The Movie Waffler Waffling With... Guy and Dana Patton, the husband and wife team behind revenge thriller <i>PEARL</i> | The Movie Waffler

Waffling With... Guy and Dana Patton, the husband and wife team behind revenge thriller PEARL

TMW chatted to Guy and Dana Patton, the husband and wife team behind new indie revenge thriller Pearl.

Interview by Benjamin Poole

After watching Pearl, I was surprised to discover that it was made for $15,000. The film looks much pricier with its use of locations and authentic, detailed photography. How did you go about maximising this limited budget so effectively?

I tried to use the Robert Rodriguez strategy of writing the script around things I knew I could get for free, and that would add production value. For example, I go to a pretty progressive church, and I thought they'd be OK with me shooting there, so I wrote it in. Ultimately, I used the church building as several different locations; for example the meth lab was the basement of the church rectory, and upstairs was the brothel! 
On such a limited budget we couldn't afford expensive sets, so we had to find the real thing. On TV shows like Supernatural, they use nice clean sets made to look like sleazy motels, but we actually checked into the notorious Lincoln Tunnel Motel and got permission to shoot there. There wasn't much set dressing to do. We found crack pipes in each room, and when I checked out I had to wait in line behind a prostitute arguing her bill with the manager. While shooting exteriors, the cops rolled up on us. I thought "Oh shit! He wants to see a permit!" He didn't, he just wanted to make sure we weren't actually planning on staying there!

I loved Pearl’s music. The synth score is so evocative, and also a welcome contrast to the rock driven racket that most indie revenge flicks favour as a soundtrack. What was your design in using an electronic score; what do you feel it contributes to the film? Is it available?

I'm obviously a fan of '80s action thrillers, and I wanted to do some things that evoked those movies, and one of those things was the synth score. Josh Simonds the composer and I talked at length about Giorgio Moroder's film scores and John Carpenter's as well, and he used them as jumping off points. I'm really pleased with the results. So moody and dark, but not overtly aggressive like the rock soundtracks you hear a lot, much more ambiguous. The score is not currently available apart from the film but I certainly would love for Josh to put it out there.

I found Dana’s portrayal of Pearl a real highlight. Pearl is inscrutable, seemingly merciless, but Dana manages to balance this with a dash of desperate vulnerability. I think this is suggested by
her links with the priest (who points out that there has to be an easier way to get ammunition, rather than using his church as a drop point) and her acceptance of Erik- she is lonely, but won’t admit it. Is this a fair reading? How did Dana see Pearl, and how did she go about preparing for her role, not just physically, but mentally too?

Yes, she feels very alone in the world but can’t even consider any kind of relationship because of all she’s been through. It’s hard when you have a character that is so closed off emotionally. I wanted to make sure you could see that under all of the anger and self-preservation there is a human being in there. She feels an immense pressure to save people who are being taken advantage of or victimized by criminals because of what she’s been through. I think she believes that if she stops enough bad stuff it will somehow erase what’s happened to her, but more violence doesn’t bring any kind of peace.
I worked a full-time job and worked out three hours a day while we were shooting Pearl, in addition to learning lines and lugging equipment and all the other things you have to do on a truly indie film. I think the exhaustion and drive of someone like her was easy to step into.

I'll add that Pearl is a mentally ill person, and we acknowledge that fact. That's what makes the movie more real to me; no one ever talks about a character like Batman as being mentally ill, but if someone were to do these sorts of things in real life, we would certainly see that as aberrant behavior. Dana made that clear, while still giving us someone to root for. 

The affection for films such as Death Wish and Ms.45 are clear in Pearl, but were there any other films that you took influence from when scripting/filming? My fave character was Wyatt- does he have any movie forerunners, for instance?

I mentioned John Carpenter. Definitely all of his '80s stuff. Peckinpah, and Roger Corman for his inventiveness with low budgets. Also Danny Boyle - 28 Days Later made me feel like I could make a "real" movie with a video camera.
Wyatt is based on lots of movie and TV characters that we just don't see anymore, mainly because everyone has to be young and hot to sell tickets. The idea of a world-weary wizened old detective appeals to me, I guess because I was raised on Columbo and Dragnet reruns and those dudes looked like they'd seen it all. George Morafetis played him, he's really great. Right down to the trench coat, which was his own.

Ok, over to you now. Why should TMW readers take a chance on Pearl?

That's so hard to answer without sounding like jerks!

OK, well it's not Guardians of the Galaxy; we just made a little genre movie, the kind the studios and indies used to make all the time but don't do today at all, and we did it ourselves with our own money. When you buy The Avengers on VOD you are just throwing money into an ocean of profit for some corporations; but when you buy Pearl you are actually affecting our lives. If it does well, we might be able to scrape together a bigger budget and do something amazing. If it doesn't, we keep working day jobs, but at least we got to make a movie, which was a dream of ours. We really, genuinely hope you like it.

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