Listen Up Philip | Director Alex Ross Perry
Attention, our audience’s and our own — it’s a valued commodity these days. We struggle to command our audience’s attention, for them to discover our work and then, once they’ve discovered it, to actually focus on it. Meanwhile, we struggle to focus our own attention, to fight our society’s weapons of mass distraction so we can not just see our work to completion but fully discover the meanings within it. What role does attention play in your work? Can you discuss an instance where you thought about some aspect of attention when it came to your film?
While it is tempting to ascribe overwhelming significance to this question in relationship to my film, the title of which (Listen Up Philip) practically serves as it’s own answer as it announces itself to some protagonist whose attention the other characters in the film are clearly struggling to attain, I am not sure if I could claim with a straight face that such was ever my intention. To open this up a bit, let me refer to a turn of phrase of which I am quite fond: attention must be paid. I feel that the economic undertones here are worth taking note of, if not savoring, as it equates being noticed, observed and considered with a sense of monetary and thus very familiar and enviable accomplishment.
In my film, the character of Philip begins at a low point, as attention is starting to be focused on him like an unwanted spotlight in anticipation of the looming release of his new novel. The effect this has is destructive and results in him starting a series of events that leaves nearly everybody close to him hurt and abandoned. There is a short speech in the film delivered by Philip whose context I won’t explain but which culminates in him saying, “I don’t like the idea of being on display. My mind is made up. I want to be left alone.”
I don’t think it is a stretch to imagine somebody being crushed by economic and societal necessities feeling this way. I certainly do, most of the time. It is tempting, to want to disappear and finally put an end to the tongue clucking and tittering about you that happen behind your back when you are forced to allow others to pay attention to you. Philip does the bravest and most enviable thing imaginable when he takes himself out of the equation. To be alone and to be left alone, how lucky we should all be!
[PREMIERE SCREENING: January 20 at 5:30 pm – Library Center Theatre, Park City ]