Cam Patterson – I’d tell my past self “what the heck took you so long to finally get into this industry?!”

Cam Patterson proves it’s never too late to find your purpose. Back in 2006, while working as a computer programmer, he submitted a screenplay to the Harold Greenberg fund that got him funding and an agent (who he’s still with today).

That got him started “moonlighting” as a script fixer while churning out horror scripts for producers in the US. It didn’t take too long for Cam to develop an interest in directing, so he took an intro to film course at the Winnipeg Film Group.

While raising a family and continuing to work his day job, he pursued his passion by making a few short films. After getting laid off he took on more video work, doing music videos and documentaries, which then led to directing an independent film, and from there it all started burgeoning into full-time career in film.

What area of the film industry do you work in now?

In the last six or seven years it’s been primarily writing and directing, but with more of an emphasis on writing since the pandemic hit.

Right before lockdowns went into place, I was very fortunate to land a few writing gigs. I did a TV docu-series as well as a thriller for an LA-based producer that was shot in Vancouver last summer.

Right now I’m developing a drama TV series concept of mine with producers in Toronto and also adapting a book by an indigenous artist into a screenplay. Somehow I managed to squeeze in re-writing and publishing my debut novel, as well as writing and directing both a short film and a CBC documentary. It’s been a busy couple of years.

What do you like most about your position or role?

For me, I love the creative process of storytelling. And not just at home as a writer with the “world shutout” type of scenario but the collaborative side of it. I’ve been fortunate to work with some very creative people, and as a result, I’ve really learned to embrace that aspect of it.

What’s a substantial change you’ve witnessed since starting in the industry?

The scale and impact of the Manitoba film industry over the last ten years is unbelievable. And with that growth has come so many more opportunities for younger artists to find their way. The opportunity for a solid career in film seems so much more attainable in Manitoba than it was when I came in — at least from my standpoint. I think that’s amazing.

What advice would you most like to give to your past self?

I’d sit down with my past self and say, “Self, what the heck took you so long to finally get into this industry?!”

What advice would you give to somebody just starting out in the industry?

Glamour is an illusion. Relationships are everything. The process to create art, whatever the medium, has its accolades and rewards, yes, but you have to do the work. You have to get in there because loving the process of creating is the real reward in the long run.

If you could work on a project with anyone in the film industry, who would it be and why?

There are producers in Manitoba I’d still like to work with. As a writer, pretty much the same goes for any of our directors. I know that’s vague, but I think we’ve got some great storytelling talent in our province.

What films, TV, or books inspire you and get you excited about working in the industry?

I’ve always loved movies, TV, and books so the motivation to pursue it sort of just came on its own. I’m just drawn to it much like I was to music and drumming — which was how I made a living through my twenties. And the parallels between the film and music worlds are not that far off from each other.

Why is learning and training important?

Learning what came before in the arts is invaluable as far as I’m concerned. When you blend that with practical training that contributes to your experience, your odds of succeeding in any art form go through the roof. Whether that learning is formal or an individual drive to know more is not the point.

I’ve been involved in music and film for some time now, and while a good CV and proven track record are a necessity to get through the door and get the call, and hopefully the meeting, it always comes down to your ability to deliver, and the confidence needed to deliver usually comes directly from your learning and training — the time you put in.

What do you like most about working in the Manitoba film industry? Is there anything in your mind that sets it apart?

When I wrote my novel The Need to Know, I knew I wanted to center the story here in Winnipeg, even though many people told me I should change the locale because it was a straight up thriller, implying that somehow international audiences won’t be interested in a prairie city.

But I didn’t.

Why? Because I love living here. Because we are unique in many ways. That’s the writer side of me. On the director side, look how our industry has grown and the opportunities that have come with that growth, not only for below the line and post production but writers and directors and producers as well. I know I’m repeating myself but I think that says everything about what sets us apart. Our young artists no longer have to leave. The industry is here now.

Where do you see yourself ten years from now?

God willing, still writing, directing, and selling a few novels along the way. I would like to drink wine at Cannes. Haven’t been yet, so that’s definitely on my bucket list.

FTM is a member of the Province of Manitoba’s sector council program through the Department of Economic Development and Training. FTM builds a highly skilled and adaptable film industry workforce to support the activities of Manitoba production companies. FTM collaborates with members of the film and television industry to identify the training needs within the community.

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