The new must-watch feature film, Between Wars, was written, directed, and produced by none other than independent film director Tom Phillips. He is also currently in pre-production for his next feature film Church Ave.
NYC-based Tom Phillips is a writer, director, and producer who is set to debut in mainstream entertainment as the baddest new filmmaker. Before launching this passion project, Phillips has already carried an impressive portfolio, having experienced world-class training from the best in the entertainment industry. He started his career at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Manhattan, studying as an actor and playwright for Anna Strasberg. Phillips also trained under Alec Baldwin in Baldwin’s Master Class in filmmaking, where he worked as actor and director for two seasons. And since then, Baldwin also served as his mentor over the years.
Wearing the screenwriter hat, Phillips collaborated with Academy Award nominee Jim Sheridan on a story based on the actual accounts of the Hell’s Kitchen Mafia. Phillips is also an original member of actor-director Michael Imperioli’s Studio Dante’ in Manhattan and assisted Imperioli on his first directorial debut with The Hungry Ghosts.
Phillips’ directorial take on Between Wars is a unique, docu-style approach in-camera technique. To carry this out, he has entrusted his vision to the esteemed talents of Emmy Award Director of Photography winner, Alastair Christopher. Phillips tackles the challenge of engaging the audience and evoking real emotions by providing direction that moves the viewer to rethink their own conditions in real life as if they are walking in the characters’ shoes. Phillips was captivated with the cinematography in ESPN’s 30 FOR 30 Felipe Lopez Story that he searched for whoever shot it, believing that the person would successfully execute his vision. Fortunately, “Gee Lock” immediately signed on for the project.
Phillips is inspired by filmmakers Ed Burns, Guy Ritchie, early Scorsese, Spike Lee, Abel Ferrara, and Tarantino, and pure independent filmmaking had always been what Phillips had pictured for Between Wars. But production had a rocky start. After writing the movie, the screenplay did not receive an instant green light and was passed around in the hands of several producers in Hollywood. It was also around the time that Phillips’ co-writer and friend, Joe Panebianco, was diagnosed with ALS-Lou Gehrig’s disease that he continues to battle to this day.
Phillips sat on it and later realized it was better to stay inspired by what has happened and carry on. Despite the circumstances, he pushed to take the matters in his own hands by shooting the movie by himself. Panebianco’s illness was the ultimate motivation he needed to make the idea a reality, and he began production in 2019. As aptly described by actor Michael Imperioli (Goodfellas, Sopranos, NBC Lincoln Rhyme: Hunt for The Bone Collector), Phillips is an indomitable and tenacious director defying the odds without a studio and running on a shoestring budget.
In Between Wars, Imperioli fully commits to the script, which depicts him as “Sarge,” a Marine-turned PTSD psychologist. Phillips wanted to cast the character with an actor who knows the role well or would find comfort in similarities. He has entirely placed his trust in Imperioli’s acting prowess, a versatile artist who equally levels to the acting chops of Pacino and DeNiro.
In the film, Imperioli successfully drives home the spiritual message of the story amongst the action and chaos, despite Phillips pulling in the reins to give Imperioli creative freedom. Phillips believes in the power of allowing the actors on set to explore their ideas, and he has proven how it creates a more dynamic result.
Phillips’ directing style adds elements of raw emotion and grittiness in working-class stories to make the audience take a second look and reflect on their lives. Between Wars was created in a way that it would emphasize very real human conditions, isolated individuals under agonizing circumstances, and underlying themes of powerful issues in society. Tom Phillips’ direction for Between Wars was executed to make the audience feel the pain, torment, love, insanity, and loneliness vicariously through the characters, successfully blurring the line between reality and fiction.
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