Actress & Producer Patricia McKenzie Using Storytelling To Change Hearts And Minds In Hollywood

By Dana Corddry

Many stories matter. Stories have been used to dispossess and to malign. But stories can also be used to empower, and to humanize. Stories can break the dignity of a people. But stories can also repair that broken dignity”.

-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, author

Storytelling, in the Hollywood sense, can be a truly magical medium. At its best, it can move us, inviting us to connect with each other and relate on a human level, appealing to what Abraham Lincoln once called “the better angels of our nature”. The power of storytelling is immense. And yet, so often as the case is, in this age of the Hollywood blockbuster, many film attempts at storytelling ultimately devolve into little more than amalgamations of explosions, special effects, and nods to pop culture, failing to harness the opportunity to bring real substance or weight to relevant topics of the day.

For those films which move and inspire us, we have those filmmakers, actors, producers and other artists and craftsmen to thank, who are committed to storytelling for a deeper purpose. It’s both a rarified pleasure, and a unique experience to encounter such an artist, and when I had the opportunity recently to speak with actress and producer Patricia Mckenzie about the multiple projects she is developing, shooting, and working on in post-production, it became evident that she embodies this species of rare story teller – the kind who still believes in magic.

When Mckenzie, who’s been dancing, acting, and producing for fifteen years, considers which types of stories she’s drawn to as an artist and producer, she says “anything I see that’s underserved, interesting and untold, and can help humanity, appeals to me. . . Telling stories that can help heal the world drives me”.

Mckenzie, an executive board member of the National Center for the Prevention of Community Violence (NCPCV), an organization which brings solutions to violence by interrupting its process before violence becomes an event, speaks with knowledge about the role that stories as told in her award-winning and critically acclaimed films such as ‘Bully Fighters’, can play in helping to “heal the world”. Mckenzie notes her innate attraction to developing, producing and performing in films which speak to under-represented and often underserved and/or minority communities, hoping to provide a voice and a story to those too often silenced by lack of representation in the mainstream.

Mckenzie is currently shooting ‘Waking Up Dead’, a dark comedy that follows a gay male, latino lead named Danny, once a hot shot A-lister, whose hard-partying ways have since relegated him to house-sitting, as he struggles to clean up his act in 24 hours, to secure a part in a hot new TV series. ‘Waking Up Dead’ was cast by the legendary Kerry Barden (‘The Help’), will be distributed by Breaking Glass, and directed by Gary Terracino (‘Elliot Loves’). “It’s an outrageous comedy, written and directed by a Latino filmmaker, with many women and artists of color in front of and behind the camera. That’s exactly what I am about!” says an enthusiastic Mckenzie.

Another film Mckenzie produced, ‘Anathema’, has already been attracting positive attention from critics in droves, and garnering Mckenzie a tremendous amount of interest from distributors seeking powerful projects. ‘Anathema’ won Mckenzie awards for best actress and best film at The National Black Film festival, a nomination for best actress at the Newark International Film Festival, and garnered a best film nod at multiple festivals as a still work-in-progress. The film is an LBGTQ-themed crime drama currently in post-production.

When Mckenzie isn’t shooting, developing new projects, managing the challenging new logistics of keeping her casts and crews safe both on and off-set during COVID-19, and juggling requests for her talents as both a producer and actress, she invests her time in educating others. Mckenzie has been touring her film ‘Bully Fighters’ in schools across the U.S. in partnership with the NCPCV, while simultaneously developing a TEDx talk, based on a Keynote speech she gave at The Integrated Justice Information Systems (IJIS) Institute 2020 Symposium in Washington, just before the COVID lockdown. 

Michael Margolis once said “The stories we tell literally make the world. If you want to change the world, you need to change your story. This truth applies both to individuals and institutions”.

With Mckenzie’s keen eye for powerful and purposeful stories, and her dedication to telling those stories in ways that open all of our eyes to the plights and humanity of those perhaps different than, but relatable, to ourselves, she is effectually changing her, and our, world – one story at a time.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you”.

-Maya Angelou, author & poet

Dana Corddry is a writer and publicist who lives in Los Angeles, California. She works on Encore Voices’ team of creative writers and voice over directors, and enjoys collaborating on several ongoing films and series.