All posts by Tom


I know it’s been a while since I posted anything of substance. My heart is still here but my brain is in a strange universe these days; one that looks almost as strange as the one we’re in.

There is some activity on the film front. I’m in what can be most accurately termed pre-pre-pre-production on a feature I wrote. Which means I’m in a deal with some people who are trying to get the cast so we can get the money to get the cast so we can get the money.

In the meantime, I finished a new film; a strange docu-mystery called DOWN IN SHADOWLAND. Shadowland twin boys   It is a personal project that I made completely by myself. For the past 5 year I’ve been carrying my video camera around with me every day on the subway. The intent was to try and capture some of the haunting and surreally beautiful moments I’ve seen down there, where people reveal something intimately human in this most public of private places. I edited 5 years of footage into a 65 minute film.

The film has just been accepted into the Main Competition of a major US festival. I will give the specifics when I can.

Musically, The Black and Blue Orkestre has just finished a new music video from their new album, Hurt Me Tender.

Ball and Chain video composite

The video is the first vocal track video from us. Like the song, it has an elegant, moody, dark humor. It should be out soon. Here’s a little behind-the-scenes video flash:

111. JOHNNY SUEDE on Netflix

Last night a courageous and astute reader named Tony informed me that the version of my film, JOHNNY SUEDE, now showing on Netflix has been altered without my authorization. All of the Link Wray music I worked so carefully into the film has been replaced with some generic 50′s crap.


The Link Wray music has been legally in the film, in all formats, since 1991. It was so important to me I used it in both the opening and closing credits. Its removal was completely unauthorized and it destroys the artistic integrity of the film. And, whoever did it either forgot or did not care that the Link Wray music is credited at the end of the film. This is from the Netflix video stream of the film.

Link Wray credits

I’m asking people not to rent the film from Netflix until this is resolved. It is deeply disturbing to me that someone has changed my film without my consent.  

110. RELEASE!!

I’m thrilled to announce the official release of The Black and Blue Orkestre’s first album, HURT ME TENDER. It consists of 12 original tracks performed by Tom DiCillo, Grog and Will Crewdson. Live drums provided by Alan Van Kleef. The album was impeccably mastered by Amaury Perez.

Black and Blue release flyer

A great review came in from  Alex Green at Caught in The Carousel. You can listen to the whole album here.

You can purchase it at iTunes or Amazon.

107. Four Days of DOORS

My friend Alex Green runs a very cool music website called Caught In The Carousel. I would highly recommend checking it out for anyone interested in all things about new music. There are great pieces on new artists with free music, podcasts and insightful and personal interviews.

This week The Carousel if devoting four days entirely to The Doors. Senior Writer Paul Gleason has interviewed Doors drummer John Densmore. Their conversation slips easily into the sublime. Check it out HERE.

Paul has also written a new review of When You’re Strange which I found equally astute and engaging. Check it out HERE.

I also spoke at length with Paul about the making of the film. Our interview appears HERE.


This comment came in last week. I liked the questions so I thought I’d post them here.

“Hello, Tom. My name is Nicolò, I’m an Italian student from the University of Turin. The thesis for my academic degree is about the cinema of Steve Buscemi, as an actor and a director. For this reason I watched for the first time your “Living in the Oblivion”. I think that it is amazing…!! one of the most beautiful American pictures that I’ve ever seen. Your film has an atmosphere that reminds me something of Federico Fellini, but at the same time it has something so original and pure that, I swear, is so rare to find… especially here in Italy. For me “Living in the Oblivion” is a sort of “8 e mezzo” (8 1/2) of the independent American cinema, and it deserves to be even more known in my country, where it is so hard to get your and other independent movies.

Delirious Shoot
DiCillo & Buscemi on “Delirious” set.

If you don’t mind I’d like to ask you  some questions about your own work and your opinion about Steve as an actor and director. Thanks anyway for your time and your patience… the most important thing is that I found another great director in you which I hadn’t known… it’s a pleasure and a fortune for me.
Grazie mille!”

1. In your opinion in which way can a film be considered independent today?

TD: It has only been in the last few months that I’ve come to realize how vastly different independent film is today from when it started. In fact, I’m not sure I recognize it any more. All I can say is what originally inspired me about independent film, and about being an independent director, was the freedom. There was a joyous, sexy thrill about breaking completely away from the Hollywood penitentiary. The whole point of being independent was to cut loose, to break the chains, to create a cinema that was more real, more courageous, more creative and more honest than the Hollywood crap cycle.

Today, it has become almost impossible to tell the difference between a Hollywood film and an independent one. Both are now controlled by the same value system; Box Office and Opening Weekend. For both, success is measured in dollars. Independent filmmakers have had to become skilled at the Hollywood game. To get a film financed they have to cast Stars. They have to write scripts that still somehow will guarantee to the distributor that the seats in the theater will be filled. So, for me, the independent films that somehow do miraculously end up on screen now look and feel just like Hollywood films. They feel thin, tired and laced with artificial ingredients.

There are a few that make it through but they are very rare. What I look for in an independent film is a passionate, personal vision. I look for the directors whose main interest was in making the film, not in selling it.

2. How have your Italian roots influenced your work, if they did?

TD: I’m half Italian. I’m proud of that half but I don’t really consider myself Italian. Ironically, the film that lit my brain on fire and inspired me to become a filmmaker was La Strada, by Fellini. Perhaps there is a cultural connection, I don’t know. I mean Stallone is also Italian and I was never inspired to make a film like  Rocky I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII.

