Chasing Yesterday

Joseph Pernice

1) How did you get into directing?
When I was four years old, I was running around my parent’s house with their camera in hand making “movies” with my sisters and cousins. Directing and storytelling is something I have always wanted to do. I studied film and television production at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where I directed award winning short films. Upon graduating, I worked in the development department at Robert DeNiro’s Tribeca Productions. There, I had the opportunity to learn from some of the most talented producers and filmmakers in the business. It was an amazing opportunity for a young filmmaker, but I knew that if I wanted to introduce myself as a director, I had to direct something big. So, at 26, I wrote a screenplay, found financing and left my job at Tribeca to direct my first feature film.

2) What is your most recent project?
My most recent project is my feature directorial debut, Chasing Yesterday. The film is about a washed up 20-something year old, a one-time hometown hero and track star, who is convinced by a local sweetheart to run a marathon and get his life back on track. The film stars Eric Nelsen, Courtney Baxter, Steve Schirripa, Blanche Baker, Josh Flitter and Adam Lefevre. It received the Rising Star Award at the 2015 Canada International Film Festival and was named “Best Home Grown Feature” at the 2015 Garden State Film Festival. It is currently touring the festival circuit.

3) What is the best part of being a director?
For me, the best part of being a director is collaborating with other creative minds to help bring my vision to life. I have the opportunity to work with some of the most talented and creative people and together, produce something that could potentially be spoken about and entertain others long after my lifetime.

4) What is the worst part of being a director?
Being a director is not an easy job. There’s never enough time to get things right—especially if you are a perfectionist. So, for me, being forced to move on to the next scene when I know not everything is perfect is the worst part.

5) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.?
I’m really excited for the opportunity to shoot my next feature narrative film, but I love directing any form of media as long as it’s a good story. Most recently, I have been directing branded content and am looking to grow my commercial reel. As far as genres go, I believe that like a great actor, a great director can work in any type of genre. I never want to be stereotyped as the director who can only do comedy or only do dramas. For this reason, my feature film has a little bit of everything because as in life, there’s a mix of comedy, drama and sometimes horror.

6) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
At NYU, I didn’t have professors—I had mentors. Robby Benson and Laszlo Santha, two great filmmakers, taught me how to be a better storyteller and gave me the confidence to transform my skills into a career.

Years after graduating, they continue to support me in my career and I’m lucky enough to still be learning from and working with them. Last year, I even had the opportunity to produce a feature film with Robby Benson called Straight Outta Tompkins. The film was theatrically released earlier this year.

Outside of the industry, my parents have been my mentors. They taught me valuable lessons and always said that as long as I work hard, treat others well and do what I love, I will achieve my goals.

7) Who is your favorite director and why?
Scorsese. I know that must be a popular answer, but Scorsese has always been my favorite director. As an Italian-American from New York, I grew up watching his films and studying them. He’s the reason I wanted to go to NYU and there is no denying he is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite commercial or branded content?
So many favorites but whenever I am asked this question, I say A Bronx Tale. It’s a film that crosses over so many genres and to me, it’s not just a “mob” flick—it’s a film about a father and son and it’s filled with valuable life lessons.

9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
I was born in Brooklyn, NY and moved to Marlboro, NJ when I was in the 5th grade. I had a bunch of jobs growing up, from working in a doctor’s office to delivering Chinese food (If you watch my feature, you will see some of these experiences). I also have two younger sisters and I’m getting married this June.