Its 5:32 pm
Weclome to another edition of “8 Questions with…..”
Once in a while I’ll get asked how I find my interview subjects and I have to admit,sometimes they find me,be it directly or in the case of Michael C. Perry, through a very good friend who felt Michael had a story to share. Being that this friend is none other then C. Stephen Foster,I knew that 1.) Stephen is a excellent judge of character and talent 2.) Stephen has led me to several wonderful people to chat with in the past and 3.) Stephen is always right….
Michael Perry is one of my favorite kind of interviews,he is terribly talented- a music producer,a poet,film director and a musician himself,one can’t help but see Michael in his office enjoying some coffee and wondering where is life is going to take him next.
The best thing about this? Now we get a chance to tag along and see how Michael creates. Everyone alsways enjoys a finished picture but for me,the joy is watching the artist work. I am grateful that we are able to slow Michael down long enough to ask him 8 Questions…..
Please introduce yourself and tell us about your current project.
Hello, I am Michael Perry. I currently reside in Long Beach, California. I am a combination musician, music producer, and film director. I intermix the three areas together to produce what I call, short musical films. They are a cross between music videos and short films. I usually produce the music first then develop the video/film around the music and lyrics. In many of the films, the music stops or pauses for dialogue within the presentation.
I am currently working on a new project named Youthful Faces. For this project, I have teamed up with twelve New York City Broadway dancers, award-winning choreographer/actor, Lane Napper–many may recognize Lane from the hit TV show, “Victorious” on where he played “Lane Alexander” the schools hip and zen Guidance Counselor—and cinematographer, Rose Lu. Youthful Faces is a dance film to the song, Youthful faces, which projects the need for our youth to speak out and raise their voices about societal and global concerns. The song and film will be released in February 2020
I am also in preproduction of a narrative film named, A New Sound. The screenplay was written by award-winning West Virginia screenwriter, Joey Fama, and is about the collision of art, technology, and commerce. Ok, that sounds too big. It’s a complicated love story with music. We intend to start filming in late 2020.
Where did you grow up and what was life like in the Perry household?
Were your parents artistic?
In my early years, I grew up in Long Beach, California. I played bass guitar in the Junior High School Band and also played in a cover band. Later, our family moved to Huntington Beach, California, where I became more interested in football than music and did not play any music in high school. I did not start playing music again until I was in my mid-twenties. My parents were not very interested in the arts. They were more sports minded, yet they did support my musical / artistic interest with private music lessons, etc. I do think I missed out not playing music in High School. My friends that continually played throughout those years became far ahead musically. I don’t think I really ever caught up. I play, yet I would not say I am a fantastic player. But I do surround myself with fantastic players for recording and live events. So I am definitely pushed always to learn and improve. As for filmmaking, I started that in my late twenties after attending film school at the University of Southern California. I always loved films and wanted to combine my love for music and film together.
What was attending the USC School of Cinema like? Was there a process to getting a spot?
Going to Cinema School at USC was fantastic. My major focus was on the critical studies of film. The Critical Studies program not only gave you a hands-on filmmaking experience, yet allowed me to examine how film captures a society’s beliefs, thoughts, and desires at a specific historical point in time. For example, the 1967 film, The Graduate, the story was not only about a romantic relationship but reexamined how the youth of that time period was feeling. They were uncertain about the future and life options in a time of new politics, the sexual revolution, acid, rock, and the new bohemia. Getting into USC was not an easy task. My application was rejected several times. While continuing to apply each semester, I finished my general education in community college. I finally was accepted on my fourth try and entered the USC Film Studies program as a junior. It was well worth the effort.
What attracted you to directing? What is your mindset between shooting a commercials and a music video?
