Artistry: Artist Feature
Brave Soul Artist: Patrik-Ian Polk

August 6, 2006 Print version       Other articles by this author


Photo by Anthony Nouri Caravan
For the month of August, we decided to spotlight the incredibly talented artist, Patrik-Ian Polk.

About a month into BSC's premiere, we contacted Patrik to let him know about the BSC website, the organization and our mission. After checking out the site, Patrik quickly responded to let us know how impressed he was with the site, as well as with our mission and purpose. At that point, he graciously accepted our offer to be featured here on the Brave Soul Collective website.

One reason for the rapid spreading of this virus in our community is the fact that we don't talk openly and honestly enough about these issues. Communication is the first key. - Patrik Ian Polk

Patrik-Ian Polk made his feature film directorial debut with "Punks", an independent feature that he also wrote and produced. Often described as a male "Waiting to Exhale", "Punks" had its world premiere in January 2000 at the Sundance Film Festival, as part of its prestigious American Spectrum series. The film delighted audiences and picked up many awards at festivals around the world and was released theatrically in November 2001. PUNKS was nominated for a 2002 Indie Spirit Award for Best low-budget feature. His next venture was the television series, NOAH'S ARC, which explores the daily lives of four African-American gay men in Los Angeles, through their relationships with their friends and lovers. After making its way around the country through various screenings at festivals, & pride events, the first season of NOAH'S ARC premiered on LOGO in September of 2005. Dubbed as America's first ever black gay television series, NOAH'S ARC sheds light on a multitude of issues facing black gay men, through drama, comedy, and everything in between.

With the season two kickoff of NOAH'S ARC happening this month on LOGO, we all decided to showcase Patrik and his talents for August, in order to shine light on this brilliant director, writer, and producer. We sat down with Patrik to find out about what life has been like since the birth of NOAH'S ARC, his life as an artist, as well as his feelings and thoughts about HIV/AIDS.

Enjoy...

We at BSC all saw your first feature film production "PUNKS" however, many others didn't get to experience this project. When will it see the light of day?

PATRIK: I'm not sure when PUNKS will be released, but I'm working diligently to make it happen. The original distributor screwed up the release, and it's been bogged down in a lot of legal red tape. But thankfully the Edmonds have worked out the majority of that drama and finally regained control of the film from the now-defunct distributor, Urbanworld. So stay tuned on that one. I'm hoping it'll be out in the near future.

It's been 25 years since the arrival of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. What messages do you feel we need to send to the black & gay communities that haven't already been said?

PATRIK: People just need to be reminded that it's relatively easy to protect yourself from catching HIV. Condom usage is obviously the key. But I think with the medical advancements, the fact that treatments for HIV have become so effective has lulled gay men into a false sense of security. This feeling that, since the drugs work so well, I don't have to worry about contracting the virus. But you still run the risk of getting ill with HIV. You still have to follow these strict regimens of insanely expensive pills that still can wreak havoc on your body in so many other ways. So we still need to remind the kids to protect themselves. To get in the habit of using latex condoms especially for intercourse. And we can also start to educate those who are not going to use condoms on ways they can minimize the risk factors of unprotected intercourse- pulling out before ejaculation, for example. I know it's not politically correct to put those messages out there, but barebacking is very popular and we have to address that issue. One reason for the rapid spreading of this virus in our community is the fact that we don't talk openly and honestly enough about these issues. Communication is the first key.

What has been the most fulfilling aspect of your career so far and are there any other things you intend to accomplish in the near future?

PATRIK: It's wonderful to hear from so many people, gay black men especially, who have been touched or moved by my work. It's great that so many people are getting to see representations of their lifestyle on mainstream television for the first time. It's nice to be considered a pioneer by some fans. It's cool to be a source of inspiration for newer up-and-coming gay black artists and filmmakers. I'm just an artist, doing what I want to do. I have little control over how my work is seen or absorbed by the public. So it's very gratifying that it's been received in such a largely positive way. When I hear from mothers who love the show because it gives them an avenue to talk to their gay teenage sons or white girls from Virginia who have Noah's Arc apple martini parties with their girlfriends or the black teen who tells me that after seeing the show he came out to his father and their relationship is improving- It doesn't get much better than that.


