October 22, 2009

Just as my brain recovers from the trip to Deauville someone sneaks up from behind and thwacks it with a giant tennis racket. As a result it lands in San Sebastian, Spain about 7 hours before me and stubbornly keeps its distance. The 5 days there play like a slightly damaged DVD with only flashes of coherence breaking through.

This shot from the hotel window does a little bit to help convince me I was there.

Hotel window

The modern structure is the Kursaal, the festival's 1800 seat theatre. Beyond it is the Atlantic Ocean. The waves are long and sloping and can get massive. Even on a cloudy, rainy day there are at least 100 surfers in the water.

San Sebastian is considered the smallest of the A-List festivals just after Cannes, Berlin and Venice. It gets the big films and celebrities (Tarantino and Brad Pitt were there the day before I arrived) but there is none of the attending bullshit. This gives the festival the rare combination of both glamor and intimacy.

Tom DiCillo and Pepe Colubi

My friend Pepe Colubi arrives from Barcelona. He's a free-lance journalist and novelist. He's following me around for a day doing a short piece for the Spanish daily El Pais. Pepe lived for a year in LA in 1983 and is still severely addicted to California surf culture (among other substances). In the hotel lobby he shows my wife Jane and me how to drink an iced double espresso. Pour the hot espresso into a glass of ice. Quickly drink the hot-cold concoction in one gulp. Wait three seconds for the caffeine rush that hits like a snort of coke.

A woman walks up to our table, points at me and exclaims, "Gilipollas!" I'm about to thank her when Pepe informs me this is Spanish for a part of the human anatomy where the sun seldom shines. When she staggers back against the wall I realize she is drunk. She lurches in for another round of invective before hotel security arrives and escorts her out.

The caffeine buzz and and a shot of scotch get us across the street and into the theatre. To my amazement it is almost full; at least 1300 people have shown up at 4:30 in the afternoon.  The film plays to almost complete silence. But, again as in Deauville, no one walks out. At the end a huge, lengthy ovation so passionate it startles me.

The press conference afterwards starts quietly. My brain had not informed me it was taking the day off. It's not until a journalist asks me what I learned from the film that something stirs awake in me.

"I learned that it is OK to believe so strongly in something that success is irrelevant. The Doors music has never been heard in a commercial. I am hugely inspired by that; especially today when literally everything is for sale."

Or something like that. You can fast forward through it here.

Afterwards a quick photo session on the promenade just above the beach. Behind me the waves are incredible. In the afternoon sun the water looks like blue jello. All I can think about is getting in it.

When You’re Strange photo call

Jim Jarmusch is at the festival with his most recent film, The Limits of Control. He and Sara Driver come to the screening of When You're Strange. At dinner afterwards they both express how much they were impressed by and moved by the film.  I've known Jim since 1976. Although we both live in NYC sometimes years go by without us seeing each other. Here in San Sebastian, 4000 miles from home, we sit and talk and it is like nothing has changed. He shows me and Pepe a card trick with no cards.

post screening dinner

There is an unusual press event the next morning. In an indoor studio a line of tables has been set up on a fake street set. A number of filmmakers are seated at these tables as if we are at an outdoor cafe. An audience sits before us. Some guy is playing cocktail music on a piano. I'm not sure if it's my hangover, the jetlag or what he's playing but the gooey, lite-jazz coming from the piano is beginning to induce dizziness and nausea.

The show is filmed live. The host, a very well informed Spanish TV journalist, goes from table to table doing lengthy interviews with each filmmaker. I'm number four. This gives me time to observe that there is something oddly absurd about this complete stranger coming up to tables at an "outdoor cafe" and just sitting down uninvited. I guess this is what prompts my response when he sits down beside me and asks, "So, Tom DiCillo, When You're Strange. What can you tell us?"The killer beer

"Well," I say, "What I can tell you is that the service at this place is terrible. I ordered a beer two hours ago and I'm still waiting for it."

The audience laughs. They get the joke. Clearly I had not ordered a beer because it is not a real cafe. But the host's laugh is tense and uneasy. He says he will take care of it and then explains that the guy at the piano has been playing Light My Fire for 45 minutes. The news floors me. All I can think is thank god Ray Manzarek is not here to hear it.

Two minutes later, to my horror, a real beer is set upon my "table." The audience applauds. Of course the expectation--even at 9:30 in the morning--is that I drink it.

I raise the glass and take a sip. The audience applauds again. I smile grimly and set the glass back down, exerting great effort not to show the effect the beer has gurgling and fizzling down into my empty stomach.

I had honestly thought it was a good line.

That night a drunken Basque woman crawls out from beneath my bed and stabs me in the teeth with a cocktail swordfish. I open my eyes and I'm driving north in the rain on the New York Thruway. When You're Strange is showing in 6 hours at the Woodstock Film Festival.

Festival co-founder Meira Blaustein had seen the film at the LA Film Festival. She liked it so much she immediately phoned me with an invitation. And immediately, I said yes. Woodstock has emerged as one of this country's most unique and exciting festivals in the 10 years since Blaustein founded it with her partner, Laurent Rejto. Because of their profound commitment to film the festival attracts impressive attendance from actors and players in both the independent film world and Hollywood.

The festival headquarters is in an old bar/coffee shop just off the main street. There is a quick request for a radio interview. Just before we go live the producer urgently reminds me not to say "the  F word."

"I thought this was Woodstock," I mutter.

"This is a Republican funded radio station."

During the interview all I can think about is the F word. Will I say it? Should I say it? Did I just say it? Finally the interviewer wraps up by asking, "So, what's next for you with this crisis in independent film?"

"Well, I'm seriously contemplating opening a lingerie store."

He stares at me. "Women need lingerie," he says finally. Behind him I see the producer wince as if in agony.

I stroll through the town. An odd feeling comes over me as I pass folk art galleries, Tibetan jewelry stores and health food bakeries. I stop in front of a store selling tie-dyed clothing and pot paraphernalia. Richie Havens singing High Flying Bird comes through the open door. A sign above it reads, Hippies Welcome. Kevin Corrigan walks out. He was in Living In Oblivion and Delirious. He's at the festival with two films. He's also a huge Doors fan and had turned me on to a CD of a rare Jim Morrison interview that I used in a key scene in When You're Strange.

We share an embrace before he's gone, rushing off to a screening of one of his films. 

BMI hosts a dinner for musicians and films about music at the festival. I meet Michael Lang, the founder of the original Woodstock music festival. Barbara Kopple, a filmmaker I greatly admire is there along with Leon Gast who made the brilliant documentary When We Were Kings.

At 10 pm I'm driven to the theatre for the screening of When You're Strange. The parking lot is jammed. The woman who is driving me finds a spot then says quietly, "I'm not sure if you're into it but I feel compelled to ask; would you like to sample a bit of Woodstock organic homegrown?"

Now, here are the facts: in 10 minutes I have to stand up in front of 500 people and introduce the film. Then I have to do a 25 minute Q & A after the screening. With that in mind I turn to look at this woman driver. She's a little older than me and attractive in a soft, pleasantly plump sort of way. Her long black hair is pulled back in a thick ponytail. A pair of wire-rimmed glasses reflect the light from a slowly passing car. As she smiles she suddenly reminds me of my highschool art teacher.

It is of no consequence whether I do or do not inhale but I will say this; that night I give the best introduction to the film I've ever done. In fact, when I slip into my seat filmmaker Richard Linklater surprises me by leaning over and whispering, "You nailed that one, dude!"

Watching the film with the Woodstock audience is truly enlightening. Most of them have lived through the events in the film; the rise of the Youth Movement, the anti-Vietnam War protests, the drug experimentation and the belief in tolerance and acceptance for all Americans--men and women. Every time these themes are addressed in the film the audience applauds, laughs or yells at the screen. And they all move to the music.

At that moment I realize what I'd been feeling walking through town--a surprising sense of familiarity. These ideas had a huge impact on me when I was 17. They formed a large part of my consciousness, especially the belief in artistic freedom and the rejection of automatic obedience to Authority. For the first time I realize how deeply ingrained these ideas are in the film.

Afterwards, an amazing response comes from Leon Gast. He puts his hands on my shoulders, looks me directly in the eye and says, "You had me from the first second. And you never let go."

In the morning I speak on a panel called Music In Film. It is hosted by Doreen Ringer Ross from BMI and ends up being that rare public discussion that is both informative and entertaining as hell. It is interesting to me as I tell a very heavy story about my nightmares with an ego-ridden composer that I am the only one not laughing.

BMI Music In Film Panel

Again, you can wander through clips from the panel here.

I stick around afterwards to listen to a panel on The Crisis In Independent Film. The panelists are all key players in the independent film world. I am extremely anxious to hear what they have to say. The stock market crash has had a devastating effect on the community. Every filmmaker I know is talking about how awful things are. Nothing is being made. Five independent studios have folded in the last year. Only films with huge bankable stars even have a chance of getting financed. With two new scripts just entering the development stream, yes, I am very curious to hear some advice from the front lines.

Despite my genuine respect for all the panelists I start to get the sense that nobody really knows what's going on. There is a lot of talk about "new models, out of the box creative financing, the great power of the new inexpensive media and the unexplored value of the internet." But no one talks about how to get a film in front of an audience. Then, one panelist drops this bombshell,

"The theatrical release now has a diminished importance, occupying only one small layer of a many-tiered marketing campaign for a film."

