US of A

April 22, 2010

Made it home Tuesday night just before sunset. I have to say the NJ Turnpike never looked so good.

Back in the Us of A

The trip back to the US took over 18 hours. I stood in a frenzied clot of passengers at the Orly airport in Paris from 6:30 in the morning until 2pm; first waiting to see if I had a seat, and then waiting to see if the plane would take off before the airport shut down again. A woman from the airline came out to make an announcement. No one could hear her. I stepped out of line, leaving my luggage behind me, and walked up closer to hear what she was saying.

What she was saying was that everyone should stay in line. When I turned around I saw that the entire line had collapsed around me and about 300 people had now all rushed forward with their luggage. I went back to get mine and found myself far behind people who had arrived in the line hours after me. 

The tension was so high I'm surprised fistfights didn't break out, especially since I was doing my best to start one.

I finally made it into the boarding area around 2:30. Just before getting on the plane the French Aviation Authority routed us south to Lisbon, Portugal--a 2 hour flight. We made it out just as all the Paris airports started closing again. After re-fueling in Lisbon, we started the crossing to Newark; another  8 1/2 hours in the air. The moment the plane started moving I instantly fell asleep.

My last day in Paris had been a strange one. I walked the city for hours, trying to enjoy myself but wracked with anxiety about having no idea when I'd be getting out. I took this picture. I felt like it really, really expressed my frame of mind.

Last day in Paris

Got back to the hotel room to find the message urging me to be at the airport at 6:30 am. After quickly packing, I met John for a drink and told him of my pending departure. He still had no ticket out and was not in a good mood.

We sat in the hotel lobby sipping scotch for a half hour. When I mentioned how bewildered I was at the nastiness of some of the US press he quietly urged me to not worry about it. "The press has always loved to hate us," he said. "You made a great film. There is no question in my mind you were the guy for us. You told our story."

At that moment I felt a rush of emotion so intense I had to turn away. It was difficult for me to comprehend the man sitting opposite me in his long, silver hair, gathered in the back in a neat ponytail, was one of the guys I never dreamed I'd meet when I was 14 and first listening to the original, long version of "Light My Fire"--that he was John Densmore, the sharp, precisely frenzied drummer I'd been watching on editing and movie screens for almost 2 1/2 years.

I managed to tell him how much I'd come to respect and admire him. We wished each other luck on getting home. Then we embraced and he was gone. When the alarm woke me 5 hours later I was deep in the tendrils of a dream where I was standing on the edge of vast, dark river; peering across it and unable to distinguish anything on the opposite shore.

