After earning a broadcasting degree earlier this year from UTA, he’s working toward a second degree in public relations and getting ready to open a film studio in downtown Arlington.
These days, the 51-year-old DeSoto resident has a lot to smile about. But he says that’s not always been the case.
In 2009, after losing everything including his family and home, Perry says he found himself standing on the Houston Street viaduct ready to jump.
“No cop was there to take me,” he says. “A couple of cars passed, nobody stopped. Something told me I wasn’t done yet.”
Since then, Perry has worked as a stunt man and an extra in films Prison Break, Walker, Texas Ranger and Any Given Sunday. He’s also remarried, found peace, graduated from college and expanded his family.
“Now, when I get frustrated, I just look in the rearview mirror,” he says. “My goal is I want to help people realize their dreams.”
Perry started his company, Filmworx Academy, in a room of his home sort of out of necessity when he and some friends were graduating and needing work, he says. Now, whenever there’s a job to do, they all come together to make things happen.
”It’s like a bat signal,” he says with a laugh. “We’ve been getting a lot of little gigs. We’re hoping it continues to grow.”
Perry also hopes his studio can provide tech help to independent filmmakers while introducing them to basics, such as lighting, sets, frames per second and “just let them get their hands on a camera, know what the camera’s about.”
UTA senior journalism lecturer Kim Pewitt-Jones says many students, like Perry, who have experienced a lot of life, are ready to get things done because they don’t have time to waste.
“He was a real asset in the classroom,” she says. “He would say funny things that could just lighten the class up. And I learned from him.”
Perry recalls how he had been doing some IT work in Dallas when a lighting man on the set of Walker, Texas Ranger offered to let him watch during filming. A casting director later asked if he wanted to be on the show.
“They just got my feet,” he says of the scene. “And I was like, those are my shoes right there. I’m going to be a star!”
From there, Perry began asking questions and learning camera techniques.
“I started really learning and gaining experience from them even though I wasn’t behind the camera,” he says. “I was more interested in them than I was the stars.”
Perry plans to begin filming two documentaries once the studio opens in February. He says one of the films, Freedom Highway, will feature ordinary people discussing their thoughts about some of America’s issues. The other film is a documentary about gospel music.
Perry says according to his grandmother, he’s always been a character. Raised by his grandparents, he always had to keep his hair cut short, he says. When he joined the military, it became even shorter. Now, even though it’s peppered with grey, Perry sports a Mohawk.
“It’s good to hear I own something,” he says. “Even if it’s just a haircut, it’s mine.
“Now, I realize, I’m this fun guy,” he continued. “I’m the guy with the Mohawk. I love life. I love smiling. I love being happy. [And my smile,] that’s one thing no one is ever going to take from me, period.”