Photo by Anthony Nouri Caravan
What has been your biggest challenge from conception to production, in creating Noah's Arc?
PATRIK: The biggest challenge is just wearing so many hats. Writing, directing (which I'm not doing in season 2, thank gawd!), executive producing. It's a tall order. And even though I'm a very tall guy (lol), it's a lot for one person to shoulder. So I'm learning to delegate more and share more of the responsibilities with creative people I really trust and admire. In the beginning, I did everything because I had to. Now we have the resources to bring in qualified people to work with me on the show. And that's been a real blessing.

Being that LOGO is a relatively new cable TV channel, and Noah's Arc is currently the ONLY series, which deals specifically with the lives of black gay men, do you feel any pressure from either the network or the viewing audience to address and tackle all things black and gay? If so, how do you deal with it?

PATRIK: I don't allow myself to feel that kind of pressure, so it's not an issue. Thankfully, Logo has been very supportive of my vision. They allow me to set the tone for the storylines we address with very little network interference. They trust me to know what these characters will and should be doing. And my main focus is being true to these characters I've created. One show cannot be all things to all people- and it'd be foolish to try. So my main goal is to be entertaining and relevant and unpredictable. As long as you leave an episode of this show wanting more, not being able to wait for the next installment, then I've done my job.

Last season Noah's Arc viewers got to see the HIV/AIDS issue tackled in numerous episodes. Did you, or will you and the other writers ever consider making one of the main characters an HIV positive individual?

PATRIK: I have definitely thought about this. I'm not sure what the future might hold. It's certainly a possibility for future seasons. Although we've already had Junito as Ricky's HIV positive lover and Alex running an HIV clinic, so it might feel a little redundant. But regardless of whether one of the main characters becomes positive, we will continue to address the HIV issue in future seasons. I feel this is a very important topic for our community.

Music is a big part of the show. What goes into the process of selecting the music and artists whose work are featured on Noah's Arc? Also, which artists do you enjoy in your everyday life?

PATRIK: I take a very hands-on approach to the music on my show- I pretty much handpick all of it. Sometimes songs just stick in my mind. Sometimes people suggest songs to me. This year I found quite a bit of music from bands and artists on myspace.com. It's a cool resource for indie music-, which is much more affordable and just as cool as major label music. Of course, we still have major label stuff, too- like the new Beyonce. But there's also some hot new artists like Corinne Bailey Rae. For me, it's just about the feeling that I need the music to convey in a particular scene. I don't really care if the music comes from a big star or some complete unknown- as long as it works in the scene. My personal taste in music is very eclectic, so it's hard to pin down a particular style for the music on the show. Right now, I'm enjoying some new artists like Skye Edwards (former lead singer for the band Morcheeba), Lily Allen (new British white chick rapper/singer about to blow up in a major way), a hot indie band called Bedroom Walls (also featured on Noah this year), Teedra Moses remains a favorite as does Aimee Mann, and I'm a huge Janet fan, so I'm looking forward to her new joints.

Gay men love divas. Are there any plans for guest spots by some of today's high profile divas such as ...Mary J. Blige, Janet Jackson, or some of the other great talents out there like Faith Evans, Deborah Cox, Amel Larrieux, or Lalah Hathaway?

PATRIK: No plans for any guest spots as of yet. We do so few episodes that there's not a lot of room for big cameo appearances. But I'd love to have Janet or any of those women on the show. Maybe next season.

Ten years from now, where do you see yourself as an artist, and what do you hope to see for the black gay community as it pertains to the arts & entertainment industries?

PATRIK: I only hope that I am able to attain the level of success that affords me the opportunity to make the kinds of projects that matter to me. It's not so much about making millions as much as it's about living well and being able to always be true to myself as an artist. If I get to a point where I become a slave to the dollar, choosing projects solely for the money, then it's time for me to quit the business. I could easily have the kind of cash career where I'm a director-for-hire doing Barbershop 2's and Beauty Shop 2's, but that's just not my style. I'm happy to keep making my black gay movies and TV shows as long as there's an audience for them.

For more on Patrik-Ian Polk, visit his myspace page at: myspace.com/patrikian

For more info about NOAH'S ARC, visit the official site.