taken today in the Parisian subway 😉
I can’t wait to see it!
Hey Tom and all,
Great news from the incredible Ida’s site (!
WYS will be opening in more cities, including Athens, GA at the Cine theater from June 18-24 🙂 I’ll contact them about putting up fliers b/c I still have the Athens flier.
Renata and those anywhere near the Atlanta area – Athens is about 1.5 hours east of the city and is an easy drive the whole way. Well worth it to make a daytrip, plus the town of Athens is where Univ of GA is–has that great campus feel (with better parking than the Cinefest!)
I’ve also rallied up my friends in Austin to go see it for the one night it plays there 🙂
Renata, I also heard back from the TARA theater, they are looking into possibly getting WYS to play there.
Everyone remember that it plays on PBS this Wed, May 12, 9pm EST!
Hey Brittney,
You wrote: “i know that i want to work with films, but i have no specific idea as to what i would do. also, as far as school goes, what degree would you suggest?”
First of all, congratulations on your impulse to take a step out into the strange unknown. You mention Joseph Campbell. He has identified this step as one of the most crucial and courageous in a person’s development.
You have many more options today than I did when I first started. I got a MA in Directing from NYU. The degree did absolutely nothing for me. But, as I had no experience with moving images, the program of making short films was very helpful.
I quickly learned though that the kinds of films I wanted to make required more knowledge about acting than the school provided. So, after graduation, I took acting classes on my own.
I wouldn’t worry so much about the degree, unless you think you might go into teaching. However, there are some prestige film schools that offer a degree, which some people believe puts you in a stronger position after graduation. NYU is one. USC and UCLA are two others. The two California schools are more geared towards ushering you into the Industry.
And don’t get me wrong, there are some smaller colleges that offer a degree that could be very productive for you, without all the stress and competition at a “name” school.
But, if you just want to learn about filmmaking there are many places that offer 6-8 week courses. New York Film Academy is a good one. I believe there are branches all around the country. This is a good alternative if you don’t want to spend a lot of money on tuition.
It will also enable you to get your feet wet without a lot of pressure. You’ll get to make a film. If your aim is to become a director I would look for some place like this, that allows you to quickly get right into the filmmaking.
I’ve never found much use in “film theory.” I think you can see how other filmmakers have expressed ideas by closely watching their films. But, I would be very wary of any course or instructor that tells you, “This is wrong, This is right.” Filmmaking is still a very new medium and the rules are still being written. Just look at how David Lynch is telling his stories.
I would suggest finding a place that helps you learn about every aspect of the filmmaking process. Editing, lighting, costumes–even hair, makeup and producing. The main thing is that you determine what it is about film that you love. You may not know that right away–and that is OK. If you decide it is directing, then you are right; the road is risky, with no guarantee of success.
But, I do know this; your greatest allies will be the truth and your passion for finding your own way of presenting it to the world.
Best of luck,
Dear Mr. DiCillo,
I am a broadcast journalism major at Pasadena City College, with a 30-minute radio show on our student-run Internet radio station, Lancer Radio. If you would have the time, I’d like to know if you would be available for a short phone interview (6 minutes) about “When You’re Strange” and what it can teach students about making documentaries. Would you be willing to talk with me sometime, and if so, do you have a press contact I could call?
Thank you for considering this, and take care.
I just had my DVD pre-order disappear unceremoniously from Amazon. I hope this only means that it’s delayed and that it will return.
I see now someone else above has noted the same thing.
Howdy 🙂
Tom and blog folk – check out There are more theater release dates/cities for WYS. My guess is, that’s why they’ve postponed the DVD release from May to June again, because several cities are getting WYS released in May, and some in June.
Renata – sure, feel free to join my effort to talk other indies in Atlanta into bringing WYS back. There’s the Regal TARA, the Landmark Midtown, the Plaza Theater (on Ponce) and the Lefont in Sandy Springs. All 4 typically show indies on a regular basis. I took MARTA too but it would’ve been easier for me to see it several times if parking was better. And I hear ya on the TARA. I love that place.
hey tom. this has nothing to do with this entry, but i wanted to ask you something. i pretty much have made up my mind to “follow my bliss” as joseph campbell would say, and try to get into a career with movies. i’ve always been enamored with movies since i was little and i am still just as fascinated by them, but now with so much more respect for it all. i’ve fought with the decision to actually pursue something in that area though because i don’t have a lot of money and that has made me be extremely practical in that sense. i know that the movie industry is tough, competitive, and risky, but if i feel like it’s what i’m supposed to do then shouldn’t i go for it? anyway, i think i’ve made up my mind. i’m in college right now, with no real degree plan yet and my question is: what steps did you take to start working with films? what should i do? any advice would be appreciated immensely! i know that i want to work with films, but i have no specific idea as to what i would do. also, as far as school goes, what degree would you suggest? anything you can tell me really. i just finally think this is what i was meant to do and i don’t have a clue on how to get started. thank you so much for anything you can tell me!
