Wed. Aug 15. 2007 

It’s 9:22 pm on a sticky, sultry night in NYC. I feel like someone who fell overboard 6 years ago and is just finally crawling ashore on some unknown island. At this very moment Delirious is unspooling in two theaters in Manhattan. I don’t know if anybody is actually in those theaters but the irrefutable fact is, the film is showing. 

It is only now starting to dawn on me where I’ve been for the past 6 years. I’ve been in Siberia. I’ve been in outer space. I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name and still have to say that’s about the stupidest song ever written. My conviction to get the film made by any means necessary has taken me to some pretty lonely and desolate places. Now I’m back and I feel like a half-crazed alien, returned to the wrong planet. Jeezus, Tom—take it easy. That’s a little too many existentialistic angst metaphors for two fucking paragraphs. 

Let’s return to reality. Delirious had its final word-of-mouth screening last night at the Angelika Theater on Houston Street. The Q&A afterwards was to be the last one for the film and I was really looking forward to it. Jane and I arrived a few minutes before the film ended. I peered in and was thrilled to see the place was packed. Then the lights came up and to my astonishment the entire audience got up and left. They had to walk past me on the way out, some of them knocking me against the wall as they exited.  Apparently no one had informed them I was coming.

The theater manager grabbed a microphone and made a hurried announcement but by that time it was too late. I remember punching a cardboard cutout of Jackie Chan and sending it flying into the Women’s bathroom where some girl screamed thinking it was a pervert running in to peek under her stall. So, I had to calm down and walk down the aisle of the nearly empty theater and do the Q&A. Truthfully, I’m glad I did. The 15 people that did stay liked the film very much and engaged me in a very intimate and stimulating discussion (see Kevin Avery’s blog Mere Words –he was one of group that stayed). 

But, I didn’t sleep too well that night. I lay awake seeing that rush of people flooding out of the theater right in front of me. Over and over again I kept trying to grab them and ask them to stop. I got up around 7 and as I was drinking my coffee my back went out. The telephone apology I got from the event organizer at 8:30 didn’t do too much to loosen me up.  At 11:30 I got on the subway and headed down to 60th street for an interview with Bob Edwards on XM Public Radio. Arriving a little early I decided to walk up to the theater at 62nd and Broadway where Delirious is opening today. I was quite pleased to see the film title spelled out on the marquee. But, something caught my eye and prompted a sharp surge of panic. In the window the only poster displayed was one for Michael Moore’s Sicko

I instantly got on the phone and made the arrangements to replace it with one for Delirious. If I hadn’t chose to walk by the theater on a whim, people coming to the theater tonight would have been completely confused as to what movie was playing there. 

What’s my point? A profile of me in the NY Times this week referred to me as an “auteur with a short fuse” because I get so “angry” with a distribution system that has occasionally fumbled the ball with my films. Well, let me ask you this: what would you have done in my place today? Popped a cold one, stretched out on the couch, smoked a double-wide doobie and laughed until the drool was running down your neck? Hey, I was tempted. But, why single me out as the independent hothead? I appreciate the compliment but every independent director I know fights just as passionately for their films as I do.  I once saw Jim Jarmusch beat a distributor with his own crutch for spelling his name wrong. 

I will admit to being a little touchy; especially today. Part of the trauma has been the arrival, one by one, of the Reviews. I say trauma because no matter how you steel yourself there’s a part of you that knows without a doubt that a good review will help you; and a bad review will hurt you–especially on a low-budget movie like this. We don’t have the money to soften the blows with a massive ad campaign with billboards and national TV ads like Rush Hour 527. Sure, I’m proud of the film and I know that my assessment of its value should come solely from within me. But, people read the reviews. People come to the movie based on the review. Or don’t come to the movie based on the review. And, if they don’t come to the movie, they don’t show the movie no more. 

