Mikey Perry’s spring semester has been defined by sleepless nights, never-ending days, and exhausting weeks.
No, Perry hasn’t been partying like many other college students have chosen to do. While Blacksburg’s bars were crowded and Virginia Tech’s campus deserted, he has spent his nights in a vacant computer lab editing and re-editing his short film “Write It Like You Mean It.”
“I still have to change the credits around,” Perry said, “but I guess you can say it’s finished.”
It’s clear that this junior film studies major is a true perfectionist. I recently sat down with the Delaware native, and although his face showed signs of fatigue, his brown eyes were still bright with excitement as he told me about his film.
“It’s set in a world where writing has become automated by computers,” Perry said, “the film is about an online journalist named Willy who believes the only way to win over the girl of his dreams is to write an original, heart-felt love letter.”
Fueled by his passion for filmmaking, Perry wrote, directed, and produced the 20 minute long film that has taken a year and over $2000 to make. It will debut on May 9 at the Progeny Film Festival at the Lyric Theatre located in Blacksburg, VA. The event is free and will highlight short films made by students from Virginia Tech, Radford University, Hollins University and Roanoke College.
Perry, who also serves as chair of the festival, says it’s a little hard to believe his film is finally completed and it is headed to the premiere.
“It’s the biggest project I’ve ever undertaken,” Perry said. “ Collaboration, persistence, and perseverance were so essential to the making of my film.”
“The majority of the film takes place in an office,” he said. “ When I went scouting for locations, I was rejected 34 times before hearing that one ‘yes’,” continued Perry. “It was constant denial, but as an artist you have to believe the obstacles are worth it. Luckily, I had a talented team who also believed it was worth it.”
Perry is referring to the eighteen Virginia Tech cast and crew members who assisted him in the making of his film.
“College kids are so busy,” he said. “But everyone was so incredibly gracious about scheduling because they believed in the film—they too believed it had to be made. I can’t possibly thank them enough.”
The hard work and collaboration put forth has resulted in an original, romantic comedy that contains a few other underlying themes.
“It reflects our society’s dependence on technology,” Perry said. “It also touches on the importance of imagination and creativity.”
A humble 21 year-old, Perry was hesitant at first to confirm that the film is reflective of himself. But if one compares Perry’s past experiences to Willy’s fictional ones, it is clear both have discovered their own voice through art. For Willy it’s writing, and for Perry it’s filmmaking.
However, Perry didn’t always express himself through film. Two years ago, he was headed down a very different path as he was majoring in mechanical engineering before deciding to pursue filmmaking.
“I found the classes uninspiring and not allowing me to fully express my ideas in a creative way,” Perry said. “I didn’t want to build machines, I wanted to build people, events, stories and ideas--different realms.”
Although some people may have been surprised by such a dramatic change in career paths, his family and friends were not.
A fellow mechanical engineering student, Steven Tuhy, has known Perry since freshmen year of high school and has seen the change coming for a long time.
“Mikey has always been good at anything he does,” Tuhy said. “He would come home after acing a dynamics quiz and begin working on a script.”
Some individuals may assert that the change in careers was not the most practical choice. According to the Bureau of Labor, students with degrees in mechanical engineering will have twice as many jobs available to them when they graduate college than students with a film degree. Consequently, The Daily Beast lists film studies as one of the most useless college majors.
“The value of a degree isn’t based on whether or not it gets you a job after graduation,” he said. “The value lies in the combination of experiences that college gives you and what you learn about yourself.”
Indeed, Perry has incorporated all the ideas that have been introduced to him throughout his college career.
“Everything I’ve learned about filmmaking has been influenced by engineering,” he said. “Engineering is about finding the best solution to something by breaking it down to its essential elements.”
Perry refers to this method as “engineering a story.”
“I use it as a guide to come up with the best solutions to visually tell each of the elements in the story,” he said.
Armed with this dynamic background, Perry’s goal is to create films that will evoke thought in audience members.
“I want people to walk out of the theater and begin to question their previous conceptions about issues,” Perry said. “Whether they hate it or love it, I just want my films to make people think.”
While still providing quality entertainment, he hopes his art will inspire an individual enough that it may change their life.
“My intention is not to preach to people,” Perry said. “I just want my creativity to awaken the creativity in others. To me, affecting the way one person thinks is the little change I can make in the world.”
Filmmaking has already had a huge impact on Perry’s own life. His talent for filmmaking has earned him an internship with a prestigious production company this summer. Based in Santa Monica, California, Indian Paintbrush has produced notable independent films such as “The Darjeeling Limited” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
Perry submitted his resume and some of his earlier short films to the company at the beginning of spring semester. A few weeks later, he interviewed with two employees via video chat.
“At the end of the interview, they offered me a position as a script reader,” Perry said. “It’s going to be a humbling experience. I’ll be living in the capital of the film industry, surrounded by professional writers and directors.”
It’s clear that Mikey Perry has a commitment to originality and his creative aesthetic. Determined and hard working, he has a natural talent to incorporate two seemingly different spheres of knowledge. Equipped with these attributes as he ventures west for the summer, it will be interesting to see how the experience will affect this passionate young filmmaker.
You can view Perry’s portfolio and trailer for “Write It Like You Mean It” on his website.