Category: Tom DiCillo

Hey all,

The brain cells are fading as I get older. A friend recently pointed out that, while I’ve been posting news, links, interviews, and all the goody stuff about the Doors documentary “When You’re Strange” – I haven’t yet written a blog about seeing it.

Hearing this was like a DUH slap across the back of my head. Like having my writing critique partner recently say to me, “Um, this scene is great, but why is this character in the kitchen when he’s supposed to be out of state?” Again, DUH. I just grimaced and replied, “Because he was back in town in my head?” To which she narrowed her eyes and told me to put that on the page.

Anyway, on to the film. First off and great news, the film’s opening weekend numbers did so well (click here to read the article) the film is being released in more cities. Check the site to see if it’s playing near you.

So my husband and I trekked down to the Cinefest last weekend to see this Tom DiCillo film, narrated by Johnny Depp, that I’ve been waiting 2 years to see. I found it amazing and refreshing to talk to the other patrons. There were women there from Kentucky, who’d picked up their friends in Alabama, and driven to Atlanta that morning to make the afternoon show. There were also locals like me, who’d been following its progress and waiting for it to finally come to the big screen. One woman said that had it not opened in Atlanta, she was planning a trip to Europe to see it when it gets released there.

The camaraderie was wonderful and we took our seats. And when the lights dimmed, the magic began. What a ride. DiCillo, with that artistic soul of his, wove pieces of Jim Morrison’s own film ‘HWY’ throughout Doors concerts, rehearsals, photos, and rare footage even some band members had never seen. Out of respect, only outtakes of Morrison’s film were used, but the color, angles, and symbolism as Jim wanders through the desert was both haunting and mesmerizing, and served as a motif throughout the film. It was a bold but brilliant move on DiCillo’s part, when some audience members were expecting a bunch of talking heads reminiscing about old times. The thing is, the footage and narration tells this story perfectly; talking heads would’ve spoiled the mood and weren’t needed.

I learned things about The Doors that I never knew. For instance, I didn’t know Jim had been a filmmaker. I was also struck by a mention that in the height of the band’s career, when audiences, women, and money were in abundance, Jim continued to have some self-doubts about his voice. This factoid struck me as wonderfully human, something DiCillo worked hard to convey. He didn’t want to follow others’ interpretations of Jim by only portraying him like some sex symbol or drunk wild child. The result? Jim and all members of The Doors were portrayed as human beings. As people everyone, even the non-famous, could relate to.

I was awestruck by Ray, Robby and John, and their dedication to their friendship and music with Jim. Many times, they had no idea what he would do on stage, or how it would affect them. They stuck by him anyway. Quite cool.

Johnny Depp did the narration, offering a reverent and unobtrusive way to communicate the information. While I love his Captain Jack Sparrow performance as much as the next gal, I’ve always admired his quiet, soulful nature like in this film and in personal interviews. (FYI, one of the best interviews I’ve ever seen of him was on Inside the Actor’s Studio. I highly recommend it.)

There was a classic ending line to “When You’re Strange” but I won’t put that spoiler here. Suffice it to say my husband has been quoting it and making references to it during the past week. Check it out for yourself at the theater if you can. If you aren’t near where it’s playing, it will air on PBS in May and the DVD should be out in the next few months.

Hopefully DiCillo will be back Stateside before then, as he is stuck in Paris (after doing film press) due to the Iceland volcanic ash.

So there you have it. 5 Stars for this gem of information, artistry, and beauty. Hope you check it out.

Oh, c’mon. Don’t frown and groan yet. Granted, this topic is overdone in the writing world, but occasionally I stumble across examples which revitalize my faith in its truth. Magic happens when writers follow this simple (and yet elusive) advice.

Key Point: Your audience doesn’t want information; they want experiences. It’s our job as writers to offer that to the best of our ability.

How can we do this? By using what we have in our toolbox. Words, description, sentence structure, our own experiences and knowledge of the human condition, etc. For you blogaholics out there like me, Margie Lawson is guest blogging today at Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. I attended a few of her brief presentations in Atlanta last year; she’s one of the best teachers on character emotion that I’ve encountered.

Keep in mind that for any technique, like flavorful seasonings, use in moderation. Description can be a wonderful tool, but it can also be like letting a full saltshaker loose on that prized soufflé. One author I was required to read in high school described a leaf for 5 pages. FIVE PAGES. A LEAF. It wasn’t even important to the story. All of us have things which we avoid. Stephen King hates the word “zestful” and has vowed to never use it in his books. I’m with him; my vow is to never describe a leaf. Ever.

