Writer/Director: Tom DiCillo
Cast: Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener, Dermot Mulroney, James Legros, Danielle Von Zerneck, Rica Maartens, Peter Dinklage.
Awards: Best Screenplay; Sundance Film Festival.
Best Picture; Deauville Film Festival.
Best Actress, Catherine Keener; Stockholm Film Festival.
US Distribution: Shout! FACTORY
Festivals: Sundance, Seattle, San Francisco, Toronto, Montreal, New Directors (NYC), Berlin, Deauville, Gijon, Stockholm.
Music by Jim Farmer.
Books: “Eating Crow; Notes From a Filmmakers Diary.” (Living In Oblivion).
I wrote Living In Oblivion in a state of mind teetering somewhere between homicide and suicide.
I couldn't get another film made after Johnny Suede. And so one night, plastered on martini’s at my wife’s cousin’s wedding, I stumbled into the Idea; a movie taking place right on the set of a no-budget movie. All the things that could possibly go wrong actually do go wrong.
At times it really does feel that the entire process of making a film is designed to drive you into an insane asylum. Just when some miraculous moment is blossoming to life the camera screws up and that fragile glimmer of beauty is gone. Of course the opposite is also true. But on a no-budget film the “unhappy accidents” can drop you to your knees.
What was so surprising to me was the joy I found in writing scenes that had originally been nightmares to me; absolutely excruciating to experience. After the wedding hangover wore off I wrote the first half hour in 4 days. I gave it to Catherine Keener who was visiting for a few days. I will never forget the shrieks of laughter coming from her bedroom. As she stood in the front doorway saying goodbye we all said, “We’re going to make this movie!”
Except we had no idea how to. My wife Jane started it off by hitting up everyone she knew, somehow raising $37,000 over the weekend. Catherine gave the script to Dermot Mulroney who immediately invested another $5,000 . He wanted to play Nick, the director. I suggested he might have more fun with Wolf, the cameraman. Dermot agreed and instantly suggested Steve Buscemi for Nick. Steve said yes without even reading the script.
Suddenly a financing plan had emerged; any actor who put up money got a part. And that is the way the entire film was cast. No one auditioned. I never knew what any actor was going to do until the moment I called action.
Actually, one actor auditioned; Peter Dinklage. I was having difficulty finding an actor for Tito, the dwarf who is pissed off he's been cast in a Dream Sequence. Kevin Corrigan, who plays the stoner camera assistant, said he knew a really great actor who worked at a fax store somewhere in Brooklyn. I somehow got a message to him and when he came in he blew us all away.
Brad Pitt was going to play actor Chad Palomino in the film. He loved the script and was all set to go when a conflict developed with Legends of the Fall. As I was on the phone with Catherine, lamenting about the bad news, James Legros walked by her house. I heard her yell out to him, “Hey James! Wanna be in a movie?” That’s how James joined the club.
The entire film was shot in 15 days. It was ultimately financed by Hilary Gilford, Jane's wedding cousin who plays the Script Girl. Thanks to her and Michael Griffiths (Speedo the Sound man) I was able to make a film entirely free of any requirements or demands. It was just us, this lunatic group that had come together. And it was the most exciting, joyous and creatively satisfying experience I've ever had on a film set.
I could write a book about it. In fact I did; “Eating Crow, Notes from A Filmmaker’s Diary,” (also titled Living In Oblivion).