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A successful independent film and TV producer with a production company named for his hometown, Fostoria Film Co., Patrick Markey’s Hollywood rise began near the bottom: lowly production assistant.
It was that tireless, often thankless job of running errands and “doing whatever needed to be done” on the Junction City, Ohio, set of the 1980’s prison drama Brubaker that got him noticed by the film’s star, Robert Redford. This began a professional relationship that would span the 1980s and 1990s and include the films The Natural, A River Runs Through It, and The Horse Whisperer, the latter two of which Markey and Redford helped produce.
“It was a great mentorship,” said the 65-year-old St. Wendelin Catholic School graduate. “He kind of took me under his wing. I think he saw that I was a hard worker and I was a decent guy and I wasn’t into Hollywood … I really cared about the art of it all and what we got to do as a collective group of people putting stuff together. … From there he asked me to do some other stuff with him and sort of helped me build my career, but I worked for every bit of it. It wasn’t like he sort of tapped me and said, ‘OK, you’re the guy’ and it was kind of easy street.
“Redford was great, and a friend to this day. I don’t work with him as much as I did because he’s not as active as he was. I couldn’t have started with a better person.”
Markey’s resume also includes, among other producing credits, 1993’s The Joy Luck Club and 1995’s The Quick and the Dead, a western starring Gene Hackman and Sharon Stone, a young Leonardo DiCaprio, and an unknown Australian actor named Russell Crowe.
But for now at least, the older brother of The Blade’s outdoors editor, Matt Markey, has left the feature film world for the opportunities and creative freedom of cable television. Patrick Markey is producing The Bridge, a dark, violent, and gripping FX drama set in El Paso and Juarez, with the title referencing the border cross between two cities, nations, and cultures.
Based on a Danish series and its premise of the jurisdiction between countries, Denmark and Sweden, The Bridge’s initial season mirrored the original version’s plot of two detectives — one from each country — investigating a serial killer terrorizing the region. But season two has taken the series in a different path than its European counterpart, playing more to its U.S.-Mexico location and the wealth of story potential from the area: drugs, crime, and politics.
The series can seen locally at 10 p.m. Wednesdays on Channels 46 and 635 on Buckeye CableSystem and Channels 129 and 1129 on AT&T U-verse.
The Blade recently spoke with Markey about The Bridge, and the attraction of a cable TV series to a film producer.
Q: How has growing up in Ohio helped your Hollywood career?
A: I worked in a factory in Fostoria when I was in high school and in college to pay my way through [college], so I learned to work and the value of work in Ohio.
I studied theater so I had a little sense of the artistic side of it, but I attribute my success as a producer to what I learned [working] and primarily what I learned from my mother. My mother was a very good kind of manager. Matt and I come from a family of 14 children and my mom ran that outfit very, very well. [She] never raised her voice and kind of got everything that needed to be done by that group of people in a very compassionate and expeditious way. And my mom did that for years and did that almost effortlessly.
A producer is essentially the same thing. You’re juggling a lot of different things and people and issues and agendas at the same time and then you have to make that work within a budget, and a timeline, and all kinds of stuff. And then creatively you can deliver at the end of the day what everybody has agreed upon, very much like raising a big family.
Q: How did you get involved with the show?
A: The fellow that’s the showrunner, which is basically the person that puts things together initially … his name is Elwood Reid, a very talented novelist who I met in Livingston, Mont. Elwood is probably 40 or so, younger than me by a bit. He is from Cleveland initially and played football at Michigan for Bo Schembechler at Michigan ... but he’s also a really serious writer and he wrote novels. He’s a dear friend and a guy that I had developed material with. He wrote on Hawaii Five-O and he wrote on Cold Case — a bunch of TV stuff — and then he finally got The Bridge together. He called me and said I want you to come down and produce this TV show with me. And I said, I haven’t done a lot of television, I’ve mostly done features. That was a struggle getting the studio to take me on as a producer because they didn’t think I could do it. Producing a movie, producing a TV series — it’s all the same thing. But the prejudice in this town if you haven’t done it last week then you don’t know anything about it. But we were able to prevail. We had a very successful first season last year and then we just completed our second.
We originally thought about putting [The Bridge] in Detroit and Ontario because that’s another border that crosses a body of water, there’s a bridge, and we thought that could be kind of cool with all that Detroit has gone through, with the Canadians on the other side. But then Elwood came up with a brilliant idea of putting it at that Mexican border at El Paso and Juarez, which is a very dynamic border, a lot difficulty down there but also a lot of really cool stuff, too. And it’s probably one of the most vibrant border crossings in the world and so we set it there.
Q: After a successful career producing movies, why would you want to move to cable television?
A: I’ve spent most of career in the movie business making feature films. You go to the theater and pay 10 bucks and see the movie and that was a really good model for a long time, but it’s kind of dying right now; people aren’t going to films. The feature film business has changed remarkably. It used to be there were a lot of moves made in that $30 to $50-million-range budget that I really enjoyed making because you had great control over them; they weren’t huge $300 million train wrecks, but they also weren’t so low budget that you didn’t have enough [money] to do a good job. The movies in that area, say from $20 million to $50 million, those are pretty much gone right now.
The movies I grew up making and really like making and have made all my career, they’re not made anymore. A River Runs Through It, The Joy Luck Club, a lot of movies that I really loved and that I worked on probably would not get made today just because of the way the market has changed. But cable ... that’s become the place where creative people can really tell stories that are worthwhile.
Q: Do you have a preference for either format?
A: I don’t know about [the] networks, but this cable world by all means it is exciting to me [and] it’s very fast. A lot of time in features, especially with a big budget, you can take forever in making decisions, and it’s a really slow pace and it’s not necessarily better for that. Sometimes there’s too much money and it makes things not as good as they can be. With cable there’s enough money to get it done and you really have to move along, and if you don’t make a decision the process will run right over the top of you. I like that. I like the idea that you really have to be on your game, and be sharp and pay attention.
We do an hour of cable [and] we do it in seven days. If that was a movie, and a movie is two hours, these would be features films we’re doing in 14 days essentially. We’re shooting independent films every 14 days and we’re spending $5 or 6 million dollars to do two hours of programming, or something like that. Working in the independent film world, which I did a of back in the day … this is very similar to that. We get a great group of people, we have a really wonderful cast, great writers, great crew. It’s a lot of fun, I enjoy it a lot.
Contact Kirk Baird at: email@example.com or 419-724-6734.