New York Film Festival Premiere of "Listen Up Philip"

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Sometimes, the key to genius can be found in the racks of a video store. That’s what we learned during our red carpet interviews at the New York Film Festival screening of Listen Up Philip! In the mid-2000s, filmmaker Alex Ross Perry worked at NYC’s Kim’s Videos along with cinematographer Sean Patrick Williams. A prophecy was born: they would make beautiful movies together along with a cohort of fellow Kim’s Video employees and their friends. And the prophecy was fulfilled.

Listen Up Philip is their most recent feature. According to Film Comment’s Max Nelson, it “carries over several of the stronger aspects of Impolex (2009) and the Color Wheel (2011)—their resourceful use of 16mm film stock; their tight, luminous close-ups;…their delightfully skewed comic timing; their prickly, belligerent attitude towards male–female relationships—while avoiding many of their faults, thanks in part to its remarkably intelligent writing and in part to its considerably sharper narrative structure.” With greater polish comes greater fame; nuanced performances from A-list actors Elisabeth Moss, Jason Schwartzman, and Jonathan Pryce should give Perry and Williams a louder bullhorn for spreading their vision to the masses. Same-day VOD and theatrical releases are planned for October 17, as Tribeca Film’s general manager Todd Green and Tribeca Enterprises creative director Geoffrey Gilmore told us during our interview that follows.  

Of course, all this talk about visions and prophesies is as phony as main character Philip’s humility, but surely filmmakers as dedicated as Perry and Williams can forgive us our tendency toward hyperbole. In addition to distributors Tribeca Film, we spoke with Perry, Williams, and their frequent collaborators, actors Kate Lyn Sheil and Keith Poulson. Does this film that “despite its careful attention to the tone and texture of the literary life, is not a film about … these writerly gifts but the consequences of wanting them too badly, or using them too often and too well,” as Nelson writes, bear any relation to the creative niche that Perry and his companions have carved for themselves? Click the play button to find out!  

Film editor Robert Greene, a longtime friend of the group, and cast member Brandy Burre share how their own close connection led to collaborating with the Listen Up Philip team. We play Stump the Schwartzman by asking the actor what advice he’d give the burgeoning novelist Philip with a burgeoning ego to match, and we also probe cast member Josephine de La Baume’s thoughts on what attracts her character, Yvette, to the imperious author.

Director and screenwriter Alex Ross Perry gave us a quick rundown of what creative professions lack the most people skills while also recounting the family atmosphere at Kim’s Videos that brought such a talented team together.

Getting involved in Listen Up Philip was easy for director of photography Sean Price Williams—he shoots all of Perry’s films! But that doesn’t mean he’s above playing hard to get.  Shooting in NYC is always fun, especially when he approaches it renegade-style. Williams revealed that his next film with Perry is already in the bag…and Elisabeth Moss stars is that one, too. We think they’ve added a new member to their band!

Listen Up Philip came actor Jason Schwartzman’s way like any other project: through his agent. The combination of a dense script and a character that stunned Schwartzman into silence convinced him to play the lead role. His and Perry’s creative process involved notecards…and watching a lot of other films!

Todd Green and Geoffrey Gilmore of Tribeca Films found Listen Up Philip’s cast chemistry, the style of Ross’s filmmaking, and the NYC arts scene culture a perfect match for the Tribeca Films distribution model. That includes VOD and theatrical releases on the same day…and we’ll be catching it one way or the other. Save the October 17th date!

Nancy in Listen Up Philip is the next role Kate Lyn Sheil portrays in an Alex Ross Perry film. Sheil shares how working at Kim’s Video taught her so much about filmmaking and how she used to be in awe of her predecessors at the job before collaborating with them. Sheil does think Perry’s pulled from their creative circle for inspiration, but she compliments his ability to take those shared experiences and make them into something new.

Poulson, a regular in Perry’s films, doesn’t think his own circle of influence in NYC can be compared to the one portrayed in Listen Up Philip—filmmaking and novel-writing are worlds apart! Biggest difference? His experience has been vastly more positive than what the film’s characters go through. And frankly, Poulson is still looking forward to the day when he has to decide between commercial success and artistic purity! His fears that working with bigger names would change the dynamic on set proved unfounded—Perry was still in control.  Poulson also pitched us Hellaware, another of his films currently screening in NYC.

While Josephine de La Baume confirmed for us that writers are known for large egos outside of the US, she showed restraint by refusing to associate the profession with the personality, recalling a comment Schwartzman made at an earlier NYFF panel--Philip is an asshole who happens to be a writer, not the other way around. de La Baume played Yvette, a college professor who dates Philip in the film. She thought it easy to understand why Yvette is drawn to Philip despite his noxious qualities—don’t we all have charming devils in our past? de La Baume also proved her on-point fashion by showing off her purse for the evening, a friend’s design of a classic-bound book! We’re hoping it writes a new chapter in red carpet fashion!

The Wire actress Brandy Burre plays Flo in Listen Up Philip, and she and her next-door neighbor Robert Greene, who edited the film, spoke to us together. Greene is yet another friend in Perry and Williams’s creative circle. Perry brought him in to get a documentarian’s eye in the editing room. Interestingly enough, Greene was shooting a documentary on Burre at the same time, which is how she got involved in the film! And we thought Hollywood was a small world; turns out the Hudson Valley and NYC are just as close. Actress, the documentary, made its premiere on the festival circuit this year.

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