Living in Oblivion by Tom DiCillo, and starring well-known actors such as Steve Buscemi, Catherine Keener Dermot Mulroney, Kevin Corrigan and more, is a film about the making of a no-budget film, and all of the stress-inducing elements that could go wrong during this process that ultimately lead to utter delirium in the minds of the filmmakers and even the actors. IMDB says that this film is “a tribute to all independent filmmakers,” and, holy crap, they’ve certainly got that right. There’s a lot to be said about the making of this movie, but the writing is definitely something that stands out amongst the rest as it lends a hand to the credibility of the plot, characters, dialogue, and overall feel of the movie.
Writer and director Tom DiCillo discusses his writing in an interview, and delves into what motivates his writing and ultimately the creation of his movies. While discussing Living in Oblivion, the interviewer points out, “One of the things that makes the script so strong is that all the obstacles that you put in Nick’s way are real obstacles that you’ve experienced in that position.” DiCillo explains in his reply, “I absolutely believe that if you can find a way to tap into something that’s very personal, and then make a creative leap from there, that’s the best way to do it. Anger by itself is not enough. You have to have the creative imagination coming into play as well.” Living in Oblivion seems to be the perfect example of what DiCillo is talking about here. DiCillo created an almost all-too-real scenario while dramatizing the plot, the characters and their personal lives, all while including so many motivated and artistic elements to push this story along and make it appealing and yet very personal and believable for the audience.
While viewing this movie, the audience gets a look into the mind of the frazzled and genuinely scared director Nick (Steve Buscemi) as he struggles with creating something meaningful and true to his vision while dealing with failing technology on set, frustrations between crew members, fickle performances with actors, intrusive and destructive thoughts and even nightmares, etc. We also get a look into the personal lives of the small crew and even the actors, such as Nicole (Catherine Keener), as she struggles with her love life, her ability to relate to her character, her competition within the industry and the painful insecurities that follow. And then there’s the DP, Wolf (Dermot Mulroney), who deals with the ruthless set life along with a brutal breakup with the Assistant Director, whom he still has to work with day in and day out. The list goes on, and so does the drama. That being said, as a filmmaker myself, this movie was painful to watch (in the best way), and I was able to somewhat relate to the overall conflict. I’ve been through the nightmares right before a production of which I was in charge. I’ve dealt with fickle co-workers. I’ve dealt with the struggles of losing steam, wondering how far to go for the sake of art, contemplating the meaningful verses the meaningless; I could go on… But an audience unfamiliar with this lifestyle may not connect with the movie or find it valuable if it was not written in a personable, believable, and creative fashion. Tom DiCillo took little aspects from internal struggles with which probably everyone is familiar (love, failure, confusion, frustration, decision-making, money, etc.) and placed them in a setting with which he was familiar while allowing his characters to react the way most of us wish we could and creating the most ridiculous and frustrating triggers to set his characters off (like this: click here), and in doing so, I feel as though he made it possible for an audience to relate and be entertained. He brought utter horror, drama, and comedy all together into a film through his writing and artistic touch, and I feel as though he was very successful in that.
In another article, DiCillo explains, “It wasn’t until after I made this movie that I realized that it was kind of an homage to all the years I’ve spent making these kind of movies…It’s four in the morning, no one’s getting paid, the pizza that came four hours earlier is still there, it’s ice cold and you have to ask yourself ‘why are you doing it?’ I realized I made this movie because of my real respect and admiration for these people that really have no money, no equipment, no food — nothing but this crazy desire to capture something beautiful on film. I think that is the true spirit of independent filmmaking.” So, there you go.