Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Interview: Student Academy Award winner Perry Janes

Perry Janes poses with a
Student Academy Award.
Photo by Matt Petit/©A.M.P.A.S.®
By James A. Molnar
TGK Editor

A University of Michigan grad was among 16 students honored at the 40th Annual Student Academy Awards on June 8.

Perry Janes, a 2012 University of Michigan film and English graduate, received the silver medal in the alternative category for his short film “Zug.” Janes was the first student honored from the university by the Academy, which started the awards in 1973.

“Zug,” a film based on Janes’ short story of the same name, follows two guys who complete a dare by visiting the mysterious Zug Island, a real man-made island along the River Rouge and Detroit River near Detroit.

“A lot of my work has been invested in telling stories and exploring the other stories that are told about Detroit,” Janes said in an interview with The Gold Knight. “The stories being told about Detroit and the images that are being put out there are often inauthentic or manipulative or repetitive.”

Janes, of Royal Oak, Mich., said “Zug” was a way of tackling this narrative and addressing misconceptions about Detroit head on.

While visiting the island in the film, the two guys investigate the truth behind the myth and urban legend that surrounds Zug Island.

“What they find is really a much more humble truth, in reality,” said Janes, 23. “For the characters, it’s meant to be an incredibly affirming moment.

“‘Zug’ in the story is meant to be an allegory for all of the many stories and images that get put out there about Detroit that are kind of larger than life or that are scary or that are negative. And I kind of wanted to return that to a more authentic, kind of human story,” he said.

Janes filmed the 20-minute short during the fall semester of his senior year as part of a thesis project.

Wearing a Michigan pin on his lapel, Janes accepted the engraved trophy affixed with a silver medallion. During his speech, he thanked his college mentor, Terri Sarris.

“I’d like to thank all of my professors and mentors from the University of Michigan, chief among whom is Terri Sarris, my mentor, my thesis adviser, my friend,” he said on June 8. “I’m very lucky to have had her as a part of my formative growth as a filmmaker.”

Sarris, a senior lecturer in production at the university, said she was tickled to be mentioned by Janes in his speech.

In an interview with The Gold Knight, Sarris called “Zug” an amazing accomplishment. It was given highest honors by the university, which Sarris said is evidence of Janes being a great director.

When Sarris first met Janes in an intro level class, she could see his potential.

“He distinguished himself quite early,” she said. “We’re very proud of him.”

Janes’ Student Academy Award includes a $3,000 cash grant.

“It been kind of a week from a dream,” Janes said from California.

Leading up to the ceremony, the winning students were taken to Walt Disney Animation Studios to met animators. They went to the Sundance Institute, met with film executives at Lionsgate and enjoyed a fancy dinner at Spago.

“It’s incredibly encouraging and the whole week out here was really — without any sense of hyperbole — one of more memorable weeks of my life,” he said.

“Zug” will screen June 22 as part of the Palm Springs International ShortFest in Palm Springs, Calif.

Find more information about the Student Academy Awards on

This article was first published in Toledo Free Press.
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