Funny-man Paul Lieberstein steps out of his writer, producer, and goofy, incompetent HR Director role of Toby in NBC’s The Office and collapses onto the floor as a result of chronic back and neck pain in his first ever “romantic-dramedy,” Song of Back and Neck.
Lieberstein seemingly can do it all as the writer, director, and star of his feature film, which had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on Monday, April 23rd.
“Watching Paul switch from hats as frequently and as effortlessly as he did was really exciting,” said Daniel Thrasher, who plays Regan’s son Alex in the film.
“He would do a take and be totally present and funny and spontaneous and then he went off to look at the shots and be like okay let’s adjust this, let’s adjust that. And he really, I mean, he’s like a machine.”
Lieberstein’s all-encompassing role may have appeared effortless, but wasn’t without diligence and hard work. He modestly accredited his all-star, professional cast for taking a bit of the load off.
“It was kind of a challenge. You know the director and writer, they can be tied together very easily,” said Lieberstein. “But being in the scene, I was lucky to have Rosemarie DeWitt and Brian d’Arcy James and people who could kind of take it on themselves and know what to do.”
Song of Back and Neck follows human punching bag Fred, played by Lieberstein, as he struggles to complete his day without succumbing to paralyzing back and neck aches.
Determined to relieve his crippling pain, Fred discovers an unforeseen romance with one of his law firms’ clients, Regan (Rosemarie DeWitt), who refers him to an acupuncturist, along with an unexpected talent. Much to his surprise, Fred uncovers that his physical agony might just be a manifestation of his internal loneliness and frustration with his immediate circumstances.
“I’m hoping that people understand that you should express yourself when you feel the need to express yourself. Emotions are okay,” added Thrasher.
Lieberstein introduces a new kind of raw, emotional vulnerability to a romantic-comedy feature film that audiences may not necessarily expect. Our bodies and minds are incredibly interconnected. Negative emotions may result in corresponding physical pains.
Lieberstein himself suffered from extreme back and neck pain. It wasn’t until he read John Sarno’s “Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection,” that he found relief in several facets of his life.
Sarno’s book “is what inspired it, but it really goes off to its own weirdo place,” said Lieberstein. “I was inspired by the transition from recognizing that anger is kind of important and needs to be recognized in order to go away.”