Hi Elaine,
Good to know you’re in Atlanta too! That’s great you contacted indie theaters. If you think it would help if I join you in putting pressure on them, let me know which ones you wrote to and I’ll send them a message as well. I know only the Tara cinema, at Cheshire Bridge, I kind of expected they would show WYS there and was disappointed when it did not turn out that way.
Here is the message I got back from Cinefest when I asked if they could show WYS longer:
“Unfortunately, April 18th was the last day we could show the film, as the print was subsequently shipped out soon after; thus, another screening wouldn’t be possible. Currently, the film is scheduled for a June 29th DVD release.”
It’s interesting you mentioned parking. That definitely seemed to be an issue at Cinefest, I had never been there before and was wondering where people would park (I took Marta).
Stuart Henderson
Tom, Why has the Usa Dvd release of WYS seem to be delayed? it has vanished from listings….
Hey Tom,
I’m the editor of the DVD and Blu-ray website and just got a press release about the DVD and Blu-ray release of When You’re Strange. Looks like an awesome movie. Wanted to let you know we’ve written about it ( Good luck with the rest of the movie’s releases.
Tom, We are getting a little closer to 19 May, I’ve got to go to Sweden just prior, hopefully the volcano will behave itself.
My eyes have seen you
Free from disguise
Gazing on a city under
Television skies
Television skies
Television skies
My eyes have seen you
My eyes have seen you
Eyes have seen you
Let them photograph your soul
Memorize your alleys
On an endless roll
Take care. . .
Anna Bjorn
Dear Mr. DiCillo.
I saw your Doors film in Santa Monica today. It is really cool and well done in every regard. I found the way you threw in the historical footage etc. both creative and moving. Well done – Congratulations!
I am an old friend of John Densmore´s and was going to give him a call to congratulate him as well, but found out the number I have is no longer his. I wonder if you would be kind enough to pass my regards & e-mail address on to him, so he can contact me?
Thank you and best of luck with all your endeavors!
Anna Bjorn.
Mr. DiCillo,
It’s your old friend from Johnny Suede. I just discovered “When You’re Strange” is playing in LA. I’m rushing out to see it. Can’t wait! Congratulation my friend. I love your blog. It’s informative, touching and fucking hilarious. I miss our times on the set. Please let me know if you’re out this way, I’d love to see you. I’ll be in touch.
Calvin ” Deke” Levels
Hi Tom,
Pleasure to meet you at boxing on Saturday – your blog posting gives a little more context for your return to NY. Continued success with this labor of love.
Hi Tom. It is Suzannah. Since posting my YouTube on you, your movie and my feelings about art and NYC politics I have a lot of responses. People from all over the world from Mexico to Bucharest are writing me asking when will the film be available for them to buy on the internet. A friend that told to see your film in the first place said the night she went you said this will be released on TV. Is that true and if so when? Anyway I can tell you first hand you have generated a lot of interest.
I just noticed that PBS has moved the broadcast date for the American Masters showing of WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE from May 26 to May 12:
Renata – Hi, I’m in the Atlanta metro area too.
Unfortunately, WYS was always scheduled to only have a brief time there at the Cinefest, regardless of how big a crowd it got–the theater is a one-room auditorium and they had other films booked immediately after. Not sure why its location was chosen. But I think asking local theaters to show the film, not only in Atlanta but everywhere, is a great idea. Many times indie films open at one theater, then shift to another.
I’ve emailed the other Indie venues and given them the Rhino email address Tom posted previously for all US distribution inquiries, and asked those theaters to pursue getting it to return. Personally, I think there’s a bigger market here if it did open at another venue, for parking reasons alone.
Keep talking to the Cinefest. I’ll keep talking to the 3-5 other Indie houses around the area. Maybe between us, we can get WYS back to the big screen here.
Tom, hope you’re doing well and have recouped from the long trip and jet lag 🙂
I applaud and “second” the comments from everyone above!!!
Your inner 14 year old should be elated!!! Those tears are jewels that you should be proud of as they carry SO many emotions within each drop! When the moment struck…and the emotions were real, honest, and in full force, I know turning away is sometimes the easiest way to handle the explosion of emotions. John must have felt and genuinely appreciated what was expressed with only emotions. I bet he appreciates you and is so happy you came into his life as well. Life’s really remarkable. Who knew that you as a 14 year old would find a path to this moment in time. Wow! 🙂
Critics are critics because they are not artists. Words sting, yes, but YOU are an artist in writing, acting, and filmmaking. Please remember that. What they write are ONLY words. Your subject matter tested the limits and it is only in the spirit of pushing those boundaries that critics voice their opinions with force even today. Embrace it, knowing that you touched every one of those critics in some way to have generated responses, which just confirms that you did your job well. You got people to think beyond their comfort level.
