Tom DiCillo is not a stupid man. All you have to do is read his blog—tomdicillo.com—and you can tell he has more than a semblance of intelligence. And Tom DiCillo is certainly a filmmaker with talent, as evidenced by works like Living in Oblivion, Box of Moonlight and The Real Blonde. In fact, you don't have to look very hard to find proof that DiCillo is a filmmaker whose name should be known by any true lover of independent movies. But for some reason, things haven't quite worked out that way.
DiCillo's most recent film, 2006's Delirious, enjoyed a theatrical run that grossed all of $200,000 at the box office. That's bad—just in case you were wondering. The film, which starred Steve Buscemi, had played several major film festivals (including Sundance), garnered solid reviews, and then died a painful death at the box office. As chronicled by DiCillo, what happened with Delirious is the nightmare reality that faces many independent filmmakers.
"Making a film—any film—requires gargantuan willpower, determination, physical strength and, most importantly, the ability to absorb the psychological snakebites that lunge out at any moment," said DiCillo during a recent interview. "Most troubling are the moments when you need someone to watch your back, to take at least one-tenth of the emotional risk you took in making the film, and you discover that they are too frightened to do so—or, worse, don't care to do so. And when these people are in positions where their actions have direct impact on the fate of your film, their cowardice and indifference can have devastating effects."
DiCillo will be in Portland for a special screening of Delirious as well as his 1995 cult classic, Living in Oblivion, also starring Buscemi. The screenings will be followed by a Q&A session, and if there's one director who has some tremendous insights into the filmmaking process and its accompanying frustrations, it is DiCillo, who likens directing a movie to "dragging a freight train up a muddy hill by a piece of string. Only in my experience whenever I turn around to yell encouragement to those supposedly helping me, I find them all sitting in the cars laughing, smoking crack and reading Entertainment Weekly."
But despite his biting sense of humor and often cynical views of the film industry, DiCillo is not completely bitter or pessimistic. "There is hope," says the director. "There has to be hope. One has to believe there are people who still wish to experience new thoughts and ideas. It is tough, though."
Tom DiCillo appears at Living Room Theaters. 7 pm Thursday, Feb 28. $20.
will continue to play throughout the week.