Born a movie buff, Valerie Perez wrote and acted in plays during grade school but ended up going in a brainier career direction. After trying medical research and getting a degree in Neuroscience, she switched to computers in hopes of getting both left-brain analytical puzzles and creative right-brain fun. Still feeling restless from the lack of human interaction, she then met folks in the cosplay/filmmaking communities and set about on her own projects.
To help satisfy her love for the character Lara Croft, she teamed up with fellow fan Nick Murphy to create the live action film “Tomb Raider: Tears of the Dragon” that received worldwide attention and creative support. This led to being hired by Atlantis Studios to create a film short based on their new comic book entitled “Paula Peril: Trapped In the Flames”. Currently she embodies other comic characters by modeling for artists such as Mark Brooks at Marvel and Adam Hughes at DC Comics. This July marks her third year co-presenting the San Diego Comic Con Film School with Visual FX guru/Director Sean Rourke.
FAN FILM FOLLIES (through Christopher Moshier): So what ever happened to “Tears of the Dragon?” As I understand it you had some showings around various cons. I’d seen you on the boob tube on G4 last year promoting the premiere. Will the film ever make it to the internet for world consumption?
VALERIE PEREZ: Yes it did screen and yes it will be online! A rough cut was premiered in Hollywood for fans, friends, cast and crew to celebrate then screened at cons around the United States for feedback to take in to consideration (we were still in post production looking to do more sound design work, FX and pickup game action shots). No more excuses – by the end of June ’07 TEARS will be on the web.
When it comes to filmmakers and their labors of love, you often have to pry the movie from their hands for there will always be something more that they want to do with it. At that point you just gotta take what you’ve learned and put that desire into your next project. It’s especially hard to let go when you know you can do better. Jeepers, the opening Lara voice over was only supposed to be temporary but now it looks like it is forever! In addition to a few tweaks, I have DVD and subtitles work to do for worldwide screening commitments that were made. You can expect to hear more about the online release and the prequel comic book that sets up our little epic soon.
FFF: Fan Films are certainly giving the people in front of and behind the camera a modest amount of fame and in some cases jobs from the “BIG BOYS”. I see you are attending a lot of cons. Has TEARS propelled you into a fanboy “Starlet?” How has this helped you professionally?
SB: Wow, it doesn’t feel like it but when I look at the definition of “Starlet” I’d have to say yes. Since the announcement of TEARS I’ve been doing steady interviews in various news publications, websites and TV as well as being featured at events. I get recognized as Lara Croft at my grocery store with questions on what’s next and now I am starting to get favorable mentions in blogs that are expecting bigger and better things from me. TEARS has also given me more opportunities to network that lead to getting work and auditions, definitely been of help.
FFF: You are now Paula Peril for a licensed film based on the same character from Atlantis Studios in sort of a pilot episode. How did you meet up with James Watson to play the part?
SB: James Watson is the president of Atlantis Studios which publishes the “Tales of Lara Croft” comics with the permission of Eidos Interactive. When James first contacted me, he offered us a deal to create and sell a comic adaptation of TEARS. Nick and I didn’t want to release one before the film but we were interested in working with his company. This lead to a prequel book showing how the Tomb Raider first met our original character, the dangerous Wu-Chen Li. Impressed with TEARS, James offered me a modeling gig for his creation Paula Peril. Liking the photos, he wanted to put together a film short based on his “Trapped In the Flames” script to use as a test. The multitude of feedback at the 2007 New York Comic Con was that of wanting to see more, so five episodes with a better budget will be in the works.
FFF: There seems to be this whole new vacuum of women enjoying comic books. Stereotypically these tales where always aimed and marketed towards males. What do you attest the “new” female interest to the comic world based on your personal interests and then your experiences through talking to people (specifically females) at the conventions you attend?
SB: Many inspirational female characters with skill and integrity have come out from all the popular genres: Lara Croft Tomb Raider, Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Their adventures were very accessible via television and movies, but you have to turn to a different medium when the show comes to an end and only so many feature films are made. After getting into or rediscovering the joys of comic books they become open to other titles. Many women I know from the Xena and Lara cosplay circles were first drawn to the artwork, but then got hooked by the stories.
