U-M grad Perry Janes wins Student Academy Award for 'Zug'
Photo by Connie Huang
With three winners in each category (alternative, animation, documentary, narrative, foreign film), the competition culminates with all the winners convening for a week of industry activities in Los Angeles and an awards ceremony (hosted by Bob Saget) on Saturday, June 8, when each filmmaker will learn whether he/she has earned a gold, silver, or bronze medal in his/her category.
Janes, who grew up in different parts of metro Detroit (most recently Royal Oak), based “Zug” on a short story he’d written about two young men who are dared by classmates to visit mysterious Zug Island.
“That’s the coming of age, narrative, literal story of the film,” Janes said. “The thematic idea of the film is that Detroit is a really polarizing place that people talk about in terms of extremes, when the reality of the place is that these are regular people just living in the city, living their lives. These are two boys who, by virtue of having one foot in the city, one foot outside of it, get sucked into those mythic narratives. And then Zug becomes an allegory for testing them, and affirming the maybe more comforting reality underneath the way that people talk about (Detroit).”
Janes raised more than $10,000 for the film via Kickstarter, and the overall budget ran to approximately $16,000. There were about 13 days of shooting, but because so many of the artists involved were students, the shooting was spread over the course of the fall and winter of 2011-12.
And although “Zug” may sound and look like a traditionally narrative film, it was declared a winner in the “alternative” division of the Student Academy Awards.
“I think traditionally, historically, the alternative category has leaned more toward experimental films, but in a way, it also serves as a category for any film that deviates from classic narrartive structure,” said Janes. “Our film - we’ve been submitting to film festivals throughout year, and one of the responses we’ve gotten is that the structure of the film has thrown off some screeners. We open and close (the film) with some documentary elements - interviews with local Detroiters. So when it came time to submit the film to the Student Academy Awards, we thought, let’s take a swing at the alternative category. And it seemed to work.”
In 2012, Janes not only graduated from U-M with degrees in English and film, but he also won three Hopwood Awards: the Hopwood Screenplay Award; the Hopwood Undergraduate Poetry Award; and the Kasdan Scholarship in Creative Writing. Janes has since used the money from these awards to give himself a “fellowship year” in Ann Arbor while he focuses on writing a poetry collection and a full-length screenplay.
“I think that in terms of the career moves I make, where I live and where I’m working, I’ll always be particularly focused on film, but I’ll always be writing, too,” said Janes. “I can write poetry anywhere, I can write fiction anywhere, and those are things that, just by doing the work, open up their own doors, whereas film - there are a lot of other moving parts in that world.”
The stars of “Zug” are U-M grads RJ Brown (now appearing on “The Carrie Diaries”) and Jeffrey Freelon, and the film premiered at the 2012 Vancouver International Film Festival.
Janes also recently learned that “Zug” will have its American premiere at the Palm Springs International Shorts Fest in June. So given that, and Janes’ Student Academy Award winner activities in Los Angeles, June is shaping up to be a big month.
But the Student Academy Award might not be happening if Janes hadn’t poked through the film’s email account.
“You go through a regional competition before you’re passed on to nationals, and we’d submitted for regionals and hadn’t heard anything back,” said Janes. “I checked our film email one day, and just on a whim, I decided to check the spam box, and the notice that we had become a finalist and then a winner in the regional competition had gone into the spam folder. And I got lucky. The woman who was the correspondent for the regionals called me, and we were able to get (the national competition officials) the necessary materials in time. It was a little scary.”