Screenwriter Roberto Patino describes his own journey to 'Cut Bank'
Roberto Patino's first feature screenplay is now a completed film and is available in theaters and on demand. It is titled "Cut Bank." The film is part action, part thriller with a little dash of character study that takes place in the small town of Cut Bank, Montana. It centers on a young man (Liam Hemsworth) that is dying to leave his small town for better things, but has obligations that get in the way. And like many young people, he tries to take an easy way out - which leads to unexpected consequences.
Roberto Patino was born in Miami, Florida. His own personal journey is just as interesting and inspiring as the tales he weaves as a writer. Born to immigrants from Bogatá, Columbia, his parents brought Roberto up into a conservative household. His father is a self-made banker and his mother worked as a city employee before Roberto was born.
When Patino hit those formative years, the years that define us more than we anticipate, he decided that he wanted to be a screenwriter, "The high school I went to was a small school. I was into writing and I certainly got a lot of positive affirmation from my English teachers. Our school didn't have any film program. I would go to Borders Books and buy published scripts from movies. I remember reading 'The Truman Show' script many times. I wrote a lot of short stories in High School and I wrote a couple of horrible screenplays as well."
But Roberto's passion for film was not something his parents didn't embrace in the beginning, "I would wake up after midnight, and watch movies on television that my parents would never let me watch. 'The Usual Suspects' and 'Braveheart' were really the landmark movies in my experience."
As Patino hit that age that teenagers often do and he started to rebel against his parents, it was film and television that became something truly important to him, "It was a time when I was becoming kind of a punk. I was a pretty good kid and suddenly I started talking back to my parents, cursing, wanting an earring and doing my hair differently and such. It was a critical time when the idea of movies and television suddenly becoming something more than just a pastime and I had decided to take them more seriously."
This was a time that Patino was exploring more than just his inner desires, "Perhaps, because they didn't exist in Columbia, my parents loved national parks. During summers we would take these absurdly long road trips across country to national parks like Yosemite and Jackson Hole. A handful of summers in a row we would get in our huge Chevy high top van and hit the road. This is the period in my life when I drove through Cut Bank, Montana. I fell in love with the idea of this town that was smaller than my own high school."
To say Roberto did well in school would be an understatement. And his lack of boasting such speaks volumes about his down to earth nature. After high school, he headed to the ivy league - Harvard University, "I made the English department at Harvard my home. I majored in English and American Language and Literature and my thesis was a screenplay that ultimately got me a fellowship for USC film school."
Upon graduation, Roberto headed to Southern California, making one more step towards become a filmmaker. Little did he know that it wouldn't be film school that would shape his future, "I only spent a year at the graduate film production program at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC. The following summer I got the opportunity to an assistant to filmmaker David Ayer ('Fury' and 'Training Day'). And then he hired me to be his post production assistant. Finally, I earned an audience with him and he read a sample of mine. He gave me helpful words of encourage, which were 'you should try to do this full-time.'"
With this advice, Patino applied to the Sundance Features Lab. Although he didn't make the final cut, he became a finalist, which got him an agent, "I never returned to USC."
After Sundance, Patino decided to craft a story that centered in that small town in his past - Cut Bank, Montana. Still a little bit of a rebel he didn't write something that he thought would be hot and sellable, he wrote a story more personal, "I wanted to write something fun and engaging."
In 2009, his script for "Cut Bank" landed on the coveted Black List - which is a list of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood, "making the Black List opened oodles of doors for me."
In March 2010, Patino had his first meeting with the filmmaker that would become "Cut Bank's" director - Matt Shakman ("It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia"), "He was incredibly dynamic. He's a very prolific TV career. And it was Matt's mentor, Edward Zwick, that became one of the producers for 'Cut Bank. "Ed helped to push the script to a couple of actors that we loved and John Malkovich responded and attached his name to it. When he came aboard it made me feel like that this film actually might get made. To his credit, Malkovich was very loyal and stayed on the project those long five years. He was its stalwart. Malkovich help to lend some weight to the project. From then we were able to assemble an entire cast, between the fall of 2010 and the following May, which included Ben Kingsley, Michael Sheen, Armie Hammer and Teresa Palmer."
Matt Shakman and Edward Zwick took this package to the Cannes Film Festival to sell the picture for foreign territories and it did quite well. It was at this time that "Cut Bank" also received the necessary funding as well.
Like most films in pre-production, there was a period of scheduling conflicts and casting changes, "We ended up with what we got and I couldn't be happier with it."
Many critics have described "Cut Bank," as having a Coen Brothers feel to it. Although Patino is happy about the comparison, it wasn't a direction he intended on, "The Coen Brothers are incredible. To say that they haven't influenced me is a gross lie, they certainly have. They are such a formative force in modern day cinema, but I really wanted to make a story much like a 1970's thriller. My touchstone movies were 'Three Days of the Condor', 'Klute' and even more pastoral film like 'Breaking Away,' or even 'The Last Picture Show.'
"In fact, there was a scene that was ultimately cut from the movie that had Cassandra (Teresa Palmer) and Dwayne (Liam Hemsworth) watching 'The Last Picture Show.'"
With his first feature film under his belt, Patino is open to other ideas, "I don't like to label myself. Right now working on a western noir for producer Andrew Lauren ('Squid and the Whale'). I am also writing a screenplay with Dan Cohen (producer of 'Cut Bank') that is a family chase film like "Running on Empty" meets "True Romance" 20 years later.
"I think I gravitate towards action, I have a knack for action. But at the end of the day, what any organic story comes from is character. Whatever characters feel real and engaging to me - I will build stories around them."
Roberto Patino's main objective is to entertain, "I go to the movies to be entertained and I am a storyteller that likes to entertain."
An ultimately, what else do we expect from a good screenwriter?
Roberto Patino's own story is really just beginning. And as things often come full circle in life, it's not really a leap to think about the next generation that will be influenced by Patino's work. Those young dreamers that will have to wake up after midnight to catch their favorite movies on television. Who knows? It might just be one of the films written by Roberto Patino.