May 16, 2009

When I was 23, I moved to NYC and started classes at NYU Film School.  As the months went by I kept waiting for the day when I would actually learn something. I knew the art of directing could not be taught. I knew the faculty was doing their best to provide the basic fundamentals of filmmaking but still, something was missing.

Some of it had to do with my classmates. They were mostly guys, all with goatees and backwards baseball caps. One freaked me out by coming to class one day with his hat so far backwards it was actually forwards. This cutting edge spirit was reflected in their films which were strictly divided between stories of film students trying to get pizza delivered to their dorm rooms and lovesick, guitar-playing mimes in Washington Square Park.

After 3 years I walked out with an MA in Directing and the profound sense I had no idea what I was doing.

These words are an attempt to make up for that. They come after 7 films and 25 years as a NY independent filmmaker. They are not meant to be gospel. They only reflect what sometimes works for me. Some may find them simplistic. In some ways they are nothing more than common sense. They are however based in reality and an apparently endless cycle of falling down and getting up again. If one or two aspiring filmmakers find some value in them then at least I won't feel so bad about paying all that tuition.

The Director's Job is Everything.

Many people have come up to me over the years and said, "I really, really want to be a film director." The first thing I ask is, "Why?" This isn't meant to be sarcastic. It's a real question. If you're looking for the Path the answer to this question will help you because being a film director requires the immediate acceptance of two facts:

1. There is no Path.

2. The Director's job is Everything. 

I'll start with #2 because #1 requires much stronger medication.

In 1998 I wrote and directed, Box Of Moonlight, starring John Turturro and Sam Rockwell. The film was an attempt to break out of the gritty urban cinemascapes I'd been working in; to re-examine the small town America I knew as a kid. Much of the script was about the simple pleasures of jumping naked into a quarry, sleeping outside at night and getting arrested for throwing tomatoes. But, for some reason, it was one of the most grueling shoots I've ever been on.

Everything went wrong. On the first day of shooting the crane fell off its tracks and it took 6 hours to get it back on. The rain, the long hours, the bickering of the crew and the actors all started blackening my spirit. All the minutia of chaos began to infuriate me. The camera department forgot to order film. As a result we had to shoot long night scenes with tiny left-over rolls of film.

Another scene required Turturro to walk barefoot along a rocky path. During the take I saw him stumble and flinch but he finished the scene. The moment I said cut, he erupted in rage. He'd broken his toe. He was incensed no one had cleared the path of pebbles and sticks. Much of his anger was directed at me which only further darkened my mood. All I could think about was, "What the fuck does this have to do with directing?"

My wife came down to visit. She immediately noticed my state of mind and said, "Your mood is affecting the entire film. You are the captain of the ship. That means everyone is looking to you. If you're in a bad mood they all feel it."

The day she returned to NYC she left me a drawing of a stick figure on a tiny boat with the words, "Captain of the ship" penciled on it. As much as I appreciated it, in my mental state the waves she'd drawn looked enormous, as if they were going to wash me overboard at any moment.

That day we were filming underwater in an outdoor swimming pool. Turturro, Rockwell, Catherine Keener and Lisa Blount had to jump into the water over and over. The day started out sunny but quickly turned cold and gray. The actors were wearing only bathing suits. At one point I looked up from the camera and saw them all huddling together; wet, sullen and shivering.

I asked the 1st AD to hook up a heater. He said we didn't have one. I went to the wardrobe department (sitting in hats, scarves and parkas) and asked for some coats. They said there were none. I asked for sound blankets. They were all damp and muddy from the week of rain. Then, for some reason, an idea hit me. I asked the gaffer to get the biggest light out of the truck and set it up beside of the pool. In a few minutes it was up and blazing.

Usually the hot light is your enemy. It makes shooting in small, enclosed spaces stifling and unbearable. But, here it was my salvation. The four wet actors stood right in front of the lens, the steam from their bodies rising up into the cold air. After a few moments, they were laughing and joking with each other. It slowly dawned on me; setting up that light was part of the job. It affected what ended up on film as much as any direction or creative decision I've made.

