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A man of many cards

By Brian Segna

Oct. 2, 2006 9:00 p.m.

Patrick Perez fumbles through his wallet looking for his
business card. He fumbles not in a nervous way, but as if unsure
which card to offer. The Columbia University alumnus turned high
school teacher is also a Spanish translator, film
writer/director/producer and, finally, a full-time UCLA graduate
student in film directing.

He settles on a card scripted with “Migrant
Filmworks,” a self-started film production company ““
probably because his newest cards have not yet been printed. But
those would read “MyNetworkTV: New Media Director.”

The third-year graduate student has been in charge of directing
the online content for the first two shows of Fox’s newest
television undertaking. “Desire” and “Fashion
House,” two shows that premiered in September, are 65-episode
Americanized soap opera adaptations of Latin-American
telenovelas.

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“I’m directing spec segments for fans that you can
only find on the Internet,” Perez said. “So, for
example, there (are) confessions on the Internet where the
characters are talking about what they’re going through and
how they feel.”

At mynetworktv.com, fans can see their favorite characters from
“Desire,” a drama set in a high-class L.A. restaurant,
confess their deepest secrets and divulge the juiciest gossip about
events that unfolded in previous episodes. Fans of the drama
“Fashion House,” which focuses on the ruthless fashion
industry, can check out segments such as “Designer
Downloads,” where characters offer advice for maintaining the
most up-to-date fashion styles.

“Fans love the online material,” Perez said.
“It lets them see their favorite stars any time they want. I
know Donna Feldman, who plays Gloria in “˜Fashion
House,’ has been receiving fan mail based on the Internet
content alone.”

The content has been so successful, in fact, that the head of
programming for MyNetworkTV has decided to incorporate
“Designer Downloads” into the actual series on
prime-time TV.

Perez is happy with his success at MyNetworkTV,

where he originally took work as a Spanish translator.

But that job is only one of many stepping-stones toward the work
he really aspires to do ““ directing multicultural feature
films.

Along with his work at MyNetworkTV and UCLA, Perez co-hosts the
radio show “The Pocho Hour of Power” on 90.7 FM. But he
is also developing his own feature film ““ an urban comedy
which has attached actor Bobby Lee (“MADtv”) and a
producer of the film “Y Tú Mamá
También.”

“I got a piece of advice early on,” Perez said.
“And that was, if you want to be in the film industry, study
other things. You need to be knowledgeable in literature, history
and art, because you aren’t getting jobs based on your
knowledge of film alone.”

Perez took the advice to heart when deciding to study
anthropology as an undergraduate, and since insists on taking
advantage of every opportunity that comes his way.

However, the filmmaker’s extra commitments have ultimately
given him less time to prepare his UCLA thesis film, a decision
some of Perez’s peers might find unwise.

“(Many film students) have this one goal, which is to
direct a short and get it in Sundance and their career (will) take
off from there,” said Julie Ann Sipos, former UCLA visiting
film and television professor. “So a lot of them aren’t
able to think out of the box in terms of curriculum that might
enhance their ability to work after graduation, in case that very
rare dream doesn’t happen for them.”

Despite his true passion for directing fiction films, Perez took
Sipos’ course in nonfiction television production in which he
coproduced a nationally televised half-hour episode for
“UCLA: Next.”

“In the process of teaching, I really got very few
students from (the directing) program because their course of study
is very narrow and a lot of their goals are fairly narrow,”
Sipos said. “But not everybody, no matter how talented they
are, is going to get out and get the attention of a
studio.”

Perez was one of the few directing students who saw the task of
producing nonfiction material as a great opportunity.

“You (have to) keep all your plates spinning and one of
them will hit,” Perez said. “Being a well-rounded,
broad person will help you get more work.”

It was the material he produced in Sipos’ class that
earned him a College Emmy in 2005. And it was that award that
eventually gave him the ammunition to convince the president of
MyNetworkTV that he was ready to direct content.

“It’s all about the connections,” UCLA film
and television Professor A.P. Gonzalez said. “(Perez) is a
perfect example of that. He started just by translating and now is
directing the online pieces. Soon he will get a chance to direct an
actual episode. With that he’ll have TV episodic experience
and might get TV episodes for other networks.”

Perez’s quest for Hollywood continues to only be more
successful.

“I’m quite sure I’ll be going to him for a job
someday,” Sipos said.

And so Perez can only watch as his already-large stack of
business cards grows larger, and his already-impressive list of job
titles gets closer to the one he really strives for.

In the meantime, MyNetworkTV might not want to bother printing
that “New Media Director” business card. By the time
it’s ready, Perez will probably need a new one.

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