Independent Filmmaker Tom Phillips Defies Production Boundaries to Make His New Film

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An independent feature film can be a daunting adventure for any producer or director who wishes to penetrate the film industry. The beauty and fulfillment achieved in doing independent filmmaking, however, is a far cry from the Hollywood box office hits that many movie fans are used to watching. New York City’s “Cool Hand Luke” of independent filmmaking, Tom Phillips, is defying film production boundaries with his upcoming feature film called Between Wars.

Phillips Produced, Directed, and co-wrote Between Wars, which stars Michael Imperioli.

Imperioli starred in the hit TV series The Sopranos that later garnered him the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series back in 2004. At the height of the popularity of the TV series, Imperioli read the script of Phillips during a screenwriting workshop at Studio Dante in New York. He liked it so much that the award-winning actor immediately agreed to be part of the feature film.

Imperioli plays the role of Sarge in the film, a Marine veteran who becomes a PTSD psychologist. Phillips likens his performance to the likes of Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

“Working with Tom is exactly what independent filmmaking should be. Hit the ground running, roaming the streets, stealing shots, running and gunning. It’s as far away from Hollywood as you can get and that’s the way we like it. All passion, inspiration, and fearlessness. Tom is as indomitable and tenacious as they come and that’s what it takes to make a truly independent movie — without a studio, on a shoestring budget, and defying the odds,” reveals Imperioli.

Hollywood was a major option for the screenplay, but it went from one producer to the other. Somewhere in the middle of it, Phillips’ co-writer for Between Wars, Joe Panebianco, was diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease. Phillips had a moment of epiphany when he learned about his co-writer’s present condition. He realized how fleeting life can be and how important it is to make the most of one’s life. Inspired by Panebianco’s fighting spirit and passion for pursuing the film even without much support, Phillips decided to take the film and shoot it himself.

“As an artist, I knew breaking rules was imperative for this story,” says Phillips. “In fact, the more rules the artists involved wanted to break — the more dynamic the story became. Anyone who came to work on this project learned very quickly that this was a different flow, and the players were creating something different. Allowing the actors on set to explore their ideas and use it in a way that would vibrate through the screen into the soul of the audience was the intention,” he adds.

Production for Between Wars started in 2019. When it comes to filmmaking, Phillips is inspired by the notable works of Guy Ritchie, Ed Burns, Martin Scorsese, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, and Abel Ferrara.

Phillips started his career at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in Manhattan, where he trained under Anna Strasberg as a playwright and actor. He also trained extensively under Alec Baldwin in the latter’s master class in filmmaking, where he functioned as director and actor for two seasons. Baldwin supports Phillips passionately in his recent project and even promoted the film in his personal Instagram account.

Phillips used a unique, documentary type of camera technique in shooting the film as his intention is for viewers to feel and breathe in the movie as if they are a part of it. One of his primary objectives is to inspire viewers to rethink their present situations in life.

Phillips collaborated with Academy Award nominee, Jim Sheridan, to write the screenplay for a story based on true events involving the Hell’s Kitchen Mafia. Phillips is an original member of Imperioli’s Studio Dante in Manhattan, and he worked behind the scenes on Imperioli’s first directorial debut for the movie The Hungry Ghosts.

Phillips is currently in the pre-production phase of his next feature film, Church Avenue.

Visit Michael Imperioli’s Instagram account for a glimpse of what can be expected from the feature film, Between Wars.

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