Perry Chen – Film Critic, Artist and Animator!
By Kasey Dallman, Amazing Kid of the Month Columnist
Perry Chen is a 10-year-old film & entertainment critic, artist, and animator. He is the resident film critic for Amazing Kids and also writes for Animation World Network, San Diego Union Tribune and San Diego Entertainer. He has been featured on CBS, NPR, Variety, and The Young Icons TV show. You can see his website at: http://www.perryspreviews.com . At 10 years old, Perry Chen is the youngest award-winning entertainment/film critic, radio talk show host, and TV personality, reviewing movies with his unique, kids-friendly starfish rating system on a multi-media platform on TV, radio, print, and web.
Perry became a national sensation after his debut on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, and was a popular hit on NPR with host Liane Hansen. He has been extensively featured on regional, national and international media.
Perry was the first child film critic invited to present at the prestigious Annie Awards for animation, the youngest blogger on Animation World Network (AWN), the youngest member of Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA), and San Diego Press Club, and the youngest honoree of Cox Communications’ annual Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.
Perry has become an authoritative spokesperson for his generation about movies with his insight and humor from a child’s perspective, and focus on combining entertainment and education for children.
AK: How long have you been critiquing films?
PC: A little over 2 years. I started in Nov 2008 when I was in 3rd grade. My teacher Ms. Joli Harris told my mom at a parent teacher conference that I was decoding words at high school level. Mom wanted to challenge me and suggested that I start writing reviews, initially on books, then moving on to movies because of my love for movies.
AK: What do you like most about being a film critic?
PC: As a credentialed film critic, the best part of my “job” is that I never have to wait in line or pay to see movies any more, because I get invited to press screenings before everyone else, and sit in “Press Only” seats! The most exciting part is to interview some of the most talented filmmakers (such as Oscar-winning director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera of Up, How to Train Your Dragon directors Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders) and stars face-to-face at film festivals, press junkets, and red carpet premieres and awards. From these interviews, I learned what inspired the filmmakers and how they made the movie magic come to life on the big screen.
AK: What qualities make up a “good” film? What are your favorite types of movies?
PC: Great or “Perrific!” films have these four characteristics that I look for: Interesting storyline, rich & colorful characters, great visuals, and a powerful moral. My favorite movies are animation because I love fantasy. In animation, anything is possible. There are no physical constraints and you are free to create wherever your imagination takes you. I also enjoy documentary films that move and/or inspire me such as Waiting for Superman from Oscar-winning director Davis Guggenheim whom I interviewed twice at film festivals. I am beginning to explore Hollywood classic films and enjoy them too. The renowned film critic and author Leonard Maltin once advised me to watch older classic movies to enhance my understanding of the medium and spark my curiosity, as well as giving me a way of making comparisons to some of the new movies I review. I watched Casablanca this month, and gave it a “Perrific Squared!” rating, a first for me!
AK: Who helped or inspired you to start writing film critics?
PC: My mom. She’s loved movies since she was a little girl growing up in China. Mom and I enjoy going to the movies and discussing and debating about them afterwards. I’m also grateful to my 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Joli Harris, who read and wrote encouraging comments on each of my movie reviews during the entire year when I was in her class. My mom’s friends have also been very supportive and interested in following my movie reviews.
AK: You’ve been featured on so many shows from the CBS Evening News to The Young Icons TV show. Out of all these experiences, which has been your favorite? Why?
PC: It is really hard to pick one favorite out of the many shows that I have been on. The producers, reporters, and anchors that I have worked with are all wonderful and “Perrific” to work with! I’ll have to say the CBS Evening News show has a special place in my heart because this first national TV coverage helped launch my career as a film critic on a bigger platform. Mom and I spent 2 days with the CBS team and did a lot of filming. Watching the final broadcast which was like a 3-min documentary film, I learned how to tell a compelling story when you have a lot of material to work with. Watching the CBS correspondent Ben Tracy asking me questions, I also learned the art of interviewing.