FFF: Kind of a follow up to the previous question – Considering April is “Women” month at the Bin and the fact we cover comic books, action figures, movies, etc. what is your perspective, experiences, view on what can be changed or done to draw more women into these industries?
SB: I would hire more women writers & illustrators. They bring a different perspective that needs to be heard. I wasn’t the only one dismayed to see that out of about 100 artists at the New York Comic Con, only four were women and none with a special appearance – not even for widely acclaimed Alison Bechdel of FUN HOUSE. Of course I wouldn’t have lacking the Y chromosome the only prerequisite – they would have to be qualified true believers!
FFF: Do you see yourself as a type of role model to young ones out there who would like to do what you do?
SB: I have been contacted by others interested in doing their own projects; some are very young filmmakers including twelve year old Tony Robinson from Ireland who has become one of TEARS biggest fans. For them I do offer a heads up on what can be done and how many problems can be avoided during the Comic Con Films Schools in San Diego and San Francisco or through email. To them I say follow your bliss! To have passion and be inspired is a great gift so enjoy it.
FFF: Based on your pic on your MySpace – when are you going to make that Wonder Woman Fan Film!?! – meaning you look great as that character!!!
SB: Thank you! For years I shied away from portraying her despite what friends said, because I wanted her to be done well. After seeing others in the star-spangled bloomers I finally decided to have my fun trying to perfect my image of her. I was going to be patient and wait for the Hollywood flick with one of my favorite storytellers, Joss Whedon at the helm, but we all know now that’s not going to happen. So let me announce here that I am in pre-production on a currently untitled Wonder Woman script with my new writing partner Chris Mason, co-founder of Superhero Hype. I have also enlisted the lovely Vera Vanguard as the Amazon Artemis. With a Navy Seals instructor friend of mine, Bill McClelland, we will begin fight choreography practice this month.
Our film will be mine and Chris’ personal take on Wonder Woman, but in the spirit of George Perez’s run that first attracted me to her and drawing from the awesome visuals of Adam Hughes’ work. Bruce Timm of the animated Justice League inspires us too. We are going to keep tight lipped on the details for now, but I can say a new WW costume is in the works as well as other plans which are very ambitious.
FFF: That is awesome to hear! Do you have a really bizarre or strange experience with a fan or situation at a con?
SB: I know others that have had regrettable experiences, but I myself have been pretty lucky. Most people are a joy to meet and normally I am not alone which probably helps. I guess it is a bit bizarre when, for instance, a guy runs up to me saying he has a sick buddy stuck at home in Canada. He took a picture of me on his cell, and handed me the phone to talk to him unexpectedly. It was nice being able to cheer up a sick guy I never met from a few thousand miles away. Of course the fans that I delight in meeting the most are the kids. For that experience of seeing their eyes light when they see me as their favorite character I have no words to describe other than pure happiness.
FFF: Outside the world of the fanboy (or is that fanperson now?) what films or other jobs are you working on and what do you have on tap that you can tell us about?
SB: I am also working with photographer/stylist Roger Gania James on a makeover series that transforms folks from all walks of life into classic Hollywood Glamour style of the 1930’s and 1940’s. It is currently being shopped around by producers at Univision, TCM and Lifetime. This week I did a photo shoot for Geek Monthly and the soon to be re-launched Femme Fatales magazine.
FFF: What would your ultimate role be in any medium and an ultimate budget what film would you want to make, what character would you die to play?
SB: I would drop everything in my life to reach down deep inside myself and work in any capacity to bring about a great Wonder Woman film. As far as directors go, I would still like to see Joss Whedon but would have Adam Hughes writing it. Be sure to check out Adam’s All Star Wonder Woman series – I LOVE what he has in store for us!!
The runner up would be Modesty Blaise, a new favorite of mine from the 1960’s comic strip who is the ultimate survivor. Quentin Tarantino currently has the film rights but it is Robert Rodriguez I would love to see take the reins.
FFF: You have the final word – anything else you would like to share you think our readers at the BIN would be interested in?
SB: I find it interesting that it seems the film industry is listening to and tapping into the fan base now more than ever. Major motion pictures have MySpaces pages which you never would have seen two years ago. Independent films and ideas spawned by those who have genuine passion for the comics, stories, and films they watch are becoming the starting point for new major motion pictures…there’s been no better time than now to be a FAN!