Joseph Pattisall, a native of northern Virginia, is an inspiring film editor, writer, and cinematographer. He is also the long-time friend and creative partner of Roger Gastman for the film The Legend of ‘Cool” Disco Dan. At a young age, the special effects, and the mechanics of making a movie interested him. He wanted to find out how they were made. After graduating high school, Pattisall continued the pursuit of his passion for film by attending the Academy of Art in San Francisco, California. He became absorbed in the artists, musicians, graffiti and hard-core music, and was so inspired to create that he decided to leave school, and move back to the D.C./Maryland/Virginia area to learn on the job with a production company.
While working at the production company in 1996, Pattisall was given the opportunity to learn production as well as post-production and jumped at the chance. He became well versed in Avid, Final Cut, and a host of other production and post-production software. He worked hard, and was involved in the production of a music video for the band Better Than A Thousand, which combined his love of music with his love of film and he has never looked back. To date he has helped make over 40 music videos. Pattisall is now a freelance cinematographer, producer, writer, and artist.
So how did you get started? How did you and Roger Gastman begin collaborating?
“It just kind of started with becoming interested in the subculture. It really all started with skateboarding. I became interested in skateboarding, and became interested in various bands and music. I'd see bands in magazines and then find out that a lot of those bands are from this area and, then just kind of discovering what hardcore music was. It is an amazing community of artists, whether they're people who are in bands, people who record music, people who make magazines, or people who do video production. It's just kind of like this self-contained, really interesting community. That’s kind of how I met Roger. He and I were both interested in the hardcore shows, we’re both into graffiti, into all the things that came with such a subculture. That's how we became friends, and that was back in the '90s. He did a magazine in this area called, While You Were Sleeping. Roger and I did some video stuff together for While You Were Sleeping. I Kept making music videos and, and we just started talking about making this movie.”
How did you and Roger Gastman decide to make the documentary, The Legend of Cool Disco Dan?
“We were working on "The Graffiti Book," and that's when we first started like having that first conversation which was how do we make this book into a movie? Even beyond that, there's the super 8 footage of Dan sitting on a bench I shot in 1997. That was the first time I met Dan. It happened because I really wanted to make movies. I was carrying my super 8 camera and recorder that day, and I met Dan by chance sitting on a bench on F Street, selling go-go tapes. I was really inspired by a movie called "Style Wars", which was a New York 1983 movie about subway trains. It was actually why I was carrying the camera with me that day when I met Dan for the first time. Roger did the book, and it coincided with the movie I wanted to make. He wanted to continue the story beyond the book, and it just worked out and came together.”
What were some of your own inspirations for making The Legend of ‘Cool’ Disco Dan?
“I would say the fact that DC is not like the D.C. I grew up in, that DC isn't there anymore. A huge motivator in wanting to get out and make this movie was because there's been such a large turnover in the city. The city has changed, in some ways for the better, some ways for the worse; gentrification and culture being pushed out of D.C. We felt like we needed to get out and make this while we could because a lot of the things that were shown in the movie aren't there anymore. Some of the people that are shown in the movie aren't alive anymore. We wanted to let people know that this existed, that these people existed, and how wonderful it was because it was a huge Mecca for art and graffiti and music. It was this incredible place of all these things that aren't there anymore. I mean if we had waited two years to make the movie versus when we did, we wouldn't have Chuck Brown in the movie.”
“I think that the art show (at the Corcoran Gallery) aspect that coincides with the movie, I think that I feel that they were also kind of like the movie a little bit too. The overall idea that a lot of really bad things happened here, but it was a difficult time period that actually allowed really incredible inspirations and art to come out of it, which may not have be able to come out in a more mundane, safer, less interesting place.”
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