The good news is that the press has been very positive. Most encouraging was the strong response from the New York dailies like the Post, Newsday and the Daily News. They each gave Delirious 3 stars. There has even been support from some of the weekly magazines.  David Denby in The New Yorker made some observations that I found surprising and highly informative. Similarly Stephen Holden in The NY Times gave real credibility to the film’s themes and ideas. But here is where it gets interesting–those who like the film like it very much. Those who don’t like it take a bewildering delight in not only tearing it to shreds but trashing me as well. 

One guy wrote, “Tom DiCillo, one-time indie darling…” First of all, when the fuck was I an indie darling? And second, what is an indie darling? What do darlings get that is supposed to be so great because I’d sure like to have a little snort of it. My first film Johnny Suede opened in NYC and played for one week. The NY Times trashed it. Living In Oblivion got a good review in the Times but The New Yorker trashed it. Siskell and Ebert, the original digit critics, gave it two thumbs down. As a result, it died theatrically. Was that the “indie darling” part? Because when Box Of Moonlight came out 2 years later I got the worst reviews of my career. The film played a week in a few cities. I made The Real Blonde; it got trashed. I made Double Whammy; it never got released and it still got trashed. So yeah, darling, come on over here little honey and sit on daddy’s lap. 

The one review that actually makes me laugh is from a convicted pedophile and small animal abuser who was relocated to his online post recently by his church’s superiors. He again takes issue at something other people have said about me. He is furious that people dare refer to me as a “cult director” and vehemently denies I have any right to that credit. Hey, chill out, dude; smoke a doobie; double-wide. I agree with you. I’m not a cult director. I’ve never said that about myself and I’d never want to. But that doesn’t stop my furry-minded friend from going on to disembowel Delirious and me, concluding with this mind-boggling statement: “Any critic who likes this movie is wrong.” 

Wow. You’ve got to scratch your balls at that one. Not too near him though. This guy has an opinion. Fine. I knew a guy behind the meat counter of a deli that saw every single independent film that came to NY. He knew more about film than anybody I’ve ever met and he got fired for talking about it when he should’ve been slicing pastrami. I’ll grant anyone the right to their opinion. But, to tell other people, including other critics they are wrong if they disagree? That’s not criticism. It’s journalistic terrorism. 

 But, as Jane keeps telling me—I made the film. That is the real victory. I made the film. And whether you can tell it or not, I’m ecstatic–like a father with a newborn. 

More fun to follow.

Posted by:Tom

33 thoughts on “ 20. Happy Birfday ”

  1. I just wanted to tell you that I thouroughly enjoy reading your blog posts and I hope to see you keep them coming, even after everything with Delirious comes to an end. It’s always an entertaining read.

    And you know, I really like The Real Blonde. That one and Delirious are the only two films of yours that I’ve seen, but I’m making a trip to the video store this weekend and I plan on picking up a few more, if they have any. The video stores around here are shit, so we’ll see.

    But, thumbs up to the good press the film’s received so far, and here’s to hoping more is on the way!

    Jessica

  2. Hello there Jessica,
    I’m glad you like the blogs. As Mona from TISBuscemi will attest, they are actually hard work. I wouldn’t want to just put down some stupid babbling here–though of course some people might just think that’s what I’m doing.

    I’m also glad you like The Real Blonde. If I may, I’d suggest the following films in this order, Living In Oblivion, Box of Moonlight and Double Whammy. My first film Johnny Suede starring Brad Pitt is scheduled to be released on DVD sometime soon.

    As far as press, I was just informed we got a nice segment on EXTRA! It blew my mind. There was Delirious up there with Lisa Marie Presley singing with her dad and me not being able to tell which of them was dead.

    Thanks so much for the kind words.
    best,
    Tom

  3. Hey Tom,
    Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your opinionated and humorous posts. From what I’ve heard, I’m delighted by the response the movie has been getting. I am a native of Toronto and I cannot wait till the movie opens up around here. It’s also nice to see that a director who very much cares about the movie gives what he means rather than what the people want to hear.

    I have pre/reviewed the movie in my blog at http://independentmoviereviews.blogspot.com/ and I would love to hear your opinion on it if you could find some time out of your schedule.