All the panelists agree.

My brain starts cramping. I'm just as much a realist as anyone else but what is a film without a theatrical release? The entire concept of cinema was born out of theater and public performance. The first narrative films were really nothing more than filmed plays. No one, then or now, would ever have considered putting on a play for an audience of one. That experience is generally called reading a book. Film began as a communal experience. Going to the cinema in large, sweaty clumps of humanity was the way film became scorched into the massive public consciousness and became Bigger Than Life.

It was not until the introduction of the VHS tape that individual, personal ownership entered the equation. Now people could take the film home and watch it on their TV's. Now an ancillary market sprang up for revenue after the theatrical release. Home video was born. A completely different way of watching a film emerged. Alone. By yourself. On a pale, 2-foot screen next to the radiator.

How is this a victory or a way to survive the Crisis? To me it is a tragedy of gargantuan proportions. It means the only films that will screen in theatres will be the spectacle films; the "high-concept" lobotomizers about robots, 3D mice and the end of the world.

Somehow though, I walk out into the daylight inspired. I don't think people are going to let the theatrical experience become extinct. Seeing the audience's reaction even to the Doors film convinces me of that. There will always be a fierce and passionate desire for people to gather together in groups and allow the art of cinema to do its magic. It will be harder to get an independent film into a theatre; there is no question about that. But, I'm excited about it. It's like the wild west again. 

No laws, no rules. Anything goes. Anything can happen.

I go back to my room and pack. The festival had arranged for me to spend the night in the guest room of someone's house deep in the woods. The owner's car is in the driveway but no sound comes from the house. A light fog settles in outside the window. This is me in the room.


This is me not in the room.

