Double Shot Filmmaking duo Chrishaunda Lee Perez and Jason Perez on why two voices really are better than one By Mi chae l J . Pa l l e r i no
S it down with Jason and Chrishaunda Lee Perez and you do not get much of that “two people finishing each other’s sentences” routine. But it happens. And when it does, it’s glorious. The trickier part is trying to get the husband and wife filmmaking team in the same room at the same time focused on the same topic. In this case, it is to discuss why having two strongly independent, highly successful entertainment creators can be the best medicine in such an immensely demanding and competitive industry. Jason, beginning his third decade in the TV, video, and film businesses, has worked on projects like Inside Man, Transamerica, 25th Hour, and the recent Academy Award winning BlacKkKlansman , directed by Spike Lee. Jason was nominated for a Directors Guild of America (DGA) Award for his work as an assistant director to Lee, with whom he has forged a close working relationship with over the years. Chrishaunda, a writer, producer, and orator, is best known for her work as co-writer and co- producer of the short film The Forever Tree , and the book Share The Dream: Building Noah’s Ark One Prayer at a Time. She started as a fashion publicist before moving in front of the camera on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004, and later on Entertainment Tonight in 2005. Her most recent book, an Oprah Winfrey-endorsed novel, We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women, delves into how high school senior girls overcome personal challenges as they head toward graduation. SO, IS THERE A SECRET—THAT MAGIC TRICK, IF YOU WILL—IN DEALING WITH SO MUCH CREATIVE TALENT UNDER ONE ROOF? Jason: “Is it challenging to separate that you are working with your spouse? Yes. When we do, I try to treat her as I treat any other person on set or in the writing room. But I probably go a little harder on her because I know her capabilities and I expect more.” Chrishaunda: “We’re both creative people, so it eventually turned into something that just is. We both have strong elements that serve the business really well. Jason understands how the set is supposed to go: the timing
Chrishaunda Lee Perez and Jason Perez
Chrishaunda has been able to help open my mind and help me look at how to deal with the words on the paper, the emotions of character.
of scheduling, how to pull the team together [etc.]. I am able to come in and help him in the writing space.” The two currently are working together on a proof of concept piece that Chrishaunda wrote, in which Jason will serve as director for the full. Chrishanda: “With all of his connections, Jason can pull in who is needed to get the job done. He took my words and turned him into something very multi-dimensional. It was great.” For her part, Chrishaunda is returning the favor in the first full-length piece that Jason wrote, helping critique and manage the flow of the story. Jason: “She has helped me a lot. I am used to dealing with things from behind the camera. Chrishaunda has been able to help open my mind and help me look at how to deal with the words on the paper, the emotions of character. In my 20- plus years doing this, it is something new—something that will open more doors.” The two projects are not only proof positive of how two distinctly successful professionals can continue to learn from each other, but that they are willing to do so. The key factor—the one aspect paramount to all else— is respect. Jason: “You have to respect each other and what they bring to the table. As challenging as it may be at times, you have to separate egos. What happens at home, stays at home, and vice-versa.” Chrishaunda: “That is spot on. Whether you are married or not, you have to respect what somebody else does. Jason is one of my biggest critics, and I say that with all the love in the world. He wants me to do well. He will give me my due, but the bar is very high.”
Photo by Drexina Nelson Photography
As the conversation veers toward the end, it is no surprise that the Perezes’ simultaneously finish each other sentence. After the pause, they regroup and head to the next thought. Teamwork at its best.
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