It’s been five years since Alex Ross Perry’s most recent narrative feature, “Her Smell.” Despite the film earning pretty solid reviews, as have most of his narrative features, the filmmaker doesn’t seem at all interested in narrative filmmaking at this moment. In fact, he has two new films on the horizon, but both are documentaries. And in his mind, this is exactly what a quality filmmaker should be doing—diversifying.
Speaking to Variety, Alex Ross Perry talked about his two films in production, at this moment. The first is a documentary about the band Pavement, aptly titled “Pavements,” that we’ve known he’s been whittling away on for some time now. The other, though, is an untitled film about video stores. You remember those, right?
“I can’t speak for everybody but yeah, I miss them,” Perry said about video stores. “I’m trying to tell this story while it’s still within our grasp. You only have so much time when something is both a present tense memory for one half of your audience and a completely new experience for another. In another decade, everything I’m talking about will be ancient history.”
“I think both this video store movie and the Pavement movie are examinations of the unexamined era,” he added. “It was something I was thinking about when I made ‘Her Smell.’ We haven’t started narrativizing the ‘90s yet. We haven’t really delved into that era and asked what it was and what it meant, but it’s my time. No one who is older can tell that story and no one who is younger can tell that story.”
Unfortunately for Perry, there are many film fans out there who aren’t as interested in documentaries as they are narrative features. So, his video store film and his Pavement doc probably won’t get the same attention as a new narrative feature would. This is something that is upsetting for Perry, as he feels that all filmmakers should stretch their legs and expand their filmmaking horizons.
“I just don’t get why people who supposedly like making movies only care about one mode of production,” he explained. “[Martin] Scorsese has almost made more documentaries than narratives at this point. This kind of unbridled creativity it’s not common enough and I don’t understand why people want to rip off his aesthetic and not his work ethos.”
He added, “When you get to work in nonfiction, the longer you go on, the more the world writes your story. You can edit a documentary one day a week and it’s always simmering just a little, or you can say: ‘I haven’t produced one minute of filmed content in years because I can’t get money.’ That makes no sense to me.”
Because of these next to films behind documentaries, which means there isn’t as much attention on them and there aren’t massive budgets or studio concerns, Perry feels a sense of freedom that he doesn’t get while making narrative features. And at this point in his career, that’s a nice thing.
“There’s nothing riding on [these two films]. There’s no urgency, which to me is the rarest thing in any form of filmmaking and possibly the greatest one too. In that sense, it becomes like writing a book,” he said. “On the one hand, I want to be positive because it’s really nourishing for my brain. On the other, I have only arrived at this conclusion because of the dire state of narrative film in the U.S.”
While neither film has a release date, “Pavements” is expected to arrive sometime in 2024.