    I really enjoyed Double Whammy and Living in Oblivion and please let me know when Delirious hits Canada and I’ll be up at the front of the line.

    cheers,
    Kunal

  4. I don’t doubt that one bit. If you look at the journal I have linked here, you’ll see that I am no writer; I don’t think I could write about anything and make it seem as interesting as you, and a handful of other bloggers I read, do, no matter how hard I tried. I’m just not as wordy as some. The thought you put into these posts certainly does not go unappreciated.

    I’m a big fan of Daryl Hannah and Catherine Keener’s, and a semi-fan of Liz Berkley’s – despite the tragedy that is her role in Showgirls – and the film’s been a favorite of mine for some time. But the others have been noted and hopefully Hollywood Video has them in stock, because the Blockbuster by my house has maybe eight movies total, no lie. If not, there’s always Amazon and/or eBay, right?

    What happened to being like the proud father of a newborn baby! Keep your head up. Unless, of course, you mean you weren’t able to tell who, out of Elvis and Lisa Marie, was dead. If that’s the case, then poor Lisa Marie. She’s somewhat of a fox, though she could stand to lay off the blush every once in a while.

    Jessica

  5. I was at the Clearview on Wednesday at the 7PM show. It wasn’t packed, but most of the audience stayed for the coda. I heard people walking into the film talking about the great reviews.

    I have been following your journey for some time and was rooting for the film, having seen many of the numerous clips circulating on the internet. The mark of a well made movie is that it is greater than the sum of its clips. Even though I had seen “shot heard round the world” “laser eye” “too over 35” many times, seeing the whole piece together was fresh smart and cohesive. Unity of action. Clear and clever set up of all the plot twists. Bravo!

    You have told a great story that offers a gentle message about people needing people in the face of superficiality and desperation.

    In creating what you have called “an entertainment” I believe that you have greatly increased the base of your audience. My wife, who thinks that most movies are a waste of time, liked it. We walked all the way up the West Side talking about it.

    Last night, a very flattering Associated Press review went across the wires and looks like it will show up in every paper in the country this morning. Not to mention a few in India. I hope that this signals a wider distribution for your excellent film.

    Congratulations.

    rite

  6. Well, now I have Horse With No Name stuck in my head. I agree, one of the stupidest songs ever.

    It’s sad that people do actually listen to reviewers, because they almost always seem to have their own biases against one genre or another, or a personal beef. Maybe you should do a film about how people can’t think for themselves any more?

    The You Tube video promo films are hilarious. Love the blogs, for the same reason I’ve loved your DVD commentaries–you really open up on the good, the bad, and the insane about the business in a way that is snarky and sincere at the same time, and I hope you keep them coming. I was amazed that you responded to mine, and all the others. Very cool.

    Oh! Caught Box of Moonlight the other night on Cinemax and remembered why I liked it so much!!!

    Chris

  7. Hey Kunal,
    Thanks for the comments. Yes, I guess I do have a few opinions but my feeling is this: the state of the world is so screwed up right now that I feel it is my obligation–and everyone’s obligation–to speak out about what they feel is wrong.
    Your site looks cool. A few errors if I may: Elvis Costello contributed only 1 song; I’m Not Angry, for the End Credits. The rest of the score was beautifully composed by Anton Sanko. I did a few tidbits myself.
    I think Delirious should get up to Toronto.
    best,
    Tom

  8. Hi Jessica,
    You bet your butt I’m a proud father. I was speaking about Lisa Marie; her half-lidded attempts at looking sultry and meaningful make her look like a corpse.

    Very funny link on the Gina Gershon Sex tape. Thanks for sharing. I’m quite proud of that one. We basically just sketched it out, turned the camera on and went for it.

    I’m glad you like Daryl Hannah and C. Keener. Me, I happen to love strong, sexy, funny women. There’s too few of them dammit! AS far as Ms. Berkely why is it the writer and director of that piece of frogshit don’t get lambasted like she did? She’s a trooper and I admire her.
    best,
    Tom

  9. Hello there Mr. Rite,
    Tell your wife I share her sentiments. Knowing how she feels about movies I’m deeply flattered you dragged/convinced her to go see Delirious. By all means tell your friends. You really can help affect the life of the film that way.

