Saddle Creek | The Good Life | Reviews


Help Wanted Nights

Author: August Brown
04/04/2008 | | | Feature
The Omaha indie-punk band Cursive writes its albums like little plays. Characters and images reoccur across records, often shouting knife-edge lyrics about the exquisite torment of falling out of love in small town. So it's no stretch to imagine that frontman and songwriter Tim Kasher had a screenplay stuffed in a shoebox while Cursive and his dark pop outfit The Good Life were on tour.

That screenplay just got a little closer to the bright lights of a projector, and not just because of Kasher's recent move to Los Angeles. Kasher has sold his screenplay "Help Wanted Nights" to an indie production house, and the script will be familiar to Good Life fans, as it shares its title with an album and follows a similar narrative to that record's moody, Midwestern Gothic meditations. In "Help Wanted Nights," a stranger's car breaks down in a rural town and he's sucked into the locals' personal noirish hells. We talked to Kasher about selling his script, publishing short fiction and bicycling drunk around the eastside of L.A.

Congratulations on living the L.A. dream and getting your Help Wanted Nights screenplay picked up. Who's producing it?

We're working with Lars Knudsen, who owns the indie production company Parts and Labor; Mira Shin, who's an assistant to Scott Rudin, though this is an independent project for her; and Nicholas Shumaker of White Buffalo Entertainment. It's coming along well enough, all the financing is arranged.

This is the first thing I've actually tried to get produced. It's based off my interest in Tennessee Williams and Edward Albee, I fell in love with films based on plays, it's all very dialogue-based. Everything's a lot cheaper that way. I've always tried with albums to open them up and have them be something more than just rock & roll, so it was a release to be able to finally write a whole story line. I've built up a lot of aggression trying to fit whole story ideas into three minute songs and meters and stanzas. I'm not working on a screenplay right now because I'm working on the new Cursive album and I'm getting all frustrated again.

Did you write the Good Life record and script concurrently?

I wrote the script a few years ago and inevitably I wanted to do the soundtrack for it, as it's one of the few media where you can include music. I wrote songs along the way and that evolved into working with the members of The Good Life and I just didn't want those songs to wait on the film to get made. Screenwriting is such a crapshoot.

Have you started casting the film yet?

We have interested parties but I can't talk about it quite yet. You always have a wish list though. For the female lead, I imagine a Mary-Louise Parker or Jennifer Jason Leigh, someone like that.

You also recently published your short story "A Friendly Resolution" in the online literary magazine Take The Handle. Does that medium appeal to you in the same way script writing does?

It's something I did a lot of in college. This one was more me getting frustrated with the screenplay and wishing I could just work on a story, where I'd just write it and it's out. It takes a lot less money, that's for sure. But the thing that scares me is that I don't want to give up on my hopes of writing films. I'm trying as hard as one can now. I really believe in getting this film made any way I can, even if I have to hold the camera.

That sounds a lot like the early days of Saddle Creek, where you were pressing your own records and booking each tour yourself.

It's definitely where I learned it from, it's where I built my confidence. We had a pretty die-hard approach to getting the records out there and forcing ourselves to make it work. I like having a staunch work ethic. The script is something that really started when I turned 30, it was another decade of life and I really wanted to start something from scratch and move into another field.

Has it been harder or easier to work on scripts since you moved to the maw of the beast in L.A.?

It's been great so far. I have a great house in Eagle Rock but it's not a friendly city to a drinker, though me and my friend ride our bikes down to the Gold Line. It's such a sprawling city. In Omaha a big hike to meet friends was like three miles. Here you drive 11 miles and you're only in Los Feliz.

I've met great people here though and it all happened very organically. I've met a lot of people who see film in the same light as I do. One of the benefits of being in the thick of the city is that, as an Omaha boy, people in L.A. took the project more seriously because I live there.

Has your success in Cursive opened doors for you in film, or is it a challenge to convince people you're serious as a script writer?

It scares me. I have to stick my neck out to convince people I have talent in other fields but I believe in it. With the short story, it really threw me back when Pitchfork commented on it. I wasn't looking for criticism but I guess I have to expect it. It's been fun getting the film made, but people are going to judge the hell out of me. I've been so shy about doing the musician/screenwriter thing that I try not to discuss it unless I'm asked about it.
Help Wanted Nights

Help Wanted Nights

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