The director's job is Everything. This needs to be accepted completely; without bitterness or resentment. And that's where it gets tricky. Because at these moments all you really want to do is beat the shit out of somebody. It's not difficult to understand why. The pressures of filmmaking are intense, especially on a low-budget film where there is no money to re-shoot, re-cast or hire a new DP. Everything crucial to the film has to be attained in that insanely brief shooting period. If something goes wrong it affects the film. If a crew-member's attitude creates friction on the set it affects the film. If an actor shuts down it affects the film. And if the film is only half-realized that affects how and if it is seen, which directly affects your chances of making another one.

So, yeah; things can get a little tense. If you're reading this thinking, "I'm much more interested in the director as the medium cool, genius auteur," then all I can suggest is that you stock up on sunglasses, leather goods and triple nicotine no-foam macchiatos and start writing the remake of Fantasy Island. Because this conflict between art and human nature is real and has existed on every movie set I've ever been on.

Don't get me wrong; I've tried to wear sunglasses to work many times. Unfortunately I can't see the monitor through them. After 12 hours they really start to hurt my nose and I always end up losing them or stepping on them. I've also found this image of the mysterious, uber-cool Director is just that; an image. Most directors, including myself, are in a constant state of doubt, fear, ecstasy and confusion all at the same time. Unfortunately, there are very few guidelines on how to deal with it.

Your only option, in the midst of the chaos, is to somehow stay creative. Stay excited. Stay curious and open to discovery. If you lose one moment to your own negativity or despair, you've given in. You are the captain of the ship. Everyone is looking to you for guidance, even when you feel lost, defeated and absolutely alone.

I have some thoughts on how you can prepare yourself. Stay with me. Just remember: the director's job is to do whatever it takes to keep the film going, to keep everyone excited and committed to the miracle--capturing something alive on film.