Not there

Hey Tom,
What an amazing and eloquent note from Depp about his involvement in and the project of WYS – – thx for sharing it here.
Every interview I’ve seen of his, particularly when discussing personal philosophy of life or embracing artistic pursuits, seems to have a pensive and reverent quality to it. That ‘still waters run deep’ kind of feeling.
Great to hear a theatrical release is in the works–there’s snow on Southern rooftops at the moment but my offer still stands to shout out the info from there 🙂
Best to you –
Hey KG,
Great to hear from you. I don’t know if I captured the true Doors but I can tell you this: I sure tried. One thing I came away with after making the film is clearer sense of how complicated all the members of the band were.
Also, Morrison put an enormous amount of energy and effort into this intense persona he created. Clearly sometimes he lost sight of what was him and what was the creation. I think the world will always be seeking a glimpse of the “real” Jim. Which I think is something he wanted everyone to see–and yet allowed very few to see.
But, you will get a chance to see the film within the next few months. And then you can see for yourself if something of this amazing band lives for you.
All I can say is that it lives for me.
Thanks for writing.
Hey Adam,
That’s funny, Wilson’s comment about light.
But, I think you might have misunderstood me. My technical skills were in no way a limitation. I actually knew a lot about light. I just did not feel restricted by logic.
I think Stranger Than Paradise has a beautiful quality of light. For the interiors I drew some inspiration from film noir, where light came from wherever it could add drama and interest to the scene. Much of it was unexplained, which is to me what made it so interesting.
Also, because of the Eastern European element of the characters, I worked a lot with darker shadows and contrast. Some decisions were made simply based on lack of money and I think a healthy irreverence for the way things “ought” to be. There is a scene where two characters walk into a motel room. The light outside was a million times brighter than the interior. The choice was either to use every one of the three lights we had to pump up all the light in the room, put a massive layer of ND filter over the door or change the shot.
I decided to let it just blow out into total whiteness. I still think I made the right decision.
My only priority (to this day as I direct my own films) is that the sole purpose of the light is to help tell the story and it can do so whatever way works best.
I’m glad you liked the film. It was a crazy experience that’s for sure.
Adam Rogers
Hi Tom,
Thank you for your reply. One interesting comment. You said that when you made that movie, you barely knew how to take a light reading. The funny thing is that the only comment I remember Robert Wilson making after seeing the film was something along the lines of the following: “I always look for the lighting in everything I see. Where is it coming from, how does it create action in the movie and lines? With that movie I couldn’t tell where the light was coming from. The filmmaker doesn’t seem to know about light.”
I was young and in college. I didn’t have any idea what he as talking about. I just was blown away by the movie. God’s honest truth. That is a true story.
If you saw a lot of footage of the CIVIL warS, I was the polar bear, among other things, in act IV. I also toured Europe with the Knee Plays. It was quite an exceptional experience.
Whats up Tom,
I’ve purchased and poured over every Doors movie I can get my hands on, and searched for every other existing video I could find on the web that I have not yet seen. As a 21 year old musician/artist, I find the Doors to be the most inspiring band of all time, therefore I search for the true Doors. Not some fantasized Oliver Stone version. I have been anxiously anticipating this film since I first read about it quite some time ago. I would have loved nothing more than to be at Sundance for its screening. However, being in Iowa, fresh out of college, and broke as most my age are… I unfortunately wasn’t able to make it. I would like to congratulate you on your success. I’m truly happy the film fell into the hands of a caring individual. Best of luck in the future. & Can’t wait to see the film.
Take it easy,
Hey Harry,
I’m pleased (and amazed) you saw Delirious at a theatre in Zurich. I was never informed the film had a theatrical release there.
Listen, I try to tell the truth as I see it–while still trying to be able to work in this business. Not an easy path to walk.
But, as far as my opinion being “idealized” about the Doors music never being used in a commercial I don’t totally agree. I’m mainly talking about the period when Morrison was alive and the four of them had an agreement with each other that nothing could be done with their music unless they ALL agreed to it.
During that period, and even now, none of their music has been used in a commercial; advertising material specifically trying to sell something. I find that pretty amazing, especially when you consider the enormous amounts of money being offered to musicians these days for the use of their music to sell cars, ipods and women’s underwear.
The rights to their music for films is another story. All I know is that the 3 remaining Doors have a management company that handles all that stuff. I don’t know what the issue was with the film you mentioned. Music is a business after all. People ask for what they can get.
Please don’t hold this one thing against them. It may have nothing to do with the Doors at all.
Hey Tim,
That’s a really good question about Johnny Depp’s interest in the Doors. Let me just say this, Johnny’s involvement happened very quickly. And, as you can imagine, his schedule is pretty insane. So, in order for him to commit himself as deeply as he did to this narration I know without question his motivation came from a strong connection to the Doors, their music and Jim Morrison’s intense private and public struggles with his art and fame.
Here is a statement Johnny made recently regarding his involvement in the film:
“DiCillo’s ‘When You’re Strange’ is a meticulously crafted, exhilarating ode to one of music’s greatest, most exciting ensembles, The Doors. Watching the hypnotic, hitherto, unreleased footage of Jim, John, Ray and Robby, both on and off the stage, I felt like I was there, with them, living and experiencing what they were experiencing, seeing it all through their eyes. Ultimately, Jim has been resurrected here to remind us that he is to this very day, one of the most significant frontmen/poets/shaman to ever grace a stage and that the band behind him, kept the music alive every step of the way, adding fuel to an already raging fire, all along their wild and electrifying ride into history. The raw material entrances throughout. In terms of a rock n’ roll documentary, or any kind of documentary for that matter, it simply doesn’t get any better than this. What an honor to have been involved. I am as proud of this as anything I have ever done.”
I couldn’t agree more.
Hey Salli,
Happy New Year to you as well. Yes, it is great news about PBS. But, I’ve recently had strong assurance from the producers that “there will be a theatrical release.”
So, keep your eyes peeled for that.
Hey Adam,
That’s a great story about seeing Stranger Than Paradise with Robert Wilson. Ironically, about a year after Stranger was released I shot a documentary for a fellow NYU grad Howard Brookner on…Robert Wilson. We spent quite a bit of time at Wilson’s loft just off the Hudson River. I think I recall Jarmusch did some sound recording for a few days while we were shooting.
Needless to say, I was very impressed with the time spent with Wilson.
I’m glad you responded to the cinematography in Stranger. I’m rather proud of it my own self, especially when you take into account I never studied it and during that film barely knew how to take a light reading.
I think what turned Jarmusch on (and definitely turned me on) was that idea itself–that we had no preconceived notion as to what a film “should” look like. I appreciated very much the freedom he allowed me. Of course, the film is his entirely.
I think you will like the Doors film. It has a similar irreverance for what a documentary “should” be. In fact, it is quite intimate and emotional even as it only uses original footage.
Much of that power comes from the band themselves and Johnny Depp’s extremely eloquent narration.
Keep reading here for the news of its release.
Hi Tom, I am a reader of your blog since I had the chance to see Delirious in a cinema in zurich. and i am very thankful, that a creative mind like yours shares his views so upfront. Just a little remark to your idealised opionion about doors music never used in commercials. this is just due to the facts, that they demand to much. As Richard Curts, Director and Writer of the 2009 movie about an illegal radio station in the North Sea in the 1960’s” The Boat that Rocked” mentioned, “there was a Doors song we wanted, which was way over a million dollar, so we couldn’t have that.” If he paid 1,5 million for a song in a movie which made at box office about gross 10 million he could use it. So maybe the right owners are just greedy.
Tom ~ I don’t know if this has been asked or discussed, but when you were working with Johnny Depp for the naration for the film, did you get any idea of Johnny’s interest in the Doors? I am curious if he is a long time fan and what he thinks of the band and the music. I am so looking forward to seeing the film. Thanks for all your efforts and hard work on this project! Best wishes, Tim
Bless you Tom and PBS, now I will get to see the results of all your very hard and inciteful work. Hope you got everything for Christmas you wanted and Happy New Year late – Salli
Very nice blog. Really great to read your posts on your new film ventures and your musings on the film industry in general. I must say that a great film (or any work of art) is something that sticks with you long after the initial experience. You know, sort of plants itself in the back side of the cranium and sits there, popping up periodically for another mental musing. Hemmingway and Proust novels, Godfather films (I and II only), Robert Wilson theatricals come to mind.
That is what “Stranger Than Paradise” did for me back in college. I still think about that movie now and again. I actually saw it in the theatre with Robert Wilson of all people. We were doing ‘the CIVIL WarS’ at the time at ART in Cambridge. Loved the cinematography as much as the story. The visuals were breathtaking. LOVED IT!
Look forward to the release of your new Doors picture. Keep us posted.
All the Best,
Hey Tom,
Great news on PBS! I still want to see this on the big screen, so I hope that will happen too. But if PBS is going to air this during May sweeps, that’s not only a brilliant marketing move, it’s a nod of faith for your work.
From my understanding, sweeps week in the TV world is when the stations air their best material; the goal being to get as many viewers and outrank the competition in the ratings. This in turn sets their advertising/financial budgets in motion. I think they do sweeps 2x/year but I could be wrong. So the fact that they’re putting your work out there during a highly competitive time is a definite plus.
Best of luck getting sound stuff and prep done–hope to hear some theatre release news soon too!
thanks a lot for the response tom, and im looking forward to enjoying the film. It will be my first experience seeing one of your films and im sure i will be impressed. once again congrats on all your success and best wishes to you and your future as an artist
Hello David,
great to hear from you again. Thank you for your good wishes for the New Year. I wish the same to you.
Yes, I am working on some new projects. Lost In Blue is one of them. But, don’t believe anything you read on IMDB. In fact, I think the initials stand for I Must Don’t Believe.
Actually I’m doing some small tweaks on the Doors film, mostly sound fixes. I think it will be finally finished in a week.
My best to you.
Hello again Gabriella,
Believe me I will do my best to see if the film can get a theatrical release in Mexico. If that doesn’t happen I know there will be a DVD, but I just don’t know when at this moment.
Hey Geoshua,
Rest assured, you WILL be able to see this film. PBS has secured the first TV rights and will air it during the May sweeps (whatever that means). There will definitely be a major DVD release in the US sometime after that.
And, I’m still hopeful there will be news about a theatrical release within the next few weeks.
