Two weeks after my return from Paris my brain is back, slightly battered but in better shape than my soul.

I don’t think it is anything more than a simple observation of fact to point out that advertising for When You’re Strange has been pretty much non-existent. The other night I ran into a friend on the street right in front of the Angelika theater here in New York. When I mentioned the film he said he didn’t even know it was playing. I’ll never forget the astonishment on his face when I turned him around and pointed across the street to where the film’s title was in the marquee.

The manager at the Angelika told me the film was doing well, but could be doing much better if there was more advertising. And this week, because of dwindling attendance, the film leaves the Angelika for a smaller venue.

With a strategy like this the film’s fate could not have been more predictable. Elaine and Renata have written in detailing their heroic efforts to revive the film in Atlanta. They expressed puzzlement, as did many of you, as to why the film played at the theaters it did, and why for such a short amount of time.

I too, was puzzled. So, this is what I learned.

The deal with PBS to televise the film in May was made before a theatrical distribution plan was in place. PBS chose the May 12 date because it allowed them to get the most attention for the film during Sweeps Week. This is great for them because it helps garner higher TV ratings. It’s great for the producers of the film because they made money on the deal.

However, it wasn’t so great for the theatrical release of the film. Since the release date was on April 9, movie theaters wanting to show the film had only a very small window to reach audiences before the film was available for free to millions of people. Therefore, ALL of the first-run theaters passed on the film. They did not want to spend time and money on a film that would only be ‘fresh’ for a little more than a month.

And so, only the smaller, independent theaters took the film, knowing they could show it for a week, or in some cases–a day, and not expend a lot of effort or cash. This is why the film played in a college auditorium in Atlanta and why it will play for only one night in several cities around the country.

The distributor’s strategy appears to have been the classic “No Ad” approach. I’m not an expert so I don’t really know how effective this approach has been in the past. Apparently it saves the distributor the annoyance of spending any money to advertise the film. When I did question them about the ‘minimal’ advertising in newspapers they responded with the reasoning that “nobody reads newspapers anymore.”

So, imagine my surprise as I opened today’s paper and saw a quarter-page ad for a new indie film distributed by the notoriously tight-fisted Sony Pictures Classics. Not only did they run the ad the week before the film opened, they foolishly ran it again in color on opening day. I felt horrible for not calling to tell them to stop wasting their money. What were they thinking running a color ad in a paper that no one reads!?

I know I’m a moron about these things but that idiot part of me keeps wondering what might have happened if When You’re Strange had been given just one quarter page ad, in color.

Of course this leads us inevitably to the Reviews (in the same papers no one reads). Two pissy reviews in NYC and LA almost effectively strangled the film there–especially with no advertising to counter them. I thank you all for your support and suggestions not to take them personally. The truth is, I learned this lesson very early on. Here are two quotes from “major” critics on my first film, Johnny Suede:

P.J. Flooring, The Guardian, UK

Everett Klempf, NY Times

Even though I just made the second one up the point is if you believe one you have to believe the other. I discovered quickly that the only thing that matters is how I feel about the film. An honest assessment of what I’ve accomplished (or not accomplished) is the only way I can proceed to the next film. False flattery, especially from myself, leads only to falseness.

The only reason I’m bothered by negative reviews is their potential to prevent people from experiencing the film on their own. And, if no one goes to see the film it directly impacts my ability to make another one. To me, this system is criminally insane.

Is one person really any more capable of determining what is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ than anyone else? Based on what I’ve seen over the last 40 years I’m not convinced. I’ve never read a review of one of my films that informed or illuminated something I didn’t already know. In general critics either recount a film and call the filmmaker a genius or they recount a film and call the filmmaker a dumbshit. As far as I can tell, only two people benefit from this; the filmmaker lucky enough to get a ‘good’ review and the critics themselves as they solidify their position as the ‘true’ arbiters of taste; as if their masturbatory scribblings are in some way as important as the films they write about.

I think at the end of every review it should be compulsory for the critic to end with,

This is only my opinion. I really know no more than the guy behind you at Starbucks. I’m just some lucky bastard who gets paid to sit in the dark. I urge each and every one of you to go see the film and make up your own mind.

So, what function do critics really serve? Without them, films would still exist. Without films, they would not. The writer Guy de Maupassant (1840-93) had some thoughts about what a good critic could provide.

Guy de Maupassant 
Guy de Maupassant

This is from the introduction to his novella Pierre and Jean.

A critic should be without bias, should have no preconceived theories and should not strictly adhere to ideas from any ‘school’ or trend. He must distinguish and explain the most contrasting and diverse artistic aims. Most critics reject anything outside their own aesthetic system. Instead, a critic worthy of the name should have an understanding open to everything, should so exceed his own personality that he can reveal and praise works of art that he personally dislikes but as a judge he is obliged to comprehend. The public is made up of millions of people who cry out, “Console me, amuse me, make me sad, make me shudder, make me weep.” Only a few people ask the artist, “Do something beautiful in the form that suits you best according to your own temperament.”

Or as filmmaker Jean Luc Godard (Breathless, Weekend) said a bit more simply:

A critic is a soldier who fires on his own troops.

Jean Luc Godard
Jean Luc Godard
Posted by:Tom

81 thoughts on “ 74. INCLUDE ME OUT ”

  1. Hi, Tom.

    I just came across your latest blog just now.

    I have never written on here before, but I have read all of the previous posts and comments, and I feel compelled to write to you now.

    I cannot thank you enough for all of the hard work and creativity you put into making this film. Even though I live in Southwest Florida and haven’t seen the film yet, I am looking forward to seeing it on PBS, and hopefully at a theatre somewhere up north over the summer.

    It is unfortunate that such a good film as this gets little marketing in today’s American culture. It’s tragic, actually. However, I am very encouraged by all of the other countries you have signed up to show the film on a much larger release this summer. There are many of them, aren’t there?

    Perhaps you will be able to attend some of these openings in the larger cities.

    I always thought of The Doors as more of a global band, and I believe there are many, many fans around the world waiting to see this film, and I also believe over time, the film will grow to become legendary, much like The Doors themselves.

    It was interesting – when I watched a Doors YouTube video recently (“Touch Me” from the Smothers Brothers 1968), the video had over 10 million views, and somehow I pressed some button that showed me a map of the world and who was watching the video, and Mexico had one of the darkest colors (meaning the most views from a country). That really made me think the Doors may actually – as of today – be more popular in other countries than in the US, even though I think they are as popular here today as the Beatles, Stones, Who, Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd.

    Tom, I think your film and The Doors themselves will continue to grow in stature and remain relevant many years from now. This is not a hope – it is what I truly believe.

    Thanks, and take care.


  2. I think I will end my next review just like that, actually. If only my editor will approve. Great post Tom, I love the way you write, it is so direct and immediate, just like your films. I agree with everything you say. Hey, all the critics seem to be losing their jobs now, anyways. I write for a swedish women´s mag, I don´t call myself a critic.

    Oh and please work with Sam Rockwell again, will you!? And go see “Moon” if you haven´t.

    All the best,


  3. Hey Tom,

    I guess my own view of the whole critic thing is this: I became a critic because film is my life, I wanted to write about film and educate people somehow (providing people actually read the newspaper I write for) about other better films when I have to review a bad film. Instead of droning on about the bad film in question is I will throw in references to better films which may be of similar story. My ultimate goal in becoming a critic was with the view to becoming a writer of books and to become an educator, which is coming along great because only the other day I successfully secured two venues (an Arts Centre and a Theatre) at which I will be teaching the history of American Cinema and analysing certain films within certain movements (Johnny Suede is in there!)and this opportunity would not have been afforded to me had I not been a published critic and therefore taken seriously.

    But, best of all, and this is not only the highlight of my career so far as a film journalist but as a film fan and person, I got to interview your good self, someone I admire endlessly as one of greatest directors of all, and I have been able to champion When You’re Strange. I have contacted innumerable editors of magazines and newspapers, hounded them tirelessly and even wavered my fee just so it could be published and have the word spread…and now our interview in being published and for me this is what being a film critic is about: championing the films and the directors you love and spreading the word of quality film. If watching and writing about the many bad films I have to see each week affords me the opportunity to perhaps write the ultimate book on the films of Tom DiCillo someday, well then I will put up with it 🙂

    I hope this at least explains the intentions of some critics, real critics with a true passion for film, not the cynical hacks we have seen giving sound bites on TV or dying to have a quote on a poster. For me, if you are a great film writer, your writing will be a kind of art in itself, that may sound a bit pretentious but I believe good writing and inspiring people to seek out great film is what this whole criticism lark is about.

    Cheers man,


  4. Hey Tom,

    The Godard quote says it all. This is “Delirious” all over again. JESUS!!! How frustrating. I was perplexed about the PBS showing & your explanation puts the pieces of the puzzle together, but now the completed picture is all blank. Ever try to do one of those jigsaws? Puts you right out of your mind.

    Keep the baby, Faith.


  5. Tom,Any Idea why the dvd release of WYS was delayed?? i had it pre ordered then sent me a email saying they could not supply the item at this time or thereabout and cancelled my preorder.

    Any Idea Why??.

    Very Interesting thoughts on critics Tom, gives food for thought.

    Keep up the good work:).

