Months ago I started following on social media Dana Patton, a local mover and shaker who is also a mom to a toddler the same age as my mini-chicpea. One day she reached out and told me about an indie-film her and her husband wrote, produced, edited and starred in. I read the synopsis….
“Consumed by a horrific event in her past, a woman is driven to violent retribution, and soon discovers that there can be no getting even. Her only ally: a meth-making genius who manipulates her for her own ends, while she wages a vigilante campaign against a powerful drug lord and his thug army. A detective, investigating a series of grisly homicides, begins to uncover the truth about her, and the role he himself played in her origins. But can he find her in time to stop the killing, and to save her from herself?”
I loved the thought that Dana, a local Jersey City mom, stared in a film where she goes on a killing spree to avenge her past. I obviously had to find out more! I met with Dana at Liberty State park one day to talk about her film as well as her community work. Not only is Dana a bad ass actress and film maker she also does so much for the Jersey City community, always volunteering for different causes in her neighborhood of Bergen Lafayette.
After meeting her, it was time to watch Pearl: The Assassin. I rented the movie on iTunes and watched it one afternoon. To be honest the past few months my attention span hasn’t been too great, it’s very hard for me to sit and focus on a television show, let alone a movie. When I watched Pearl, for the full 90 minutes, I was completely consumed by the story. I couldn’t believe this was an indie-film!! Seriously intense and a MUST watch. The fun thing about this movie is how a lot of it was shot in Jersey City! It was fun recognizing the different places. After watching the movie, I developed a huge girl crush on Dana, cause she is so bad ass in the movie!! I loved every second and need to watch it again. Yes it was that good.
What’s your name? My name is Dana Patton.
What do you do? I make movies, I have a fulltime office job, I do a parenting group, I do a block watch, I do a homeless breakfast.
Tell me about your movie. What’s it called? Pearl. It’s a revenge thriller, it’s in the style of a 80s Deathwish or a Die Hard, with no budget. Essentially, some very terrible things happen to this woman and the way she deals with it is to try to enact revenge on anyone she feels like is victimizing innocent people.
When and where did you film this movie? We shot it in 2012 and it took us a year to do it because we were doing it while we were working fulltime jobs. It was mostly on the weekends and then we took a week vacation. We shot it mostly in Jersey City, there’s a couple Hoboken places in it like D.C.’s Tavern but mostly Jersey City locations. If you watch the movie there’s like fifteen places you’ll be like, “Oh! I know where that is! I know where that is!”
Can you name a few of the places? Sure! We shot in Liberty State Park. We shot in Grace Church, we used the rectory as a meth lab, we used like every part of the church and they were great and really helpful. We shot a floor scene in Bouquets and Baskets. We shot the outside of Geo’s but the inside was really the D.C.’s Tavern. We shot at the Canco Lofts. We shot at the pent house in Hamilton Lofts.
Any local actors or talent? Yeah, we did. There’s a few people who are from in Jersey City in the movie. There’s some people who used to live in Jersey City but don’t anymore. And then my husband and I, we came up with the story, he wrote it and directed it and I starred in it and we both live here in Lafayette.
How did the concept of the movie come about? Well, we always knew we wanted to make a movie and we wanted to do it before we had a kid because we knew it would be much harder once we did. And so we talked a lot about “What movies do we love?” and “What have we not seen?” Every movie with a female lead it’s like she’s exploiting her sexuality to get what she wants or she’s portrayed as not as tough as a man would be. And we decided, no you know what? We want to make a movie where the woman is just as tough as anyone else would be and she uses her brains and her muscles instead of just exploiting her body to get what she wants.
How long did it take you to film? So, like I said we did it at nights on weekends so it took us like a year to finish it and then there was postproduction which is why since we did it in 2012, it’s not 2015 and it’s just coming out.
How was it funded? We were already asking people to donate their time and talent, we did not want to crowdfund. So we paid for it ourselves and that’s another reason it took so long is because you have to save up the money to do all these shoots. When you’re asking people to donate their time, you really want to make sure you’re talking care of them. You want to have great food for them, you want to help them with transportation if they need it, [and] you want to take care of them. We had to do insurance for some of the locations. So we funded it ourselves.
So your husband shot and edited everything? So we had two different DPs (director of photography) who shot it, who were both great. And then he (my husband) and our friend John Kingman, who is also a producer on it, edited everything.
Are you going to make more movies? Yes, we would love to make more movies. Obviously, if this is successful that’ll be a lot easier to do. We’re really lucky and most people who are first-time filmmakers and who do their own no-budget movie, don’t get distribution and we got really lucky and we have distribution with Indican who also put out Boondock Saints. Which is great, everyone loves, and it became a cult favorite.
Do you have any plans of joining any Jersey City film festivals? So we actually won Best Local Film at Golden Door. We really like the people who are doing the new Jersey City Independent Film and Television Festival and we’d love to put more stuff in there, obviously have to finish it first.
Let’s talk about the work you do with the homeless. So we do a homeless breakfast, it’s at Grace Church downtown, 2nd and Erie, and it’s every Saturday and Sunday from 7 to 9:30. Some of the people are just hungry and barely making it, you don’t have to be homeless to come. It’s been going on for a long time, we’ve been doing it for a decade and it’s been going on even longer than that. We feed between 70 and 120 hungry people every Saturday and Sunday. And people can come and donate corned beef hash, or boxes of potatoes au gratin, or if you’re a cook and you want to make something and drop it off. Honestly, we get way more out of it than the people who come. It’s really amazing, we’ve made a lot of friends.
Are you guys looking for volunteers? Yeah, absolutely. There’s a different coordinator for every day. We do the third Sunday of the month and we always love to have volunteers.
Do you live in Jersey City? I live in Lafayette. I live three blocks away from the Liberty State Park light rail.
What’s your favorite Jersey City hangout spot? This is it in our neighborhood. This is a very special park for me, I’m the same age as this park. And we’ve been coming here with our son, we just love it, there’s so much amazing stuff here.
What about food and drinks? You know Lafayette has just now started to get stuff happening. We go to O’leary’s Publik House for drinks and now Bone-In-Food has set up shop right down the street from us. We’re really excited about that.
How long have you lived in Jersey City? Thirteen years now.
How do you feel it’s changed in the past couple years now? So much has changed, I feel that people have gotten a lot more vocal about what they want and demanding that we have better government and better services. I see so many more people taking it upon themselves to do amazing things like BikeJC just did that big cleanup which was great. I feel like really good things are happening here and it’s really exciting to see that.
Anything else you’d like people to know about you? Actually we [did] a neighborhood walk through on June 15th.
What is a neighborhood walk? You get together with the police and city agencies and you walk through the neighborhood and you talk about the crime issues or the quality of life issues and try to get a movement on them.
I love that, you’re very involved in the community. You love Jersey City. I really do and I try really hard to support, like you do, anything that’s happening here.