I’m glad the Doors have inspired your writing. I too was inspired; first when I originally heard them, and then again in the making of this film.
Artistic freedom is the only thing that matters.
I wish you Tom, Elaine and all this blog family the best for this new year 2010 (such a nice number!).
Glad to see that you are busy now with another projects, we will be expectants waiting for new news about them. Maybe you are “Lost in Blue” side of cinema business, looking for the money that could make the dream possible 😉 (with reference to your “in-production” film that appear on IMDb, “Lost in Blue”)
Greetings and keep on fighting!
Gabriella Godoy
Hows it going Tom. I have been searching and searching for ways to find out how i can see this film. The doors are one of my biggest inspirations in my writing and I would love to be able to see a screening of this or if this any other way, please let me know. thanks a lot and congrats on all your success
Hey Elaine,
That’s a nice wish for us all. Thank you and equal great things to you for this next year.
I’ve been pretty busy with my other projects but there should be some Doors news in a few weeks.
Ahh, yes…Sundance. Well, I did meet Sting there.
Happy New Year to all on the blog and of course, you Tom 🙂
Hope 2010 brings news of more films and WYS in theatres! Just think…this time last year you were prepping for Sundance, and so many great things have happened since then.
Hope everyone has a safe and happy celebration 🙂
claire Loiseau
Hello Tom,
I keep lending “Living in oblivion” to people I meet. They enjoy it. I’ll keep on doing it.
Thanks for replying to me. Yes my work in films continues. Getting better and better! And you? I saw you were preparing a new feature film. How is it going?
Tanti baci,
Hi Mike McKeever–
I like the things you’ve said about finding new things/methods/tools when painting–changing things and shaking up the normalcy. This could apply to any type of Art, I imagine.
As a writer, I find it helpful to change my locations whenever I’m in that drafting/creating new scenes stage. I have a lightweight word processor that can easily dump-info into my main computer w/a USB cable, so I sometimes will just take it anywhere–the park, a deli window seat where I can see people walking by, another room in the house, a hotel lobby, etc. When editing and polishing, I find the main office desk works best, but it helps to do any kind of ‘change-up’ to spir inspiration. Truman Capote always said he wrote best in hotel rooms; he would often stay at a cottage inn for a few months in various parts of Europe when he was in the midst of writing.
I never thought about that in terms of painting; interesting point 🙂
And Tom, you know the world of independent film has its constraints 🙂 Just think about Living in Oblivion coming out of all that frustration…and that’s such a great film, not to mention a cure for a Really. Bad. Day.
Happy new year 🙂
Mike McKeever
Hey Tom ,
“And that is the struggle; especially on a low-budget film. You’ve got to keep the film alive, all the time making it with a process that demands you deliver a product on time.”
Re-reading your last replies today … it occurred to me …… that maybe …some parts of the process, likes the time lines, or the budget, or the promotion of a film … etc…… Maybe all of that stuff is in reality – part of the art .That some parts of that struggle is actually a benefit.
That it is part of what makes a film what it is. It is all actually positive challenges and motivation that can help create and inspire the artist.
It is what it is. REAL.
Think of all the great ideas, and modifications that have lead to fantastic Art based on budget or restraints. Even our very own Ray of The Doors!!!…. A simple to solution too not having a Bass player created an entire new sound for the band!!!
Think of all the creative filming locations and props that are used because of budget and time. All of the new actors that get to prove their skills because they could not afford a more “famous “actor.
The examples are endless. ……
I actually work in Architectural design … and I find Remodel projects are far more interesting because of the challenges and solutions that you find .You have the structure in place … and you find little ways to make it fit within the “rules” or restrictions of the existing project and still make it new and your own . You create things that you would never have thought of if you sat down with a blank sheet of paper. Make sense?
The creative process and all that goes along with it.. Even all of the crap … Gives the satisfaction >?
One quicker thing….
I actually find myself trying to cause challenges for myself when I paint. Because really there are none.
I will do things like order a bunch of new odd size canvass that I am not use too. Sometimes I will get rid of all of my existing paints and start over with just a few and force myself to work with them at first. . I constantly change locations and the types of easels I use. Every time a gallery has told me “those colors don’t work “or “you should not frame that “or “you should really stick to one size “… whatever has been said … I find it inspirational and say “”” oh yeah … why not… let me try.
So in some strange way I guess sometimes I am putting limitations on myself to see how I rise up to the challenge, and how it affects the Art. It becomes part of the Story and naturally part of the end result that can be felt by the viewer.
Just some random thoughts for a Friday morning man ….
I think a dialog on “what is artistic freedom? “ Is a great idea by the way.
– Mike McKeever, Chaska , MN
Hey Mario,
Thanks for the good wishes and I send them right back to you.
I would like nothing more than to see Ray, John and Robbie play together again. They all love the film and would do anything to support it. I think it would be an historic event.
Hey, I know how I felt just seeing Ray and Robbie play Riders on the Storm at Sundance.
But, as you know, there is a lot of back history with these immensely gifted and complex guys.
We shall see.
Well Miss Gretchen,
There is so much in your wonderful comment I’m not sure where to start.
First, thanks for allowing your curiosity to lead you to watching a film that few people were even aware of at the movie theater. I appreciate it enormously.
I too arrived in NYC in the late 70’s. It was a wild time to be there, even for the natives. I know very well what you mean about the devastation AIDS left behind in terms of filmmakers, artists and musicians. Before it hit though NYC was in one of the most creative and free creative movements I’ve ever experienced. That is utterly gone now.
The lack of that is I think directly related to where independent film is at the moment. It is almost like that entire sensibility has been rubbed out. The language to describe it and the willingness to perpetuate it is gone.
Your ideas about helping to promote Delirious are good and astute. Unfortunately I do not have the rights to offer the DVD online. As I mentioned in my reply to Mike McKeever above, all that had to be given to the financiers so they would give me the money to make the film.
I can guarantee you the last thing they want to do give me free rein to promote the film.
Money controls this business. Sometimes the product gains the upper hand and money has to chase it. Unfortunately right now it is the money running the show. There is very little of it and everyone wants it. So, the financiers can do whatever they want and call all the shots.
It will shift back again–I know it. I absolutely believe that people have a built in safety valve for bullshit. When it gets intolerable then the whole thing blows up.
We’re due, baby. We’re due.
There will be some When You’re Strange news in a few weeks.
Thanks for writing. I respect your decision to take care of your parents. Not an easy task.
Hey Claire,
That’s a great comment about you giving a filmmaker Living In Oblivion. Sorry it took so long to get back to you. Been a little crazed. Good crazed though.
I hope your work in film continues.
Hey Tom,
I like Mario’s idea about John/Ray/Robby performing before some theatre openings. Even if, like Sundance, they split the publicity w/Ray and Robby doing some openings; John doing others.
“Anvil/The Story of Anvil” guys did that, playing for about 40 minutes and doing a Q&A after the evening show at theatres across the country. Though it’d be beneficial to spread the word about the event if it could be done. When I saw (and loved) “Anvil/Story of Anvil” one Sat afternoon, I was disappointed to learn that the Q&A and live performance had been the night before. No publicity, not even signs in the theatre lobby, which I’d been to only days before the event.
Of course, it goes without saying that should any of y’all make your way down South for an appearance, I’m ready to spread the word; I’m sure other fans will be happy to do the same in their neighborhoods 🙂
Somethings wrong
Something is not quite right
* I want to thank you for all the fun and adventure your blog AND anticipated movie (WHEN YOUR STRANGE) have brought this year. And I have the framed poster to provre it!
* A thought, what about having John, Robbie and Ray perform together at the opening, doing a 45 minute all instrumental set. Personally I think it would go over very well.
* Have you heard the Felt Forum discs? The crowd is ecstatic, a constant cry for The Soft Parade, Mr. Morrison must have been pleased.
Calling on the dogs
Calling in the dogs
Calling all the dogs
Calling on the gods
Meet me at the crossroads
Meet me at the edge of town
Outskirts of the city
Just you and I
And the evening sky
You’d better come alone
You’d better bring your gun
We’re gonna have some fun
* Take care!
Miss Gretchen
Tom — Found this site just now after watching Delirious, from Netflix, and wanting to know more. I’d read the intriguing review in The New Yorker when the film came out, then didn’t hear any more about it — for many years I have been far from Manhattan and only visiting a few times a year (I arrived in the East Village in the late 70s as a teenager wanting to get into theater, swum in some of the same waters as you did, didn’t have the thick skin, then the Age of AIDS snuffed out the ambitions of many I knew as well as the lives, stuff happened, now I’m in a small town helping with my aging parents) and so I didn’t get to see the film in the theater.
As I read your blog and find out more of the whole story, I have such a sinking feeling to see that the same things I’ve seen happen to friends in the recording business since 2000 (i.e. the complete inability to do anything new and get paid for it) is happening in independent film. I loved Delirious, how can I support it? Buy the DVD? Powell’s in Portland doesn’t even carry it, and paying $17.99 at amazon seems paltry. The future, for music and books, seems to involve self-marketing to some extent, along with micropayments. Would it be possible for you to sell your DVDs on your site, but for a premium, and include some kind of non-digitized souvie? I dunno, an autograph scrawled on a napkin? Or, maybe make some limited editions with special packaging, a la Robert Pollard/Guided by Voices? I’m sure NYU would gladly send you an intern to handle all the grunt work. Just brainstorming. . .
I know that these ideas seem like a lot of work for a small income stream that doesn’t come close to financing a film, or even probably paying for your bandwidth for your site. But still. . .it’s something. We all have to do _something_ to support each other. I can’t live in a world with only Avatar and American Idol.
Good luck with When You’re Strange. I eagerly await it.
Hey Baron,
Talks are underway with two possible US distributors but nothing has been signed yet. That means there is also no specific release date until one of those deals has closed.
Like I said, the moment there is real news you will read it here.
Patience, my friend.
Hey Tom, rumor has it WYS will be released in the U.S. in late March. Is this correct?
Persian night, babe
See the light, babe
Save us!
Save us!
claire Loiseau
That’s funny! A minute ago I decide to enter Tom Dicillo’s blog to tell him that I had recently given Living in oblivion to a film derector I might work with in the future. As I truly think every person who wants to become a film director should watch it. And evreybody in the world. I gave Living in oblivion quite a few times.
And when I read Laura’s message, I felt happy!!
Thanks again for this amazing movie.
Thanks Elaine,
Actually Mike McKeever’s questions opened up a whole box of thoughts on the subject of artistic freedom and the filmmaking process. I’m thinking a dedicated blog post may be coming.
From your response:
…craziness of rushing and making the day and keeping the film on schedule you must always, always have the belief that you are creating something alive. You have to fight with all your soul to not just settle for “getting the scene shot on film.”
I *love* this nugget of advice. It could apply to any artistic effort–painting, writing, filmmaking, etc. To always create something alive and keep that passion, not just get an inventory of pages written, paintings made or scenes put on celluloid.
Thanks for taking the hour to reply and sharing your insight. It’s truly appreciated 🙂
Hey Mike,
Thank you for another impressive series of thoughts and questions. To be honest with you the issue of spontaneity and experimentation in making a film has been preoccupying me lately. Mainly because I’ve come to see these ideas are directly opposed to the basic necessities of the filmmaking process.
On every film my approach is to try and discover during shooting. I encourage everyone to begin each take as if none of us has any idea where it will go. However…
The only way to immerse yourself in this idea completely is to finance the film yourself and to make it for no money. Fact: if I sign a contract to make one of my films with a financier say, for 3 million dollars, that financier has to go to a bank and a bond company and show them the budget and the shooting breakdown with the irrefutable proof (at least on paper) that the film can indeed be shot in the alloted amount of time for the alotted amount of money.
If the bond company does not see enough evidence in the written breakdown that gives them faith the film can be made on time and on budget, they will not approve the cash.
This means that the money forces a discipline on the method of shooting. Because it is so expensive to shoot, no financier (or bond company) is going to feel too comfortable sitting back and watching while the director and the actors mess around for weeks and “find” the film.
Another Fact most people don’t know is that when I make a deal with a financier I ultimately sell them rights to the screenplay. For eternity. Yes, this is actually a clause in the writer’s contract. There are one or two blessed filmmakers I know who have been able to use their success and critical acclaim to circumvent this, but for 99.99% of the independent writer/directors working in the real world this signing over of the screenplay is the way it goes.
But, even before this horrific event occurs there is what is called Approval of the Script. This means that everyone legally agrees that the script is the script. If there are “notes” then the writer either argues against them and wins, or loses and makes the suggested changes. Once the script is Approved it cannot be changed unless there is mutual agreement from the main financier (now the owner of the screenplay) and the writer if he still has any say in the matter. Even the bond company gets a copy of the Approved Script and bases their agreement to release the funds upon their belief that the script as written will indeed be shot in the amount of time and for the amount of money the producer has promised. Legally, an undiscussed change in the script throws the whole agreement into chaos.
So, your question of going off into uncharted territories of discovery immediately comes up against the reality of the Approved Script. Legally, I cannot veer away from the Approved Script while shooting unless I get approval from the financier. This, as you can imagine, places a severe headlock on any spontaneous venturing into unknown territory while filming.
Like I said, the way of discovery and experimentation is of course the preferred. On Living In Oblivion the financing came from friends and family members. There was an unbelievable amount of freedom. Nonetheless, the script was written very carefully and the amount of time to shoot it was locked in. Buscemi’s outburst to the crew where he berates them all was improvised. It didn’t take me in another direction but it did add an element of suprise on the set that kept all the actors and crew on their toes wondering what was going to happen next.
Also in Oblivion, the climactic scene at the end of the film with Buscemi’s mother was originally scripted much differently. I went ahead and shot the scripted scene all the time knowing it was not working. That night I realized the entire film depended on the success of that scene and I got out of bed and rewrote it. I asked the crew to give me an extra two hours and we shot the rewritten scene on our last day. Again, this move into a new direction was only possible through their generosity and a massive team effort to continue working madly to stay on schedule.
Fact: when the money runs out, the money runs out.
My practice has become to stick to the basic structure and find the moments of discovery within that structure. It was Michael Pitt’s idea in Delirious for us to do a shot of him waking up in a dumpster. We ran across the street, buried him in garbage and the resulting shot of him struggling out of it is for me one of the key visual elements in the film. Although not planned it fit perfectly and added new meaning to the carefully worked out existing theme of the film.
The thing that terrifies me the most during the filming process is when a scripted scene just out and out dies on you. This happens on every film. I’ve gotten better at rolling with it but it is still nerve wracking.
On the other hand, it is an amazing sense of joy when a scene, or series of scenes, leaps to life in front of the camera exactly as written. There is nothing wrong with this. A well-written scene, worked on by talented actors can be a thrill of discovery just by doing it word for word.
But, like I said, when it doesn’t work it is a nightmare beyond comprehension. The director is faced with only two choices; keep the deformed scene in as filmed and stay on schedule, or stop the entire machine and fix it. I’ve done both. Sometimes the deformed scene ends up in the film and there is literally nothing you can do about it. Sometimes I’ve been able to fix it on the fly on set.
And sometimes I’ve had the amazing luxury of going back and reshooting after the film has been put together in the editing room. This is actually a very rational and effective concept. You see what you need and you go back and get it. Unfortunately, very few directors have this luxury. Again, it all comes down to money.
But, certainly, the issues you bring up are crucial to filmmaking. I sometimes tell aspiring directors that if you achieve 30% of what you set out to do you may have a good film. And in all that craziness of rushing and making the day and keeping the film on schedule you must always, always have the belief that you are creating something alive. You have to fight with all your soul to not just settle for “getting the scene shot on film.”
And that is the struggle; especially on a low-budget film. You’ve got to keep the film alive, all the time making it with a process that demands you deliver a product on time.
Okay, another hour well spent.
Mike McKeever
Thanks for the thoughts, I relate to everything you said on Art and Business. So here is my next deep seeded thought for you to ponder.
I think some of the greatest moments in Film, Music, Art, etc… Happen by accident. Spontaneous, random moments, actions, or words seem to bring life and reality to things.
They seem to make Art more human in some strange way.
I know in painting many times a simple spill or drop of color can lead me off into an entire new direction and create something very interesting. I find that I may have an idea or vision of what I want to create at the beginning … but that being open to letting things just happen is truly an incredible rush, working completely in the moment. Stream of consciousness.
Thief of the fire kinda thing .
Starting off in one direction and ending up somewhere completely different.
So … my question to you is , even though you have a script and plan & Your all set with your lighting and mood … everyone has it down … … and then …..somethign happens !!!
How often do you let things just happen ? How often do little misspoken lines or movements end up creating something different and exciting in your films? How often do you leave these things in ? Has a seridipidous moment in a scene ever lead you in a Completely different direction?
That should kill another hour for you again.
Happy Thanksgiving.
– McKeever
Hey Tom,
Congrats on the sale to Germany! With all the tiny steps being taken forward, that’s something. And glad to hear that USA distribution still is crawling along, cuz I’d really like to see the film 🙂
When you played the part of Johnny Suede onstage, was it a series of monologues that basically became the plot of the film? Just wondering how much of the stage material went into the film…or was it mainly the character and you developed the script from there?
Redskins -yeah! Well, you give links for kickin’ ass music in your site, the least I can do is to give a link back!
Hahaha, you are right about necrofilia -but also, Republicans are all over the world, just the names of the parties change!
I think with you and Buscemi in Johnny Suede, it would be a different film -I would like to see it too. Now, that we are talking about Brad Pitt (I think he is a great actor -one of my favorites) I would like to ask you something: I always had the impression he is a director’s actor, with a good (strict) director he can go superb, with a “do it as you feel it” director, he goes under. Am I right, or it’s just my impression?
Nick Cave is an obsession here in Greece (I have seen more than 20 concerts of him) -he is multitalented, I think. Even his books are great.
We will wait you over here in Necropolis (right under the Accropolis) and we hope that we will see you presenting us the film.
motorcycle boy,
will never call you mister again. cool music from The Redskins. Thanks for the tip.
It is fascinating to me Greek rock music fans are supporting these intense rock necrophilia groups. I believe necrophilia is a Greek word meaning Republican in this country.
I’m really pleased you like Johnny Suede so much. I did work hard on the script. Not many people know I originally performed the part of Johnny on a tiny NYC stage in 1986.
I was going to play Johnny in the film and had even gotten Steve Buscemi to play Johnny’s best friend, Deke. But, as you know, Brad Pitt slipped in and the rest is hysteria.
I love Nick Cave in the film. It was his idea to make Freak Storm an albino. I said, sure.
We just made a sale to Germany for the Doors film. So, be patient. We’re getting closer and closer to the Necropolis.
Please, don’t call me Mr. -sounds like an accusation to my ears, hahaha!
But if you read the phrase in Crumb, it probablly means they all got it from some ’60s riots, that’s what I am thinkin’…
Your Johnny Suede film is mythic to me -well, not only because of the actors (plus Nick Cave) but mainly because it’s a film about the eternal truthes and agonies of mankind (success, rockabilly, true love and getting laid). And the script really kicks (that’s really something cause most of the directors are not very good on scrpit writting).
Here is Greece we are well known about or rock necrophilia (we are the country where Wishbone Ash, Uriah Heep, B.O.C. etc still having sold out concerts!) If they do so -guess how many people would like to watch a real good DOORS movie! So, try to get a contact with Greek film importers, when they find out about the film they will kill (I hope not you) to buy it.
P.S.: Your site is great but it’s too heavy man! Everytime I try to copy-paste I make myself a brand new cup of coffeee to keep me company, hahaha.
Mr. Motorcycle boy,
Great comment. Very funny. You’re right, everything is totally Greek on your link. It looks very impressive though and I love the photos you used from Johnny Suede. I’m sure you did a great job on the translation. More than anything I’m happy you found some pleasure in the film and were inspired enough to share it.
The Doors film is being sold steadily throughout the world. As soon as I know of a sale to Greece I will let you know.
Now, what Redskins said this phrase you mentioned? I always thought it came from the underground comics of R. Crumb.
Hello Laura,
Well, your comment really made my day. Seriously. I’m struggling, like most independent directors these days, with an increasing sense of whathefuck. The fact that you responded to this crazy little movie that I made out of utter desperation was so uplifting and inspiring that I actually made it through the day without punching somebody.
Truthfully, your words were very meaningful. That is hilarious your DP was also named Wolf. How thoughtful of your husband to turn you on to my lunacy right when you were immersed in your own.