  6. “I really know no more than the guy behind you at Starbucks.”
    This could be true to many so called critics out there, but it’s totally unfair to those who actually studied film and do know more than the average guy at starbucks. Or maybe even more than you, if you can accept that.

  7. Hey Wayne,
    My respect and admiration for you just skyrocketed. If anyone had the right to call me a pompous hypocrite it was you.

    I have openly embraced your steady and passionate support of me and my films. How can I do this and write a ‘complaint’ about Critics when your efforts to help me clearly negate my own argument?

    Because I’m just a filmmaker. That is all. As I mentioned to Lucian above, of course I’m not referring to all Critics here. I’m talking about a much larger issue; the entire structure of contemporary film criticism.

    And I’m not implying there is no hope. That is why I put in the Maupassant paragraph. His logic is amazing to me. I would read and relish anything that even came close to his line of reasoning.

    I guess I’m just concerned about how the door to making personal, independent film keeps getting narrower and narrower. Sometimes it feels like it is almost shut. Every one of my films has taken at least 4 years to make. I cannot accept that an irresponsible review, written in at the most 30 minutes, can kill all that and prevent me from doing what I love.

    And at times like these I know exactly what motivated Godard to make his statement.

    You are indeed a Writer. I applaud your approach and sensibility. Thanks for your magnanimity and understanding.


  8. Hi Tom,

    I’m sorry to hear the new Doors documentary hasn’t been doing so hot in the theatres. There’s been very little fanfare up here in Toronto, Canada about the film and it’s had a very limited run in a very few local theatres.
    I run a small literary journal called, The Toronto Quarterly, and would love to do an email interview with you about the The Doors film for our forthcoming summer issue. Please let me know if that might interest you.
    My email address is


  9. Hey Lucian,
    I appreciate your comment. Let’s take a look at it.

    “I really know no more than the guy behind you at Starbucks.”
    This could be true to many so called critics out there, but it’s totally unfair to those who actually studied film and do know more than the average guy at starbucks. Or maybe even more than you, if you can accept that.”

    It seems like you got a little miffed by my post; almost as if you took it personally and you wanted to throw in a little dig with your implication my ego could not accept there might be others in the universe more intelligent than me.

    I hope you will allow me to observe something: I think it is interesting you reacted rather personally to something that didn’t even identify you by name. So, imagine how it feels to read an irresponsible review in a major publication that does identify you and trashes you to the entire country.

    Perhaps you are of the school that maintains making films in the public eye means having to suck it up and take the good with the bad. I’ve never understood this ‘rule’ and don’t know where it came from. I’ve sucked it up along with the best of them. I just don’t happen to believe punishment is a requirement just because I love to make films.

    As a filmmaker I have absolutely no recourse. I can’t write the editor a letter of rebuttal; I only sound like a whining loser. And I run the risk of further aggravating the critic to the point where it could influence their next (and perhaps every) review.

    I can’t get angry, I can’t take it personally. The only option open to me is Acceptance. And you know what? I don’t accept that.

    Some might say that the best response for me is to make another film. That is entirely my point. An irresponsible review hurts me in the most crucial and vulnerable area; my ability to make films. It has nothing to do with wanting the world to hail me as the next Quarantino. It has only to do with survival. A succession of flaky reviews that keep attendance down has a direct impact on financier’s and distributor’s faith in backing my next film.

    Knowing my response options were limited I chose a slightly exaggerated and humorous response in writing this post. Of course I’m not talking about all critics. And I’m certainly not implying that the person behind you at Starbucks is a moron. People of all intellects drink coffee.

    But, I’m not sure I agree with you that that a knowledge of film is a necessity in order for one to ‘legitimately’ to speak about it. Does this mean that only ’smart’ people can understand a work of art? Wouldn’t that also imply that artists were then only making art for the ‘educated’?

    The first performance of Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring so incensed ballet patrons and critics they stormed the stage, screaming obscenities at Stravinsky and hurling seat cushions at the dancers. Why? It offended their safely constructed bastions of what ballet ’should’ be. And the loudest screams of outrage were from the educated and well-informed.

    When I hear this story I think of some Russian field worker walking through the woods at night. He hears some strange music. It sounds like nothing he’s ever heard before. But, knowing literally nothing about it he can’t judge it. He’s only curious.

    So, he keeps walking toward it. He reaches a clearing. And there in the flickering shadows of a bonfire he sees an orchestra fervently performing Stravinsky’s masterpiece. You know what I think he’d do? He’d sit down and listen.

    And that’s the way people should approach films, especially critics. But, whenever a film is released it first has to run a gauntlet of critical assessment before it even gets to the audience. Audiences rarely get a chance to approach a film purely, openly, motivated only by their own real curiosity.

    But, I will promise you this. If you ever write a review, or read one that embraces some of the principles Maupassant lays out above I will print this post out and eat it.

    Also, if you have any advice on how this current system of criticism can be a. bettered, or b. dealt with, please lay it on me.

  10. Hey Sam,
    thanks for this and your comment above. Wow, I didn’t know so many critics read this thing. I applaud your sense of humor mightily. It seems you are grounded in an unusually clear reality.
    I don’t know about the physical assault. It has been tempting. I once ran into a critic by accident who had just given The Real Blonde a scathing review. In fact I was in the act of shaking his hand in a warm greeting when it struck me who he was.

    I withdrew my hand and told him quite bluntly how misinformed his review was. It clearly made him very nervous to be actually face to face with me.

    Maybe the solution is to start a publication that reviews Reviewers.

    You keep your job now.

  11. Hi Tom,

    RE: “It’s [the PBS broadcast] great for the producers of the film because they made money on the deal.”

    It sounds like the producers shot the film in the foot with the PBS broadcast deal coming about a month after the theatrical release. Even if the theatrical release date was not known when the PBS deal was inked, perhaps the producers should have gotten their lawyers to write a forward looking clause into the contract with PBS that stipulated “the PBS broadcast may not occur until xxx number of days after the film is released in theaters.”


    1) A DVD / Blu Ray release date of June 29 has been announced. Will the film as published on home video be the same 90 minute edit seen in theaters? Or will this be an “extended director’s cut” on DVD / Blu Ray?

    2) Also, were there any interviews shot but not used for the film that could be added as extra bonus material? I don’t mean this stuff would be edited into the film — but just added as supplemental material on the DVD. If so, which folks were interviewed besides Jim’s father?

    3) Did you get a chance to hear the song “Paris Blues”? You mentioned you had considered it for the film. Your thoughts on this song and why was it not included in the film? Paris Blues is reportedly the last Doors song and the lyrics apparently refer to Jim’s desire to fly to Paris for artistic rebirth.

    4.) The quality of the HWY footage I saw in the theater was amazing. Did you scan in the original 16mm camera negatives? Is there a lot more unseen outtake material from HWY and Feast of Friends in the can?


  12. Hey Tom,

    It has and always will be my pleasure to spread the word about all of your films to as many people as I can. I just want you to know I wasn’t offended by this blog, I completely understand your frustration at the state of criticism but I just wanted people to know that there are the odd few film journalists who don’t take joy in slating films, well I don’t anyway; I believe you must go in to a film expecting the best.

    Also, you are 100% right about barriers that shouldn’t exist when it comes to those who are deemed fit to critique a piece of art. I never went to college, I was turned down when I applied when I finished school eight years ago on the grounds that my leaving results were poor. I loved film but had no clue what to do after the rejection, so I got a job as a hairdresser (the only thing that interested me after film) and all the while I watched as many films as I could and I decided to teach myself film theory and history and all that, bought as many academic books on film as possible and when I lost my job as a hairdresser I decided to write about films to pass the time, one of the first writings being a essay on The Real Blonde. A couple of years passed and I sent a few reviews around to newspapers and I was taken up by a popular newspaper and from there it has blossomed and am now on the road to both educating people as well. It has made me believe that passion triumphs over all and there should never be a barrier between audiences and critics, or “learned” and “unlearned”, the audience reaction is and always will be more important than what I write in the paper about any given film; in a way film criticism is redundant but good criticism should never be about telling people what not to see, that horrible vox pop approach, it should be about sharing of knowledge and making people aware of stuff which perhaps passes them by.

    You said to me in your last reply you are “just a film-maker” but man you are more than that, you entertain, you provoke thought, you give people immense joy with your work, you inspire. Without great film-makers such as you I would still be sweeping up hair in a salon and be fiercely unhappy, and for that I must thank you.

    I would never be happy to spend my life just slating films, I have too much of a love of film for that; but it is however unfortunate that there are many, many critics out there who are perfectly happy to be paid to destroy careers and not let people make up their own minds. I hope to never become one of them.



  13. Hey Don,
    I love what you said about the The Doors being more of a global band. I have high hopes for the upcoming French and UK release. I know both countries are planning full-scale theatrical releases, with posters, advertising and even a premiere.

    I sincerely thank you for writing. There has been great interest from our brothers and sisters in Mexico for the film. If it gets distribution there I would fly down in a second.


  14. Hey Rai,
    good to hear from you. Yes, the similarities to the Delirious release are unsettling. I did not expect this. We got some very strong press from major sources and with Johnny Depp coming on board with the narration I thought the band deserved a stronger push than this.

    But, other decisions were made.


  15. Hey Stuart,
    I don’t know anything about the DVD postponement. But, rest assured there will definitely be a release. This is where the producers are expecting to make their biggest profits. So, don’t worry. Keep your eyes open.
    And like I said, I think there will be some extras on there, like the interview with Jim’s father.