I really like stories. They allow you to see an alternative perspective through another person’s point of view. When I was growing up, I would go to the movies at least two times a week. I think they taught me a great deal about life and diversity. My mindset between shooting commercials and music video is entirely different. Directing commercials, while it can still be art, is driven more by commerce. The director is more of an organizer to get all the pictures needed as per the storyboards and wants of the advertiser. Most of the time, you have very little influence in the outcome. The vision and story are in the hands of the advertising agency and their client. Your job is to make sure you get each shot, movement, and picture look perfect. As for music videos, I think you have a lot of latitude to try alternative artistic avenues; especially if the music video is for your own music. I do storyboard the videos, yet when it does not seem to be in a groove, I instantly change paths and find a shot or movement that works. I also do all my own editing, so when we do principal photography, I already have an edit in mind and know what will or will not work.
Tell us how your award winning animated musical “Empty Box of Wine” came into being?
I wanted to try something completely different than any of my other projects. Empty Box of Wine is the final creation from that desire. The project seems fairly straight forward in the beginning but ended up one of the most difficult projects I have ever done. We combined still backgrounds, shot in San Francisco, green screened character movement, shot in my living room, and animated effects of rain, birds, etc. to tell the love story of two musicians living in San Francisco. What made the project so difficult was turning the still background photography, live green screen characters, and effects into different animated looks. We used an auto rotoscoping program (StudioArtistPro) to convert the live footage into an artistic animated look. This process took six months with the auto rotoscoping running on five computers twenty-four hours a day. We then took each of these elements and married them together in editing. I have never before edited so many elements together. My computer was so taxed it was barely running in the end.
Before Empty Box of Wine, I had never been part of the film festival circuit. Most of my work was commercial directing for hire. I thought Empty Box of Wine was different enough that it may be accepted in festivals. We started entering the film and ended up with multiple nominations and awards. Plus I also ended up really liking festivals. At festivals, the films are extremely creative and different than the typical mainstream media presentations on television and at your local theaters. I also met many filmmakers and started to collaborate on projects together. Currently, my second film, The Carnival Kid, is a collaboration with writer Joey Fama, whom I met at the Northern Virginia International Film and music festival, and is doing even better on the festival circuit than Empty Box of Wine. I think being part of a festival really inspires and motivates filmmakers to come out from their comfort zone and take creative chances, which is how real art is born.
What three people have influenced you the most in your career so far?
In my quest for filmmaking, the three directors that really inspired me are James Mangold—especially his low budget film “Heavy”, Atom Egoyan,” The Sweet Hereafter”, and almost all Ron Howard films. What surprises me is these three directors are extremely different in style, theme, pace and genre. Yet, they all have the ability to forward a character’s humanity and vulnerability in a way that you can really feel their emotion, their dilemma, their desires. What I really liked about James Mangold’s film “Heavy”, the plot focuses on an unhappy overweight cook whose life is changed after an enchanting college drop-out begins working as a waitress at his and his mother’s roadside tavern, and Atom Egoyan’s film “The Sweet Hereafter”, the story of a school bus accident in a small town in Canada, is the sparse use of dialogue. Both Mangold and Egoyan use the camera to tell the story not copious amounts of words. Each camera movement, or non-movement, sends the viewer an emotion, a feeling. They both give the actors and story time to breath. What I like about Ron Howard films is how he captures our ordinary so well. He takes things we do each day and shows how they are comedic and tragic at the same time. It’s a fantastic directorial balancing act. For example in Ron Howard’s film, Parenthood, there is the pivotal scene where Jason Robards (Frank Buckman) asks his son Steve Martin (Gil Buckman) for advice. Here is the scene. Ron Howard’s delicate balance captures “Father and son – both proud, both stubborn, both in crisis, yet with comedic hope. Not an easy task.
Also, If you want to see a current film that incorporates many of the aspects I mentioned above go see “Hell or High Water” by David Mackenzie. It is one of the best films I have seen in years. Everyone should check it out.
What are your three favorite musical bands and singers and what makes them so special?
