Short Film by Meadows Freshman Zariyah Perry to Air on KERA

I Am Not the Norm, which will air on November 2, is an experimental documentary celebrating the individuality of Black women, their hair and their bond.

Zariyah Perry
photo credit: Carlos Vincent Imagery

In her first year studying at SMU, film student Zariyah Perry is already making her dream a reality.

“People ask, ‘Oh, what do you want to do?’” she says. “I want to be a director. Well, I already am a director, I just want to be a successful, respected director.”

Perry grew up in Dallas and comes to SMU from the prestigious Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

From painting and drawing to dancing and acting, Perry has immersed herself in the arts her whole life. After directing a short film titled I Am Not the Norm as a sophomore in high school, she knew she had found her calling.

The film was Perry’s first solo directing project and received honorable mention from the 2022 YoungArts awards. This fall, I Am Not the Norm will air on KERA as part of the “Frame of Mind” series, a major milestone for Perry’s career goals.

The cinematic piece is an experimental documentary that combines spoken poetry, music, still photography and video to tell a story of Black women’s identity.

“I wanted to create this celebration story of Black women showcasing their individualities, but also this common bond, with the focus on their hair and the everyday activities that they share together,” Perry explains. “But they're more than just their hair, in a sense. It’s really a slice-of-life type of moment.”

Perry has also directed two other short films called New Chick and Zuri. She continues to dive deeper into her craft as a Film & Media Arts major, gaining fundamental knowledge in her introductory classes this semester.

Additionally, Perry is minoring in psychology, which creates an unexpected combination of coursework that Perry hopes will deepen her understanding of human behavior and inform her work as a director and storyteller.

“I’ve always thought about understanding why people are the way they are,” Perry says. “There's so much more, but while learning how to work with others in directing, I feel like that's just going to be something that I can add in my toolkit.”

Tune into KERA on November 2 at 10 p.m. to watch I Am Not the Norm in “Frame of Mind, Episode 5: The Art of Texas.”