We had the good fortune of connecting with Piers Dennis and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Piers, why did you pursue a creative career?
I was drawn to art from a very early age–always drawing and writing–and I guess you could say that the passion just never really subsided. When you’re a kid, the thought of doing something 8+ hours a day for the rest of your life is incredibly daunting. I would often dwell on this thought, and while my initial career dreams jumped regularly, from being an astronaut to being an archaeologist, I realized that all of these positions were introduced to me by one specific medium: film. It then became clear to me that my career interest was not in doing what the protagonists of the movies I watched did, but rather the movies themselves, and understanding the intoxicating influence that they had on me and so many others. This was the point in which art presented itself to me as more than just a pastime, but as a necessity, and an outlet to engage and share with others. A friend of mine and I used to argue as teens about the importance of science vs art, and years later, I came to understand their reliance on each other: while science gives us a means to continue our lives, art is what gives us a reason.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’ve always known that I would end up doing something in the world of audio-visual art, and while my initial interest has been in film directing, my career path over the past year has bent that trajectory towards visual effects. Even in my earliest shorts–dating back ~15 years ago–I was constantly experimenting with visual techniques and DIY solutions for the blockbuster shots that amazed me at the time. That being said, the world of visual effects (VFX) has felt like a natural transition, and while it’s a job as much as any, I make an effort to actively utilize the skills I have learned on the job to better my own, personal projects. Being in the middle of this process on a professional level has taught me an understanding of the craft that better informs me as a director; I think it’s important to note here that if you are interested in directing and/or producing, the more subsets of filmmaking you can learn, the more they will help you both in communicating your needs for a project and understanding the work that needs to be done. This does not just apply to filmmaking, for any job or project can be improved when those working on it make a conscious decision to step outside their skill set, and try to see the work from a different angle. Art is intrinsically linked to perception, and perception can fluctuate when we make the necessary effort. By doing so, we constantly keep ourselves open to new experiences, schools of thought, and ways of achieving our goals through adaptation.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
So I’m a cinephile (if I haven’t already made that obnoxiously clear), and I love going to the vintage theaters in Los Feliz; the Vista Theatre especially does a great job at keeping the film culture alive, with its midnight screenings of classic films and commitment to making moviegoing a personal experience. The New Beverly–owned by Quentin Tarantino–is another theater that offers an escape from the usual chain experience, and the Alamo Drafthouse that recently opened downtown is an excellent one-stop-shop for movies and socializing. Speaking of socializing, Koreatown has some great karaoke bars that I would recommend for anyone looking to get out of their comfort zone, and the many open mics across town are an entertaining way to hear a variety of different perspectives from different communities, all through our common framework of humor. The LA nightlife in general can be a whirlwind of excitement and even networking, so I would encourage anyone new to the city to try exploring it after the sun sets. And of course there’s the beach–which speaks for itself–and hikes in the hills offer much-needed returns to nature with the added bonus of some incredible views. LA is a big and diverse enough city for everyone to find something they’re interested in, provided one makes the effort.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
As much as technological and societal change has kept the film industry in a state of flux, the one reliable constant is networking. We are all in this crazy industry together, and there’s a sense of community in that fact alone. When I moved to LA, I was worried that competition would get in the way of collaboration, but I quickly found out that most people are generally interested in what others have to say, and recognize the potential in every new relationship. That being said, I’d like to give a shoutout to my aunt Kate, who introduced me to a producer who would serve as the kickoff to my career, as well as my college film professor, Gary, who did the same.