DiCillo, Tom: Indie Director–Career Analysis (Sundance Babe)

Career Analysis:

Career Output: 8 films (6 features, 2 docus)

Career Span: 1991-2022

Age at first film: 38

Best features: Living in Oblivion

Thomas A. “Tom” DiCillo was born August 14, 1953 in Camp Le Jeune, North Carolina to Italian father and New England mother.

He studied creative writing at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia and then studied filmmaking at New York University’s Film School alongside Jim Jarmusch, Sara Driver and Spike Lee.

Subsequently he worked as an actor and cinematographer, before making his own films.

For his first film, Johnny Suede (1991), DiCillo cast Brad Pitt and Catherine Keener, and showed the film at the Sundance Film Fest.

His second film, Living in Oblivion, received acclaim for his satire of indie filmmaking. This 1995 black comedy, a low-budget indie, sees Steve Buscemi as a director driven to near-madness by his cast and crew, including a vain Hollywood actor.

DiCillo described making a movie as “one of the most tedious, boring, painful experiences, and that’s just when something goes right.”

In 2001, his film Double Whammy went straight to video.

Delirious (2006), a comedy starring Steve Buscemi, Michael Pitt, Alison Lohman and Elvis Costello, was screened at the San Sebastian Film Fest where it won three awards (Director, Original Screenplay, the Signis Award for originality). The film also screened at the Sundance Film Fest in 2007 and won Best Director at the HBO Comedy Film Festival in Aspen, Colorado.

DiCillo wrote and directed When You’re Strange (2009), a docu about the rock band The Doors, which premiered at Sundance, and was subsequently nominated for Emmy Award, after airing on PBS’ American Masters series, and Grammy Award for Best Long Form Video.

He has published books about two of his films, Living in Oblivion and Box of Moonlight, which contain the scripts along with commentary and anecdotes.


DiCillo also directed “Weeping Willow,” a sixth season episode of the TV series Law & Order: Criminal Intent, inspired by the lonelygirl15 videos on YouTube. It’s the story of a vlogger, Weeping Willow (Michelle Trachtenberg), who’s kidnapped during live Internet video, and the kidnappers demand ransom through additional videos.


As Director
Johnny Suede (1991)
Living in Oblivion (1995)
Box of Moonlight (1996)
The Real Blonde (1997)
Double Whammy (2001)
Delirious (2006)
When You’re Strange (Docu) (2009)
Down in Shadowland (Docu) (2014)

As Cinematographer
Permanent Vacation (1980)
Underground USA (1980)
Burroughs: the Movie (1983)
Variety (1983)
Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
Robert Wilson and the Civil Wars (1987)
Robinson’s Garden (1987)
The Beat (1987)
Laura Ley (1989)
End of the Night (1990)
Coffee and Cigarettes (2003)