Showcase Filmmaker Spotlight: Josh Perrin
By Travis Trew, Programming Associate
Tom’s River, New Jersey native Josh Perrin moved to Philly to attend The Art Institute of Philadelphia, where he honed his skills in animation, graphic design, and video. His short Smoking and You is a humorous PSA parody following a hapless loser whose cigarette addiction leads to some nasty side effects.
PFS: Had you always been making visual art and drawing?
JP: As a kid, I drew a lot but then I took a long time off—maybe fifth grade to my sophomore year in high school. But it picked back up. I got really into music in my freshman year of high school and started playing guitar, and that kind of boosted my creative flow back. I’ve been doing art since.
PFS: Had you always been a fan of animation? Did you grow up watching cartoons or anything like that?
JP: Yeah, totally. I grew up watching 90s cartoons. The great ones: Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and of course I remember watching Beavis and Butthead as a little kid. But I never really was a huge fan of any particular animators. Even still, I shamefully have to admit that I don’t know too many animators. I kind of do my own thing and I’m inspired by film directors, and live action films, and other forms of art.
PFS: Which directors or filmmakers inspire you the most?
JP: Definitely David Lynch. I got really into him while in school. Stanley Kubrick is also a huge one. Anything that’s psychological, enticing, thrilling, and, you know, just weird.
PFS: So tell me how you came up with the concept for Smoking and You while you were in school.
JP: It all revolved around the main character, which started off as a character that I pitched for a group project. He was supposed to be this man-child because our group project was supposed to be about a wacky family. I pitched this character and they didn’t like it, but some people in my group were like, ”Yo, you have to do something with that guy. He’s awesome.” So I was like, “Alright, I’ll use him for a different project then.” So I was assigned to do a sequence and I used him for that. The character is based around this awful roommate I had while I was in school. Luckily, I got away from him before anything really bad happened, but I was able to turn that situation into something good and use that guy as an influence for this character and for this animation.
PFS: How exactly did the roommate influence the character?
JP: He’s everything that the character is. He was this older guy who was just a total loser and his smoking habits drove me crazy. I already hated smoking before that, but that was my influence for the PSA concept. This guy just doesn’t learn, and look what happens to him in the end.
PFS: Where did the name on the headstone come from?
JP: That’s actually that guy’s name. I just tweaked it.
PFS: The narration really makes the movie.Who did that?
JP: That was one of my professors. His name is Bill Martone. I had him in one of my first quarters of school. He told us that he had done voiceovers before, so I had that in mind. I thought he had a great old man voice. When it came time for this project, I wanted that duality between the wise old man and this loser guy that just doesn’t learn. I think it made a really good contrast to have this guy narrate it, so I had him in mind the whole time. It’s a funny story because for about a year I had been trying to get him to do this. We set up times and he just could never be at the place we’d agreed on, and it was driving me crazy. Then I got really lucky because he was supposed to be in Arizona or someplace like that, and at the time there was some wildfire so he had to come back to Philly. He wasn’t even teaching, but he just happened to be in the building doing some promotional thing for the school and I happened to run into him. So I was like ”Hey, you gonna be around?” I just kind of captured him. It was a feat.
PFS: How long did it take to make the film from start to finish?
JP: I did about 80% of it after finishing school. It took me a whole winter, really. I was just headstrong on this project. Because as an animator it’s very hard to get a job around here. I wanted to have something to show instead of just my crappy highlight reel from school. I had a couple clips from school, but they weren’t even completed or fully drawn. I had a lot of free time after school because I was unemployed, so I decided to go with it and get the film done so I’d have something to show for myself. The school that I went to doesn’t really push having something complete. So I took it upon myself to make sure I had something completed to show.
PFS: It’s definitely a good calling card. Did it work? Did it get you a job?
JP: No, it didn’t. This was done in 2017 and I didn’t even get my first screening until this past winter so it almost took a whole year until an actual audience saw it.
PFS: Well, you’ve got it to show people forevermore so that’s cool.
JP: Yes, I’m very proud of it.
PFS: What are you working on now?
JP: Nothing animation or film-wise. I’m really just doing a lot of painting, and graphic art, and music because I’m putting out an album this summer. My band is doing their first full-length album and I’m responsible for all of the artwork, so that keeps me very busy. But no animation. I would love to do animation in the music video, that’s one of my ideas.
PFS: Any plans to bring that character back from the dead?
JP: Yeah, actually. I’d love to do different kinds of PSAs with him. That’s just a little bit in the future because there’s got to be some sort of goal for them. I’m not just going to do it like I did before, just for myself. That took too long and I have so much other stuff going on, but I’d love to do a web comic with that character and just use his awkwardness as the central comedic point.
Smoking and You screened on Thursday, June 14 at the Prince Theater’s Black Box as part of Philly Film Showcase, an exhibition supporting new work by talented, up-and-coming local filmmakers.