    I’m also very touched you went to see the film on the day it opened. Wednesday’s are not usually huge moviegoing nights. Of course everyone here is watching what happens this weekend. Remember when independent movies used to park themselves at a few theaters and just sit there for months as audiences discovered them? Now, a bad opening weekend is like a stab in the heart.

    My best to you both.
    Tom

  10. Do you ever have this feeling, when you make a film, that you want to be there when every single person watches it so you can defend it to every little doubt and question? I guess what I mean is I took a creative writing class last year, and every few weeks we’d have to make mass copies of things we’d written, pass them out to the class and then wait for responses the next day. I always got this overwhelming feeling as it left my hands, that I wanted to be there when they read it. Just so I could, you know, give reasons for why I wrote that bit, or explain that part. I guess at some point you have to just believe you did the best you could do and accept that now it’s in someone’s else’s hands, but even towards the end of the semester that feeling never went away.

  11. Maybe I’m overly enthusiastic, but I ticketwebbed the minute I heard that the film was coming to Clearview. Haven’t gone below 14th street since they blew up things downtown.

    Rereading the AP review, I may have overstated “very flattering,” but if the guy had said it was like singing and dancing cats, it would be all over.

    Consider all of my neighbors word-of-mouthed.

    rite

  12. Ah, Chris W!
    The winner of the Very First Comment Award! I’m glad you’re still enjoying my ramblings.
    This world, especially the entertainment world, is so full of hype and idiotic bullshit that it is positively enjoyable for me to offer the truth as I see it. There is tremendous power in Truth–whether globally for us all or on a deeply personal level when admitting and learning things about oneself. Thanks to comments like yours I will attempt to keep doing it, hopefully without burning every bridge ever built.
    It’s crazy, seeing some of the responses to the video clips. I love the one where the guy loves Steve Buscemi so much he wanted him to hit me.
    Stay in touch,
    best,
    Tom

  13. Dear Sarah,
    What a wonderful, heartfelt comment. I identify exactly with what you are saying. For me it is not about “approval” or seeking some outside validation for what I’ve done. The more I do this the more I realize that the only things that have any real value are those that come from your soul. And when you put that child out there I think there is a natural instinct to protect it, to nurture it, especially in world that can be indifferent at best and hostile at worst.

    I will never forget the first time I saw an audience member get up halfway through my first film, Johnny Suede and walk out. I wanted to run after her and say, Wait, wait, don’t give up on it yet. It’s a tough thing to accept; some will get you and some won’t.

    Ultimately, as you say, you must trust it and let it go.

    Keep up your writing.
    best,
    Tom

  14. It was glowing in the way that Coyle embraced the film and your underdog efforts to promote it. My search engine currently counts 83 iterations of this review in various small and large town papers. Most of them are subtitled with “Delirious deserves to be seen.”

    The review avoids the noncommittal NY Times Sartre treatment, but stops short of saying take the kids. Mine wanted to go, but I’m trying to get them to stop talking like Steve Buscemi.

    I particularly liked the line:

    “Though it may sound like satire, “Delirious” is shrewdly detailed reportage.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/16/AR2007081601538.html

    BTW close to 40000 hits on the Gina Gershon sex tape on youtube. Not so many for the Buscemi sex tape. Between the Tobey bits in the film, and the leak clips you are well on your way to subverting the reality show format. I hope that your promo clips will be included when this goes to DVD. After the Oscars.

    May the hordes descend on the cineplex demanding to see the film,

    rite

  15. My apologies on the mistake, I was just trying to write based on the minimal information I had. Regarding your other comment, that is the only reason I dislike the movie industry sometimes, because of its corrupt attitude. It almost seems like no one is entitled to their own opinion. If someone does get their opinion out, people are hired to shut them up with ease. It’s disgusting, but as long as people like you and me speak up against what we believe should be acknowledged and not simply go ignored because of what people believe right or wrong is, we should be fine.

  16. Yo, Rite. Just read the AP review. It will help. Come on, take the kids! I bet they’ll like the Chuck Sirloin sequence.