All I can say is making Oblivion was one of the most creatively satisfying experiences I’ve ever had in this business. We were all alone. There were no producers, no agents, no studio execs telling us what to do. It was just a crazy bunch of actors and filmmakers living in our own delirium for 20 days.
There can sadly be no sequel. Too many changes over the years.
I wish you the best with your project.
Hey Barry,
You didn’t sound pedantic. I’ve made that error before and it frustrates me. Like I said, I must have fixated on those lyrics and they just stuck in my brain.
I didn’t have a conscious narrative. When I began the film my first task was to simply to sit for 8 hours a day and look at all the original footage. There was no way I could conceive of a narrative until I’d looked at everything.
Of course there was heavy pressure from the producers to come up with a “concept”. This was understandable as they were spending money. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon the footage of Morrison’s own film HWY that I got the idea of some kind of narrative. I used the images of Morrison wandering through the desert in HWY as a kind of cohesive thread to tie the film together.
But, seeing all that incredible original footage made me instantly decide not to have any outside “interviews” with people from today. The footage was so powerful it was clear to me that I should keep the film in the reality of that footage. I did a lot of reading about the Doors. I spoke to Ray, Robbie and John, as well as many other people who knew them. And out of that I began to write the narration. The intent was always to simply tell the story as truthfully as I knew it. And, the more I learned about the Doors, the more the narration changed.
You will make up your own mind as to whether I succeeded or not. No matter what, I can honestly say the film reflects the truth as accurately as I could have presented it.
Hi Tom,
I just posted (under the title “Looking for the never -girl”) a presentation on your Johnny Suede movie, along with your “Johnny too Bad” post. Here’s the link:
and if you go over there and everything seems Greek to you, it would be because… well… THEY ARE actually Greek!
So, I hope I haven’t screw your article by translating it… and I just wanted you to know.
Thanx a lot for all your movies and (like Redskins used to say) “Keep on keepin on” pal.
P.S.: Here in Greece we are still waiting for your new DOORS movie.
Dear Tom,
Just saw Living in Oblivion for first time tonight. My husband/Cinematographer brought it home as therapy for me as we are going through LIVING HELL with a comedy we have been working on for a year- had full financing- turned out to be a sham- guy disappeared when we tried to sue- then actor freaked out and left for a 15$/hour day job answering phones for a TV executive after we spent money on four days of shooting with him as lead…been as you say, either suicidal or homocidal for days and I swear to God, your film has perhaps saved my life or at least my mind…we laughed and laughed and laughed and ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS FILM. I am asking for it as a Christmas gift as I need the DVD on my shelf. You NAILED it!!!! I went to NYU in early nineties but the same cast of crew characters in the NY indie are still there…loved the DP character and believe it or not, my NYU DP was Israeli and his name “Ze’ev” translates into “wolf” in English! Your film should have won best pic at Sundance!!! Anyway, I just wanted to thank you from the bottom of my heart for keeping us going and giving us a perspective to laugh…the best part was the mother hitting the mark at the end- so damn funny! Just so great! I think you need to make a sequel…
Much gratitude,
Hi Tom!,
Regarding ‘Let It Roll’, consider yourself forgiven! (i did sound a bit pedantic!)
No, seriously, i think its fantastic that you have created a piece that undoes the charicature created by Oliver Stone.
Did you have a conscious narrative when arranging the film or did you attempt a more detached approach?
All the best,
Hey Elaine,
I’m glad you found something of interest in the mini-essay. You could really write a book about the subject. Everyone says the film business is all about Compromise. Apparently the most successful know how to do the dance effortlessly. Me, I guess I got two left feet.
The image of the path to distribution is actually truer than most people think. When I was in Spain I met a very successful British director who had a big hit with Miramax several years ago. He sold his last film to them. They dumped it straight to DVD.
Hey Barry,
The sale to Australia is done. I’m fairly confident they are planning a theatrical release in 2010. As soon as I know something more definite I’ll post it here.
As far as calling “Roadhouse Blues” Let it Roll in the press conference that can be referred to as an error, a mistake or even a stumble. I love the song, especially the part where Morrison sings those particular lyrics and I think my brain just imprinted on it. Let it roll, baby, roll.
It’s a pretty amazing piece of music. It seems to me like it could have been written yesterday.
Thanks for pointing out the slip. I will make sure it never happens again.
Hi Tom,
Well, it may have taken you about an hour to respond to Mike’s question about art and commerce, but from my perspective (happily reading it while drinking caffeine) it was time well spent.
Excellent points, and brilliantly descriptive as usual. “That path is made of tissue paper over a sea of Great White sharks.” Definitely gives the mind an image with your words!
Hi Tom,
Any sign of an Australian theatrical release? and was just curious as to why you call ‘Roadhouse Blues’ ‘Let it roll’ in Spanish press conference? Thanks,
Hey Melissa,
Won’t be this Christmas. See my response to Brittney above.
Hey Mike,
Well, this is a very interesting question. I could go on about the answer for several hours or even days.
Your story about turning away from the “business” aspect of your painting and just concentrating on the art itself is pretty profound. On a certain level it is something all artists must do. However, it gets a little tricky if you’re still struggling to support yourself.
In this case the business side becomes a fact of life. This conflict has always been an epic battle for people in the arts. Those artists who can simply do their work, the way they want to without having to deal with cash and compromise are the luckiest people on the planet. That to me is the greatest luxury in the world. No amount of money or attention could ever come close.
Filmmaking is perhaps the densest tangle of Art and Commerce. It is ALL about money. Unless you’re making a film for nothing you need to find someone to give you the cash. But, once you accomplish that miracle then you have to make sure Maligma doesn’t creep in and infect you and the film.
Maligma is my term for the relentless and eternal force that threatens every film from the moment of its conception. The deadliest poison of Maligma is compromise. Change this scene and we’ll give you the money; cast this actor and we’ll give you the money.
Maligma continues to threaten long after the film is finished. The “business” struggle you mention requires constant vigilance to make sure the film sees the light of day. Many times it doesn’t. That path is made of tissue paper over a sea of Great White sharks.
No matter how well-intentioned the business folks are their decisions are ulitmately only about money. When faced with a choice between the film and cash they will always, always, always go for the cash.
I have found that my involvement here is crucial. No, I don’t like it. Yes, I’d much rather be writing a script or experiencing the indescribable joy of working with actors and crew in making another film.
Yes, the art is what matters but the business is reality. Someone once asked Bertolucci what a director was. He replied, “The director is the guy who gets the money.” Sometimes this is a challenge I enjoy. More frequently it is dispiriting and demeaning. It all depends on who has the money and what they feel like making you do to get it.
I think it is different for a painter and in some ways I envy you. I can’t even begin to put my cinematic brush to canvas without the assistance of at least 20 people and someone crazy enough to give me the cash to pay them. You never want to let this affect your work or what you believe in but the mantra for any filmmaker is, Get The Film Made. Those who can do so without turning their souls into taco chips are truly the fortunate ones.
As far as Morrison and The Doors I can only say they all felt strongly about making their music the way they felt it should be made. They were also extremely fortunate to have the talents of Paul Rothchild and the unwavering savvy and support of Jac Holzman behind them.
I think the Doors felt they were first and foremost musicians, writers and artists. I think they had little patience for, or interest in the business side. The story of Morrison refusing to allow the band to license Light My Fire to Buick is known to every Doors fan.
Morrison’s struggles went much deeper than his art. But after spending the last 2 years with this film I can say without question his belief in artistic freedom of expression was absolute.
Well, that took about an hour.
Is there any way you can let me know the release date? My boyfriend is a huge fan and I would love to order or preorder “When You’re Strange” for Christmas.Thanks! x
Hey Brittney,
there is some significant movement here in terms of US distribution and the pending DVD release. The two events are linked together. The usual plan is the film opens first in theaters and this then helps raise attention for the DVD release.
The good news is that the producers are standing firmly behind the film and believe in its value enough to keep fighting for the theatrical release. More news should come in a week or so.
This means the DVD will probably come out in 2010.
Keep your eyes open for more news here.
Mike McKeever
Thanks for the reply on my comments about your movie and Jim. (Its interesting cause everyone who really gets into Jim and his words, and the passion of the doors feels like they know them, that we are all some sort of tribe. Don’t ya think?)
I am from way up here in Minneapolis, MN by the way.
I did quite a bit of abstract painting the last few years just kind of fell into it.
I ended up selling some paintings, got a website, went into galleries, attended shows, worked on murals and commissions.
Suddenly realized I wanted to just paint still. That the challenge of starting all this up and getting accepted into galleries and working on a website and all of that was a challenge and great… but now that is over and created it all just bored me.
That the creative process was what had always really turned me on, satisfied me. All of the other stuff became just work, business. Once a painting is complete I feel like it is over, I am on to the next canvass. I love simply creating door just me. So man I shut it all down! Dropped the website, Dropped the shows, Dropped the promotion, I quit trying in all aspects of the business. I just focused on painting again for me and only me. It is sacred. The art is what matters. I know for a fact I got this from JIM, and the poets and writers he turned me on to early in my teens. Rimbaud, Kerouac, etc…
So here is my question to you. Do you ever feel the same? … Like the creative process, the work, the drive, researching, that the passion is making a film. And the rest of it is now just work. … That all the business side and promoting stuff is just a monkey on your back now? That you would rather be spending all of your time creating your next film? Or do you still love the challenge of getting the film “sold “
Do you think Morrison felt that way? In your research and working with Ray , Robbie , and John do you come to the conclusion that part of Jims unrest was he was simply and artist who wanted to create Poetry, theater, film, stage. That he was on to the next the challenge? That the only thing that truly interested Morrison was creating.
Sorry for the rambling format …..
Hi tom, I was wondering if you knew of a time you might have when you’re strange out on dvd to the general public. I doubt, given the area i live in, that i will be able to see anywhere else. I’m just really anxious to see this documentary so any information about when it will be out on dvd would be greatly appreciated, thanks!
New domain name, new layout, all kinds of new content. Say what you will about mass media technologies but WordPress is a gift to us all. But like any other gift, I suppose it comes with its risks.
While I do think it says a lot about our culture as a whole when we can no longer surrender 90-120 minutes of a day to hear someone tell us their story, it also speaks to what sets apart cinema from everything else.
