Family & Companions
The son of THE NEW REPUBLIC's editor-in-chief, Massachusetts native Jesse Peretz left behind a bass playing stint in the Boston-based rock band The Lemonheads in order to pursue filmmaking, initially working in the related field of music videos. Having directed one video for The Lemonheads while still with the band, Peretz went on helm seven more, including all six videos from their successful 1992 album "It's a Shame About Ray" (their first without his musical participation). Peretz also directed videos for other Boston artists and friends like Juliana Hatfield and Superchunk. Next came "Jimmy the Cabdriver," a collaborative effort by Peretz, director Clay Tarver, and actor Donal Logue. Star of several MTV spots that debuted in June 1994, the character Jimmy McBride (played by Logue), a greasy, Boston-accented man, foisted his theories, misconceptions and opinions on anyone who had the misfortune of entering his taxi. What set Jimmy apart from other skits spoofing taxi drivers was that all he commented on was MTV and the programs, videos and artists shown on the network. Notable was the video take-off of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic," starring a carload of four different Jimmy the Cabdrivers instead of the real video's car load of four different Alanis Morissettes. In 1996, Peretz was acclaimed for his video for the Foo Fighters' "Big Me," an inspired satire on the baffling Mentos TV commercials, starring the band in the narrative as well as in mimed performance footage. The clever, colorful video soon became an MTV favorite, and won several of the networks Video Music Awards. Other Peretz-helmed videos of note include Nada Surf's "Popular," a scathing portrait of high school life. Like "Big Me," the video was fast-paced and bright, and featured stylized performance footage of the band. Longer and more lyrically literal than "Big Me," "Popular" ran like a short movie, an updated and twisted version of the 1980s teen genre. Compelling and controversial, featuring football players frolicking in the shower and promiscuous cheerleaders, Peretz's video certainly captured the mood of the darkly satirical song and was instrumental in making it such a hit.
With his background in successful music videos and lucrative commercials, Peretz next looked to tackle features and was intrigued by an early short story by British author Ian McEwan. He adapted the story along with screenwriter David Ryan (another ex-Lemonhead) into the script for "First Love, Last Rites" (1998), a slow paced, sexually charged drama set in the Louisiana bayou. Terrified at the prospect of directing actors, something he had very little experience in as a music video director, Peretz took some time to work in theater, directing several plays to get his footing. Once confident, he helmed his first feature which examined the development and fallout of an intense teenage love affair, with subplots involving familial relations, and dream-like sequences with rats and eels. Sharply contrasted with his recently successful quick-moving, stylized music videos, the film hearkened back to his earlier video work, like the moody "It's a Shame About Ray" (1992). The first single off the Lemonheads album of the same name, this dark, melancholy and vague video featured Johnny Depp as a man grappling with an unarticulated dilemma. Similarly ambiguous and understated, "First Love, Last Rites" starred burgeoning young actors Giovanni Ribisi and Natasha Gregson Wagner as the emotional but non-communicative couple Joey and Sissel. In this sometimes uneven film, Peretz sought to convey the magic of first love and the repercussions resulting from mistaking passion for communication. The filmmaker brought the movie's soundtrack to the forefront of the film, stressing the importance of music in his work. As a reaction to the radio friendly alternative hit laden soundtracks that were the norm, Peretz sought to create an entirely original piece for the film, using songs as a plot device, not as randomly occurring background noise. In "First Love, Last Rites," music plays when Sissel puts on records, and Sissel puts on records frequently to drown out Joey. A transcendent and subtle film, "First Love, Last Rites" was an auspicious debut, largely acclaimed by critics and successful in establishing Peretz as more than just a video director.
Director (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Played bass in the Boston-based rock band, The Lemonheads
Directed first music video for The Lemonheads' song Mallo Cup
After graduating Harvard, moved to New York to work in film production
Continued directing music videos for, The Lemonheads after his split from the band; helmed their 1992 hit It's a Shame About Ray
Collaborated with director Clay Tarver and actor Donal Logue to direct the "Jimmy the Cabdriver" promos (aired on MTV)
Feature film directorial debut, the independent "First Love, Last Rites"
Directed second feature, the digitally-shot "The Chateau", starring Paul Rudd and Donal Logue
Helmed the comedy, "The Ex" starring Zach Braff and Jason Bateman