Hey Mike,
Many questions. Don’t know if I have the answers. Your project sounds great. Personally, I’d say get started on it. You never know where it will end up. And that is a good thing.
I’ve found that whenever I treat something a little too preciously, or with too much reverence, it kind of becomes stale. Since it appears you’re going to have people basically contributing for free I wouldn’t worry so much about the perfection. I’d go more for spontaneous impulse. Spontaneity keeps people excited.
Hay Tom.
so let’s see now, you called the internet, “some infinite, universal bucket holding the dreams of the entire world.”
I like that.
My room mate just called it The Gong Show, without the Gong.
But maybe the whole Gong thing is my point. Or maybe it’s the bucket thing.
So we have the bucket, right? And the thing about the bucket is, the dreams clump up with similar dreams. Networks of dreams whispering to each other about their secret life. And there’s no gong anywhere to send the dreams exiting stage left.
All the film maker must do is convince the bucket full of dreamers that he speaks for them. Or to them. Or about them.
What I mean is, there are channels and networks running through the dream bucket, and if we simply drop our “note in a bottle” into the bucket, into the proper channels, it will swarm through the bucket.
I knew this guy who would play his national guitar on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley for change. Good stuff. I’d see him on my way to school a couple days a week. Than he disappeared. I saw him a couple of years later, and he told me he was playing online now. Second Life. And he had a huge following in Germany.
That’s probably a bad example. Too random. No method to that sort of madness.
So I was thinking of approaching a film in slow motion, so to speak.
Tell me how bad you think this idea is.
1. Storyboard with a cartoonist. get sharp stylized beautiful storyboard prints. Have the cartoonist make an album on Flicker, and post the storyboards on the website.
2. Start running lines and dubbing them over the storyboards, so it’s a still photo with voice over. Have each piece posted on Youtube,, and other places specific to the audience that each piece might attract.
3. Have the composer begin putting together conceptual pieces for the film. Have them loaded onto reverb nation, myspace music and various other sites.
I’m sure you understand my basic proposal.
make the movie so slow and precisely that every single aspect of it will stand alone and will draw its own particular crowd. Have each contributor to the film become so involved in it that they promote the film themselves, as part of their reel or portfolio, or blog, or personal website, or facebook or myspace or twitter or …
you’ve spoken about how important it is to keep everyone excited about the project. Will my proposed approach cause a slow death to any project that is put through these motions? Will it draw the project out too long and turn it into something than can never amount to the sum of its parts?
will trying to perfect each aspect of it to the utmost cause the project to become stopped up or simply intolerable?
Hey Mike,
Thanks for your comment. My observation about No Path can be both terrifying and exhilarating. Believe me I have felt both. But, the real meaning of it is that the only way you can proceed in this business is the way you discover for yourself.
Like I said, many people don’t want to hear that. And so, many people end up trudging along the same old paths lined with all the souls that have been bought and sold. Then they get somewhere, who knows where, and they start grinding out these lifeless, thudding pieces of crap that all look the same, sound the same and produce the exact same euthanasia on anyone unfortunate enough to watch them.
Is this what you want to do?
It sounds like it is not.
I can’t be your mentor but maybe some of the words on these pages will inspire you to keep going, to believe there are other alternatives and that is precisely why I have not lost complete faith in movies.
The internet. Good observations. For me, I find the ability to effortlessly put a thought down in words and have it accessible to people very freeing. It is a form that feels very comfortable to me. There is no waiting, no second-guessing and most importantly no censorship or “authorization” from some other power.
Of course, the question becomes, who if anybody ever reads those words?
I think the same is true for the visual image. Yes, the internet makes it possible for anyone to make a film and post it somewhere. But, who will know about it? Who will watch it? How will having people watch it on the web enable the filmmaker to keep making films? Or provide him or her with an income to finance other films?
I don’t know. Personally, I hate the idea of film being reduced to the computer screen, the iPod, or iPhone. Sure, it is a venue, but so much is lost.
Film is the other religion. It is best appreciated in a large, dark room with a big screen, great sound and a room full of people. I’ve seen the effect of such an environment. It is tremendously powerful. It is communal. It actually is spiritual (without all the guilt and hell and virgin births).
The thought of someone watching one of my films on the web, while checking their cellphone bill, writing an email, googling Michael Jackson and ordering the Farrah Fawcett poster fills me with great unease.
To me, the cycle of making a film and getting it seen should be regenerative. It should keep the filmmaking effort alive. Right now the internet is still some infinite, universal bucket holding the dreams of the entire world.
That’s a lot to sift through.
Hey Tom.
