TRAVERSE CITY — Art saved Patrick Scott.
Scott grew up a poor, mixed-race kid on the Old Mission Peninsula. He put up with name-calling and general “crappy treatment,” he said, but it was all overshadowed by an education that literally changed his life.
Today, Scott is a successful filmmaker whose videos, “Thanks, Smokey!” and “Escalator” have gone viral. His production company in Venice, Calif., teamed with Machinima Prime to launch a new web series, “Zoochosis.”
“If you look at my previous work, you’ll see that even though on the surface things are very sexy or slapstickey, there’s always a deeper element there about the strain of how the individual conflicts with society,” said Scott, 36.
Early on, Scott said, the animated television series “The Simpsons” confirmed for him that the world really was both a dark and funny place.
Scott was the youngest of seven siblings and found solace in comic books, drawings, short stories and movies. A surrogate family showed him art was cool.
“I can’t imagine where I’d be without my art,” Scott said. “It quite literally saved me as a kid and gave my brain and passion a real focus. And since my work saved me, I feel beholden to it and have made it the most important thing in my life.”
Over the years Scott’s films have made it to Sundance Film Festival and he’s directed commercials and music videos. “Zoochosis” recently put him on the map; its been viewed about 30 million times on YouTube.
Scott graduated from Traverse City Central High School, then moved to California, where he earned undergrad and graduate degrees in Film Production at California Institute of the Arts. He credits a number of Traverse City teachers and artists for helping him get there.
His junior high art teacher, Joe Send, taught him video in a state-funded program called Video Arts Production. Local filmmaker Rich Brauer was his first example of a working filmmaker. Scott recalled that Tom Mills sold him his first camera, a 16mm Bolex.
“That put me way ahead of the curve when I went to school. No one had shot film in my undergrad class, but thanks to the resources Tom and Rich put in my hand, I was already showing my stuff in national film festivals before college,” he said.
Scott said he is grateful for his math teacher, Tom May, and his high school art teacher, Dan Lisuk.
Lisuk remembers him as a very creative student with an edge.
“He was usually pushing beyond the box, even if he didn’t always know why or what direction he was going — not uncommon for a creative person,” recalled Lisuk.
Scott also spent hours at the Traverse Area District Library, where he had access to art house and classic films he rented and played on a Laserdisc.
Scott has several new projects lined up, including a new series and feature films. He said the traits that will carry him through it all are identical to those he learned as a kid finding his way in Traverse City: hard work, imagination and persistence.
“If you look at my work now, the faces are all different colors and shapes and sizes,” he explained. “My work is about people, not just people of a certain color or economic background or region; it’s way more universal than that.”