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. The film won several awards at festivals around the world and was released theatrically in November 2001. Polk is also the creator of the television series Noah's Arc, which made its debut on the Logo television network in October 2005.
Born in 1973 in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, Polk was interested in television and movies as a child. He attended Brandeis University, where he was the arts editor of the college newspaper. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, then went on to study at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinema-Television.
Polk served briefly as a producer's assistant for Amblin Entertainment's TV series known seaQuest DSV. He was then hired to work for MTV as a development executive in the newly formed, Paramount-based film division known as MTV Films. He helped with development of many productions including Beavis and Butt-head Do America and Election. The latter, a scandalous story about a high school election starring Reese Witherspoon, was nominated for an Oscar in 1999.
Polk then began to work for Edmond's Entertainment, or E2 Filmworks. Under Tracey and Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Polk worked as vice president of production and development. While at E2, he worked on films such as Soul Food (1997), Hav Plenty (1998) and Light It Up (1999). Soul Food, told through the eyes of an eleven-year-old boy, is a story about the plights of an African-American family broken by the death of their mother. The film eventually went on to be produced into a Showtime network show that turned into a series that ran for four years, becoming the longest running drama featuring a predominately black cast.
Light It Up, which starred Usher in his first leading role, grossed $6 million in ticket sales.
Noah's Arc started as a television series about a group of black gay friends. The show integrates issues like same-sex dating, same-sex marriage, HIV and AIDS awareness, infidelity, sexual curiosity, promiscuity, homophobia, gay bashing, and same-sex parenthood. Often considered "the gay Sex and the City", the show aired for two seasons, making 17 episodes, excluding the pilot. The series aired on the Logo cable network, and became extremely popular after its initial airing in October 2005. For a long time, the show was the network's most popular title. The 23-minute episodes take place in Los Angeles and show four gay black friends – Noah, Alex, Ricky, and Chance – dealing with everyday life through complex romantic and professional relationships.
Starring in the show were Darryl Stephens, Rodney Chester, Christian Vincent, Doug Spearman, and Jensen Atwood. A second season aired eight episodes, ending with a cliffhanger. Logo announced that the show was cancelled but, facing demand for a third season, stated that if the planned feature film was a success, the series might return. Polk said that Noah's Arc was both a "triumph and a let down".
Polk's first directorial feature was Punks (2001), produced by Kenneth Edmonds. The movie, starring Rockmond Dunbar, Renoly Santiago, Jazzmun, and Devon Odessa, is about a group of gay African-American friends. Punks was first shown in January 2000 at the Sundance Film Festival. The film won the Black Reel Award (2002) for Best Independent Actor (Rockmond Dunbar) and the Cleveland International Film Festival's Best American Independent Feature Film. It also was chosen to open the Twenty-Fourth San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. It was nominated for the GLAAD Media Award and the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award. In November 2001, Punks was released to theatrical audiences at the Quad in New York City. This film's major themes were incorporated in Polk's later works. It had its TV premiere on Logo on August 7, 2011.
Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom was his next film, featuring Polk as director, writer, and producer. It was written in collaboration with fellow writer from the series John R. Gordon, and picks up after the cliffhanger in the second season. It is about the marriage and wedding of the main character, Noah Nicolson, and his boyfriend Wade Robinson at Martha's Vineyard. In the movie, four groups of couples struggle for identities while attending four different bachelor parties where each relationship becomes more complicated. Near the end, Noah and Wade are not helped with their last-minute jitters by the social tension.
The film was released on October 24, 2008, on a limited basis, performing at theaters in Los Angeles, New York City, Atlanta, Chicago, Palm Springs, California, and Washington, D.C. The movie showed in Ocean City, New Jersey, Detroit and San Francisco in early November. The movie then began showing at theaters in Philadelphia and Dallas in at the end of November and performed well on a per-screen basis.
Polk's film received much acclaim throughout the gay community. It received three NAACP Image Award nominations: Outstanding Independent Feature Film, Outstanding Writing in a Feature Film and Outstanding Directing in a Feature Film. It won GLAAD Award's for Best Feature Film (Limited Release), but received poor reviews. Time Out called it a "silly soaper," and Variety described it as "a lame feature" that was "blandly staged",. It received a 43% rating on the website Rotten Tomatoes.
Despite the criticism, according to IndieWire (October 27, 2008), the movie opened as number 1 on the independent film box office report. Theaters reported around-the-block lines, and even though it only played for 7 weeks in no more than seven theaters at once, taking in over $532,000 despite its low mainstream marketing support. The film cost an estimated $5 million to make and is not expected to recover those costs even with its DVD release.
In 2012, Patrik Ian Polk released the film The Skinny, in which he wrote, directed and produced. The film tells the story of five friends who are Brown University classmate s- four gay men and one lesbian - as they reunite in New York City for Gay Pride weekend, in which secrets are exposed, lies and lots of drama.
Polk's portrayal of the gay African-American community is considered one of his best achievements. Among other things, Polk notes one experience where he was confronted by one transitioning person that they were experiencing exactly what Noah's Arc characters went through and that they were extremely grateful to him. When asked in an interview with Shei what his inspiration was to the series Noah's Arc, Polk replied, "I wanted to see black gay characters and there were none on TV. So I decided rather than complain about it, I'd do it myself." Polk says he was inspired by Spike Lee on television with the scene She's Gotta Have It, where there was a black face in filmmaking. He believes that people should come out and not have a secret lifestyle as it leads to lies and deception.
Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom + CD (2008)
Actors: Darryl Stephens, Rodney Chester, Gary LeRoi Gray, Christian Vincent, Doug Spearman
Directors: Patrik-Ian Polk
Writers: Patrik-Ian Polk, John R. Gordon, Q. Allan Brocka
Producers: Carol Ann Shine, Carolyn Sperry, Dave Mace, Gilles Bélanger
DVD Release Date: February 3, 2009
Run Time: 101 minutes
Amazon: Noah's Arc: Jumping the Broom + CD (2008)
Based on the popular television series, Noah’s Arc: Jumping the Broom is a feature film that continues the narrative thread of the second series, with all the luscious drama that one would expect. In this, Noah Nichols (Darryl Stephens) and his ARC: Alex Kirby (Rodney Chester), Ricky Davis (Christian Vincent), and Chance Counter (Douglas Spearman), retreat to Martha’s Vineyard for Noah’s intimate marriage to Wade Robinson (Jensen Atwood). While Alex’s hubby, Trey (Gregory Kieth), video chats from home to babysit their newly adopted Ethiopian child, Chance brings his husband, Eddie (Jonathan Julian), and Ricky is accompanied by the 19-year old Brandon (Gary Leroi Gray) for some lighthearted fling-dating. But as the four couples hole up and attend separate bachelor parties, each relationship begins to unravel. Alex’s pill-popping throughout the weekend, compiled with surprise drop-ins from Noah’s boss, Brandy (Jennia Fredrique) and rapper Baby Gat (Jason Steed), don’t help Noah and Wade work through last-minute jitters. Humor abounding, many of the deep questions about what marriage and commitment mean are filtered through scenes about stress related to coming-out and what promiscuity symbolizes to gay men. Appearances by two moms, Noah’s (Suanne Coy) and Wade’s (Tonya Pinkins), also make for some fun, and tense, situation comedy. Jumping the Broom has all the verve of the series, so if you are already a fan, this romantic tale will not disappoint. --Trinie Dalton
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