Moines Social Club and the support behind that.
Q. Uh, don’t you read Forbes? We’re kind of a big deal among young professionals.
A: Twenty years ago, there wasn’t a young professional crowd in Des Moines. I had aunts who lived in Des Moines — you went down there in your late 40s to work, retire, raise a family. I came back for Christmas and took a trip here and decided to move back.
Q. What appealed to you as a filmmaker about Des Moines?
A: As far as a culture, I’d love to help the media side grow. With the whole film debacle at the state here years ago, everybody’s got a bad taste in their mouth about film around Des Moines. I’d love to help change that a little bit. In New York, I tell people I’m a filmmaker and it’s like, “Get in line behind 10,000 people.” You tell people here, it’s like “Oh, god yes. Let me know the next time you do a video or commercial.”
Q. How did you find people in the community to reach out to when trying to connect in the community?
A: Google was my friend. I searched every term I could think of. I searched “Iowa Filmmakers” and found (Paul Benedict’s)group, Iowa Filmmakers — perfect. Then I connected the dots: This person worked with this person who worked with this person. I emailed and basically stalked anyone who had a creative impulse or position of community leadership in Des Moines.