top of page

Blackberries in the Dream House: An Interview with Patrick Towne

Tell us about yourself. How did you become a writer?

A. My work as a writer began at age 14, when I wrote an off-beat essay about the trials and travails of fishing in northern Minnesota. My writing continued through my school years and during a stint of military service, winning me some awards, a small college scholarship, and an occasional reprimand for truthful reporting about life in a U.S. Army training school. After that, I developed an interest in film and I studied scriptwriting in San Francisco. Over the past 20 years, I have developed several screenplays. One of those is based upon the novel, “Blackberries in the Dream House,” a dream-like, poetic romance that spans two lifetimes. This script has won multiple awards, including an Honorable Mention in the 2022 Tokyo International Short Film Festival.

What was your first job in the art field?

A. While I was in the U.S. Army in Europe, I wrote and directed a play about drug use and addiction among U.S. servicemen in Europe, and how the addiction sometimes followed the men home when they left the service. The play, “Pusher Man,” was controversial but well-received.

What makes you want to tell stories? In other words, what are the themes/issues you want to incorporate into your work?

A. Stories are how human beings learn things about themselves that they otherwise might not learn in day-to-day life. A well-told story awakens us and lets us see and understand how other people experience life, and that expands and enriches our own life experience. A major theme in “Blackberries in the Dream House” is how romance and physical/sexual attraction can lead to a higher-level experience of the light energy that connects lovers and all human beings to each other and to the universe.

Please tell us about your vision and your method of approaching a new project?

A. First, I try to simply be open to the basic concept and let it land inside me without making any judgments about it or about my take on it. Then I like to start asking questions: “Where’s the story? What are the elements in this story that engage me, excite interest, make me want to see and hear and learn more about the characters and where the story goes?” If I can get good answers to those questions, I know I have something that will carry me and my collaborators through the publishing or filmmaking process to a completed project that is worth bringing to the world.

Who are your filmmaking and script writing influencers? What are the films and books that were influential for you?

A. One of my scriptwriting mentors was Lester Cole, a veteran of the Hollywood studio system who wrote a number of scripts that were made into films. His favorite book on writing was “The Art of Dramatic Writing” by Lajos Egri. This was the textbook for Lester’s class that I took at the University of California Extension Center in San Francisco. I learned a lot from Lester and from that book. And I always learn from a good film that tells an engaging story, with or without a ‘happy ending.’ My favorite examples include “Chariots of Fire,” “Network,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Barry Lyndon,” “1945,” and indie films that haven’t ‘made it big’ but tell stories that need to be seen and heard.

How do you think the industry is changing? How has COVID affected independent filmmaking/creation?

It seems that there is more public appetite for ‘content’ than ever, thanks to the streaming platforms and many new outlets for visual storytelling, from YouTube and TikTok to Vimeo and many, many more. What hasn’t changed is the need for good storytelling. Whether it’s a 4-minute short, a feature-length film or a TV/Web series, people still want to see and hear stories that show them more about themselves and how others live their lives – and make them feel like the time they took to watch and listen was worth it. COVID has made in-person collaboration harder, but it has also highlighted how much we scriptwriters and filmmakers need each other.

What advice would you give to aspiring artists? What are some of the things they must follow/avoid?

If you’re an artist, pick the medium that resonates for you (film, stage, dance, sculpture, visual art, etc.) and work in it any way you can. If you find the work fulfilling, keep at it, whether you get recognition and financial rewards or not. Your commitment and a solid work ethic are what will pull you through when the going gets tough.

Do you think films/stories can bring about a change in the world?

Absolutely. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be engaged in it.

What do you think people like to watch these days? Has the pandemic changed people's taste?

To answer the first question, I have to look at what’s selling and what’s popular in film, television, print and other media – I can’t make a judgment about this on my own. There seems to be an appetite for almost everything, from horror and war stories to classic romances and gritty, off-beat slice-of-life tales and much, much more. It seems to me that we creative types have to pick stories and life experiences that get US excited and develop them into stories that other people can enjoy and relate to.

Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

Projects for which I’m seeking the right filmmaker include:

- “A Time Out of Rhyme,” an adaptation of a stage musical in which Captain Hook hijacks Mother Gooseland’s fairy tale heroes and nursery rhymes to prove that he’s still a Truly Vile Villain. Hook is forced to admit defeat after losing a climactic battle with Little Jack Horner, Mary Quite Contrary and a gaggle of other Mother Gooselanders.

- “Music Most Foul,”a feature film or mini-series about a micro-budget indie film shoot that starts out as a steamy, operatic-love-triangle musical murder mystery, then unexpectedly becomes the real thing and morphs into the pilot for a reality TV show in which at least one actor has to actually die in each episode.

- “Padre’s Cure,” the fictional tale of a strong-willed young Italian chemist and two of her friends who stumble upon a deceased holy man’s simple, all-natural cure for AIDS and cancer, resolve to bring it to the world without profit to themselves or anyone else, and outwit a pharmaceutical company’s grasping CEO and his hit men to make it available to those who need it most.

- “Love at Work,” a story set in 1970s San Francisco, in which an unexpected pregnancy forces the young protagonist to become a successful businesswoman who turns the tables on a fickle boyfriend and a ruthless competitor to launch a chain of all-natural body care stores.

- Other projects-in-process include “Dolphin Shamans,” “Elite Killers” and a few other magical-reality or topical satire stories.


bottom of page