Funny faces and a 7-year-old were enough to inspire Justin Perkinson. Playing with his younger cousin while visiting family on the East Coast led to his short film “Spider Fang!”
Perkinson’s film is one of three master of fine arts students whose short films, which initially began as class projects, will be featured in the Newport Beach Film Festival this week. Though the films initially began as MFA projects, they have since been featured in various film festivals across the country, including those in Seattle and Miami.
“(In directing), I learned the value of planning ahead and thinking quickly on your feet,” said second-year graduate film student Justin Perkinson. “I used to play sports, and I feel that filmmaking is kind of equivalent to being on a playing field: You have a time limit, you are playing on a team … and you’ve got to stay focused and get the job done.”
Perkinson’s short film “Spider Fang!” is his first narrative film; it’s about a staring contest between a seven-year-old girl and her grandfather in which the two exchange funny faces with each other. According to Perkinson, the inspiration for the young girl in the film came from spending time with his own 7-year-old cousin Millie while he visited family.
With a limited amount of time and film ““ four hours and one 400-foot roll ““ Perkinson produced his two-minute film under the restrictions of the assignment, he said. Perkinson is also one of the last master of fine arts students who will have to use an old Movieola machine to hand cut and edit his film strip, Perkinson said.
“Without giving away the ending, the (film) is very different than how it was originally conceived. I came across a very different way to present that story in a much funnier, less sappy way,” Perkinson said.
While Perkinson’s film derives inspiration from his family, third-year graduate film student Julio Ramos’s short film “Una Carrerita Doctor” takes place in his home country Peru.
“Making this film in my country felt so right, and I want to (film in Peru) again and keep doing it,” Ramos said.
Ramos’s film centers on a doctor who takes a second job as a cab driver to pay for his mother’s health care. According to Ramos, the idea for his short film was very personal, because he knew people in Peru who were in similar situations and had to work multiple jobs to make a living.
“I had to learn how to produce a film in Peru, which is a completely different thing than learning how to produce a film in Los Angeles,” Ramos said.
According to Ramos, filming in Peru not only allowed for a more flexible budget but also more opportunities to work with local well-known actors. He also filmed an extensive chase scene with guns in downtown Peru, something he said is not easily done in Los Angeles.
Third-year graduate film student Alethea Avramis took inspiration from her hometown of Yucaipa, a small town in inland Southern California. Avramis said she heard about a famous psychic who lived in the town during the ’60s from a woman she met at a birthday party.
“I liked this idea that people from all walks of life would come to see (this psychic). I not only wondered what she told them, but also how the people (visiting her) related with each other,” Avramis said.
Avramis’s film “Away From the Ranch” tells the story of Louise, a woman unhappy with her marriage and her isolated life on the ranch visits the famous local psychic, Mrs. V.
“The message of the film is that we make our own choices in life, and I’m a firm believer that we are each responsible for our own happiness and we shouldn’t depend on others for our happiness ““ this is something that comes out in the character Louise,” Avramis said.