There’s a reason things like Hulu work so well for the television medium but just don’t translate as well for films. Films have an intended venue and while it’s certainly troublesome to see how much of a tailspin everything appears to be in, the venue remains. Whether its midnight screening houses in Texas, The Jacob Burns in NY, or a small pakistani theater run by a toothless slum lord, moviegoing as a cultural practice and artistic experience will never leave us entirely.
Vinyl has made it this long, theatrical film can endure as well.
Hey Stuart,
That’s an inspiring speech by Henry Rollins. Thanks for sending it. I think we live in a time where it is crucial for people to stand up and say what they believe in. Even at the risk of retribution from authority.
I will say though that verbalizing what you think is an exercise that requires some discipline and thought. Otherwise, people come off as raving bullies, like Rush Humbaugh.
I can’t speak for Morrison. No one can. But, clearly he had a passionate belief in freedom of expression. It would not surprise me if he had read Voltaire’s thoughts on the subject.
Hey Baron,
I totally agree with you. Again, my comment to the guy about the theatrical release was about another script of mine, not WYS. WYS is going to be released theatrically. It won’t be a huge, media-slobbering release, but it will begin its journey on the big screen.
As soon as I know something more definite I will let you know.
Hey Mike,
This is a great comment. Thanks for posting it.
“We are now in our 30’s and Jim still is a influence on all aspects of our lives. Self exploration , Art, History , journey , Experience , adventure , poetry; just being REAL.”
Of all of these things I think most people have the greatest difficulty in being real. Because if you really attempt it, it means acknowledging everything about yourself–even the parts that you might find distasteful or disappointing. I think Morrison struggled hard at times to accept these parts of himself. In other words, he was as human as we all are.
This is what I attempted to show in the film; the human being behind the myth. I can also say that like you, my experience in making this film gave me tremendous respect for Morrison, and Ray, John and Robbie.
I will keep fighting to get it out there. Great to hear from you.
Hey Noah,
You astutely observe that the whole image business is in an enormous state of flux.
To me, the internet has enabled more people to see films but it has also miniaturized the whole experience. It is what it is. This phenomenon of people having such personal access to films that they can watch them on their Blackberry’s is merely a reflection of where we are at as a culture.
We are poking at life with our thumbs and forefingers.
Eager to read your musings on your blog. For some reason it didn’t show up. Try linking it again.
Hey Elaine,
Sits Here Puzzled. I like that.
But, again; don’t be puzzled. It’s a money business and always has been. It’s only the freaky artists that screwed it up; making people think that going to a film could be different from shoving frozen hotdogs up your nose.
The thing right now is that the money people are in power. They can say we won’t give you any money unless you agree to our terms. And their terms are ever-increasingly intended to protect their asses.
For the moment they can get away with it.
That’s why I have no patience for critics who dismiss truly original independent films. They don’t get it and they never will. They think that spirit to try something different is as common as ordering a Big Mac.
In fact, it is extremely rare and fragile. It is also, in my humble estimation, as crucial to our survival as water.
Hey Wayne,
No, I don’t think WYS will be out for New Year but there is still strong interest though from US distributors. And my comment to the financier was about another script, not about WYS.
See, my problem, and yours apparently, is that I keep thinking about the kinds of films that changed my life. Films like La Strada, The Conformist and Midnight Cowboy. And I still am bewildered why there are not more of them. Why the only thing that matters right now is cash for clunkers.
I still believe that the most entertaining films are the most honest, whether it is The Wizard of Oz or Mulholland Drive. And that is my problem.
But, hey. What the hell.
You keep writing. I’ll keep trying.
Stuart Henderson
Tom, I Think Freedom Of Speech can be summed up by Voltaire
“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
I would not Be Surprised at All if Morrison Read His Work Tom.
Stuart Henderson
Hi Tom, I was wondering what you think of this-
Henry Rollins is such a well spoken and intelligent guy.
I think there are a quite a few people who have article’s on the net who take it on themself to be adolf hitler wannabees! And they need EXAMAINED When they deny others freedom of speech.
Look how MORRISON Stood for freedom of speech tom.
Your Thoughts Please Tom?
Any buyer who can’t see that this film is almost made for the big screen probably isn’t the guy to buy it. I know it comes down to money, I get it, but it would be nice if the RIGHT guy/company bought it. This film not making it to the big tube would be a real shame.
Mike McKeever
Just wanted to send you a little thank you . Me and my close friends grew up trying to live what we believed Jim was about.
We are now in our 30’s and Jim still is a influence on all aspects of our lives .
Self exploration , Art, History , journey , Experience , adventure , poetry . just being REAL .
What you are creating is Amazing and true to what Jim was .
Thanks for working on this film .
Tom, your posts are always enlightening in respect to concepts that I consider but have difficulty articulating.
The market for filmmaking has shifted so exponentially most obviously due to the new models available to consumers. Of course a majority share of the public is gonna choose to torrent your work and watch it on half the screen while browsing but the fact remains that the theatrical audience is not something that can die. Reduce? Of course. But to think we could ever completely lose it is absurd to me.
Just the same way that vinyl will always have its place in music culture, so will theatrical films. I remember watching Burma VJ in Wellington, NZ while I was abroad and it totally reaffirmed my appreciation for sharing a film with an audience. If something resonates with audiences in a profound and unique way that documentaries and thoughtful storytelling often allow, then its primary spot of engagement will remain in theaters.
I tend to take the position that communication technologies – specifically the newly available distribution models – are something of the downfall and the resurrection of the modern film world. By this I mean that audiences are now able to seek what they want with such an abundance of choice and ease of access that their dollar takes on a very democratic role. The trick in the future – in my humble and early 20’s opinion – is going to be meeting and gauging audience expectations and interests by seeking them out directly. Take the current wave that Paranormal Activity is riding using the model of getting users to request artists, films and musicians in their area. Allowing consumers such a direct role in available entertainment can mean that if you are willing to reach out to them, then they will be more willing and likely to pay for a ticket.
Although the audience dollars may be diminishing, this should be seen as a time to take serious stock of what does and doesn’t work about production, marketing and release strategies. Fat needs to be trimmed from budgets, time needs to be saved and schedules need to be followed. A big portion of the blame can be put on studios that have long been complacent and comfortable in a model that allows incompetence and waste to thrive. Independent film is where the industry should be investing given that tentpole films and franchising require such inherent risk whereas independent productions tend to make the best what they can get against significantly less monetary risk.
The ancillary markets of the modern film are hugely influential but they occupy different roles for different films. When You’re Strange will be the kind of DVD release that circulates amongst friends, is found in music libraries in universities around the country, and will undoubtedly find its place in music stores of all kinds. You can’t catch all of your audiences in theaters, the abundance of choice has just made it impossible BUT you can still find an audience on their 15” screens. Maybe they don’t get the joy of reacting alongside likeminded audience members but the film is still reaching them.
PS- I’ve started my own blog as a place to hurl paint at a canvas and see if some clarity comes through. Check it out if you get a moment, I linked your blog from there.
Hey Tom,
I don’t get how a theatrical release is just one small part. Yes, DVDs, soundtracks, posters–along with promoting through Facebook, Twitter, MySpace–I get that…I do. But I still see all of these things as *supporting* the theatre release. Are those in the industry talking about a film to watch on youtube, or what exactly are they thinking?
I know people trying to raise $$$ for their film on Twitter…and while they haven’t reached their goal, it has worked to bring in some cash. All these platforms are great but I still see the theatrical release as the starting point. The web is a huge way to market a film. Troy Duffy’s “All Saints Day” (sequel to Boondock Saints) is in limited release right now. Fans are going crazy on Facebook and Twitter, wondering when it’s going to come to their area (me included…while I’m not a big fan of bloody films, I really enjoy Duffy’s characters and originality).
All these things are great to create buzz…but isn’t the “buzz” all about getting to the box office? And then, later, buying the DVD?
*sits here puzzled*
That was a brilliant point you made to those guys regarding Paranormal Activity, i would have loved to have seen their faces and the proceeding stutter haha!
It’s unfortunate, they are probably thinking what kind of DVD boxsets can they package When You’re Strange in, how to sell it at a high price by including a couple of Doors albums in the set or something ridiculous like that, i’m probably wrong but i guess that’s what they probably think instead of how best to market it so it reaches as many people as possible, not realising how important that communal experience of seeing a great film with many others and enjoying that great audio/visual treat on a big screen is.
It is ridiculous also that 14 screen multiplexes here in Ireland will have two or three screens showing the latest Harry Potter film while at least one of those screens could be used for a smaller masterpiece of The Real Blonde standard. Currently, An Education is being shown on two screens in the whole of Dublin, that says it all really.
I will be flying to St. Louis for Christmas/New Years, with any luck When You’re Strange will be out and i will be able to catch it on the big screen, that would make the trip even better 🙂
Hey Wayne,
Good to hear from you. This whole issue of the theatrical release is getting krasczzzier and krassczier. Just came from a meeting with a potential financier who again said “The theatrical release is now just a small part of a film’s marketing trajectory.”
I pointed out that the only thing anyone in the business is talking about over here is Paranormal Activity, a tiny sci-fi-horror flick that is raking in the cash at the box office. Not TV. Not DVD. The box office.
This was met with silence and then, “Yes, but…” and then more silence.
I happen to agree with your assessment of An Education but I still commend the filmmakers’ struggle to make a film that was not formulaic. It had some very strong scenes and phenomenal acting throughout. Hey, in this day and age, at least there is some There there.
Hi Tom,
It was great to read the new post! I especially agree with your comment about the only films getting a chance in the cinemas anymore are disaster movies and one with 3D insects. I can’t wait for the day i get the invitation from a film company to review “A Tom DiCillo film”. I mostly get huge blockbusters, of which a lot of them are computer animated ones and are mostly terrible. In particular the 3D gimmick is getting tired already. Actually the movie that Elaine metioned, An Education, is one of the few independent productions that i have reviewed so far. It had some great acting but not particularly adventurous, very BBC!
Anyway Tom it was a delight as always to catch up with your blog, i’m flying the DiCillo flag over here as always, i always try to sneak in a recommendation to your films in as many of my reviews as possible 🙂
