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VIFF ’11 Interview – “The Color Wheel” director Alex Perry

The Color Wheel - At VIFF 11
by Jason Whyte

“The Color Wheel” is a darkly comedic movie about unfunny themes and situations, such as disappointment, forgiveness and anger; simply put - a road trip about a transient, disappointing sister who drags her nervous and obnoxious younger brother on a road trip which threatens to change their lives for the worse.” Director Alex Perry on “The Color Wheel” which will have its screenings at this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival.

Is this your first film in the VIFF? Do you plan to attend Vancouver for the screenings?

It is my first time lucky enough to have a film screen at VIFF and I will be there, as I understand there is an Asian-inspired hot dog cart that serves veggie dogs. I will be found at or near this cart for most of my time in Vancouver. (Author’s note: he is referring to the famous cart known as Japadog, on the corner of Burrard and Smithe.)

Could you give me a little look into your background and what led you to the desire to want to make film?

I am a Jew from the suburbs of Philadelphia. I was born in 1984 and went to a high school that happened to host a cable access television station in its basement, where I discovered the joy of forcing people to watch personal videos I created as a hobby. When it became known to me that I could actually attend university for this very pursuit, I made the retrospectively debatable decision to get mediocre grades in my classes and spend all of my time editing my own shot-on-VHS movies. Despite this, I later attended New York University.

Growing up, you were no doubt asked the eternal question “When I grow up I want to be a …”

From the age of three to six, I said elephant. From seven to nine, the answer was 'pinch hitter for the Philadelphia Phillies.' From ten to fourteen I would have said 'X-Man' and from fourteen to the present, that answer would be director of small independent films and also X-Man.

How did this project come together?

Slowly and with almost total difficulty. I approached Carlen Altman, the film's co-writer and star, with some ideas I had that I thought might be a good opportunity for us to work together in June of 2009. We wrote until October of that year and then rehearsed and rewrote several times a week until June of 2010, when we filmed for two months in just three weeks.

What was the biggest challenge in the production of the movie, be it principal photography or post-production?

I have found that everything presents what I can only describe as an endless series of baffling and overwhelming complications. When you are directing a movie that you also star in and have no producer on set to help with anything, anything from slow service in a restaurant to breaking one of our four lights can really put a damper on things.

Tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film's cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

The cinematographer, Sean Price Williams, is the best working in independent film today and anybody who says otherwise is misinformed. He used to be a manager at my favorite video store and I would badger him often, hoping to someday get a job there myself. This eventually worked, and now six years later we have made two feature films together, both shot on 16mm. He prefers it and so do I. It seems less like a decision to us and more like an obvious choice that we need not make in order to align our films with the ones that we grew up with, and the ones that inspired us and continue to inspire.

Talk a bit about the experiences that you have had with the film. Have you had any interesting audience stories or questions that have arisen at screenings?

I received this email after our first film festival. Please present it in a way as to preserve the syntax and alignment, as what I have pasted below represents the entirety of her communication. I looked up the poor lady who wrote it and she graduated from college in 1955:



Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world? Did you have inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

I am lucky enough to count many of my friends as inspirations. I have the good fortune of knowing many extremely talented filmmakers, all more talented than me, and they inspire me to do better. This one in particular, I really only thought of two of the most heroic, brilliant directors of all time: Jerry Lewis and Vincent Gallo. Their pathos, comedy and sense of male isolation and frustration were guiding lights on this project for me from the beginning. A larger influence on the film than any director, however, are the novels of Philip Roth.

If you weren't in this profession, what other career do you think you would be interested in?

I would like to own a vegetarian sandwich shop where I have created all of the sandwiches myself. I am better at making vegetarian sandwiches than I am at making films and also enjoy it more, because the results are more immediate and the stakes are lower.

Please tell me some filmmakers or talent that you would love to work with, even if money was no object.

Several excellent filmmakers who I am pleased to call friends, including Bob Byington and Ry Russo-Young, appeared in The Color Wheel, which was humbling and meaningful for me because nobody ever believes in me, but they did and offered to help.

Otherwise, I could create an embarrassingly long list that would only reveal how shallow and insecure I am, but needless to say, I would like to be on a set watching Gallo or Jerry Lewis create. I would also like to work with Will Smith, who I consider one of our finest actors. I believe him and I would get along well.

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

I would say anywhere from irrelevant to very important. I suppose more people are likely to seek out my film out of hundreds at a film festival if they have heard something positive about it than if they heard something awful, but really, I don't want people who only make decisions based on that sort of thing supporting me anyway.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

The movie theater I first saw Jurassic Park in, which is in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. It now shows independent and arthouse films, so there is hope for me yet.

No doubt there are a lot of aspiring filmmakers at film festivals who are out there curious about making a film of their own. Do you have any advice that you could provide for those looking to get a start, and especially for those with films in the festival circuit?

Stop reading my sarcastic answers and go write something that you have the means to produce. You probably have more friends and resources than I ever will, so it should be somewhat easy. If you have already done this and are on the festival circuit, I should be asking you for advice because you are probably more successful than me.

How can people keep in touch with the film at this point in the festival circuit?

I encourage people to send me rambling, incoherent responses to the film via Facebook, preferably within an hour of watching the film and before they have had a chance to fully form an opinion. Our pathetic, infrequently updated website is and the slightly less pitiful twitter page is @colorwheelmovie. I also would like it if people became fans of the film on Facebook, so as to quantify my minuscule popularity.

And finally, what is your all time favorite movie and why?

My favorite film made during my lifetime is Boogie Nights.

This is one of the official selections in this year’s Vancouver International Film Festival lineup. For more information on films screening at this year’s fest, showtimes, updates and other general info, point your browser to

Be sure to follow instant happenings of VIFF ’11 on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a Tweetphoto or two. #viff11 is the official hashtag.

Jason Whyte,

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originally posted: 10/04/11 03:12:03
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