Throughout September, the Denver Film Society has been throwing “A Month of Movies Influenced by Music." The series opened September 13 with a film by Pink Floyd man David Gilmour. Elsewhere in the schedule, there are two Beatles films, as well as a live Black Sabbath movie. And then there’s a film by Tim Kasher.
No Resolution sticks out like one white hair on a goth’s head. With all due respect to Kasher and his truly awesome bands, The Good Life and Cursive, the other three groups/artists highlighted in the series are bona fide giants. Kasher’s film actually has nothing to do with music, but it's still a weirdly wonderful piece of work.
The movie tells the story of a couple, Jean Teller (Maura Kidwell of Sirens fame) and Cary Lonegan (Layne Manzer), who are in the midst of planning their wedding. As the New Year quickly approaches, they have to deal with Cary’s controlling mother and their own insecurities and emotions. While there are a few supporting cast members, Kidwell and Manzer pretty much carry the movie and do a phenomenal job. It’s an intensely emotional and psychologically draining film, though not as personal as you might initially assume.
“It’s certainly not autobiographical or anything,” Kasher says. “But it’s like anything I write — it’s an amalgam of experience. I don’t want to offer myself too much credit as a writer, but you have to be fairly observant of human behavior. I think I’ve become astute at that, or maybe it’s just something that I’ve always been interested in, so I’ve always been watching and observing and considering how people do or don’t get along with each other.”
No Resolution is Kasher’s first movie, though he’s been writing screenplays for the past ten years in the hopes of getting one made. In fact, two went into production before the bottom dropped out. The stars seemed to align when he was finally able to shoot this film in December 2014, after writing it earlier that same year.
“We worked on it throughout 2015,” Kasher says. “I really would have been glad to have shown it in 2016, but there was no rush to get it out. I wasn’t following anything up, and it was just a matter of placing it into my schedule. I was doing stuff with one of my bands, the Good Life, and then me and some of the guys in Cursive started a record label, which is the same imprint that I’m using for this movie — 15 Passenger. We also wanted to take some time to set that up properly. There were a lot of reasons that it sat for a long time.”
Kasher is from Omaha and lived in Atlanta for a while, but he and his wife relocated to Chicago shortly before starting this film — partly to be closer to Omaha, but also because Kasher felt that he stood a solid chance of getting a low-budget movie off the ground in that city.
“I really believe in the quality and work ethic of the theater community there,” he says. “I started going to a lot of theater, and I found the two leads. They were both starring in a Mike Leigh play called Ecstasy. I love Mike Leigh, and they were outstanding, so I had to cold-call them and describe what I was doing, and they were both open to the idea. They carry a lot of weight in the movie.”
They sure do, and the shoot couldn’t have been easy. Kasher, to his enormous credit, is the first to admit that he went into the movie-making process all but clueless. Surprises rained down, but in the end, he and his crew rolled with every disheveled punch. “I didn’t do even nearly enough pre-production work,” Kasher says. “So there were some problems that would show up on the fly. Problems as huge as having the second half of the shoot outside on a parking lot and not having a generator. Sometimes, the lack of preparation was daunting, but we always persevered. Now I know better.”
Perhaps understandably, one area where the film impresses is in the placement of the music. Kasher doesn’t shy away from extended scenes with a song playing while characters gaze thoughtfully. The fact that Kasher himself provides the music makes the mashup of media slightly easier.
“It's easier to do because it’s my own music, and I want to have those moments,” he says. “For me, that’s a heavy influence from films such as The Graduate, where it’s nice just to sit and reflect with music in the midst of a storyline. I love scenes like that. It was a little difficult in the sense that, since it’s my own music, I was the only person there to call myself out if something didn’t work. In the future, it might be safer if I had somebody else involved in the process to give harder opinions about what works where.”
There’s also a clever use of music reminiscent of cult horror movie Driller Killer that involves music pounding though the ceiling thanks to some annoyingly noisy neighbors, creating claustrophobic tension when the couple is already arguing. “I think that there was some kind of symbolism in there that this pot is boiling over, and it became actualized with this party that keeps building to a frenzy up to midnight,” Kasher says.
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It’s a neat trick, and just a hint at the fact that Kasher has real chops. He might just have a future in this game if enough people can see No Resolution. That in itself is problematic, but the people who have seen it so far are enjoying it.
“I recognize that I’m showing it to a biased audience, so that there can be complications there, but it’s probably always going to be a fairly biased audience,” Kasher says. “The releases are just going to be on-demand on iTunes and Amazon, so I’m not sure how many people are just going to be trying it out. But it’s been great, and it’s been rewarding. It’s very new for me, and it’s fascinating to recognize how important validation really seems to be for a writer. Maybe writers don’t want to think that’s the case. We want to believe that we just want to create good work and move on, but validation really helps you feel better about the work that you do.”
Kasher has a couple of new scripts — a larger-budget thriller and a smaller-budget comedy-drama — that he has to choose between for the followup. Financial matters will always dictate, so don’t be surprised to see that comedy-drama soon. But maybe, just maybe, if a studio wants to take a chance on a talented newcomer, Hollywood will be Kasher’s next stop.
Tim Kasher’s No Resolution screens at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, September 20, at the Sie Film Center, 2510 East Colfax Avenue, 720-381-0813.