August 26, 2017 by Daniel John Johnsson

Peter Pardini

Los Angeles-based writer and director Peter Pardini got some things going for him. Following the success of the Award-winning music documentary about Chicago - several projects are up.

Most people are probably most familiar with your work on the documentary “Now More Than Ever”, which chronicled non other than rock band Chicago. How did you get involved with the band in the first place?
– My Uncle, Lou Pardini, joined the band in 2009.  I graduated film school in 2010 and the band needed someone to film behind-the-scenes material for their upcoming Christmas album, which they were recording in October 2010 in Franklin, Tennessee.

I agreed to do it for experience which benefited both the band and myself, because it ultimately led to me getting hired to go on the road and film their 2011 and 2012 world tours.  Then, in 2013, I pitched the idea of making a proper documentary about the history of the band, which was greenlit and being shot within a few weeks.

How was the research process like?
– Long and sporadic. I was researching by default in my initial years with the group. Just by knowing the guys as human beings and hearing their stories, it allowed me to educate myself on their history without knowing one day I'd use the knowledge in making a documentary. Then, when filming was actually happening, I did everything I could to find all there was online, whether it was search engines, youtube or directly asking fans on Facebook about who may or may not have materials.

Luckily, in the end, Jimmy Pankow, the band's trombone player and one of their original members, gave me a ton of home videos and pictures that really helped bring the movie alive...

I was pretty much a one-man-band in regards to finding all the archival footage up until it came time to license everything, in which case we had a professional handle the negotiations with the various companies who owned the material.

It’s a really thorough documentary. How long did you work on it for?
– I'm glad to hear that.  I worked on it from April 2013 to right before it was released on CNN here in the US on January 1, 2017.  So over three years of fairly constant work. With a doc, it's never just production and editing. You're dealing with everything from paperwork to color fixes to "we have to take this song out because it won't be cleared," which means opening the movie sometimes and it's all very stressful but ultimately rewarding.

What surprised you the most during the making of that film? What was the most unexpected part of Chicago’s story...
– Honestly, the complete lack of bragging from any of the band members. Yes, there's the facts that are facts when there are mentions of touring and record sales, whatever. But the most surprising thing personally was that there was no feeling of cockiness or "look how great we are." As far as story goes, I'd say the Snortatorium story is probably the craziest in which, back in the 70s, the band had a fake phone booth on stage with them that they could individually go into, see the crowd .. the crowd couldn't see them, and do cocaine.

It's amazing that most of them came out alive. They're all clean now and lived to tell the story.

The film have gained you several awards as well as critical acclaim by the likes of Rolling Stone. What kind of opportunties did all that commotion open up for you?
– Just to clarify, David Wild is a writer who writes for Rolling Stone magazine. That review from him was not in the magazine, but was a great honor nonetheless because David is an encyclopedia of music and someone who's opinion matters to me.  I think that the opportunities that have come from the doc are the basic fact that it has gotten me into meetings I wouldn't have gotten before.

I still have work to do and I have to prove myself again, but the meetings I wasn't getting before it came out are now much easier to get because of the reviews, the ratings and the notoriety of the band itself.

Since then you’ve also made another film. What is "Black Cat" about?
– "Black Cat" is about an adult child named Duke Moody who begs his billionaire mother to fund a true crime documentary about an actor acquaintance he has who may or may not have committed a murder 10 years before. It's a mix of mockumentary and narrative and was made for just $35,000 but it came out great!

What made you want to follow up with a narrative driven feature film?
– I have always wanted to be a narrative film director. Documentary filmmaking was just the opportunity that first presented itself.  So, basically it's what I really want to do going forward and thanks to Indiegogo, you can make things now with the help of those close to you.

The film has been featured in festivals all over the world. How has the recepion been?
– The film has been in about 30 festivals so far and has won 3. I anticipate it getting into many more and hopefully winning some too. It's great to see that the esoteric approach we took of mixing styles and genres is somehow connecting with strangers!

It’s an interesting time to release a film with satirical ingredients, as everyday reality is getting more absurd by the minute. What are your thoughts on how to make satire and comedy in today’s climate?
– I think satire is driven by truth, not opinion. Of course, you have to have a point of view, but I think that comes from your characters. If you, the filmmaker are starting to tell the audience what to think rather than leading them to feel something, then I think the satire turns into preaching. I absolutely hate preachy films because everyone has an opinion and no two people's are the same, even if they agree most of the time. It was important for me to make the main character somebody who wanted recognition and notoriety, and all the decisions made sense to serve his goal, not the plot's, if that makes sense.

I don't know, it's all kinda convoluted trying to explain. The hope in satire, for me at least, is to have the ideas feel organic and biting through the truth of the character. Obviously, in today's world, anything goes in terms of getting fame or attention ... people will do anything.  And I think everyone is culpable. I think my favorite line in the movie is "we live in a society where the first story is the true story and innocent until proven guilty is just a figure of speech."  I like it because it's kind of pretentious, which fits perfectly in line with the main character's trying to look and sound cool, but there is truth to it.

Everything's so fast now and stories change from minute to minute when, if there's a truth, shouldn't that be the first and only story?  Unfortunately, it seems like the 24-hour news cycle has turned that into a thing of the past because the media has to make things interesting and keep you in your seat. The main character of Black Cat is similar. Duke Moody will do anything to make something fit his story, no matter what it took or cost to get there.

How is it looking with distribution for the film?
– We have not tried yet because we're waiting for the festival run to play out.

Which upcoming festivals can one go to see it?
– We're all over the place. All over the US and around the world. Naperville, Illinois. Fernandina Beach, Florida. A few places in India, one in Africa. It's crazy the reach you can get now with film festivals.

You took the long road directing commercials, short films and music videos. What has “taking your time” and testing the waters given you in your process of making well received documentaries and features today?
– I don't really see it like that. I'm only 30 years old and started making the documentary when I was 26. I've always been driven to do things fast and am very impatient. So at once, I do feel like I've taken the long road and am very eager to get going on a bigger budget narrative feature, but at the same time realize I'm very young and have two successful feature films under my belt. However, I have been directing professional movies, shorts and commercials for 10 years now and I think that you learn by doing. There's no specific way and what I've seen is that I always think every project is the big break.

I think that's the only way to do it. You have to kinda be delusional to think it's all gonna work out every single time, but it's really the only way to get yourself to put everything you have emotionally into it.

You have had a close relationship with Robert Moresco, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of "Crash"?
– Robert was looking for an assistant. He had a nice office attached to his house and it was close to where I was living at the time. My friend was working for his agent and so my friend called me, knowing I wanted to be a filmmaker, and told me about the opportunity. I worked for him for about half a year and helped him dictate his scripts and do some research et cetera. 

It was great being able to learn the little things he did, whether it was the concise nature of his writing or how he got himself up every day to write, which is still something I am improving on.

No rest for the talented. You are currently developing several new projects. First off, there is a film?
– Developing is the key word. I always have about 10 different things in my head about what I want to do and now, since the doc is done and "Black Cat" is on its own in festivals, I've narrowed down what I'm trying to do. The film is a very Coen Brothers style movie involving a heist but that's about as straight forward as it gets. I'm trying to tell a straightforward story with interesting characters that veers off into strange places. Can't really talk about it much more though as it's still in the writing phase.

What about the television show?
– The TV idea is something I want to eventually pitch to Adult Swim once we've been able to shoot a low budget pilot. I'm developing it with Douglas Bennett, who plays Duke Moody in "Black Cat".

I see it in the style of Eric Andre meets Pee Wee's Playhouse. I love absurdist humor and a project like this will let me get it out of my system so the other projects don't get too weird and Adult Swim is the perfect place for it I think.

And there's another documentary?
– The other documentary involves the behind-the-scenes world of MLB baseball. I shot the first interview already but am in the process of making a demo trailer to see if we can get it financed.

How long have you been developing these different projects for?
– The film has been brewing for years and the other two have been since the beginning of this year.

When do you think we will able to see the results of these planned projects?
– I want them all to happen now! There is no specific realistic timeline but in my head, they should all be happening or at least moving by year's end. If you know anyone who finances films and tv, let me know! (laughs)


Peter Pardini is a Los Angeles-based filmmaker born and raised in Fresno, CA.  Growing up a film lover watching movies, he made numerous short films and a feature film before he was 18 years old. He reached international recognition for the Chicago documentary Now More Than Ever. Watch it now on Netflix.


Follow Peter Pardini at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vimeo. Support his upcoming projects at Indiegogo.

There is also an official website.

For more details about past and future projects IMDB is always the place to go.