Hey Baron,
Yes, you can rest assured a soundtrack is in the works. As you surmised, it will most likely be timed for the theatrical release.
Hey Jeff,
It’s funny, a friend of mine, Chioke Nasoor, turned me on to the idea of an internet journal two months before Delirious was released. I was skeptical and uninformed. Now, two years later I can’t imagine doing it any other way.
Morrison was keenly aware of technology’s impact on the arts. In an interview in 1969 he spoke knowingly (and with excitement) of how the computer would affect music.
Yes, HWY and most of Morrison’s other works including all his poetry remain controlled by the Courson estate. They required some sensitivity regarding Pam (like they did with Oliver Stone) but other than that they were supportive and accessible.
I know there is a lot of discussion about releasing HWY as well as his poetry and writings.
Hey Mario,
Thanks for your comment. Apparently you are not aware that from now on it will cost 4 dollars to post a comment and 3 dollars to read them.
Seriously, I’m glad you find something of interest here. I try to call it as it see it.
Bicycle Thief is an amazing film. One of the gems of the Italian neo-realists. Good call on renting it.
Wait till you see the restored HWY images. They came directly from the original 35 mm negative and they make the images on the web looks like toilet paper left out in the rain.
You keep reading. I’ll keep writing.
Hey Elaine,
Glad you like the song. We worked pretty hard on it.
I wouldn’t bemoan the fact you get films later than NY. At least you get them. And sometimes it takes me a month to get out to the theatre.
Another one that looks great is Oren Moverman’s The Messenger, starring Woody Harrelson. Oren is a friend. His film has been following me around the world at the same festivals and I’ve never had a chance to see it. That one I’ll go to the first weekend.
Yes, enthusiasm. It beats ego every time.
Remember, ego is oge backwards, as in Ogeod, why did I ever hire that whackjob!!!???
Hey David,
It was great to meet you in San Sebastian. Already it seems like many months ago. Yes, it was very interesting to finally bring the Doors to Woodstock. The audience was pretty amazing. It made me realize that for people who really knew that time the film carries great meaning.
Good luck with your music.
Hi Tom, have you heard anything about a soundtrack yet? I would assume it won’t be out til the film hits the big screen but do you know anything about this?
Hi Tom,
I’ve really enjoyed your accounts of traveling with WYS. And the terrific photos. I wonder what Jim Morrison would’ve done with these modern internet gadgets?
Thanks to Stuart for posting the article about “HWY” (a case of HWY robbery?). I did my duty as a Doors fan and googled. “Corky” Courson died in 2008 (RIP). So who owns Jim’s poetry and “HWY” now? Is it still the Coursons, and if so are they more open now to releasing stuff?
Best, Jeff
*Incredible* new song on the “News” tab of your site!!!! Y’all have done it again. Great job. I loved it!!!
PS – ‘An Education’ starts here in early November. Alas, we’re always 3-5 weeks behind any films released in NYC.
Tom, Thanks for keeping your “Journal” up and running. It is one of my favorite places on the world wide web, which is mostly filed with insanity, freaks out to make a quick buck, or more blatantly, rip off schemes.
Regarding HWY, I’ve seen bits and pieces over the years, on the web. I like it. It’s an art film. I admire Morrison for going into the desert and making an art film and not giving a shit what anyone thought of it.
Personally, it is that spirit that makes the Doors so interesting and enduring.
A few years back, I bought a copy of Bicycle Thieves, an Italian film from 1948. I took it out last night and read the booklet that it came with. Interesting.
Take care. . .
Forgot to add–I saw a preview for “An Education” yesterday. It looks really good. I had the day off yesterday, went to an arthouse cinema in the middle of the day and it was crowded. People will still congregate to enjoy the cinema’s magic…no question 🙂
Hey Tom,
You have many stories to tell, some undoubtedly more painful than others (like the composer) when you were in the situation. But think of it this way: all the frustration, anger, angst, happiness, confusion, etc. from doing Johnny Suede and trying to finance Box of Moonlight led you to create Living in Oblivion–one of your most hysterical films.
And all the things that went wrong during shooting Box of Moonlight–you still turned out an incredibly special and wonderful film. You somehow kept that sense of humor. Thought your closing comments about enthusiasm were right on target too, and refreshing.
Hi Tom,
I see that finally you have given The Doors the oportunity to be at Woodstock Festival, forty years later…
I hope you have someday the chance to take the Spanish Caravan again, with time to visit Andalusia and its fields full of grain…
“Enthusiasm wins everytime”, nice words
Let’s all give enthusiasm a chance!
Hey Stuart,
Thanks for the link to the HWY essay. It is is a very informative, well-researched disussion of Morrison’s film HWY. I would encourage everyone to read it. It is also fascinating to discover how resistance to Oliver Stone’s attempts to delve a little deeper into some elements of the Doors’ history echoed some of my own.
I agree, HWY should be released on it’s own. As the completely separate work that Morrison created.
Stuart Henderson
Regarding HWY Tom, I think You will Find This An Interesting Read About It
I LONG For The Day When HWY is released on Dvd With Lots Of Extras.
No worries, Stuart. I agree with you about HWY. I can’t say it is my favorite bit of filmmaking but it clearly is the film Morrison wanted to make. And really, the only thing that matters is how HE felt about it.
This is my point about all these millions of people who feel compelled to force their single opinions onto the film. Who really cares? I don’t. The only thing that is important to me is how I genuinely feel about what I made.
Words is words is words is words.
I like both Feast and HWY. I think it was insightful of Morrison to arrange for Feast to be made. It shows the band as they really were.
Stuart Henderson
Forgot to Add, What’s Your Thought On The Original Doors Documentary “Feast of Friends”?? I Thought It is rather Good, I Used To Prefer It to HWY but now Prefer HWY.
Great Stuff Done by Paul Ferrara:)
Stuart Henderson
Tom, I Was Merely Interested In What You thought of An Alernate View of WYS, That’s All.
I cant say anything as of Yet as of Course I have not saw WYS.
But iam Hoping very much so that WYS is the Antitote To Stone’s “Poison”
And I or One 100% Disagree With HWY being termed “Morrison’s rather dull ego trip” in that review.
It is A Good piece Of ExperimentalFilm making And Shows That Morrison and His Friends Had Potential To do More In The Experimental Field of Film making.
When WYS goes to DVD , What’s the chances of HWY being Included As An Extra??.
Helly Gypsy Gal,
Thanks for writing. It sounds like you know Pepe Colubi. Is this true?
I met him about 10 years ago in Gijon and we became friends instantly. I think it is because we both are essentially lunatics in our pyjamas.
It was great to have him in San Sebastian for 24 hours.
Hello Claire,
It’s good to know you got some laughs out of this one. Both of those were true stories.
Hey Rai,
Yes, that would be a good discipline; taking a ridiculously bad experience and making it ridiculous right away. Not that easy to do, but worth a try.
I’m glad you are enjoying the blog. Your words inspire me continue.
Bonjour Ilene de Woodstock,
Thanks very much for your comment. It was great to meet you and you can rest assured I will be back to Woodstock.
Hello Allison,
Thanks for writing. There is some progress on a US release. Nothing 100% just yet, but progress. So, you just keep being patient and I think there is a good chance you will get to see the film on a screen.
Hey Elaine,
Always enlightening to read your comments. Yes, time does take the agony out of things. And I must say I find it reassuring in a way that at least now if I ever have to talk about music I will always have a good story to tell.
That’s worth something.
By the way, I went to a movie last Sunday, An Education, and it was sold out. So, people are still going to the theater.
Hey Stuart,
I think you can understand why I chose not to include your link. People can say whatever they want out there in the world and god knows there are millions of ’em who do but on my site I sort of like the idea of being able focus on the stuff I feel is truthful and accurate.
So, I’d like to ask you to stop sending that kind of crap. It was not a “review” in any remote way. The words of that unfortunate individual are clearly the result of someone who is in dire need of psychotherapy.
And there you have it.
I realy love your post. Thank you for sharing your this “Spanish experience” with us.
To have Pepe Colubi as Ciccerone for a day is a great privilege.
Hope you come back soon, and thank you so much for your movie!
Claire Loiseau
A great treat indeed reading you is!!
The stories of the F word and the lingerie store kept me happy for a few minutes. Giggle, giggle!!
Thank you Tom!
Look forward to reading you soon!
And watching your films too!
Rai Mechem
Hey Tom,
Thanks for another trip to Spain & Woodstock. Enjoyed watching the press conferences, especially your story about the BOM composer. Yes, I too remember the original blog and, whether you meant to or not, you did turn that bad experience into a very funny story. Along the lines of Elaine’s Woody Allen quote, when things are going particularly shitty I like to say what will it matter in 100 years? Always comforts me in a slightly uncomfortable way.
Your pal,
Hi Tom!
I really enjoyed meeting you at WFF. Reading this great blog is a real treat. Glad we were able to hook up just before the screening…thanks for the kind words just before the Q & A!!!
I LOVE the film… and wish you everything good– and please, come back to WFF soon with more great movies!!
I think if this documentary would be realeased in theaters many people would go see it. I would and so would a lot of people I know. And your right, I would rather watch this film on a big screen then my little 19 inch tv. Hopefully everyone will be able to see this film because I am waiting oh so patiently to see this when it is in my reach.
Hey Tom,
Love these blog posts that let us take the journey with you. The pics add something too–and thanks for the giggle at the end! You in the room, not in the room…LOL…
You make some valid points about the theatre experience and things shifting. I worked at a movie theatre when VCRs first came out and remember all the panicked discussions. Would every movie theatre go under? Would people no longer go out to see movies on weekends, opting to stay home and rent something instead? What would happen to the popcorn industry? What if, what if, what if? And yanno what? People still went to movies, and I think they still will go to movies, even the arthouse ones. The DVD market may be popular, and yes, there are new ways to promote films via the web and other networks, but I see those as a supporting platform, not the main one.
Interesting note regarding the composer story you told, where you were the only one not laughing. I read your account in the BOM diary, and I could feel your frustration and pain. In other words, I didn’t laugh. When I watched the youtube clip and you told that story, I did chuckle. Your impersonation of the guy was hilarious, and the inflections/facial expressions added to the storytelling, which you’re great at. There’s a Woody Allen movie quote: “Comedy is tragedy plus time.” While folks could obviously hear how frustrating the situation was (and I heard many gasp at the composer keeping the $$$), they also saw your talented way of telling a story. Just my 2 cents, since I had different reactions b/t the book and the clip.
Thx for getting this blog post out there. Always enjoy them 🙂
Stuart Henderson
Tom, Since you mentioned Danny Sugerman in your previous blog, Have you read his Book “Wonderland Avenue”?? it is simply a Great Book, Funny,Sad,etc runs through all the Human Emotions, A Very Inspiring Book and shows a real objective look at jim in my eyes, A Very Fair and Human Look.
That Dude who told you not to use the F Word on the radio station and that it is a republican Funded one is sadly not unexpected,Narrow mindedness sadly creeps in places sadly.
Not think that was like in a sense Nazi Germany??.
Danny was one of Us, A DOORS FAN.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician