TOM DiCILLO is one of the founding members of the American Independent Film movement that began in New York City in the late 1970’s. His early contributions were as Director of Photography on several feature films including Howard Brookner's Burroughs and Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise.
Among the directors DiCillo worked with are Eric Mitchell, Bette Gordon, Amos Poe and John Lurie who were making features on super-eight film and projecting them on walls in bars on the lower east side.
“That was an incredible time to be in New York,” DiCillo recalls. “Everybody was working on everybody else’s film. Nobody knew how to do anything. Everyone was a first-timer but no one cared. That’s what was so exciting—everything was possible.”
DiCillo moved to NYC in 1976 to attend NYU Graduate Film School. He received an MFA in Directing, having written and directed six short films, one of which, God Save The King, won the Paullette Goddard Scholarship award.
After graduating, DiCillo began studying acting. He performed in numerous Off-Off Broadway plays including "Johnny Suede," a 1-Man Show he wrote and starred in. The success of the show prompted DiCillo to adapt it into a screenplay.
1n 1991, DiCillo made his directorial debut with Johnny Suede, starring Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener. The film won Best Picture at the Locarno Film Festival but it was his next film, Living In Oblivion, that introduced him internationally as a filmmaker. The film stars Steve Buscemi and Catherine Keener, with Peter Dinklage in his first film appearance as a dwarf who is angry he’s been cast in a dream sequence.
Living In Oblivion won the Best Screenplay award at the Sundance Film Festival and marked DiCillo’s continuing collaboration with Catherine Keener for whom he’d written the film. Keener starred in DiCillo’s next film, Box of Moonlight, which also introduced Sam Rockwell in one of his first film roles.
DiCillo continued to develop his unique blend of humor and pathos in his next three films, The Real Blonde, Double Whammy and Delirious. Delirious won Best Director and Best Screenplay at the San Sebastian Film Festival and reunited DiCillo with Steve Buscemi for whom DiCillo had written the lead role.
In 2010 DiCillo wrote and directed the feature documentary, When You’re Strange, the first documentary to tell the story of The Doors. The film was narrated by Johnny Depp and won a Grammy for Best Direction.
Throughout 2022 DiCillo wrote and recorded his 2nd album, Shot of Blue. The album continues DiCillo’s interest in blending his favorite musical genres; Surf, Hip Hop, Spaghetti Western, Electronica and early Elvis into a single genre.
DiCillo explains his love of writing and recording music. “It’s all spontaneous. You get an idea, you plug in the guitar and you record something. You do it just the way you want, right when you want. I love filmmaking; just not the part where you spend four years trying to raise the money. The creative joy of making music is instantaneous.”
DiCillo’s desire to apply this same creative freedom to film lead him to make a feature documentary called Down In Shadowland. The film consists of footage DiCillo shot over a 7 year period while underground in the the New York subway system. Using a small, hand-held camera, DiCillo was able to capture moments of intimacy, violence and beauty that had engrossed him since he’d first moved to NYC.