AK: What are your future goals? Both personal and professions?
PC: My immediate goal is to finish my first animation short “Ingrid Pitt: Beyond the Forest,” about a young Jewish girl’s survival during the Holocaust, so that it can be shown at many film festivals this year. For long-term goals, I don’t have a crystal ball and it’s hard to predict what I will be doing exactly in 10 years or longer, but I know that I am an artist and explorer at heart. I love animation and movies; I would be interested in learning more about making animation films. I am bilingual and speak Chinese. I have been a film festival juror (the youngest one) at the San Diego International Children’s Film Festival where 11 Chinese children’s films were featured. I would like to become a cross-cultural ambassador for family-friendly films and entertainment by introducing great movies and other entertainment between Western countries and China. I am entrepreneurial too. Mom and I have been talking to people in design and merchandizing about making products with my art designs on them to contribute part of the revenue to charity. I hope to continue to inspire other children about pursuing their dreams by speaking more at conferences and events.
AK: Do you have any advice for children who are trying to pursue their dreams?
PC: As I mentioned at my TEDx Redmond speech last year, you are never too young to start pursuing your dreams. Every child has something special. Some may play sports well, others may excel in art, or are natural-born leaders. Many kids often have dreams, but the biggest killer is NOT taking action. My advice for children trying to pursue their dreams is to get started NOW and make a difference, doing something they love and be persistent. All success is built on the solid foundation of hard work. Our parents can be our best allies. Ask them to help you find what you need (books, resources, and experts) and share your love and passion with them. Go on a journey of adventure together, just like what my mom and I did. You’ll go much further than you can imagine!
AK: According to your website you have many other talents, including being an artist. What kind of art do you like to do?
PC: I love making art of all kinds, using many different materials. I’ve used lunch foil to make animal sculpture, colorful papers for folding origami, cheese wax and grocery store twist-ties to make tiny animals, even leaves and twigs in my backyard to make installation art. To me, the most important thing is not the materials themselves, but imagination and ideas. I also enjoy using traditional tools like pencil, pen, and pastel to make drawings and paintings. Getting into animation is my newest adventure. It’s magical to see things move on the screen, created from your own drawings!
AK: What kinds of things do you do as a speaker and entertainment personality?
PC: I get invited to speak at universities’ educational programs, fund-raisers, film festivals about my story as a child film critic and animator, how I got started, lessons learned, and to review movies and interview filmmakers at film festivals. As an entertainment personality, I get invited to review movies on TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, and online, and have been interviewed a lot by various regional, national, and international media.
AK: What awards have you received?
– “Excellence in Journalism Award” at the San Diego Press Club, Oct 2010
– Honoree of the Cox Communications Asian Heritage Month, May 2010
– Vic Kops Children’s Challenge Award
– “Excellent Writer for We Chinese” for my movie review column, January 2010:
Four art awards:
-San Diego County Fair, First Place, 2010 and 2009
-San Diego City Hall Children’s Art Show, October 2009
-San Diego International Art & Music Festival, January 2010
AK: What websites can people find you on? (personal website, facebook, twitter, etc)
PC: Personal website: http://www.perryspreviews.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/perryspreviewsfan (fans will receive updated movie reviews, film festival news, press screening tickets, and other promotions)
YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/perryspreviews
IMDB (internet movie database) http://www.imdb.me/perrychen
AK: Anything else you would like to add?
PC: Amazing Kids! And Perry’s Previews now have live the first ever “Amazing Kids Perrific Oscar Pick 2010 Contest” for kids age 6-15 around the world to predict the best animation Oscar winner! I hope we’ll get tons of entries because kids’ voices are important to be heard. Kids have the opportunity to share why they pick a particular film in 50 words or less. It’s a fun and exciting contest. We’ll have another contest for kids to “Write a Perrific Amazing Kids Movie Review” after the Oscar Pick contest where I will be one of the judges. I hope to see more young film critics emerging from this contest!