3. What do you think of Steve as an actor, and also what do you think about him as a director?

TD: I think Steve is one of the greatest American actors. This is mainly due to his talent and to who he is as a human being. For me, he brings the rarest of combinations to his performances; which is an amazing blend of pathos, spontaneity and humor. These are key elements in my own sensibility. I don’t think any of the characters I have written have been brought to life on screen more fully than the ones Steve has played. What he did in Living In Oblivion was amazing. What he did with Les Galantine in Delirious was miraculous. No matter how far gone the character is Steve always finds a way to make him sympathetic. And he does it without cheating.

When we work together I actually say very little to him. The most enjoyable thing for me is  to whisper something to him right before a take, not telling the other actor, and even surprising Steve with the suggestion. Every single time I’ve done this Steve simply smiles quietly and then leaps into the take with complete abandon and joy. There is nothing more exhilarating for a director.

Many people assume Living In Oblivion was mostly improvised. It was not; in fact 99% of the action and dialogue was in the script. One scene however was completely improvised by Steve. I needed him to yell at the crew members so I could shoot their reaction shots. He did it so incredibly, making up specific insults for each member of the crew, that I instantly turned the camera on him and asked him to do it again, this time on film. He did it even better.

Nick Reve (Buscemi) loses it in “Living In Oblivion”.

Fellini described this as a “willingness”. I think he was talking about an actor being completely open to doing whatever it takes to get the scene. I would have to say that Steve is the most willing actor I’ve ever worked with.

I think that same quality extends to the films Steve has directed. Each one deals with people on a very human and intimate level. In each one Steve allows the actors to live and breathe, thereby creating characters on the screen that touch us deeply. I love Trees Lounge but Lonesome Jim and Animal Factory struck me with more resonance. In both those films I see the eye of a director who is excited about the absurd realities of people, where tragedy and humor are intricately intertwined.

I also see a director who trusts and respects his audience. He lets his films take the time they need. He doesn’t rush them; he doesn’t force them. He trusts the audience will follow. And this trust ultimately allows the audience to trust him.

4. Today I watched When You’re Strange and it deeply touched me because I am also a musician. How important is the music in your movies?

TD: Music and film are like lovers; in the best circumstances their interaction creates something warm, breathing, sexy and completely unpredictable. There is a powerful flash of life when image and music come together. There is the potential for the creation of something profound, emotional and unexplained.

I’m not talking about sad violins playing at the death of a puppy. I’m talking about a sound, any sound, that connects mysteriously to an image and sparks some kind of emotional connection. This connection is best when it is unexplained.

Unfortunately most music in films simply explains what is already explained in the image; happy scene, happy music; scary scene, scary music. In essence music like this treats the audience as if they are morons. But if you look at Ennio Morricone’s scores even as far back as The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, you see a composer and director (Sergio Leone) working together in a way that still has not been equaled in terms of creative freedom. Morricone brought whistling, chanting, bullwhips cracking to the western as well as such odd modern elements as twangy, whammy barred surf chords.

As a result Morricone’s score created a strange emotional connection that is original and unforgettable. I am openly inspired by Morricone. I feel each film should have a sound or musical world that is completely unique to the film. I love the period during editing where music starts to come in. First you create the bones of the film by cutting the scenes together as clearly and powerfully as possible then you add the flesh; the music. Sometimes the truth is you need music to help a scene that was only partially realized. But, mostly the joy is using the music like a gift. It caresses the film, bringing it blood, mystery and life.

For me, making a film is an attempt at some emotional connection. Music makes that connection even richer.


Over the past few weeks The Black & Blue Orkestre has been busy revisiting an earlier song. Hard to believe we’ve been doing this since 2006; some of the songs are almost 6 years old. As we are moving toward releasing a CD of all our originals we’ve been taking a look at how they all hold together.

For the most part all of them do. But, one or two have benefited from a dose of the sound that Will Crewdson, Grog Roxx and I have discovered over the past year; a sound that I feel is distinctly The Black & Blue Orkestre. And so, with that in mind we’ve looked back at some of the earliest Black & Blue tracks and reworked them as if we’d just done them yesterday.

We’ve just done so with this track, NERVOUS LAUGHTER. Dedicated listeners will hear the origins of our previous track, Rapture, in this piece. But, I was not happy with those lyrics so I spent some time rewriting them until I was. Grog came up with a new, jumping bass groove and Will laid down a bed of tense, edgy guitars with a real bite.

Also, you will hear Grog for the first time singing the chorus by herself. I thought this would be a cool way to introduce a new feeling to the song; a new element of beauty. Grog’s voice goes with the new lyrics in a way that mine could not and gives the song a hint of hope.  Not a bad ingredient when all is said and done.

So, here it is, NERVOUS LAUGHTER; new vocals, new music and a new groove. See what you think.



I’m happy to announce that The Black & Blue Orkestre has a brand new vocal track called BALL & CHAIN.

This one originated from a guitar loop I made from a fragment of a Chuck Berry song about a train ride to hell. I didn’t have any lyrics except for this fragment that hit me one day 15 years ago when I was walking down the street:

Mama said, yeah
Papa said, no,
I said, kiss my ass yeah the bof of yo.
Kiss it again where the sun don’t shine
And when I’m gone kiss it one more time.

That seemed like a good place to start. Never expected it to end up where it did. Grog composed and performed a very gutsy–actually she used the word ‘ballsy’–bass line that rumbles along like a race car with stone wheels. Will took over from there and fleshed out all the guitars, from the punch-crunch rhythm to the wailing leads. If you listen close you might hear me poking out a little organ riff.

I like what the song is about. Yeah, maybe a word or two is auto-griobaphical but there may also be a hint of what I learned from doing The Doors film; especially in the area of Morrison and his family.

See what you think.