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Meet the 2011 AFI Fest Filmmakers: Alex Ross Perry’s Frightful Roadtrip, “The Color Wheel”

Meet the 2011 AFI Fest Filmmakers: Alex Ross Perry's Frightful Roadtrip, "The Color Wheel"

Confirming Alex Ross Perry as an innovative new voice in American cinema, “The Color Wheel” takes viewers on a comedic and cathartic road trip through the diners, motels and thrift stores of the Northeast. JR (co-writer Carlen Altman) is an aspiring news anchor who has just dropped out of school after an awful, awkward breakup with her professor/lover. She enlists her reluctant brother, Colin (played by Perry), to drive to her ex’s house and help pick up the remainder of her belongings.

The bickering siblings’ journey will eventually lead to an unexpected destination: sympathy and acceptance. More than a mere film about sibling rivalry, “The Color Wheel” explores the relationship between two people who grew up together but who remain complete strangers. Beyond the nasty insults and obnoxious fights, they are two wounded souls bursting with disillusionment and sexual frustrations who can really only be tolerated by one another. [Description by Dilcia Barrera from AFI Fest]

[indieWIRE invited directors with films in 2011 AFI Fest’s Breakthrough, New Auteurs and Young Americans section to submit responses in their own words about their films. Get to know the films before they screen. AFI Fest takes place November 3 – 10 in Los Angeles.]

The Color Wheel
Young Americans section
Director: Alex Ross Perry
Screenwriter: Alex Ross Perry, Carlen Altman
Producer: Alex Ross Perry,Bob Byington
Director of Photography: Sean Price Williams
Editor: Alex Ross Perry
Production Designer: Anna Bak-Kvapil
Cast: Carlen Altman, Bob Byington, Kate Lyn Sheil, Ann Bak-Kvapil, Ry Russo-Young, Alex Ross Perry, Craig Butta, C. Mason Well, Roy Thomas

Director’s Bio: Alex Ross Perry was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania in 1984. He attended the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and worked at Kim’s Video in Manhattan. He made his feature debut with “Impolex” in 2009. “The Color Wheel” is his second film. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Responses courtesy of “The Color Wheel” director Alex Ross Perry

In 140 characters or less, what is your film about?

The Color Wheel is about a sister and brother who hate one another. They go on a road trip and horrible, humorous and hateful things happen.

Now tell us what it’s really about…

When JR asks her brother Colin to help move her out of her professor-turned-lover’s apartment, their strained relationship takes a turn for the worse, then the better, then the worse again when these miscreants realize that nobody in the world can stand being around either of them, save for each other.

As they drive around the Northeast, they angrily and reluctantly decide to put there half-bakes animosity aside in a potentially shocking and upsetting turn of events, that may or may not illuminate how far some people will go to understand the meaning of forgiveness.

Also, it is about how disappointed we become with people over time and whether or not stubborn individuals are ever to see past their own point of view and understand where somebody else is coming from.

Perry on his time at NYU and Kim’s Video…

I grew up outside Philadelphia, in Bryn Mawr. Later, I attended the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, where I neglected my studies in order to work at Kim’s Video on St. Marks Place and go see repertory films at Film Forum and Anthology Film Archived every chance I got. I think I led the fairly standard high school-video aficionado dreams of film school life.

What inspired the movie

How disappointed I became with people over time and whether or not stubborn individuals will ever be able to see past their own point of view and understand where somebody else is coming from.

…and the biggest challenges

[I was] forced to handle almost every aspect of the production myself, unable as I was to convince anybody to lend a hand or help out in anyway. I know that sounds trite because we all work with small crews at this level, but it would have been liberating to not have to take care of everything by myself, from location scouting to lodging arrangement down to van rentals and printing out maps for people.

Speculating on how AFI Fest audiences will take to the film…

Are there still a lot of Jews in Hollywood? I sure hope so. We have two of them front and center: myself and lead actress/co-writer Carlen Altman.

I also hope that some of the AFI audiences are familiar and comfortable with a certain type of bygone film, be it screwball comedy or grimy ’70s independent American cinema. I think people nostalgic for the golden days of cinema, no matter when they think that is, might find something to respond to in “The Color Wheel.”

But so far, I have been a really poor judge of what and who will respond to the film, so I will just show up in Los Angeles full of hopes and dreams and wish for the best.

On contemplating inspirations while making the film…

Not a huge amount, as I found myself really focusing on a specific type of film made by a specific type of man. The type of man who will write, direct, and produce a film in which he is also the main character, and what that says about the content and intentions of the filmmaker. There are not a huge amount of such films; the only ones I ever really thought about or spoke of are some late Jerry Lewis films, such as “The Family Jewels” (1965), “The Big Mouth” (1967), and “Cracking Up” (1983) and both of Vincent Gallo’s masterpieces, “Buffalo 66” (1998) and “The Brown Bunny” (2003).

Contemplating the future…

Nothing would make me happier than to be working on another film right now, but the truth is that until I am able to find people who want to help me and also find people willing to invest in a film upfront, preventing me from running out of money over and over, I don’t see myself being able to make anything else. I can’t do another one all by myself, under the same strained financial conditions that I worked with on my previous two features. Having said that, there are several ideas that I am excited about, including a medium length erotic thriller and an intimate epic about success and betrayal that I really would love to make. But I am not holding my breath that anybody will ever want to help me make another film.

Parting thoughts…

I am particularly excited about screening at AFI Fest. Starting in 1997 or whatever, when the AFI 100 Years 100 Movies list came out, I obsessed over it for years, always remembering that the letters AFI meant quality. For my birthday at some point my dad got me an ‘AFI Membership’ which seemed limited to a quarterly magazine and some other mailings, but it gave me a card to carry around, thus allowing me to introduce myself as a ‘Card Carrying AFI Member’ which failed to make me any more popular at school but instilled me with an inflated sense of importance that I look forward to finally losing when I get to the festival and am completely ignored due to not being Leonardo DiCaprio.

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