J Patrick Rigney is the kind of guy I might never have crossed paths with in real life. But because 2020 isn’t real life (I can only imagine it’s some sort of lucid dystopian dream I wake up from eventually), we did cross paths – and I’m ever grateful.
When I first met Patrick, I didn’t know much about him. I quickly learned that he has a love for life that is palpable. He exudes enthusiasm. He lives in the moment. He uses exclamation points! He is a genuine, kind, deep thinker who wants to make the world a better place.
I remember this because we met on a day when I was feeling fairly hopeless about the world. After he left, I thought to myself, “Well, damn… if this guy can be positive, so can I.”
It wasn’t until later that I learned he’s like, famous. He spent years working in the entertainment industry – only to become disheartened by what he saw. It all led him to where he is now, and the powerful thoughts he shared below.
I hope you enjoy.
I was born in Northeast Ohio. Throughout high school and college, I made short films & recorded music with my friends whenever possible. I acted in a movie shot in Cleveland called “And The Winner Is…” in 2008. Fantastic, kind people made that movie, and even though I had an extremely small part, we remain great friends and it’s still one of the best sets I’ve ever been on.
Inspired by that experience, I shot a micro-budget feature called “Understanding Vander” about a house-squatting musician down on his luck. That sort of kicked off the last 12 years. I acted in a commercial for Target, did some other acting gigs, stand-up, and then transitioned full-time to screenwriting.
In the last several years I’ve worked on/ developed projects for Ken Jeong (The Hangover, Community), Will Ferrell (Old School, Elf), Todd Phillips (director of The Hangover, Joker), Ron Howard (director of Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind), Jason Bateman (Arrested Development, Ozark), and Stacey Sher (producer of Pulp Fiction, Reno 911). I wrote for a television series called “Skylanders Academy” that’s currently streaming on Netflix.”
Prior to our current Nightmare World scenario, I was cruising along as a working screenwriter and feeling relatively good/ weird, but became a bit dispassionate & disheartened about the current landscape of what is being produced in Hollywood. Amazing indie films are getting made, but are massively under viewed. That’s a discussion for another time, I suppose.
The bizarre thing about being a screenwriter is that oftentimes a lot of what you work on just doesn’t get made – so it’s just gathering (digital) dust on a (digital) shelf. When novelists finish novels, they can self-publish them. Painters have a finished painting at the end. But a script sits. Waiting to be something. Or continuing to just be a document – a blueprint – for a larger piece. It’s virtually impossible to do anything once your work has been purchased by a company. Rights issues and all that. So it’s on to the next one.
I have aspirations to helm a proper feature that I retain ownership of like Akron native Jim Jarmusch (he owns the negatives to all of his films) – so I’ve begun work on writing something that can be produced at a manageable budget.
During less lucrative times as a writer, I picked up work as a bartender at a rock venue during a particularly tumultuous year when a major project deal fell apart. Weirdly, working at the bar was probably one of my favorite gigs because of all of the cool musicians & bands who came through.
In order to continue my creative pursuits, I took a random job as a ghostwriter for a book this summer (my first time doing this kind of work). I’m pushing through and excited to work on that right now while looking out at beautiful Lake Erie. That’s due at the end of the year – way more words to type.
Long form writing might be far more gratifying than I’d imagined. Simultaneously, I’m dreaming up a scenario where I have the ability to make the feature film after this pandemic lifts – will it lift (?) – please lift (!).”
The biggest challenge I feel like I’m facing right now is how I feel about humanity. I’m making this intensely personal, but I’m worried that I’m being too quiet in the face of evil/ societal upheaval – and I most definitely don’t want to contribute to that any more than I already have. Making things smaller, finding peace, working hard to connect with good people.
Creativity is a kind space of thoughtfulness and maybe I feel like the next project I dream up has to be a bit more utopian/ aspirational as a result of what we’re experiencing. Rather than magnify pain or celebrate war or glorify villains or products, maybe it’s time to tell stories rooted in empathy, humor, and kindness.
I worry that the business side of creativity is ruining so much. Greed is bad. Greed makes bad decisions. Greed rips families apart. Ditch greed.
I feel like I’m in a transitional period in terms of my attitude about the universe. Maybe I’m hoping the world is considering what other people are feeling more than ever, y’know? Stop exploiting workers. Share. Be a friend to the friendless. Be considerate. Be decent. Consider words, thoughts, actions before acting on them. Be actively pushing against corporate greed and avoid power-tripping egomaniacs. That sort of thing.
Did this get sad?
Let’s get creative instead:
I hope that peace and kindness and empathy rule the world. Make art. Love more.– J Patrick Rigney
Amen. You can find Patrick at the lake working on his book. In the meantime, soak up some of that wisdom and go make the world a better place.