Paul Lieberstein — perhaps better known as Toby Flenderson from NBC’s The Office—made his feature film debut at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival with sardonic laugh-fest Song of Back and Neck. Lieberstein is no stranger to off-screen work: he was The Office’s showrunner from seasons five through eight; he’s an Emmy-winning writer/producer; he has directed at least a dozen episodes of TV.
And that was just the beginning. Now writer/director of his own first feature, Lieberstein also stars as sad-sack Fred Trolleycar, whose crippling back pain may be psychosomatic and—in a bit of surreal art-imitates-life symmetry—an outlet for creative expression. When taken to an acupuncture specialist, his back begins producing music through vibrating needles. The movie is a masochistic blend of cringe-comedy, slapstick and catharsis, with poor Trolleycar reduced to slinking around floors like a sea cucumber. A refreshingly understated take on the Woody Allen model, it also offers piecemeal reminders of Being John Malkovich and yes, The Office. I caught up with Lieberstein after the premiere to discuss his first foray into feature filmmaking … sure to be the first of many. Check out the video interview below: