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Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #9: Alex Ross Perry Examines Narcissists and New Yorkers in ‘Listen Up Philip’

Meet the 2014 Sundance Filmmakers #9: Alex Ross Perry Examines Narcissists and New Yorkers in 'Listen Up Philip'

Alex Ross Perry graduated from NYU in 2006 and worked at Kim’s Video in Manhattan for three years. He made his first film “Implotex” in 2009. His second film, “The Color Wheel,” played in theaters in America and France in 2012 and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award. Referring to “The Color Wheel,” Perry says it was a film “that many people responded quite positively to.” He also told us, “Sometimes I feel very lucky.” 

What it’s about: “The miseries and mistakes made by a newly successful writer and all the
ways in which his poor decision-making affects the other people in his

What it’s really about: “Success, betrayal and the triumph of reality over the human spirit. ‘Listen Up Philip’ is about how nothing ever happens to just one person. True narcissists will be unaware of the negative affects their behavior
has on the people left in their wake; they will simply move forward
thinking only of themselves. The film follows this progression from
character to character as a way of observing the miasma of misery that
can be caused by a charismatic, talented and intelligent individual.”

Biggest challenge: “This film has sort of been a dream from start to finish, so I will
never have much to say about it being challenging. I guess if I had to
pick something it would be the whip speed timeline we have been on with
this film. But then it would sound like I am complaining that we get to
have a reason to finish it so quickly, which I am not.”
Any films inspire you? “Yeah of course – plenty of things since I watch a lot of movies. But by
the time you get on set it pretty much has to be distilled to just what I
need to make this thing at the moment. The fun part of this film was
having many talented department heads working expertly on one specific
aspect. I made sure the production designer watched ‘Rich Kids’  (1979) and ‘Heart’ (1987) in order to make sure that our New York doesn’t
overstep the Golden Age that I fetishize the most. Then the
cinematographer can watch ‘Husbands and Wives’ (1992) for camera operating
and lighting ideas while I watch ‘We Won’t Grow Old Together’ (1972) with
actors, and contemplate the misery and torment of artistic struggle.”
Cameras used: “We shot this on an Aaton, just like both of my previous films. They were
both regular 16mm but this was Super 16mm so we had to rent a different
camera, but still an Aaton!”
Did you crowdfund? “No. I guess we just didn’t need to.”
Hopes for Sundance audience take-away: “I hope that people respond to some of the stranger risks I feel like we
have taken with this film. A lot of films that people get the chance to
see at festivals (my own previous work included) follow a very
traditional structure or, in some cases, are made in a very polished way
that hits the eye the way your average film at the multiplex might.
With ‘Listen Up Philip,’ I have done neither of those things. The
structure of the film is pretty radical and may be perplexing to some
and the visual syntax in which you see these actors is perhaps going to
seem strange and unfamiliar. I’d hope that people find this intriguing – or at least tolerable.”
What’s next? “It took about a year to make this movie and that was with a
pre-existing, finished and strong script. Since I do not have another
one of those at the moment, I imagine it might take a moment for me to
gear up again for my 18th-century cryptozoology epic or my 60s French
pop musical.”

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us
about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they
faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses
leading up to the 2014 festival.
For profiles go HERE.

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