The director’s cut

Matt Perry

Midtown resident Matt Perry, a digital video editor and graphic artist for an Auburn multimedia/e-commerce company, is also an independent filmmaker with a master’s from NYU’s film school. His 18-minute short Simulacrum, about a man who inherits a mannequin factory and gets seduced by the fashion world, won First Prize in the “Homegrown” category at the 1996 Sacramento Festival of Cinema. Perry also wrote, directed and edited the 28-minute Heartbeat, a coronary comedy cum drama that screened at last year’s Festival of Cinema and at the recent East Lansing Film Festival; it opens the Beverly Hills Film Festival on April 19th.

Let’s begin with your elevator pitch of Heartbeat.

OK. A callous, overweight pilot survives the crash of his Life Flight helicopter and must race against time to deliver a transplanted heart on foot. He’s an ordinary guy thrust into an extraordinary situation. And then something very strange happens—the heart begins to talk to him. Timothy Busfield is the heart. They discuss life, love, orgasms, suicide and other matters of the heart.

Sounds like a modern existential Twilight Zone episode. Except for the orgasms.

Yeah, I guess you’re right. But isn’t every story really an existential one? I know this sounds totally corny, but I have always felt it is a privilege to be a filmmaker, to use that frame to explore the world we live in. I’m always interested in what’s beneath the surface. At the same time, I like to make movies that entertain people. It’s like John Cassavetes said in the TV show Johnny Staccato. He’s a piano player in a jumpin’ ‘50s Village jazz joint. “This hand’s for commerce,” he says. “This one’s for art.” I like that.

Why shoot in black and white?

Because I wanted it to look gritty and realistic and get underneath your skin, like a good documentary. You got a problem with that?

Not at all. What equipment did you use to shoot and edit?

We shot on 16-millimeter film. I edited it on a non-linear computer editing system. Then I did all the post-production sound right on my Macintosh using Adobe Premiere. Everything was done cheaply except for the film. Guess what I won’t be using on my next project?

Any trips to the sperm or plasma banks to finance this project?

Every independent filmmaker in recent history has tried to invent the most preposterous story on how he financed his film. I don’t believe most of them. How about: “I let leeches suck the blood from my legs at a medieval-science symposium to finance my film!” The truth is, I raised about half the money through donations from family and friends, and a bit more from corporations affiliated with organ donation—though that was a very hard sell. I mean, let’s be serious, I’ve got a talking heart here. The rest of the money came from a very powerful completion bond company. Thanks, Mom.

You have said: “I think all my films, in a strange way, are about my father.”

That was so weird when I realized that. My father died at 60 of a dissecting aneurysm of the aorta—basically his main heart artery split from the inside out. Heartbeat obviously references his death, although I never consciously made the connection until recently. My last short film opens with the main character receiving the news, by phone, of his father’s death, just like I did. I was too young when my dad died to deal with all those issues, so I guess I’ve done it in my films.

What did you learn about yourself during this production?

I learned that I was exactly like Arnie [the pilot]—someone who was sometimes callous and uncaring and needed an ordeal to find the heart within. My ordeal was the birth of my twins, who have taught me everything I know about love.

Your official Web site ( includes organ-donor links.

Yeah, the movie works as fantasy, but beyond that is the hard fact that hundreds and hundreds of people die every year waiting for organs because there just aren’t enough donors out there. We wanted to tell people that this wasn’t just a film, but something to think about the next time you went to the DMV.

When did you first become a donor cardholder?

Always. But the one thing I don’t check is “body for medical study.” I know that sounds stupid but I’ve heard stories about those wacky medical students! On a serious note, even if you sign your donor card, they would never take your organs until they get consent from your family. So your family needs to know, too.

What’s next?

I’m heading to Hollywood to try to sell them a script about race relations in America. It’s about a white guy who is too uptight and reserved and needs to bust out of his dull middle-class life. So he wants to be black. You know what I mean, brother?