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Perceptions Project flips the script 

Film shorts make the strange universal

What brings you peace? It's something we all strive for, yet we arrive at vastly different answers, from fasting and meditation to first person shooter games and medical marijuana. The Perceptions Project, a series of five 5-minute film shorts written by homegrown auteur Stacey Rose, takes a look at Peace, Love, Hate, Fun and Freedom from the personal (and sometimes warped) perspective of the characters. In the process, the films challenge viewers' long-held beliefs around the concepts.

Peace is about an overweight man and what he does to find it while walking home in New York. The insecurity of moving through the world while constantly in his own head gives the film a subtle boil, and just trying to get home is universal. "You may say his way of finding peace is self-destructive. But the point is, that's how he does it. How I find peace is not how you find peace," Rose says.

The same goes for Hate, an over-used word most of us are desensitized to. In Hate, a group of young, apathetic kids spend a day in the Bronx bonding over how they hate practically everything they encounter. Their perspectives are altered when they run into a very disturbing and real form of hate.

Love, Hate, Peace, Fun and Freedom challenge perceptions with simple narratives shown from the perspective of outsiders. The films explore these themes through the eyes of people not normally seen on-screen as protagonists. In showing stories through the eyes of diverse people, the Perception films reveal these life experiences to be universal, without being preachy about it.

"People don't understand that they want to see themselves reflected in films until they do see it," Rose says. "It would be self-deprecating to say I want to tell ugly people's stories, but I want to tell regular people's stories in a positive light, not poverty or struggle porn. There are obstacles that they overcome, but it isn't their whole self."

Rose left Charlotte in 2013 to study film at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Before that, she studied theater as an undergrad at UNC Charlotte, where she produced, wrote, directed and performed. She penned works of biting satire and transgressive humor such as Gentrification!, The Social NetWorth and Kiss My Black Angst (select pieces), and worked with On Q Performing Arts.

She began the Perceptions Project with a group of students from NYU, University of Southern California and North Carolina School of the Arts. The films are shot on location in New York and Charlotte. Love, which is set in Charlotte, should drop around Valentine's Day. The film draws parallels between people from different backgrounds and how different circumstances bring about the similar experience of love from them.

"We're looking at people from every ethnicity and background we can and seeing how the different things they love can generate the same feelings," Rose says. For her, it was a cat she'd had for over a decade that recently died; for her brother, it was football, until he blew his knee out.

Rose expects the last film, Freedom, to wrap sometime after she graduates in May 2015. The project is being funded out of pocket and via an IndieGoGo campaign. As of Thursday, they were halfway to their goal of $2,500 and have only four days left to accept donations. Rose is stressed out, but hopeful.

"A lot of times, people don't help until they see you're about to hang yourself," she jokes. "We're applying for loans to finish the series, but it's not something I want to do. I'm driving myself further into debt to do this."

She hopes to see the series expand, and get classmates and other independent filmmakers involved.

"Media is going through a golden age, and I think it's a good time to be a filmmaker, TV writer, playwright or scripter. People crave content. They want to see stories and not be guided by the Hollywood machine that for so long has been telling people what they should want and not the other way around."

Rose hopes to open a production studio in Charlotte someday, but for now?

"I plan to go where the work takes me. People love stories; all these viral videos wouldn't be so popular if people didn't love short stories," she says.

See Perceptions Project trailers at http://vimeo.com/user32366603.
Donations can be made at http://www.igg.me/at/TPP.

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