My three favorite artist are Jackson Browne, Paul Simon and Coldplay. Jackson Browne’s music has always resonated with me. His songs are real in a way that I can feel what he is saying. I think he is a very honest songwriter. He writes about issues that are important to him and it really shows. He does not try and write formulaic hits. His music is what is inside him at a specific place and time. Honest. Paul Simon seems to have the ability to reinvent himself over and over with many different musical styles and important lyrics for the current place and time. For example, he went from playing a folk song style, Sound of Silence, The Boxer, etc. and later emerges with the African flavored, Graceland. It still has a collective style but within a new genre of music. Coldplay has the ability to reach all ages and demographics of listeners, I have heard many times from the musician crowd, “they are just a three chord pop band”. Ok, maybe they do not play complex jazz arrangements, yet their music has the ability to ignite a listener’s emotion. At live concerts, the audience has tears in their eyes with their arms raised in a kind of a religious/spiritual experience. One of my friends was reluctantly dragged into taking his daughter to a Cold Play concert for her birthday. I remember him saying he hoped he could tolerate “three hours of pure crap” with a bunch of teenagers. After the concert, he said it was truly life changing and opened his mind to experiencing new music. He also said it brought him and his daughter into a closer bond. Here is a clip from San Paulo, Brazil that seems to capture the experience.
You have a band called Jour Majesty, tell us about it.
Jour Majesty is the name I release my music under. The band consists of basically me. If I have a live gig that needs a band, I call my friends, and they will play if they are not on tour with another act. But most of the time I just play acoustic gigs, work in the studio on recording and film projects.
As for my songwriting, it is all done in my home studio. My recording process is a bit different than how production flows typically. I rarely see my studio players face to face; we only talk on the phone. They live all over the world. I first make a rough musical demo and chart of the new tune. I then send the demo for example, to my drummer with an eight-bar click up front for timing. He or she will lay their tracks down at their studio and email the tracks back to me. I then edit the drum tracks, include them in the new demo and send it to the next musician, for example, my bass player, etc. I keep this process going until I have all the tracks I need. I then take the final tracks to a high-end studio for the mix. This process seems to keep production costs low, and I can go at my own pace.
How do you approach the songwriting process? What makes a good song great in your opinion?
I approach songwriting more like a short script. I come up with the three-act story and basically convert it to three verses. The chorus separates the verses or acts. A good song brings something to the listener. This something may be an emotion of remembrance, a previous life event, it may teach you something about yourself or it might to just make you want to forget everything and dance. Now a great song is a really, really good song that has become great because it becomes embedded into the culture. It says something to the masses and hits our ears at the perfect time in history. For example, the fantastic Beatle’s song, “Let it be” came out when the world was in a societal transformation. It captured the feeling of a changing world. The song was important to both our youth and the older generation. Even when we hear the song today, it still resonates and brings tears.
What advice would you give someone who just starting out in entertainment business?
The best advice came from my Director of Photography, Rüdiger Barth. He always tells inspiring young filmmakers that “To be in the business, you need to be in the business”. What he means is that if you really want to work in the entertainment business, and make a living doing it, you need to do it full time, build relationships, get experience, keep moving forward. Now if you just want it as an artistic hobby, which is also fine, do it in your spare time, but you cannot expect to build a full-time career and reputation that way. I think he may be right.
I like to thank Michael for his time and willingness to share his voice with us. Michael has several different ways you can follow him online as you can see by the various links.
Official Website: www.jourmajesty.com
Follow Michael on Twitter
Also, on my @jourmajesty twitter account, I post a short poem every day called “Short Poem of the Day”. Theses are short poems from poets from all over the world.
Instagram: Jour Majesty
Bandcamp: Jour Majesty
SoundCloud: Jour Majesty
Vimeo: Jour Majesty
YouTube: Jour Majesty
As always I also would like to thank you for supporting these artists by your dropping by and reading. If you feel you have a story,no matter what kind it is,feel free to drop me a email and we’ll chat.
Michael has very generously offered to give away two copies of Jour Majesty’s music away. These copies are on vinyl,will be signed and will go to the 4th and 8th person who leaves a comment below.