I’ve been in search of some sort of Mentor, and this blog is by far the best thing I’ve found. I had some good teachers at UC Berkeley, (gotta have the Cal name drop) but as mentors they would have led me to teaching instead of what I want, which is to start a company called Slightly Distracted Productions. (that’s like the opposite of a name drop, isn’t it? Here’s something you’ve never heard of)
The most reassuring thing I’ve ever heard is “There is no Path.” because that almost ensures success for the tenacious and the competent. So I have two questions.
1. The Internet is changing this lack of path, turning it into… perhaps, a lack of many paths. I mean, even just the capacity for the average schmoozer with a goatee and a backwards ball cap, (yes, I’m sorry to say I have both of those things. But it’s not my hat) even just the fact that someone like me, (nobody) can contact someone like you, (somebody) proves the fact that the internet has made possible an infinite variety of contact patterns.
(that makes sense, right?)
Alright, what I’m trying to ask is, you have become what you are through the old fashioned method. maybe that’s a bad way to put it. You did not get your start by using the internet. But it is obviously a major part of your current status in the public eye.
What does this mean for the average schmoozer? (alright, I turned the cap around)
What sort of opportunities are available to us nobodys through the internet that once were only available to very specific somebodys?
How can this knowledge be applied to gaining sponsors, retaining creative control of a project, properly presenting a project, and so on?
The bicycle never replaced the horse. We still have horses. The microwave never replace the oven. The television never replace the radio, and the internet isn’t going to replace anything. But it expands the options and possibilities, and I was wondering how you’ve approached the internet, and what it has made possible for you. And maybe how the Independent Media developer might properly approach it.
Hey Jessicah,
Well first, thanks for getting your friends together to watch Delirious. I appreciate it.
2nd, no director likes to defend their films; or explain them. But this divisive reaction you mention has really puzzled me. On a personal level I am the most satisfied with the ending of Delirious than I am with any of my other films. It pleases me emotionally, artistically and structurally. That is the ending I wanted.
It was never intended to be a “happy” ending. In fact I can’t really see what anyone could find happy in it. Les and Toby will never see each other again. Toby is going off into the blinding stratosphere of stardom with Karma, a fragile, damaged celebrity. A glance at any magazine cover should give a clue how long their relationship will last.
The use of murder in a film is an extremely significant event. At least to me. It is bewildering why people think the “logical conclusion” would have been for Les to indeed shoot Toby. For what? What was Toby’s crime? He made a choice to move in a different direction in his life which hurt Les’ feelings.
Is this really a justification for murder? If so perhaps I need to watch more Smallville.
The film was an attempt to examine what I feel has become an almost universal fixation on celebrity. All over the world people believe that if “I was only famous then my life would have meaning and value.” They think, “well, if the whole world thinks I am worthy, then I must be.” What this is really indicating is that most people on the planet apparently feel absolutely worthless.
Les became the embodiment of that idea. He is on the lowest rung of the celebrity ladder; a paparazzo. He is treated like shit; his parents think he is shit, he himself thinks he is shit. As opposed to leaving him in this state I wanted this crazy kid to somehow, almost accidentally, affect Les. That was the entire intention of the handshake. “Hey, man–I value you. In front of all these people, I acknowledge your existence.”
Throughout the film Les keeps talking about how Deniro shook his hand once. Maybe this wasn’t even true. But what is clear is how much this event meant to Les, in terms of his own self-esteem.
Toby rejected Les. This can feel like a death, when someone says, “I don’t want to be with you.” I wanted this to hurt Les so deeply that he reacts out of blinding rage and pain. In other words, Toby’s rejection touches what he himself has always feared about himself–that he is unlovable and despicable.
And because it is so personal and painful, he reacts with something extreme. “I will kill the person who has caused me so much pain.”
The handshake becomes Les’ opportunity to become a human being again. Toby’s instinctive gesture actually heals Les. Now, Les will still remain mired in the muck of reality like all the rest of us, but he’s felt a tiny bit of self-worth, some little sense that he has value. I felt if I could make this work it would much more lasting and powerful than any gun shot.
You are right in your interpretation of Karma. She is part of his fantasy; his dream. She’s as lost as Toby is. She is relatively talentless but has been the object of pop fame for so long it has started to destroy her.
The film was designed as a contemporary fable or fairy tale. Toby is the wandering innocent who gets lost in the dark forest. Les is the troll he meets under the bridge who will help him across only if he makes a deal with him. Karma is the imprisoned princess he rescues.
There are many clues to this theme you might enjoy discovering on another viewing. Look at Les’ underground lair. Look where I placed Karma’s apartment.
By the way, there is a hidden scene at the end of the closing credits that might effect some people’s understanding of the film.
Thanks again for getting some folks to see the film.
Wow. This is an excellent post. Haven’t checked back on the blog in some time, and I’m already blown away.
*Your humor is right in line with mine! the cap so backwards it was forward! 🙂