  16. Hey Mike,
    I appreciate your assesment from a legal point of view but I think the writing was on the wall all along.

    Your questions:
    1. Yes, the DVD will be the exact same film released in theaters and on PBS. It is my cut. There is no longer version.

    2. The only extras I know included on the DVD are two interviews, one with Jim’s father and one with his sister.

    3. I did listen to Paris Blues. Although I liked it a lot the audio quality was terrible and I felt it didn’t quite fit where I wanted it to go.

    4. HWY was not shot on 16mm. It was shot on 35mm. This is even further testament to Jim Morrison’s reverence for film. We had access to the original negative which is why the images look so amazing. I believe the Courson and Morrison estates are planning to release the entire version of HWY on DVD. I only used outtakes from it, no edited sequences. Most of the material from Feast Of Friends is used in that earlier documentary. I used some sequences in When You’re Strange that were not included.

    Thanks for writing. I appreciate the support.

  17. Hi Tom,

    You really are a great writer and I think you’re a wonderful filmmaker too. The reviews I read in the few major Canadian newspapers that wrote about WYS were positive. And most importantly of all, is the response of the fans when they saw the movie…they really liked it! They weren’t sorry they went. They were transposed for 90 minutes back to a world that many of them had lived in at a time when they had very high hopes for it, and for others, it was a fresh discovery about a band they knew their parents loved and they thought was cool but didn’t know a lot about. I went with my 20 year old niece and her boyfriend, plus a friend my own age, and we all loved it! If you’re a fan of The Doors, you will enjoy When You’re Strange.

    I have to agree with Don above and say that I think this film is going to grow over time and possibly become legendary. It’s a real shame that you weren’t afforded the advertising privileges that the film deserved, but with any luck, the PBS airing will only serve to push DVD sales through the roof! I know I’ll buy it as soon as it’s available and so will my niece.

    You know in your heart that you made a film to be proud of. It might take time, but I think it will receive a much larger audience.

    Try not to let the bastards get you down and remember that reviewers aren’t objective. I write reviews and I don’t have a university education but I try to be fair and I know what I like and what moves me and what doesn’t. I also try to avoid writing about anything that I really don’t like because I don’t like to say nasty things about other people’s creations. However, I bet that most critics judge a piece of art on how it makes them feel and not much more than that.

  18. Hey Tom,

    Thanks for the answer on dinky theater choices. That has puzzled me since they originally announced the cities/dates. And it’s such a shame that there wasn’t more publicity to send the film into bigger venues with more advertising. I do believe that with the Doors fan base, and the fact that the theater release has been to limited cities, I maintain the belief your soulful work of art will live on (and quite well, actually) on DVD. Seeing as how we both appreciate the theater-big-screen experience, I know you wish it could’ve had a longer and more extended life on the big screen.

    But, your DVD can still touch people. I have been moved by all your films, and until WYS, I hadn’t seen any on the big screen.

    My best to you for future projects because as I’ve said before, more DiCillo films = world becomes a better place.


  19. “The only reason I’m bothered by negative reviews is their potential to prevent people from experiencing the film on their own. And, if no one goes to see the film it directly impacts my ability to make another one. To me, this system is criminally insane.”

    I’m truly impressed and amazed by your outlook on a subject such as this and I agree with you all the way.

    Would you mind it terribly if I wrote a paper on you for one of my classes? I promise to not include any bad or inappropriate critic reviews (including Much Hairdo About Nothing!) And of course you can read it when I’m finished if you wish.

    Its also a shame WYS isn’t showing at the Angelika anymore. But I can honestly say it had a truly amazing run there and I’m glad to have seen it so many times.

    All the best,

  20. Any chance “When You’re Strange” might still be playing in a theater in the Los Angeles area as late as or after May 15th? I’ve been in school in Humboldt Couunty, CA, and I never had the time to drive 6 hours south to San Francisco. I’ve patiently and excitedly followed the progression of this film for many years, back since the time when it was only a wonderful rumor in the forums. I’ve encouraged people I know who live near big cities to see the film. I’ll definitely watch it on PBS, but seeing Jim and the guys on the big screen would be more special. Thanks for putting all the time, love, and effort into making this picture, Tom.

    – David, a genuinely appreciative Doors fan

  21. Hello Christine,
    Thanks very much for your heartfelt words. They do help. I too have seen how the film affects audiences. My only disappointment is that I really believe it had the potential to reach many more.

    But, you are right. It will live on DVD. And more than anything, I’m proud of it. It is the film I wanted to make, despite obstacles and double whammys every step of the way.

    You keep writing the way you are.


  22. Hey Elaine,
    You are right, of course. It is becoming rarer and rarer for films to have any extended life on the screen. I’m still living in the days where independent films lingered in smaller theaters for months as audiences discovered them.

    But, DVD is another whole venue. I have a suspicion that people will be buying it for each other for Christmas and birthdays for quite a while.I will be very curious to see what response the film gets on PBS.

    Thanks again for your unending support.


  23. Hey Lindsey,
    If something about this experience has inspired you to write a paper then I say, go for it. And you can write whatever you want. I’m serious.

    As far as the Angelika goes, I think you were solely responsible for keeping the film alive there! They should give you a seat with your name on it.


  24. “Maybe the solution is to start a publication that reviews Reviewers.”

    Wow, I have in fact had that very idea, and as soon as I mention it to friends they all get really excited.

    I am glad you at least made that critic nervous, he clearly doesn´t know what he is doing. And probably good not to go “Ingmar Bergman” on him.


  25. Hi Tom, I am confused by the PBS showing so early. I mean really why would any casual fan go see the film if it’s going to be shown for free in a week? The lack of advertising for the film is kind of shocking to be honest. I mean, NOBODY I talked to heard anything about the film, yet when told, they said where and when can I see it. People LOVE The Doors and I feel if this got even a decent media push the film would have done A LOT better on the big screen. The film is outstanding. Most of the time, you need to spend money to make money. This film is the perfect example.

    Question: One of my favorite clips of Jim is him on his bike smoking, I noticed you had the beginning of that in the film, just wondering why you didn’t show the whole clip? Time? My friends and I love that little scene of him. It looks like he didn’t have a care in the world…Thanks Tom, I dig the new post.

  26. Hey Stuart,
    You are right, the Amazon listing got several things wrong, including the spelling of my name.
    The film runs 86 minutes. Nothing was cut.

  27. Hey Baron,
    All I can say is that, sadly I agree with you. I think it was a squandered opportunity.

    I loved that clip of Jim riding his bike too. I just decided the length of the piece I wanted fit the story better. You may recall I’m cheating the shot to suggest it was when Jim was on the beach just before his fateful meeting with Ray about starting a band.

    I’m glad you liked the post.

  28. Tom,

    It’s definitely the experience that inspires me, your experience as well as mine. First I was at the apple store hearing about WYS for the first time with a bunch of other (older!) people and meeting you for the first time and then I was seeing the film 4 or 5 times and seeing people (my age!) enjoy it even after it had been out for a week. Considering the little publicity it had, WYS really did reach people and I could only imagine the turnout if it had been put out there a bit more.

    Not to forget your eventful trip to Paris with John Densmore, I’m sure upon your return to New York you’ve gained fans and/or just ordinary people who look up to you, God knows I do.

    Anyhow, to watch something like that unfold is truly amazing and no amount of criticism (constructive or not) can destroy what you’ve managed to create.

    Keep breaking on through…


  29. The LOS ANGELES TIMES TV SECTION has made the American Masters PBS showing of WYS its pick of the week for Wednesday! 🙂

  30. In response to Wayne’s posting: “You said to me in your last reply you are ‘just a film-maker’ but man you are more than that, you entertain, you provoke thought, you give people immense joy with your work, you inspire.”

    Please keep in mind that the goal of making films is to have your vision of your story told globally. This film WILL find its audience. You did an outstanding job, and as Wayne posted, you DO INSPIRE people and make them look inside themselves with your projects. YOU got me to feel emotions in the way you created the documentary. YOU took me (and I’m sure others) on a journey. I learned about life and the band in ways I would never have imagined – with kindness, truth, and a level of caring about craft. This goes for the band AND you. I never expected to get emotional watching a film about a band I knew nothing about except for a few songs. YOU got to the heart of four incredible souls and the passion behind the words/music.

    I feel and respect your sense of being let down. I hope that you can stand with a sense of true accomplishment because “When You’re Strange” is EXCELLENT. Remember, it took the band a bit to find the audience and with millions hitting youtube, they WILL FIND this documentary.

    The fan base will gradually find the DVD once the CD gets onto the market. I’m sure Jim Morrison is smiling on this project. PLEASE, Tom, keep making films! YOU HAVE EARNED ALL THE KUDOS you are are receiving.

    Recharge, redirect your energy and realize we are ALL behind you with excitement to see your future successes. There is an old saying that if you fall off a horse and don’t get back on right away, you will lose the nerve to ride again. Dust yourself off and get back into the saddle. We are ALL excited to watch your progress. 🙂

    Sometimes DVD not only grow “film legs”, they turn into Millipedes – LOL!!! I’m wishing MILLIONS & MILLIONS of people find, embrace and buy “When You’re Strange” internationally.

    Warmest Regards – and please – “CHIN UP!”
    Ms. Ann Onimuss 🙂

  31. Hey Tom,

    I wholeheartedly agree – I think the DVD will have a strong life of its own. I’m interested in seeing how the PBS showing turns out too. Turns out in the midst of promoting the info on Twitter, one of the people who’d read my status and promo update was one of the lawyers who worked on legal contracts for WYS! Small world.

    I’ve contacted the theater in Athens GA about putting up fliers so hope to hear back from them.

    Those who want to check out the info on PBS, there are also some interviews on the web w/Jim’s father and sister.

    URL is (thanks to


  32. Dear Anne Onymuss and Lindsey and others,
    Listen, I’m absolutely ok. I really appreciate your concern but believe me I am definitely not sitting around moping or feeling hopeless and futile.

    I am actively working on developing my two new screenplays. I am making music again and I am boxing 3 days a week.

    Just to remind you, I have actually been through all this several times before. And it helps me a lot to express my thoughts here. More than anything I am renewed and enlived by the responses of people like Wayne and Sam, two film critics who appear to have been affected by my words.

    And that I see as a real positive development. All I’m really saying is that the system is fucked. A shitload of bad reviews does literally nothing to stop the massive advertising machine of IronMan2. But, stoopit, irresponsible reviews of low-budget films have a specific and destructive effect.

    I don’t in any way take the reviews to heart. After all these years I think I know what my talents are as a filmmaker. I said it in the post, and I’ll say it again here, the ONLY thing that bugs me is how these myopic “opinions” can keep people from discovering the film.

    And now…good night. My shoulders are killing me.

  33. It was interesting to learn the details about the movie release. It´s a testament to the amazing complications of the business world and the general unfairness of life that things turned out this way. The truth is, WYS deserved to be widely enjoyed with the impact provided by the big screen. It is very beautiful visually and soundwise, elements that are always enhanced by the theater environment. Moreover, it has a particular, magical atmosphere that is better savored in the similarly ritualistic environment of a dark movie room. Even being able to watch the audience watching the movie is a worthwhile part of the experience that many won´t be able to share in. The fact that some people would not move until the very last moment, when the credits close, the screen flickers and finally goes blank and the theater lights are turned back on, says something about the kind of spell a movie like WYS can put on you. This happened when I saw it at the Cinefest and probably in many other venues. But having said that, know what, in the end it´s just fantastic that this movie was made, thanks once more for making it.
    As for the critics, the problem in my opinion is that too many reviews nowadays are just inane, ignorant and self-centered, filled with limited, ego driven and petty likes and dislikes. If they just present, as they should, the educated context of a movie, and some basic, ACCURATE information, most readers can make up their minds as to if they want to see it or not. No need for extreme bashing or gushing over. Ultimately a critic should aim to make a movie seem interesting enough that people will want to go see it and judge for themselves if they like it or not. At least that´s the kind of critic I like and respect. Unfortunately in the case of WYS there were some really bad (as in blatantly incompetent) reviews. Here in Atlanta a reviewer even got away with writing that the HWY bits were “a dramatic REENACTEMENT of Morrison racing through the desert on some sort of pilgrimage to the Joshua Tree”, further adding that “Shots of a hirsute young Morrison STUNT DOUBLE behind the wheel directly reference Jean-Luc Godard’s 1960 French new wave film – and Morrison favorite – À bout de souffle.” (Capitalization is mine). I mean, what kind of crap is that? Is this guy supposed to have had an education as a critic? If so, are they not taught to check basic facts before putting pen to paper/fingers to keyboard? What a joke.
    Anyway can reviews really make a movie the way advertisement can, I don´t think so either. Man sure I wish WYS had had the advertisement it deserved. I do believe it would have become much bigger in the US if that had been the case. But I agree with others here that it will be more of an event abroad. I´m from Brazil, and there The Doors seem to still occupy a much larger space in the mainstream and public awareness. I´m curious to see what happens there.

    Elaine, thanks so much for the names of the indie theaters in Atlanta! I contacted them as well, no answer yet but let’s see what happens.

  34. I still think that a responsible review, even if it’s not glowing, can be helpful. People don’t have unlimited finances or time to see everything, but if they can learn about a film that would be to their liking, it’s a win-win. I read reviews, and at their best, they’ve told me about a film I would’ve never known about otherwise. The problem is that too many critics get away with writing irresponsibly. Seems that in many cases, the editors don’t care, as long as they can sell their newspapers or magazines. That said, I agree with Renata that more ads would’ve helped the film more than positive reviews; many Doors/music fans would probably check out the film regardless of the reviews, but they have to hear about it first!

    I’m still hoping for a theatrical release in the DC area at some point. I will watch tonight on PBS and buy the DVD, but I still think it’d be better seeing it on the big screen.

    Anyway, if anyone here is a Lost fan, you may have enjoyed hearing The End playing over the previews for next week’s episode. Too bad there couldn’t have been a tie-in to the film that way!


  35. Renata,

    You’re welcome. I heard back from the TARA. They are looking into it. And WYS *IS* playing at the Cine in Athens in June. I plan to road trip there and see it on the big screen again. I also wanted to put up fliers around Atlanta and Athens – are you interested?

    Tom – congrats on the WYS premiering on PBS tonight. For my local cable service, it is airing several times but tonight at 9pm EST is the first time. I’ve told everyone I know to watch it, hope the ratings are good.

    And post your music links on the “Sounds” page of your site when you’re done – I like the Black n Blue Orkestre 🙂


  36. Hey Tom,

    Sad to hear about another distribution fiasco…but excited at the prospect of a Tom Dicillo film on Blu-Ray. What I wouldn’t do to see the rest of your films given the hi-def treatment!



  37. tom….
    having watched “when you’re strange” for the 2nd time now (the first time in philly, no one would shut the fuck up)…i definitely have a lot to say about it, for good or ill (def. the former), but I really would LOVE to contact you n discuss some things…perhaps we could do an interview? or maybe jus have a discussion…i myself am a writer… in no means a “critic” persay…but i do review music & film that i hold near n dear to my heart…if only to get out to the masses that they need to WAKE UP!!! this stuff has a message….please feel free to message back or contact me at the email provided…or simply google “lucy tonic” n youll find some of my stuff.

    sincerely yours,
    Lucy T.

  38. Hi Tom,

    I just enjoyed WYS again, this time on PBS, though the (bleep!)ing censorship sucked. I’m hopeful that the PBS showing will be your advertising. There still seems to be some theaters showing the movie, and maybe Doors fans, music fans, whoever will like what they saw and go on the internet to find where they can get a DVD. They will discover they can’t get a DVD for another month and a half but they CAN see it in a theater (if they’re the lucky few). Or since it’s PBS they might have missed it but heard from their friends about the great thing on the Doors last night. It’s better than not being aware of it at all.
    Maybe I should add that my local paper (the Orange County Register) DID have an ad for the film when it was released last month. So there was some advertising (I clipped it out).
    Thanks again for a job well done.

  39. Hey Renata,
    You wrote this about a review you read:

    “I mean, what kind of crap is that? Is this guy supposed to have had an education as a critic? If so, are they not taught to check basic facts before putting pen to paper/fingers to keyboard? What a joke.”

    Here’s a question for you. Did you ever consider writing this person and expressing your thoughts? It actually might be more constructive than sharing the review here.

    And just for me, ask him if he thought the coyote was a “stunt double” too.


  40. Tom,

    I enjoyed seeing WYS on TV last night.New things struck me this time, particularly the current events footage of the 60s.

    Renata-I know the Atlanta review you’re talking about. And there is both a section for response comments (you’ll notice I chewed him up and spit him out) and there is also an email link for him. He didn’t respond to my comments I left weeks ago, but I wonder if he’ll respond to an email. Let’s find out. *grin*

    Tom- the coyote being a stunt double-you are too funny :)))

    My cable company is showing WYS several times so I’m looking forward to more 🙂


  41. Tom, here´s the truth: I considered writing, and then I did not (gulp!). I saw the review too late to have an answer published in time to impact the readers. As to writing the guy directly just to educate him, sadly I have some difficulties transmuting my desire to throw plates at people who anger me into rational, constructive action. But I’m working on it. I will write him, and point out his mistakes, and ask the coyote question, not so much out of a desire to enlighten him, since at this point I can’t help but see him as “unenlighteneable”, but rather as a selfish exercise to improve my skills at interacting with annoying humans. That´s the best I can do. Also you suggested it, and after watching WYS I feel I owe you one.
    Elaine did it, though, she wrote that guy! Elaine, that was so cool you did that. And thanks for the tips regarding this issue, I will go to the website and e-mail him too, and thanks also for the invitation to go to Athens with you. If it’s ok, I’ll write you directly to see if it´s possible to arrange it.

  42. Dear Renata,
    Please don’t feel compelled to do anything. I was only cracking the door in your imagination to the possibility. Most people never respond to these fools and their egos keep feeding off themselves like a fungus gone out of control.
    People absolutely have the right to express their contrary opinions to them.
    They are after all, only human.

  43. Elaine, I added a comment to that critic’s annoyingly lame response to your comment (my comment is under the name archer66). I also sent an e-mail to the paper about his substandard review and answer to you.
    Tom, thanks for saying I should not feel compelled to do anything, but as I wrote before, I felt I owed you one, you made a wonderful movie that deserves defending, and though it was totally infuriating for me to re-read that guy’s bs and respond to it, it was the right thing to do. However, now that it’s done, and unless you make WYS 2, 3 and 4, we’re even, ok. And I hope you don’t mind but due to my strict no-pearls-to-pigs policy I did not ask your coyote question.
    Have a great weekend everyone.

  44. Dear Tom,

    I found a profound fade (by accident) in WYS & had to post about it! Towards the end – after his arrest…Jim Morrison walks out & Johnny Depp narrates that “it’s at this moment Jim realizes he’s not indestructible” (I think that’s the line). There’s an intense sad look that flashes over Jim’s eyes. You cut that clip against the image of the dying coyote on the road and when I hit pause to take care of something, I accidently paused right on the fade of Jim’s face “floating” above the coyote – – right before you see the people next to it. ((Sometimes edits create more impact than we realize!)) The juxtapostion of both images on this frozen moment gave me another layer of emotion to that scripted line. If you get a chance, I’d love your feedback on that dissolve – on what it meant to you.

    I sense the coyote’s torturous death was excruciatingly disturbing to Jim at the time he filmed “HWY”. It seemed to have impacted his soul by the way he paced on the road and tore off in his car.

    Thanking you in advance for replying if you would be so kind.
    Warmest Regards,

    Ann Onimuss 🙂

    PS. WHYY (PBS in Philly) scheduled WYS to run a few times, which I’m glad to see! It gives the public more time to find the documentary!

  45. Hey Ann,
    I’ve had that same frame/dissolve appear several times before, when I was editing. Quite a profound coincidence really.

    Here’s a little trivia for you. When I was first looking through all the raw material for the film none of it was organized. I had shots of the band at some unknown concert intercut with shots of a bearded Jim wandering through the desert.

    I only found out later the shots of Jim were from his own film HWY. When I got the clearance from the Morrison estate to use the film I decided to use only outtakes from HWY. And I did not use any pre-edited sequences out of respect for his film.

    What this means is that any “order” or sequence that is in WYS was created in the editing room. The coyote on the road was not followed in Jim’s film by him driving off. I did that. Similarly, in the beginning of the film Jim does not hear the announcement of his own death on the radio. I put those fragments together on my own to create these new sequences.
    Ironically, I think this may have escaped a lot of people, and a lot of critics. Not only were they thrown by the new Morrison footage they had no way of knowing how I cut it together. What the hell. I thought it was cool.

    But, there was a real reason for the way I re-assembled the shots around the Miami verdict and Jim coming across the coyote. I felt the shot of Jim leaving of the courtroom had something different; something lost and haunted in Jim’s eyes that I had never seen before.

    It seemed to me there was a vulnerability, an edge of trepidation that had crept into his soul. Like some magical, seemingly eternal belief in himself had been killed.

    And the coyote in the road was so tragic to me. There is nothing more haunting than an animal seriously injured. The sense of bewilderment in the eyes, the pain, the inability to comprehend what has happened–all of these things seemed directly connected to Jim.

    Thanks for asking.

  46. Hey Renata,
    Good on you. I think you done a good thang. No reason for these people to think they operate in a vacuum.

    And I respect the way you felt you wanted to stay honorable and not poke his ego/stupidity regarding the poor coyote.

    Though, I must confess, sometimes I feel a good poke in the ribs is necessary, justified and quite healthy for the poker and the pokee.


  47. Hey Elaine,
    I should have known you would have already written to the “critic” and expressed yourself.
    It’s pretty crazy isn’t it? A guy trashes the movie based on an assumption that only proves his own idiocy.
    What can you do?
    Thanks again for the assistance.

  48. Dear Tom,

    First of all, THANK YOU for replying and for putting into words what I could only “feel.” It was this moment of him walking that pulled me so deeply into this documentary. I was never a fan so to speak, but to see someone go through so much with his craft and come out the other side with THAT look – after giving so much of his own soul – was crushing to watch. The wailing of the coyote is painful to hear as well. I agree about the similar thoughts between both of them.

    You have a true gift of editing if you get so many profound edit moments in post production. I didn’t realize you only used outtakes! Yes, I can “get” how overlapping the stage with the stillness/quiet of the desert would be extremely powerful!! I’m thankful that you chose a dissolve rather than a cut! LOL!!! Editing is really where the film truly emerges!

    Creative editing = even stronger messages. Great job!! As always, thanks for hosting this great blog! 🙂

    Warmest Regards,

    Ms. Ann Onimuss

  49. Tom,

    I love your explanation of the coyote/Jim in your recent reply to Ann Onimuss. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

    Re: the critic, of course and you’re welcome 🙂 He was a moron. And his response to me only further reinstated that he didn’t understand the film. I’m skipping the details, but let’s just say his response to me included a (dumb) argument which I turned around and used his own logic against him in a final reply. Bwaa ha ha. Critics for breakfast. There’s nothing better 🙂

    Have you heard anything about the PBS ratings for the WYS showings? I’ve been curious as to how it did. In my area, it showed several times over the weekend.

    Thx and keep plugging,

  50. Hey, Tom,

    I was thinking after watching “When You’re Strange,” what Jim might have thought of this documentary film being made. The film is a wonderful history lesson for those not so familiar with The Doors music and of Jim’s extraordinary talents. I thought it a bit ironic in a sense, especially after the point was made crystal clear in the film that Jim ultimately nixed the use of Light My Fire in a car commercial. I was wondering if Jim might look at this film as more of the same, more of what was driving him away from the Doors/music in the last few years of his life. By what I’ve read about Jim, he longed to be outside of the “rockstar” idealism, and he so wanted to ‘break on through’ with his poetry and cinematic endeavors, thus his escape to Paris. What are your thoughts about this, Tom?

    Being a long-time fan of The Doors, I very much enjoyed the film, but was hoping for a better understanding of Jim after watching it. I noticed on the PBS website, they showed the video clip of the interviews with Jim’s father and sister. They were both wonderful clips and gave a bit of a glimpse into Jim’s relationship with his family even though some of the answers given felted guarded in many ways. Why were these interviews cut out and not used in the film?

  51. Hey Annonymous,
    This is a fascinating comment to me: “The wailing of the coyote is painful to hear as well.”

    Clearly the scene had a strong impact on you. Another bit of trivia for you; the only sound from the coyote in WYS is a soft, ragged panting that my sound editors put in at my suggestion. And the original from Jim’s film had no sound at all.

    It’s actually a very quiet scene. However, the music there (by me and Robbie Krieger on guitar) may have subconsciously evoked the wailing you heard.

    I love these kinds of things. It only goes to show that the movie enters the consciousness of people a million different ways, and all of them are valid.


  52. Hey Elaine,
    I’m glad you made your point to the journalist. Too bad it wasn’t with the end of stick.

    Joke. Joke. Just joking.

    I’ve heard nothing about the ratings. I did get a note from Ida copying me on the official ad for the PBS screenings; showing the exact poster graphic with the sole exception that my name is missing.

    I love these guys. I really do.


  53. Hey Darryl,
    Thanks for your comment. You state that you enjoyed the film and I appreciate that. But, you do draw some puzzling conclusions.

    There is no comparison to this film and Buick’s wanting to use Light My Fire in a car commercial. What I am selling “using” the Doors? Or Jim? I’m actually confused why you would think the film was selling anything. Or “using” the Doors for anything.

    It is simply their story, told as honestly as I could. The title is When You’re Strange; A Story of The Doors. From my detailed discussions with Robbie, Ray, John, Bruce Botnick and Jac Holzman, there was no question Jim was extremely proud of the band and his contribution to it. Yes, he was interested in film and poetry, but he was also deeply committed to music. It was the rock star icon that he was grappling with–again as the film explains pretty clearly.

    You will notice there are no “looking back” interviews in the film. I have written here at length that seeing all the original footage prompted me to tell the Doors story using only that footage, allowing the audience to experience them almost as if they were just happening now.

    I looked at the interviews you mentioned and did not find them contributing anything more powerful or insightful than the footage I had put together.

    As a Doors fan you may have heard the story where Jim refused to go onstage when an announcer introduced the band as “Jim Morrison and The Doors.” He made the guy repeat the announcement by saying, “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Doors.”

    Let me use that to remind you this film is not solely about Jim Morrison. It is about the four intensely talented human beings that made up the Doors.


  54. Cheers Tom! I watched “When You’re Strange” on DVR last night-recorded from PBS. Wanted to see in the theater, but not close enough to Atlanta, and tried to order on Netflix, but the movie wasn’t available, so when a friend of mine let me know it was going to be on PBS, I was thrilled. I didn’t know much about The Doors-I feel like I know a lot more now. The other band members were brilliant in there own right and your movie showed the heartbreak that goes on when one band member stands out and seems to be “the band”. All those guys were great musicians, probably more so than Jim Morrison. Jim Morrison’s face is so fascinating, so troubled and childish and impish and sophisticated all at the same time. He really was kind of a shaman, for who knows what reason, he just had that combination of everything. I look forward to seeing what you do next, and really love your comments about critics and the “I really know no more than the guy behind you at Starbucks” stuff. Hope all is well. MaryZ in Georgia

  55. Hey, Tom,

    I didn’t mean to come across as insensitive or trying to demean the film in any way. And you’re right, it’s NOT Jim Morrison and The Doors. I just thought there might be a little more information in the film concerning Jim’s want to break away from The Doors and that inability for him to seemingly break-away. What were the reasons behind that? Was it a major factor in his excessive drinking and drug use which only seemed to worsen and/or his eventual exile to Paris, were all of these issues the contributing factors to his eventual death?? Morrison seemed desperate at the end, possibly worried about the jail time he might face in Florida, but there seems to be a lot more to the story as to why Morrison declined so rapidly in the final two years of his life…he was only 27!!! I believe Mr. Mojo Risin’ desperately wanted to reinvent himself away from The Doors, away from the “rockstar” persona he’d so carefully created and eventually haunted him. Thus the death of Jim Morrison, and The Doors would never be the same. I think these questions have everything to do with the history of The Doors. Maybe I’m wrong! Thankfully, however, we still have the music The Doors created within those 54 months of the bands history.

  56. Hey Mary Z,
    Thanks so much for writing. It really is encouraging to hear from you and others who found the film on their own. I really appreciate it.

    I like your observations about the film, and about Jim. You’re right about his face–it goes through so many phases in the film. And all in a very short span of time.

    This is what I found in the footage. This is why I felt so convinced the film needed to be made using only the original footage of just the Doors.

    I also appreciate your comment about Ray, John and Robby. They were indeed amazing musicians.

    Now, turn and start a conversation with the guy behind you at Starbucks. And make sure you tell him there were NO actors in the film.


  57. Hey Darryl,
    You didn’t come off as insensitive. I felt your questions were honest and sincere. Just know I’ve experienced some intensely bizarre reactions to this film, especially from “knowledgeable” journalists.

    I think the information you’re seeking about Jim does not exist. The only person who knows the answer to some of your questions is dead and he’s not talking.

    I tried very hard to avoid conjecture or further mythologizing the band or Jim in the film. So much of this romanticizing still goes on and frankly most of it is bullshit. I tried simply to present what I knew to be true, even if it was somewhat simple.

    I presented the film at a screening in NYC a few weeks ago. At the Q & A afterwards someone asked me if there was anything I wished I could have asked Jim Morrison in person.

    The question blew my mind because over the course of the past 2 years I’ve had several dreams in which Jim appeared. This is highly unusual for me. But, in all cases he lingered on the periphery. The one constant I remember was that he seemed lost, and intensely sad.

    Now, some people say that everyone in your dreams is you. Maybe so. But, when this person asked this question I instantly recalled the last dream I’d had where Jim appeared. And, I remembered my impulse in the dream was to walk up to him and ask very quietly,

    “Hey, Jim. What happened?”


  58. IN RESPONSE TO ELAINE: Thank you for posting that link with the extra interviews! Great find!!!

    Dear Tom,
    The interviews with Jim’s Dad and sister gave insight and rounded out Jim on a more intimate level. There seemed to be a longing in his Dad’s heart to have known his own son better. He is almost remorse at times but I can tell that it comes from unconditional love. It’s quite beautiful and honest. It’s funny how parents are sometimes too quick to say (paraphrasing) “You don’t have what it takes to ___ ____ ___ (fill in the blank DREAM)” then when the achievement is reached there is an awe and surprise. I believe the comment was “I told him he wasn’t a singer… Then I saw him on national television!”

    It would be amazing to have people support goals/dreams rather than cruel words. Yes, “success is the best revenge” but who needs the inner hurt when the words first reach the ear?? Words cut deeper than the sword and sometimes it’s more empowering to hear, “I didn’t know you had interest in that. Realize it will be hard, but do your best.” ((There was hurt in his Dad’s eyes at the end of the interview so I know there was a deep regret even if it wasn’t spoken mixed with such pride!))

    Jim’s sister glowed when she remembered moments with him. Those looks revealed so much about a man, a brother, and someone who just wanted so badly to be understood and embraced for his work all the way around.

    I respect your choice to leave out talking heads but appreciate you sharing it with PBS and the rest of us.

    IN REPLY TO DARRYL’S COMMENT: “I believe Mr. Mojo Risin’ desperately wanted to reinvent himself away from The Doors, away from the “rock star” persona he’d so carefully created and eventually haunted him.”

    It’s interesting to see the choice to separate (in name) his formal “self” (James Douglas Morrison = poet/writer/songwriter/director) to his “rock star self” (Jim Morrison = singer). Jim’s poetry readings sound like they came from a more gentle and emotional side. We all have many facets of ourselves, but it’s wild that the public at the time only wanted the “wild child” persona. That could have been one reason that he felt disconnected to his “real” self in the final stages of his life. What do you think, Tom?

    It’s a shame “MTV Unplugged” didn’t exist back then or he could have had a platform to read his poetry and branch out to another audience who appreciated his writings.

    I’m of the thought that people in dreams are NOT always you…usually the “You” part of dreams is in the “transportation” (house, train, car, boat, roller coaster, flying dragon, …) where “YOU” are moving yourself somewhere. People are people. An abstract thought I always have is WHO ARE the people in your dreams if you have never met them before??? ((Sorry, that’s a philosophical question that sometimes makes me laugh.) I can respect those people saying your dream friend “is you” but have to agree that it was most likely Jim.

    He died alone. He died sad. He died without getting his poetry to the level of his music. YOU are elevating his other work and I’m quite convinced there is a smile on his face because of your work on WYS as it spreads its wings internationally.

    I’m enjoying your “Trivia”!!! That’s remarkable how my brain “made” the guitar into another sound. It’s great when music works as a tool to “manipulate” critical moments. A trivia fact right back to you… In the famous shower scene in Psycho, there is no shot to identify the knife ever connected to the body but the magic of editing let the viewer “fill in the connection” to create what isn’t told. I think this happened here with me and I’m laughing at myself! Hitchcock would be proud of you! – LOL!!!

    I had watched clips of HWY on youtube hours before watching WYS and that may have contributed to what I thought I heard. For reference, I found the clips. ((Warning that this is graphic for those who haven’t seen WYS yet.)) The first one (4:16-to the end) is where I heard the wailing of what I thought was the coyote since you hear the puppy make its own sound.

    Then, in the next clip: (0:08 – 0:20) that same sound is heard, which I interpreted as “he was still thinking about the coyote” which, to me, prompted the primal roar due to the situation he just experienced. Those clips had sound so I thought that was how Jim created HWY.

    I welcome your thoughts & wish everyone a GREAT day! 🙂

    Ms. Ann Onimuss


    Tom DID use 1 actor on WYS. Only one. Not a four legged or a man in leather…but a voice that added so much texture to the film! That actor is Johnny Depp.

    Ms. Ann Onimuss

  60. Hey Tom,

    I’d like to say first that I’m surprised to see how many interesting comments you get on your blog. And even more surprised (and ashamed) that from all of these comments my rash one got you interested.

    I like your statement: “irresponsible reviews hurt my ability to make films”. So how can there be no more of these irresponsible reviews? I’ve got no idea, but I’ll just fire another question: if any guy in the line at Starbucks would get to publicly review your films, wouldn’t there be a lot of irresponsible reviews? It couldn’t possibly hurt them to write just anything. My point is that if a critic has solid knowledge about film, than he wouldn’t allow himself to write just anything, at least as a form of respect to his erudition. That’s what I was saying, not that common people can’t judge art. They can judge art. But I don’t think they have the inclination to question and put their own opinions in doubt, in order to get past their own aesthetic system, as Maupassant says. I think they mostly watch a movie, put a quick “stamp” on it and move on. And if I understand right, that’s exactly what hurts you most.

    I don’t know if that answers anything or it’s just a statement of what I believe. As a consolation I can say that if a critic has a good reputation, than his irresponsible reviews should also hurt his ability to write future ones. But that’s not much of a consolation, is it? The nice thing is that I personally know critics that look at things in the terms I wrote above. So it’s possible that their reviews would force you to eat your post. I’ll try to get back to you on this.

    with regards,

  61. Hey Lucian,
    I have to agree with you; there are an abundance of intriguing and thought-provoking comments here. Some could lend themselves to days of responses.

    Like yours.

    First, there is absolutely no need for you to feel ashamed; unless you voted for Sarah Palin. You are entitled to your opinion. Perhaps we both are guilty of generalization.

    I’ve read many, many reviews (not only of my films) by “informed” critics. In very few cases, did I sense that this informed knowledge helped the writer move past his or her self-imposed rules of approval. I think if a person is closed to new experiences they will be that way, no matter how much knowledge they have.

    It all comes down to a person’s willingness to be open. And this I strongly feel is not a matter of education or knowledge. Just look at the NY Times review of When You’re Strange. It is one of the most closed and judgmental pieces of critical writing I’ve ever seen.

    Sure, there are some good critics. Send me some examples of their work. Believe me, I need some proof these days. Most of what I see is people in positions of journalistic power who seek only to their inflate their own importance. They do exactly what you feel “common” people do; they look at a movie, put a quick stamp on it and move on.

    I can assure you that an irresponsible review by a critic with a “good reputation” does nothing to hurt him. Who is going to hold him accountable for it? How does it hurt the newspaper if a few people don’t read the guy’s reviews for a few weeks?

    At their worst they take the power they know they have and they dole it out according to their whims. Don’t you think Richard Cranium from the NY Times knew the effect his words would have on the film? Of course he did.

    I just think he should drop the fancy pseudonym and use his real name after all these years. Dick Head is really not that bad a name.


