Perry Freeze, Wilsonville native, makes his mark in film world
Raised around camcorders, films and editing software, the "film nerd" — as Perry Freeze calls himself — grew up with a camera in his hand.
And the Wilsonville native is now living out his youthful passion in Hollywood.
"I just feel happy today that I'm still able to do the things that I was learning and being taught in some way or another from grade school in Wilsonville on up," said Freeze, who graduated from Wilsonville High School in 1999. "I realize now I cling to everything that I learned. I can't believe myself and my peers — all going through the school program there — really had so much support. It really, really benefits us now. I realize how incredibly important it is to give kids opportunities and let them have a voice as well."
Freeze's creative voice has shown through his work.
Freeze officially formed the company, Z frame Studio — a film production studio in Los Angeles — with a group of other artists about two years ago. As Z frame's creative director, he had been doing similar projects with the same people prior to the company's official formation. The company takes on many film, television and projection design projects — an integration of film, motion graphics and live camera feed during live events like theater or concerts, usually on some type of screen.
Z frame Studio's name is a play off of his last name and his mother's former video production company — Freeze Frame Video Productions — which she operated out of their garage just outside of Wilsonville, something Freeze decided to do down the road as well.
"There was equipment to do animation, there was equipment to do video and this was all video tape," Freeze said. "It wasn't digital yet so we grew up with that. I had an older brother and sister so we all messed around with that stuff."
Freeze attended the former Wilsonville Primary — the precursor to Boones Ferry Primary — where his mother was assistant to the Talented and Gifted (TAG) coordinator, teaching animation, music and film classes.
Wilsonville High School had just opened in 1995 when Freeze decided to be part of the first cohort of students to attend all four years.
"One of the reasons I chosto go to Wilsonville as opposed to West Linn was there was so much hype and energy about a new school having programs like video production and computer labs," Freeze said. "Long story short, they weren't quite ready when we started so there was no video production at that time and I ended up getting heavily into drama."
But that didn't stop Freeze from making his mark.
"Seeing a need for a filmmaking class and equipment in our school, Perry helped convert half of the art studio storeroom into a film editing studio so that advanced art students interested in film could have a place to work," said Christopher Shotola-Hardt, WHS art teacher and art director. "There were opportunities to initiate new things, get involved, and Perry was the exact kind of student to thrive in that environment because he was positive, enthusiastic, inspired, brimming with excited energy."
During high school, Freeze and a fellow film student saw a lack of places to showcase student films so they created the Student Original Film Art (SOFA) Festival. With the help of Shotola-Hardt, they reached out to high schools in Oregon and in subsequent years, word spread to Washington, Idaho and even Canada.
"By its third year and with the dawning of more widespread internet, (it) began attracting submissions by college film students across the U.S., and by its fourth year, international submissions. We were getting high school, BFA (bachelor of fine arts) and MFA (master of fine arts) works from all over the world," said Shotola-Hardt, adding that after the sixth season, SOFA dissolved because it was difficult to coordinate the program with Freeze and his former classmate while they were in college.
But it was during an avant-garde stage production directed by Shotola-Hardt when Freeze was introduced to projection design for a live show.
"He asked me if I wanted to produce videos. It was a musical so these videos would play like music videos during the music numbers," Freeze said. "He gave me access to the books that all the teachers have of all of the educational videos you can check out, things they put on in class, so that was my source of material. I could just flip through and say, 'I want to find a video on nature or space.' I checked out two dozens videos and took them all home and made little edits and things and we ended up have a really cool production."
Little did Freeze know, this would later become the basis of his career after attending film school at the University of Southern California.
Before the official formation of Z frame Studio, Freeze freelanced, working as an assistant to others in the industry.
"I found that on my own projects, I like to work with the same people again and again. In 2015, I connected with the fastidious Rachel Allen, creative producer, and we have developed a steady flow of new projects," he said. "It became clear that we needed to operate as a community of artists, so we adopted Z frame Studio as our identity."
Some major highlights in Freeze's career have been doing graphic design and video playback, among other creative work, for films like "Steve Jobs" and "Anchorman 2."
In "Anchorman 2," Freeze created and filmed actor Will Ferrell doing a news promo puff piece about himself that would air on TV in the movie.
"This was a really crazy moment where they wanted to have this playing on a TV behind him (Will Ferrell) when he was acting in another scene," Freeze said. "We wrote a quick script, we did some research on what 1980s arrogant news promos would look like and got together with him. It was all really short and sweet — of course, he's a major professional — (we) filmed it and I edited that together, added a little sound design and graphics that were appropriate to that period, threw it upon a little tube television in the background (and) a couple days later it's in the movie."
A recent project Freeze worked on was "Ellis Island: The Dream of America."
"Composer Peter Boyer created the project in 2002 as a mixed performance piece with orchestra, spoken word and projected images," Freeze said. "PBS picked it up for the Great Performances series and contracted Z frame to conceptualize the projection visuals for a 70-foot curved screen that plays over the orchestra."
He added that there were actors on stage who spoke as historical immigrants coming to America and in between the speeches, the orchestra played music.
"To do a projection design for a show like that, we needed something to work on screens when they're talking that wasn't distracting and then we would choose to show historical photos and do a montage of images during the music portions," Freeze said, adding that he drew inspiration from Shotola-Hardt's paintings that superimposed historical photographs in his paintings. His mother was also credited in this project for doing photo research.
Freeze is currently working on a projection design for "The Simon and Garfunkel Story," — a musical tribute on tour this fall and is the playback graphics supervisor on the new superhero movie, "Venom." He designs the video screens seen in the film.
"Venom has a lot of really modern computer labs and big projection screens, computers and phones so I'm hired to conceptualize what the audience sees on the screen," he said. "A lot of people don't realize, we actually go on set and run the screens while they're shooting just like any staging. I always feel like I'm there with the actors because I'm having to run cues just like they are and hit my mark."
But ultimately, Freeze said he'd like to make original films. He recently did a documentary about a sculpture artist and said he enjoyed the narrative and originality.
"There's no shortage of outlets for filmmakers these days; you just have to be willing to create and look for opportunities where your work can be shown and hopefully appreciated," he said.
And Freeze credits his roots for the success he's found in his career.
"I feel like I've never really made significant progress that didn't involve going back to Oregon ... reconnecting with home somehow," he said. "Where I want to go — whether or not I'm in LA or somewhere else in the world, or Portland — it's really about finding subject matter that is meaningful, and telling that story."