    Thanks again for the kind words. If anyone deserves an award it is Buscemi. And yes, the DVD will have a bunch of goodies on it.

    Tom

  17. Hey Kunal,
    No worries about the error, Elvis would have been tickled. Maybe you can post something on the music after you see the film.

    best,
    Tom

  18. I was one of the ones at the 2PM showing at Clearview 62nd and Broadway today and also saw it at BAM when you did the Q&A. By the way, is there a soundtrack listing posted anywhere? Great choice of songs. Was there any original music composed for the film? Thanks.

    Dave Brandler

  19. Hey, I’m glad I’m not alone in feeling the need to want to protect my stuff. Honestly, I wrote that in the hazy 30 minutes after I got up. I am probably the most honest and true to myself in that time period because my brain hasn’t quite figured out how to function properly yet.
    I noticed you got a BA in Creative Writing before you went to film school. Do you mind if I ask why? (I hope not, seeing as I just did) Is writing fiction something you would have done more exclusively if not for movies, or did you always want to make films?

  20. Hey Dave Brandler,
    Well, thanks very much for seeing the film twice. Glad you liked the music. I worked pretty hard on it. We are looking to secure a soundtrack deal right now. I still think K’harma’s song Shove It deserves heavy rotation on MTV.
    best,
    Tom

  21. Sarah, regarding writing. My first ambition was to be a writer. But I was always a very visual person. It wasn’t until I stumbled into a film appreciation class at undergraduate school that I saw films like Fellini’s “La Strada” which detonated an explosion in my brain about combining my two interests in one form.
    I greatly enjoy writing, and directing my own screenplays.
    best,
    Tom

  22. Hi Tom, really enjoy your blog. I’m an actor and I do a lot of student and independent films and generally they turn our to be more fun, creative, interesting — even more rewarding — than the paying ones. It’s nice to know there are still people in the business with a similar sensibility. I do have a stoopid question for you if you don’t mind. Minnie Driver is credited on IMDb, but not in the movie credits. Did I miss something? Cheers, Mark

  23. Hey Mark,
    thanks so much for writing. Keep doing the student and independent films–and keep acting. One thing I tell actors I meet is that no matter how good (or bad) you feel a director is a smart actor knows his responsibility is to direct himself. By this I mean, always, always, always take what you think the director is saying and put it into actable terms for youself that EXCITE and INSPIRE you–even if what the schmuck is saying makes you want to kill him. Because in the final analysis it is you up there. If you are good you win. Never bring yourself down so that you give nothing to the part because then not only does the film suffer but you lose–big time.
    Now, if I could tell you how many times I’ve asked the producers to take fucking Minnie Driver’s name off IMB…! She was attached, for a day and a half. I enjoyed meeting her and she was very eager but her visa expired and she couldn’t work in the US and A. That’s the truth. I still feel Gina Gershon whacked it out of the park though.
    best,
    Tom

  24. Hey Dave,
    I speak with Zhenya occasionally. I like him very much. He supported Double Whammy very energetically at a festival he started. He also shot the video interview with Buscemi and me that appears on the Living In Oblivion DVD, in the extras.
    Very smart guy, and an aspiring director his own self.
    best,
    Tom

  25. Hey Tom, my wife and I just saw Delirious at the Sunset 5 (it was ostensibly to get out of the heat here in LA) and enjoyed it very much. There were at least 20-30 people at the show, not bad for 4pm on a Saturday at the Sunset 5.

    My wife said she wanted to know if it’s possible to download the same screen background of Buscemi’s self-portrait that was on Les’s computer in the film. It would be the perfect Web “extra.”

  26. To Mark TK,
    Thanks very much for the note and even more for going to the movie so soon. That is a great idea about the Buscemi download. I’ve created a new page at the top of the site called Buscemi Screensaver. I’m not great at this stuff. I hope it works for you. I think you can right click and hit save picture as to download. Let me know if it doesn’t work or it looks like crap and I’ll try it again.
    Spread the word about the film. It will sincerely help.
    My best to you both.
    Tom

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