Point being? A few well-placed words can go a long way. Below are some examples I’ve read recently. They restore my faith, because writers like the below not only offer a glimpse into whatever it is they are trying to communicate, but they let us share in those experiences with them. That takes talent, folks, and it’s something I am more determined than ever to remember as I continue writing.

My thanks, kudos, and deepest respect for all the artists below who were brave enough to share their talent with the world. All of you are my heroes and heroines, my inspiration.

The street door was still open, just a little, where the knife and the man who held it had slipped in, and wisps of nighttime mist slithered and twined into the house through the open door. His shoes were black leather, and they were polished to such a shine that they looked like dark mirrors: you could see the moon reflected in them, tiny and half full.
Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book

It’s 5 degrees. The street is dark and absolutely still. The cold has already made it through all three of my coats. Above me the obsidian sky is glittering with millions of stars. I take a breath. The whole night sky rushes into my throat, the stars tickling into my lungs like tiny fragments of ice.
Tom DiCillo, filmmaker, on the atmosphere at the Sundance Film Festival 09

Now imagine being frozen from the waist down in a lake of ice for eternity. Imagine that the slightest movement would freeze the tears on your face and the water surrounding you. God, according to Dante, was all about motion and energy, so the ultimate punishment for Lucifer is to not be able to move at all. At the very bottom of hell, there’s no fire, no brimstone, just the utter inability to take action.”
Jodi Picoult, The Tenth Circle

The following 2 examples are the first sentences of 2 Dennis Lehane books. His tone, his words automatically bring you into the story.

The first time I met Karen Nichols, she struck me as the kind of woman who ironed her socks.
Dennis Lehane, Prayers for Rain

A piece of advice: If you ever follow someone in my neighborhood, don’t wear pink.
Dennis Lehane, Sacred

Hey all,

Yep, I’m excited about this one! The Doors documentary (When You’re Strange) website is up and running. There’s the preview, Q&A links, etc.

View the When You’re Strange web site.

Back to writing…


Looks like Johnny Depp is going to be the narrator for the Doors documentary, When You’re Strange, that I’ve been plugging. Adding Depp’s incredible voice and star status to this film is going to make it soar. I couldn’t be happier for writer/director Tom DiCillo.

Read the Johnny Depp announcement.

The film also got a worldwide distributor in Berlin; the Berlin film fest is happening now. Now I just have to wonder how long it takes to get into a USA theatre in the South…cuz when it does, I’ll be the first in line to buy a ticket!

Happy weekend all!

Greetings from arctic Atlanta! Yes, it’s the South. If you don’t like the weather here, just wait 5 minutes. Been in the 20s this week and supposed to be in the high 60s this weekend.

Onto today’s topic…I always find it fascinating to learn more about the artists in our midst, be they authors, musicians, filmmakers, painters. Anytime they’re generous enough to do an interview or a Q&A with others, it helps people get to know them a bit better. My monthly writers group knows this fact and has incorporated it into every meeting. The “Ask a Published Author” segment, no matter how many times an author may speak, is always valuable and gives us some extra insight into what keeps them going.

I love the TV show on Bravo, Inside the Actors Studio, for this very reason. Actors talk about their background, how they entered the acting profession, etc. It’s a chance to not only learn more about some favorite actors/actresses, but I like the opportunity to see who they are as real people. You can learn a great deal by watching or reading an interview; this tells us who the person is, what art means to them, and how willing they are to encourage others.

Those who’ve been following my blog for awhile know that I’m a huge Tom DiCillo fan. He’s one of the few writer/directors whose films always touch my soul. I’ve purchased all his films on DVD and also have his 2 books. I read somewhere that he wrote a play while studying at NYU. If I could get my hands on it, I’d purchase that too.

Below is a link to a recent interview he gave regarding his newest film about The Doors, When You’re Strange. The film premiered at Sundance last month, is currently being shown at the Berlin Film Festival, and will play at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Film Festival in Austin, TX in March.

Read the interview.

We all have our favorite artists, those who have a particular way of storytelling which reaches into our heart or excites some quirky spirit in us–we can’t help but love everything they create. For filmmakers, my list includes Tom DiCillo and the Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan.

In terms of books, Dennis Lehane and Jodi Picoult are my top two. Lehane has a conversational yet brutally honest Boston voice. I must have read the 3 opening pages to Gone, Baby, Gone at least 50 times. The words almost sway in the breeze, those pages are written so well. Picoult takes current events and sagas, then uses them as a backdrop to her rich fiction characters. I read about her in an airplane magazine (yes, it was an interview, so always read interviews when you get the chance!) and decided to buy one of her books. I did and have since bought everything she’s done.

Remember when your artistic creations get out into the world, give interviews or Q&As. It’s a great way for your audience to learn a bit more about you, the artist who’s behind the art.

Y’all have a great weekend!