Back on topic, this post comes at an excellent time for me. I just graduated from film school and although the locale is a little different, the anxiety is still the same. WTF do I want to do? It seems like in film you’re always trained to aim to direct, but like you pointed out, and what I experienced is that directing is an exercise in fear and insecurity. At the end of the day, you’re proud you pulled it together, but every moment of the finished product is a remembrance of what you had to go through to get that shot. I’m not sure my ego (or my vision) are strong enough to survive it for long.
I finallllllllllly saw Delirious! I made a bunch of folks watch it with me. It inspired intense debate, and I ended up pulling up your blog which only fueled the fire of intense debate. Personally, I think the only films worth watching are the ones you continue to discuss beyond the final frame. The #1 division was the ending. The #2 division was the pop singer’s character (Karma). I argued that the ending was the logical conclusion of an updated melodramatic farce (in the vein of what Almodovar has made a career of.) Part of the group thought that Buscemi’s xer should’ve taken the film to it’s “logical extreme” (but I asked, where would the film go from there?) And some hated the fact that it ended with the both of them shaking hands (some ppl just hate happy endings!!!!). Also we were all divided about Karma. I found her to be hilarious and fantastical, it’s almost as though she was a product of Toby’s imagination. In fact, the whole film seemed like it took place in Toby’s imagination, solidified (to me) by the beautiful scene where the flowers start falling. My bf and I argued about my interpretation, long after everyone went home. In any case, I got a bunch of ppl going back to take a look at your previous work!
Personally, I think the blog should be incorporated into the DVD version of the film. It heightened my enjoyment to see the scenes you talked about come to life. Like the fly stuck in the syrup. Or when Buscemi gets choked up. So many moments that I may not have even noticed (esp. not on first viewing).
Thank you for an enjoyable film! Your work is inspiring, and I look forward to seeing your personal interpretation of the documentary!
Hey Erik,
What a great comment to get. First, thanks for your offer of assistance. I will sincerely keep it in mind for any and all pending projects.
Man, your music sounds great. Great voice, great lyrics and great guitar. Nice going. (readers listen here:
Thanks for the kind words about Living In Oblivion. We had such a blast making the film. You might be able to find a short book I wrote about the making of it online somewhere. It’s called “Eating Crow, Notes from a Filmmaker’s Diary,” or something like that. You might get a chuckle out of it.
Sorry Chad Palomino brought back some unpleasant recollections. We all go through that period. Christ, when I think of the chip I was carrying on my shoulder for 10 years it’s a wonder it didn’t become a permanent appendage.
Sounds like you’re engaged in some cool stuff. Film still is important. We are living in a landscape of fear. And that is why the challenge to penetrate it is so exciting. I know it feels sometimes like the world is one giant ball of phoney, stupid shit but there are a few people out there like you who are seeking a morsel of some basic truth.
I really appreciated your writing.
Hello again Tom,
I just caught ‘LIO’ again last night and had forgotten what a riot it is. Buscemi is a master. The whole cast were electric. The writing is so cutting. I’m still laughing over the T185 [?] smoke machine. That show is like going to a live theatre performance. And I don’t think I realized Steve Buscemi had started out with the Wooster Group. I still remember having my mind blown by ‘Brace Up’ when it came to Seattle in the late 80s. I saw them again when I came to NYC in ’91 to briefly attend the Grad Acting program at Tisch.
When You’re Strange led me to this blog. I have had a DVD copy of HWY for years. Timecode still rolling in the caption area. I’ve seen all the footage from Feast of Friends, etc. But something tells me, Tom, that you’ve done something new. I intend to see the film on the biggest screen I can find, with the best soundsystem. I rarely go out to the movies anymore.
Good God get to the point man. OK. Tom I am hereby offering my assistance. I don’t have time for gluing WYS posters to construction site fences on the West Side. But it’s an important film to me and there must be something I can do.
You said something at Sundance that resonated. Something about the concept of ‘supporting independent filmmakers.’ And you said ‘What are we? Blessed beings?’ ( I thought two things: 1) My God, he’s right. And that’s what made me so angry at NYU. It was so precious. So sheltered. I thought actors should be learning to get dirty. Get hurt. I thought we should project to the back of the theatre through the force of our will, not 80 hours a week of speech exercises. 2) What filmmaker says ‘Are we really so special?’ in public? What filmmaker has that sense of appreciation and humility? What actor? Maybe only Daniel Day-Lewis. For me, watching Living in Oblivion again, I was confronted by James LeGros’ behaving much as I did on indie film sets in the past. And I was a total unknown. The gall. I wanted to call the director, DP, actors and crew and apologize. I wanted to turn the clock back.
Film is important. At least it once was. The business of finding the money looks very daunting. We are living in a landscape of fear. Artists have to keep pushing through. Brando didn’t feel films were art. Maybe he’s right. But though my church was a soulless place when I was a kid, I had Star Wars. I had Boy Scouts. I learned to survive in the wild. Where are people looking today for rites of initiation? For stories? For inspiration and insight? Twitter?
Erik Jonsun