Hey Tom,
I came across the following quote:
“To affect the quality of the day, that is the highest of arts.”
— Henry David Thoreau
While I found it to be inspiring, it also reminded me of your films. Each one of them fits a given situation or mood, makes the day better for whatever reason.
On really bad days, I reach for Living in Oblivion because it’s hilarious and watching Steve Buscemi give his primal scream makes me feel better every single time.
On days I want comfort or feel disillusioned with humanity, I reach for Box of Moonlight. On days when I want my soul to smile, I reach for Delirious. Etc. etc.
Each one has a way of making the days brighter. And when WYS gets released on DVD, I’ll add that to the collection as well 🙂
Between jet lag, stranded trips to Paris, critics and a chaotic schedule over the last 2 years, I just wanted to reiterate that the art you create touches other people’s lives. Thx 🙂
John Densmore is great. A sagittarius, like Jim Morrison. Less concerned about money, more interested in real value(s).
Why should you care what the critics say. These are the same ridiculous clowns who shamelessly drool over and praise shitty movies all the time. Then a couple of years later those same million-thumbs-up or whatever movies mysteriously transmute into one and a half star tv reruns at obscure times and channels. People with half a brain don´t pay attention to critics when deciding to go see a movie or not. If WYS were in more theaters and had more advertisement support, people would go see it. This is the band that still sells a million cd´s a year, after all. But here in Atlanta for instance WYS was in ONE theater, for only a week. ONE WEEK! I wrote the theater asking them to bring it back. I mean, really. I would go back to see it again, and bring others with me, if it was available longer.
Anyway. Look great works of art have been ignored and trashed by idiots throughout history, it´s a classic artist thing, it´s been going on forever. You´re in the company of people like Van Gogh, man. You created something oool, beautiful, long lasting. Those reviews/reviewers will be nothing but forgotten stinky dust and your movie will still be bringing joy to people. That’s how it is.
Tom, welcome home!
I just wanted to take this opportunity to let everyone know that my interview with you appears in the new Penthouse Magazine (the May issue), now on the newsstands here in the U.S.
This, of course, only applies to those people who do read the magazine for the articles…
So glad you made it back Stateside. Your account of sipping scotch in the lobby w/John and hearing his faith in you as someone who told their story and as a talented filmmaker brought tears to my eyes.
And, as everyone here including me has said, John was absolutely right. I loved learning more about the Doors–the human side–and I don’t think anyone else could have brought the soulful reverence to it that you did.
And I think you should enlarge that picture and hang it up somewhere–memories of your crazy and meandering travels back home.
Hey Tom,
I want to echo John’s words and say you were the BEST person for the job and you did a mighty, mighty fine job with the film. You have given so much happiness to people around the world with this film, people starved of honest, truthful material on a band they love so much. You have turned people like me who were not big fans of The Doors into fans. It may be a little hypocritical of me to say don’t listen to critics, but I was a film enthusiast for twenty years (after seeing Robocop aged 4 I believe) before I became a critic, I have been a massive Tom DiCillo fan since discovering Johnny Suede back around ’95, it changed my life, and that love has stayed with me ever since, therefore from the perspective of being both a fan and a critic I can those critics who are dissing the film are talking shit!
I know these words won’t turn into box office revenue, but please know that this film is as good as anybody could ever have made a film on The Doors, for me it is the best rock documentary I have ever seen, and I have seen many, many of them.
Let’s just hope the film opens in Europe and does big business, we all know that some films really find their audience in Europe and receive the critial plaudits they deserve. I for one will be championing the film for as long as I can.
Cheers man,
Stuart Henderson
Tom, i Think this song sums you up in the face of Criticism about WYS
Hey Tom, please bring When you’re Strange film to the Mexican fans. We are waiting for it several years. Here in mexico we are also great fans. So please don’t forgive us. Please ask to Robby and Ray for the Mexican fans, and they will tell you that we are great Fans. So please I beg you.
Hey, it’s always nice to come back home after a trip like that, no matter how bloody awesome Europe is. And hey, I liked the picture. That conversation with JD- I would have been bawling. And don’t you for a second doubt that he’s right, okay?
So glad you made it home. No rest is worthwhile but the rest that is earned! Funny how the worst travel experiences make the best stories 🙂 Been putting up flyers and bugging my local art theater about getting the film.
Hi Tom,
Sounds like a chaotic trip outta there!!!
I liked your comments about your drinks with John in the hotel lobby…very cool.
Do you have any news on the possibility of release dates for When You’re Strange down here in Australia?
There’s heaps of people hoping it will be shown in cinemas down here!!!

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician