THIS IS PART 1 OF A 2 PART INTERVIEW: Filmmaker Dwight Patillo is the producer and co-writer of the recent indie feature film, Cornerstore , but the Detroit native’s initial big break in the motion picture business came via his work with Death Row Records during the legendary gangsta rap empire’s glory days. Teamed up with production partners Ben Bazmore and Al Stewart at Nu Vue Films, Patillo worked on all of Dr. Dre’s music videos from his landmark LP, The Chronic , getting his first taste of the music video-making process with one of the most iconic of the era, "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang." Recently, Dwight spoke to us to share his memories of meeting Dre, taking "notes" from Suge, infamous beer dousings, and other recollections of life on Death Row.
How did you come to work with Dr. Dre?
Dwight Patillo: Around 1990, I was starving to death directing theater in Minneapolis, so decided to take a shot at [the movie business in California]. I had a friend from high school [from Detroit, Ben Bazmore] who was talking about starting a company to produce music videos, and then eventually film. So I went out there and hooked up with him. We struggled doing other jobs on films. He was doing grip and electric work. I was doing craft services and PA-ing – just to get by until we got a break. He knew a guy named Chris “The Glove” Taylor who was a DJ – Dr. Dre’s DJ. And we ended up meeting Dr. Dre that way.
Once we met Dre, we kinda kicked it, and realized that we had the same tastes in movies. So we kinda built on that – we’d vibe on different scenes in films and debate about which films were the best and whatnot. This was between the time Dre was in N.W.A and his first solo project on Interscope. So, you know, while kickin’ it one day Dre told us that when he got back on that we were gonna be doing his [next] video. Of course, that did not happen - because the next video he did was for “Deep Cover.” I don’t know who did it, but it wasn’t us. So we were all heart broken and disappointed – whatever. The next thing you know we get a tape from Dre and it was his single. He said, write up a concept to this. And that single was “Nuthin But a ‘G’ Thang,” and after that the rest is history.
[Getting into the business] was the reason we were in California. But the whole [process of] meeting Dre never seemed forced. It happened organically. And I think that’s why he trusted us enough to take a chance on a couple guys who hadn’t done anything yet.
What was your official involvement in “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang”?
Dwight Patillo: I was art director on that project. I also supervised the post-production. And – as a part of the company, Nu Vue Films – we wrote up the treatment for “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang.” We bounced it back and forth with Dre, got something that we liked. After that, the next question was, who was gonna direct it? So we basically said to ourselves, that’s gonna be the end of our run if they bring in another director who’s gonna want to bring in another production company, and we’re out the door. That’s when we started plotting, and we said, let’s get Dr. Dre to direct the video and we’ll just step him through it, talk him through it. We’ll bracket him and make sure he gets through this thing. That way we can stay in the loop. And it worked. It was a collaborative effort, completely. We were all learning on the fly. We knew enough to help him and he knew exactly what he wanted to see. So it worked out fine.
How was Dre as a first-time director?
Dwight Patillo: He was the corny-meter. Ben and I would make suggestions and he’d be like, "Nah, that’s corny, let’s do it this way." [ laughs ] Because he was true to Compton. I wasn’t from Compton, Ben wasn’t from Compton. So we let somebody from that area take the lead because they knew best. That’s only common sense. But Dre was a natural as far as the directing went. As far as communication between him and the director of photography that’s the main thing that we smoothed out. That was our main role. By the end of it we wanted people to know that Dr. Dre directed it. That’s why we ended up with the Chyron over the actual video that MTV objected to. It said “Directed by Dr. Dre” and [MTV was] like, no, you gotta take it off. We couldn’t take it off but we could blur it out.
But why did MTV object? It's actually one of coolest parts of the video when that comes on screen at the end.
Dwight Patillo: Because then everybody else would have done it and it would have become a free-for-all for people to put their own advertisements [on MTV] without paying for it.
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