Valley Cottage, NY
[erik at]
[guapo-1 at]
Wow. Your latest response to Salli is eye-opening to what sets of films can become. Very interesting observations and input.
I know you’ve updated your ‘who’ page to say the blog is now focusing on helping potential filmmakers–but just so you know, I think it extends beyond one group. Artists, people, and moviegoers are all getting a great deal from your posts, whether a film career is in the works or not.
I know I am :). Keep it up,
Wow Salli,
It’s crazy reading your description of an onstage, in-public fight. You can’t help but look at these things afterwards and laugh, because A. they’re so stupid, and B. they’re so stupid.
But, when you’re going through them they are never funny. Your question: “1. As a director, have you ever had that kind of disruption caused specifically by an actor and, if so, how have you handled it?”
Yes, I’ve had encounters where actors (and others) have caused disruptions. The one thing I’ve learned over the years is that anger will never help you. So, first I try with genuine patience to untangle what the problem may be. If that doesn’t work and the actor continues to either express frustration or refuses to do what I think the script calls for, then that’s where the hard work–and agony–set in. If you feel you’ve really tried to reach a compromise and the actor will not budge your options become very limited.
I’ve tried this approach, “OK, let’s try one your way and then one my way.” Sometimes this works; with a reasonable, well-adjusted actor. Sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes the actor does it his way and then pisses over the next “my way” take rendering it unusuable.
In this case I have to weigh how strongly I feel about the moment. If I really believe it needs to be my way for the film to work then I state clearly and firmly that I expect the actor to do it. Sometimes this works. Sometimes the actor digs in even deeper.
At that point you’re in No Man’s Land (where you were on the sitcom taping). Someone either has to come in and force the thing into resolution or the actor gets fired.
Most of the time I find these disruptions are caused by fear. I try hard not to take it personally, even though the delay is causing me great stress, distress and huge amounts of time and money.
You ask: “2. That night we were wondering if the problem was the new director’s ego or if it could be other things we might not be aware of. If so what might those things be?”
Ego. MEgo. God. First, working in a public arena is always very hard. Your every move, decision and mistake are right there for everyone to see. This is true for both film and the tv show you mention.
It takes huge amounts of confidence. Or huge amounts of bullshit (faking it). In the best cases there is an equal balance of both. The problem intensifies however when the bullshit level begins to dominate. Again, this usually happens as a result of fear. So, if this director was secretly hearing an inner voice screaming louder and louder, “I am such a jerk! I have no idea what I’m doing and everyone can see it!!” then he’s going to be extremely sensitive to anyone who even suggests that voice is right.
In this case, he may have taken Church’s “resistance” as further proof of his own incompetence. The more truth in this (whether intended or not) the more fury and outrage. It’s like poking a painful sore with a rusty nail.
On the other hand, the guy could have been a control freak. Many people say they want to be directors because it enables them to tell other people what to do. But again, the deepest roots of control are fear of losing it.
And once this frenzied, starving rat is let out of the cage there is no going back. This is when the most intense fireworks begin. I once saw a director scream at an actress who was having difficulty understanding what he wanted, “You fucking, ugly, bitch!!” The entire production witnessed it and stood in stunned silence. To my astonishment, she calmly stood in position and when the camera rolled she went back to work and did another take.
This business reveals the best and worst in people. When it is the worst then the universe suffers. These people whose fears and self-doubt prevent them from speaking openly and honestly about what they want should not be on the set, they should be in therapy. I’ve always felt every set should have a resident therapist standing by just for these moments.
But for most of these people, the therapy needed is lengthy (12 years at least) and intense. So, you are forced to endure their neuroses, which unfortunately may trigger some of your own and as the cycle spins more and more out of control you really wonder just how it is that any film ever gets made.
Alfonso Nival
“The next one will deal in more detail about how to stay creative on the set”
Very much looking forward to it!
I’m hoping I’ll get to see When You’re Strange on the big screen here in Amsterdam.
Hi Tom,
In the past I’ve been on television and Hollywood movie sets as both a reporter and a paid audience sitter. Most of the time things have run very smoothly.
Occasionally there have been director-actor disputes that have hurt the shooting schedule,the mood,et al.
One mid 1990’s night was a sitcom tape nightmare. The director was new to sitcoms. The actors were seasoned pros. The director made Thomas Hayden Church go over the same two lines for over an hour, because the director was looking for “something”. He didn’t know what, but Tom just couldn’t give it to him, although god knows Tom tried every reading for those two lines you could come up with. The situation became loud ugly words (director), nasty mutters and Tom eye rolls (Tom, other actors, crew and audience).
The producer came down to the set. More loud ugly words including “law suit.” Exit director. Tom finally did his lines. The AD took over the rest of the taping. We all clocked out at 2:30am Saturday for a taping that should have ended at 10 to 11 pm Friday night. It was great for me. I got paid overtime to sit in the audience, but it left everyone wondering what part a director’s ego or actor’s ego has to do with being a professional.
1. As a director, have you ever had that kind of disruption caused specifically by an actor and, if so, how have you handled it?
2. That night we were wondering if the problem was the new director’s ego or if it could be other things we might not be aware of. If so what might those things be?
Hope your script is coming along well. 🙂
sally stevens
Hi Tom – great news about the narration, and look forward to hearing further news. Have a great holiday weekend!
Hi Tom, great stuff. Thanks for getting back to me. Fabulous news about Depp finishing up on the narration. You’re phone interview was a huge bonus. Look forward to hearing more news about WYS U.S. distribution.
Hello Christine,
Thanks very much for writing. I think you are right about people’s impressions of most professions. Except maybe for garbage collectors. I think their job is pretty clear. Not putting them down, I’m just saying I don’t think too many people would be surprised or disappointed to discover what the job entails.
But, yes, the “glamor” professions do tend to mislead a lot of people. What most people don’t know is that the same maneuvering, postering, compromising, backstabbing etc exists on independent films just as much as Hollywood.
I love my job. I’m just trying to call it as I see it. Most people will defend the myth even if it kills them.
The Doors film will eventually get Canadian distribution. How wide is still to be determined. Much will depend on the upcoming screenings for buyers with Johnny Depp’s voice in as the narrator.
Hey Baron,
I’m glad you’re staying with us. There is some Doors news. See the new page above called News.
Much more to say in a week or so.
Hang in there.
Hello Alfonso,
Well, you’ve made my day. Thanks very much for writing. My plan (if I have the time) is to go through the entire process of making a film. There are so many things I’ve learned by being smashed in the face that I think could be interesting, helpful or maybe just diverting to filmmakers.
The next one will deal in more detail about how to stay creative on the set.
Hey Rai,
Good to hear from you. Glad the musings cheer you up. Actually they cheer me up too. Or at least help me stop taking things so seriously.
Hey Eric J,
“Film directors are the architects of our modern myths. They are the shamans at the edge of the village.”
Interesting observation. Jim Morrison would be proud of you. I’m not sure I would limit it to only film directors though, certainly not some of the ones I know. The creation of new myths is something many artists are attempting today; from writers, to painters, to poets and musicians. If anything film is the closest to dream which I think provides it most of its power.
Of course it could just be the sex and violence.
Hello Tom,
First of all, I really enjoy your movies, always looking forward to the next one.
Even though I have never worked in the movie field, I believe your description of the director job to be quite accurate. It reminds me of Day for night by Truffaut. I would push your thinking forward by saying that most professions can look glamourous from afar but when you’re actually doing it, it’s another story. I would say it’s a 10% glamour/fun and 90% solving problems ratio. The journey makes it a worthy experience, even though the reward is seldom and few.
Is your documentary distributed anytime soon in Montreal, Canada?
Hey Tom, any news on WYS? Dig the blog. good stuff.
Alfonso Nival
“If one or two aspiring filmmakers find some value in them then at least I won’t feel so bad about paying all that tuition”
As an aspiring Filmmaker, I found this very valuable!
Not many directors are willing or have the time to share their experiences on-line.
Thanks for this.
Rai Mechem
Hi Tom,
Glad to hear you will be blogging on a regular basis. Whenever I’m sitting around with too much work to do, I think “let’s see what Tom is up to” and your musings cheer me up.
All the best,
Film directors are the architects of our modern myths. They are the shamans at the edge of the village. The great directors submit themselves to endless trials and return to us with sacred medicine, lessons, visions. I hope there is more reward for directors than fame and money. Because it must be a lonely journey.
Wonderful post, Tom!! Look forward to hearing more.
You’ve also helped me solve a dilemma I was having with my work in progress, so thanks!!!! It’s no wonder you say the shooting days for Indep. film are like riding a motorcycle on the edge of a cliff. Your posts are helping us understand more as to why.
In my mind, I know that there are a limited number of days to shoot the film. I know this relates to budget concerns. But I guess it never sunk in that those reasons, plus all the other pressures, only add to trying to capture scenes before the light goes. You’ve mentioned that on several occasions – scrambling to get the shot before the light goes. In many ways, Mother Nature affects everything too.
Come to think of it, who/how does the ‘filming season’ get decided? Even though Box of Moonlight was a grueling shoot, you picked the right season. Spring would’ve been rainier, fall would have been gorgeous foliage but more crowds, winter would have had ice storms.
I feel bad for the several films scheduled to shoot in Savannah, GA this summer. It’s one of my favorite places in the world–except in summer. The humidity alone will frustrate the makeup artists, not to mention the actors. Do crews ever research that kind of stuff, or does it just depend on actor schedules and timing?
Keep em coming, Tom – and thx again!

Leave a replyReply to


Independent Filmmaker & Musician