When husband and wife team Desi Van Til (writer) and Sean Mewshaw (director) were getting ready to make their film Tumbledown, starring Rebecca Hall and Jason Sudeikis, they faced a unique challenge.
The story centers on Hannah (Hall), whose husband Hunter was just becoming a famous musician when he suddenly died. As she struggles with her grief, she has the added problem of dealing with pesky journalists who want to know every detail of their lives — including one incredibly persistent fan and professor (Sudeikis) who wants Hannah’s help in writing a book on Hunter’s life.
Van Til and Mewshaw knew that Hunter’s music would be a key part of the film, and would need to build up a character that would be a very strong presence for Sudeikis and Hannah as they attempted to move forward.
“Originally we had imagined that we would work with a musician first, and create the character of Hunter Miles before we began working on the film so we would have his music there to play on set,” Mewshaw explained to Billboard. “So we would all be attuned to who this person was, this sort of ghost in the middle of the story. It didn’t end up timing out that way, but it worked in another fortuitous way which is that we got to show [singer/songwriter] Damien [Jurado] early cuts of the film when we were in post-production and he got to be inspired by the actual film we made and write the music [for Hunter].”
“‘On The Land Blues’ [which fans can listen to below] specifically, we always knew there had to be music there; that was a really key spot in the film,” Mewshaw explained. “It’s the turning point for Hannah. …Jason Sudeikis comes up, she assumes he’s just another muckraker but then she happens across his notebook where he’s taken these extensive notes on Hunter and his music. So we knew we had this scene where she was reading the notebook and listening to this song at the same time. The songs for Hannah mean so much — it’s all she has left of her husband, that’s what we were interested in exploring. In terms of the music, in another film perhaps with the loss of a loved one the person would have pictures, videos something like that. We thought it was so evocative that this woman would have an album. The haunting that Hunter does is immediate; she can turn it on whenever she wants and have him sing just to her.”
Tumbledown will have its world premiere showing at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, April 18.