  62. Most critics out there are just freaking idiots, man, that´s all. It’s already annoying in principle being told what to do and what to like, but even more so when the ones doing the telling are clearly stupid and unqualified. I mean, wasn’t high school enough? Case in point, this piece of sh*t in the NYT, which I finally forced myself to read, yuk! Look that creep obviously has no passion for or pride in his craft. What he wrote is no better than a bunch of half-assed notes taken by an uninterested, slothful and slightly mentally challenged student, mixed with tired generic ramblings which bear no necessary connection to the movie. And how lame and lazy it is to open a review on anything related to Jim Morrison mentioning the “He´s Hot, He´s Sexy and He´s Dead!” 1981 Rolling Stones cover, considering this has been done only about a trillion times by now. It’s simply a very shallow, hurried and clichéd review, and it should be unnaceptable even by the ever-so-“fastly” decaying publication the NYT has turned into. Why this guy is allowed to keep his job and go on endarkening his readers is truly a mystery, but of course he’s not the only one. Bad critics have been around forever, doing what they do: bringing misery to great artists and ignorance to the general public. To be honest I don’t believe we can change them individually. But even so things will change for the better, naturally, as technology evolves. It’s already happening. The internet is giving the public easy and instant access to a more well-rounded, varied pool of opinions. The all-powerful review isolated on a printed newspaper page may just go poof! and disappear anyday now, having to live instead in the virtual world. There it will lose much of its punch when seen on a screen, accompanied by immediate ratings and comments by readers, and surrounded by links to different points-of-view, including those expressed by blogs such as this one. Can you imagine reading the NYT review not on its unchallenged paper version, but instantly followed by questioning and criticizing back, as it appears now on the web? Being an optimist by nature, I believe that in this scenario bad critics will more and more lose their undeserved influence and eventually may even fff off and away for good. There’s hope. The web is a revolution that is only starting.

  63. Hey Renata,
    Now you’ve got me all worked up again! Now you see what I’m saying about this guy Cranium. He should have excused himself from writing about the film; he was clearly already biased by his own pre-historical experiences. Just the guy you want to write an indepth review, right?

    It is great to see you fired up like this. I’m serious. You don’t sound cranky or defensive; you sound like someone who put some real thought into your response. It was an exciting comment to read.

    I think you’re on to something about web critics. They do open themselves to more immediate reactions from readers. But, on the other hand, the web makes it possible for anybody with a laptop to be a CRITIC!!
    Oh, god help us all.


  64. Hello, Tom: I posted a few blogs back (somewhere in the # 50s), but cannot find it again to see if you answered. Ah, well… As you may recall, I am a working film critic (though I do dislike the term; I prefer reviewer) and you bring up many valid points. It is rather a double-edged sword. But I imagine most everyone knows that a critic is a human being, and that every review is, to some extent, colored by their own personalities. That’s why we follow some, and don’t bother with others. I suppose when people stop reading movie reviews altogether, then we will be out of jobs.

    At any rate, the reason I am writing is to let you know about a magnificent article and review my friend Marco Mannone wrote. He’s more a screenwriter now (just had his first feature produced!), but also does some magazine writing on the side. Knowing that he is a *major* Doors fan, I told him about the press junket and he was able to slip in to interview you guys for FORTH magazine. His editor wanted to wait until the advent of the DVD to publish, so here it is:

    I hope you enjoy it. He’s very informed on The Doors. (Something one cannot expect from every film critic was was assigned by their editors to cover your movie.) (Me? I’m a semi-informed Doors fan; loved their music as a kid, knew Danny Sugarman a bit, and even got Ray Manzarek to give me a blurb-quote for one of my novels many years ago. My interest in the band piques when something new comes up, so thank you for WHEN YOU’RE STRANGE, Tom.)


  65. Hey Staci,
    Good to hear from you again. I’ve never deleted comments from the blog so I know our exchange is back there somwhere. Please don’t take my ramblings about critics too seriously or too personally. Perhaps I wouldn’t have reacted so strongly if there had been some advertising to counter-act some of them and at least keep people aware the film was still alive.

    Thanks you so much for turning me on to this review by Marco. I found myself learning things by reading it. It was incredibly well written and well thought out. Please tell him how much I appreciated it. I remember him clearly from the blur of days doing press in LA.


  66. Tom:

    It’s come to my attention that Staci Wilson recently hooked you up with my Forth Magazine interview / review of “When You’re Strange”. Having read your exchange with her, I am humbled that you took the time to read it and apparently enjoy it. In your response you mentioned you “learned things” from my article… and I am curious to know what you, a talented filmmaker and devout Doors enthusiast, could possibly learn from my little article? Hell, I found myself learning things from YOU, Maestro. You put us all in the front row of the greatest Doors concert ever. From this privileged perspective, we got all the blood, sweat and tears those four brilliant bastards could ever fling at us. My hat will forever remain off to you for pulling this absurd stunt off, with energy and style to spare. Now let’s stopping beating around the bush and hook up, one-on-one. Care for an exclusive sit-down to discuss whatever the hell you please? This can easily be accomplished over some fine Scotch at a location of your choosing. Let’s do it. At the very least, support the local arts and subscribe to our humble rag, and if you would be so kind, leave a comment on my “WYS” piece to show your personal support. In these desperate and savage days, one hand must wash the other, otherwise we are all doomed. With Love & Admiration: Marco Mannone.

  67. Hey Marco,
    What I enjoyed about your article was your attention to detail and to the specifics of what Ray, John and Robby each brought to your interview. You found the little sliver of personality in each. And that, sir, was a sign of eyeball skill and soul/mental coordination.

    A Scotch sounds good right at this moment. What part of the country are you in? I suspect you are a Lossanjelino?

  68. Tom,

    Soul/mental coordination is what we aim for, isn’t it? Thanks for the feedback. Yes, I live in L.A. so whether you live here or visit for your grand endeavors, feel free to drop a line. You can contact me via the magazine’s website ( and we can keep in touch that way. Currently burning my nights away working on my second official (ie paid) screenplay, a horror-comedy I am quite excited about… but my schedule is overall go-with-the-flow. Hope to hear from you soon, and keep up the damn good work. Cheers.

  69. Hey, Tom:

    Glad you liked Marco’s piece. He is a truly present observer and a gifted writer. (His story on Bukowski, who’s buried here in my hometown of San Pedro, CA., is fantastic. Which makes me wonder… have you ever considered doing a doc on Bukowski? No one’s really done him justice yet.)

    Oh, I didn’t take your critics comments too seriously. I think anyone in any type of profession is used to being painted in broad strokes by whatever brush the commenter happens to be using — but I do want to add one more positive point, from my perspective.
    Here is one thing I did not count on, or even think about, when I began this career: Which is having a forum to champion small movies, indies, and underdogs I genuinely believe should be seen. They don’t come along often, but occasionally a film will be shown to me in its early stages prior to finding distribution, or later after its struggled and not found an audience, and I can let all my readers and viewers know about it. I have television, print, and online forums (mostly niche; my longest-lasting freelance outlets are the Syfy Channel, L’Ecran Fantastique magazine, and through which I can utilize to share my opinion on films I believe deserve an audience. I love being able to turn film fans onto something cool they might not otherwise have known about.


  70. Mr. DiCillo,
    After watching WYS something compelled me to see if you had a site. I lived in Europe (West Berlin) for a while and was surprised at the positive reaction your film received there. My impression was the Doors weren’t widely known in Europe. Thihgs I’ve been involved with might interest you. I have spoken with D.A. Pennebaker at length and a good friend did synch work for Jimi Hendrix’s unreleased “Rainbow Bridge” concert footage.
    I was involved with the documentary “The MC5 a True Testimonial”. Film I shot of the group when I was 16 (1970) was included in the film. Bruce Botnick did the tape transfers for the film and Danny Fields Director of Publicity for Elecktra (68) was interviewed.
    Some questions I’ve had were answered, so forgive me if I repeat anything or please direct me to answers you have already provided.

    I spoke with Ben Edmonds when he was the Doors manager and he remarked about the limited amount of film. A lot of the MC5’s performance footage was shot by Leni Sinclair, John Sinclair’s wife. John Sinclair was the MC5’s manager (See The U.S. vs. John Lennon) and performance footage was very rare outside of her films.
    Mr. Edmonds spoke about trying to recover a Canadian broadcast of “The End” and footage shot in Germany of “Hello, I Love You” which as you know was recovered.
    When I first heard of your project I understood all the film shot of Jim Morrison was being reviewed. I’m still amazed by the concert footage and how it was used. I know you can’t comment on everything but I was real impressed just on how you were able to portray the Miami concert and how you also were able to bring out the other Doors on stage during the film. Can you comment further on the access you were given? Did they give you selected access, or did they open up the archives? I have several questions about the performance footage… were many filmed and after having an overview of the existing concert film could you characterize how their concerts were covered and was there anything that stood out in the performances that you really couldn’t show in the film? Were some of the concerts filmed but film not synched to existing sound? I also wondered, were there outakes from the Hollywood Bowl that were of interest(?) and were there other sources besides what the Doors shot themselves? Of course I am familiar with the Roundhouse & Danish television footage, etc…
    Sorry about so many questions but I find this such a unique opportunity. I also have many other comments but will wait and hopefully can ask more sometime in the future. For now I just want to say that it was a masterful work of editing and a beautiful combination of film with an insightful narrative. It might sound over the top but judging by the comments I’ve seen and the way you put together the film, it is in a sense like a stained glass window (a lasting work of art) where everyone comes and looks and walks away with their own experience of what they’ve seen. As a long time Door’s fan I sincerely appreciate what you have done.
    David Sukovaty

  71. I wanted to add this other brief message. I hope you might be interested in viewing photos I shot of Ray Manzarek and Robby Kreiger when they played at the Whiskey Roadhouse May 28th of this year in Council Bluffs Iowa. They really came out well and I would love to find away to get them to you! If there is some email address that would be appropriate for me to send them to or some other means, please let me know. I think you would enjoy seeing them!!!

    David Sukovaty
    402 488 0359

  72. Hey David,
    Please forgive me for taking so long to get back to you. I’ve been traveling a lot this last month.

    Also, your questions are quite astute and concentrated and they require quite a bit of time and attention to address them properly.

    First, let me just say how much I appreciate your interest in the film. I’m glad it affected you. Making it certainly affected me.

    I had complete and total access to everything in the Doors archives. For the first 3 weeks all I did was watch footage every day for 10 hours a day. Intercut with all the random, unlabelled footage were all these fragments of Jim wandering through the desert. It wasn’t until much later that I discovered they were from Jim’s own film HWY, and were actually available only through some intense negotiations with the Courson estate (Pam’s mother) and the Morrison estate (Jim’s sister, brother and nephews).

    I sort of had to make a deal to use outtakes from HWY. It had to to with Pam. But, considering the film is really about The Doors I think I came out the winner.

    The Miami concert as you know, only exists in some still photos and a scratchy audio tape made by an audience member. Using that audio tape (and some added sounds and music) I completely reconstructed the Miami performance using fragments of footage from other concerts the Doors gave.

    If you’ll notice, all the shots of Jim are from behind. That’s because anyone who knows about the Doors knows Jim had a full beard at Miami. I couldn’t show shots of him without a beard without blowing the whole illusion.

    I don’t feel it is really a re-enactment because it is driven completely by Morrison’s voice on the audio tape. Many, many people have expressed wonderment about the “scene”. In fact, some really whacko hardcore Doors fanatics never even mention this complete filmic reconstruction in their slavering tirades against the film.

    Most of the footage shot by the Doors themselves had no sound. It was also the most problematic for editing. Shots quickly would go out of focus, or the camera would pan quickly away into nothing.

    Yet, as frustrating as it was, I would say this footage, shot mainly by Jim’s classmate at UCLA Paul Ferrara, is the most exciting. It has the sweat of live performance hanging on the lens. Clearly, Ferrara got the essence of the Doors and his camera, as crazy as it was, captured enough raw fragments of it that it became the bedrock of the entire film.

    Having said that, the Canadian TV footage of the Doors singing When The Music’s Over is pretty amazing for a live TV performance. The shots are all fluid, dynamic and they give great respect to all the performers, lingering on them all in their moments of musical attention. I find that concert especially compelling because there was absolutely NO studio audience. The Doors were performing in front of no one.

    Well, man. as you can see your questions could require answers that go on forever. That means they are good ones. If you want to send some photo try sending some small jpeg files to


  73. Tom,

    Not sure if you remember me, but I interviewed you and the boys a couple months ago for your WYS press tour in L.A. You commented on my article at Forth Magazine’s website, and said some very kind words there. I once propositioned you for a Scotch in L.A. sometime — an opportunity for a couple of creative, like-minded dudes to shoot the proverbial shit. Any ways, my schedule has opened a bit and was wondering if and when you might be up for that? Feel free to shoot me an e-mail directly. Hope all is well, been enjoying your blog.

    Best Regards: Marco Mannone

  74. Hey Marco,
    Good to hear from you. I’m pretty much entrenched in NYC for the next few months. I’ll take a raincheck on that drink offer for the next time I spend some time in LA.

  75. Hi Tom!
    Thanks for your responce and comments.I understand that you may not be able to respond right away. I’ve always felt very fortunate whenever coming into contact with an artist such as yourself. I’ve always found it rewarding.
    I did appreciate an understanding and insight into the amount of film, and the total access you had to the existing Doors film and video.

    Apparently more film exists of John Lennon than of John F. Kennedy in the Kennedy Library.

    My perception has been that the ones on the front lines for protesting Vietnam were John & Yoko, and Jim Morrison (THE DOORS). While there were many who did, it always struck me how Jim gave of himself. not just being against the war – but in so many ways. Thats why I’m fascinated with the live material.

    Anyway Tom, thanks so much for you message and using your time to explain so much. I’ll have some comments on what you wrote and will do my best to make it time well spent. For now I am doing a little editing of my stills of Ray and Robby and will concentrate on getting those to you. I usually shoot poster size but will reduce them. I’ll probably break them up into a couple groups so I won’t be sending to many at once.

  76. Hi Tom,

    Unfortunately, I did not get to see the film in a theatre. Not too many here in San Diego…….But rather watched it as so many others did on PBS a few months ago.

    I MUSY SAY: the footage from HiWay was OUTSTANDING!

    Did you alter/enhance the color of the film? How did you clean it up so that it looks so good???

    It looks at though HWY was filmed yesterday on the best analog cameras $$$$$$ can buy.

    I heard Morrison telling Bob Chorush in 1971 that the “cameras are getting lighter and lighter”, meaning to hold or work with on the set or on site,
    …….in this case Joshua Tree National Monument.

    (i actually searched and found the waterfall and lake that the famous scene was filmed, and YES, there is STILL graffitti there! lol)

    But HWY DEFINITELY needs a release on DVD or even a theatrical run somewhere, somwhow. It’s a beautiful film, even though it only runs 50 minutes….

    Pam told Ben Fong-Torres in Feb 71 that “it doesn’t have enough action”, then Jim says, “it’s more poetic, an exercise really, a warm-up, there’s no plot in the traditional sense”……

    I must say, I was a little irritated with the Johnny Depp overdub narration…..he isn’t telling us anything we wouldn’t find in a standard cheap paperback bio of Jim from Borders or Barnes and Noble or Amazon

    ……I think that the perfect narrator would have been Michael McClure or maybe Frank Lisciandro, or uh…well,….even Alain Ronay or Agnes Varda [is she still alive???]

    someone who actually KNEW the man intimately or in some capacity other than just a “fan” or admirer or whatever. (but NOT Ray, he’s too nutty! lol)

    I mean, seriously, McClure is a well-established Beat poet in his own right,

    and of course Morrison was influenced by EVERY “Beat” poet (i hate that word!) around……

    funny thing is, though, everywhere I have looked, in ALL of the published notebooks, and bios, Morrison NEVER EVER EVER mentions William Burroughs, a favorite of mine, except obliquely in the song “Who Scared You”

    (based on the short book THE YAGE LETTERS between ginsberg and burroughs)

    Johnny Depp is WAY TOO Hollywood for an artist like Morrison, but I guess the name recognition would bring in more viewers and therefore more exposure to the Doors in general.

    I have read EVERY SINGLE bio of this man published since 1980, have heard EVERY single recorded and transcribed interview with the man (he was only a man of course, not a GOD!)

    and I wish I could have consulted you or at least chatted with you regarding certain details of his life.

    Most new neo-phyte young viewers would never recognize that footage from HWY, and it needs to be released somehow, somewhere, with publicity.

    Talk to Frank Lisciandro about that.

    Also, we need a COMPLETE release of the poetry sessions from December 8th, 1970, his birthday….

    a boxed set of 4 hours worth of material [drunk or not] similar to the Jack Kerouac Collection Boxed Set released on Compact Disk in 1990.

    I think, however, that YOUR film FAR EXCEEDS the trash film that Oliver Stoned produced in 1990.

    Thanks, SORRY to ramble on like this…but i would NOT have a college degree in European Philosophy and French Literature/Poetry if Jim Morrison had never existed! 🙂

    Thanks for a GREAT film, just wish MORE PEOPLE could view it!



  77. Hey Matt,
    Thanks for writing in. I’m glad you liked the film. But you should watch it on dvd, or blue ray. It is the original uncensored version I made, not the thing that PBS sanitized.

    I appreciate your reaction but I don’t quite agree with you about Johnny Depp. I think he was actually the perfect voice for the film. Sometimes to me he sounds like Morrison. He brings a complete emotional truth to the film. He invested himself in the words which is something I don’t think any of the others you mentioned would have been capable of.

    And, lest you forget, I wrote those words Depp speaks, not Depp. I worked very hard on them. I knew of course there would be some intense Doors fans that would know all this stuff, and even know it in much more detail. But I was also thinking about the people who did not know much about the Doors. I needed to find a way to inform them of the big themes, the basic stuff that is so crucial to an appreciation of the Doors immense accomplishment.

    And again, I would only encourage you to remember the film is about The Doors, not Jim Morrison. To expect the film to go more into Morrison’s personal life would be the same as the concert announcer who introduced the band as “Jim Morrison and The Doors.”

    If you know your Doors history you will know that Morrison refused to go on stage until the announcer re-introduced the band simply as The Doors.

    The thing I will agree with you on without question though is that the film deserved a stronger, more faithful release here in the US. I fought as hard as I could for that but unfortunately the decisions were made by people who did not see the film as seriously as I did.

    I wish you the best,

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