Recently enjoying its premiere at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, the psychological thriller Tilt follows a struggling Los Angeles filmmaker (played by Joseph Cross) whose life spirals out of control after his wife (played by Alexia Rasmussen) discovers that she’s pregnant, and he faces giving up on his dreams to fulfill his marital obligations.
Daily Dead recently caught up with co-writer/director Kasra Farahani and Tilt co-star Cross during Tribeca, and the duo discussed working on the project together, their thoughts on exploring the dark side of human emotions, and how real-life politics spilled over into the themes in Farahani’s powerful story about one man’s struggle with his dangerous impulses.
I'm going to start with you, Kasra, as I'd love to hear about where the idea for this story came from. This story deals with these different thematic elements of impending fatherhood and some of the pressures that society puts on you as you transition into adulthood. Can you discuss bringing those ideas together for Tilt?
Kasra Farahani: Oh, sure. So, the beginning of this idea came from my co-writer, Jason O'Leary, who was visiting me in the early fall of 2015. He lives in Portland, and he was telling me that he recently had been thinking about this image of a man standing over his sleeping wife in their bedroom, and not being natural horror people, that idea instantly presented both of us with a very enticing and intriguing challenge to look into. So that was the beginning of this seed which became us exploring the domestic pressures of basically becoming an adult.
We live in this society where we try to delay that as long as possible. My parents got married when they were 21 and 22, and had kids, and that was pretty typical for their generation. Now, it's like that age is getting later and later, and I think people have benefited from a few very practical generations before them, so there's a little bit of inherited wealth and privilege in a lot of those people who live in these cosmopolitan cities.
But, in some ways, it's like the only question you have to answer is what kind of artist do you want to be? So, we're basically watching what happens when the clock runs out on this guy. His time's up on pursuing his own greatness, and his wife is pregnant, and he has to be an adult now. That was the main thing that we were exploring in this film.
Also, in terms of the political stuff, too, what I thought was really interesting is that as we as a country went through all of the stuff with the election, it almost became an obsession for many people, and we see that somewhat reflected in Tilt. Did you realize when you were making this movie that maybe that aspect of the story would also end up making a bit of a statement as well?
Kasra Farahani: We started writing this formally around October of 2015, and at the time there were 17 or 19 Republican candidates still in the race. So, I would be lying if I said we had any idea at all how the Trump thing would turn out, but, something that was happening even then was this whole “make America great again” thing, which was this more overt, populist, nationalist sentiment that we'd ever really seen publicly, unapologetically put forward in a Western liberal democracy in the past few decades. What was also scary were these rallies that he was having and how receptive people were to this kind of regressive idea.
So the anger of that “make America great” movement was what we were tapping into. But that did in fact feed into some of what is going on inside of the character of Joe and his downward spiral, even if he was a pretty liberal character.
Joseph, a lot of this film is riding on your shoulders, because about 90% of this movie follows you. What was it about this character that made you really want to dig around and push yourself in some dark directions?
Joseph Cross: Yeah, this role was challenging and I was a little bit afraid to play this part, and so when I first was reading it, I spent a good amount of time trying to wrap my head around it. Because I was so nervous about it, that was an indicator to me that I should do it, that I should go towards whatever it was about it that was making me uncomfortable. My good friend Kelvin [Yu], who also plays a part in the movie, read the script and said, "You gotta go do this part and you gotta go do it now, because you're gonna have a kid eventually, and you're not gonna want to play this part once that happens."
And then, there was the challenge of just having to approach this part with compassion, trying to figure out why people do what they do. And for the most part, you can always figure out what it is that gets somebody to the point where there’s this kind of desperation, and there’s also some mental illness on his part, too, I think. So I had to find those things and root all of that in his life, and then explore why he’s as unhappy as he is with everything.
Definitely, and what is interesting, too, with Joe, is that he’s almost unredeemable, yet I was very connected to him even though he's doing these horrible things. Is it a challenge to create a character that does these terrible acts, but you still have to keep him grounded in a way where he's still compelling to your audience?
Joseph Cross: Absolutely. And I think people identify in some ways with the darker impulses of characters in movies; that’s what hooks them. So there's maybe something cathartic about watching movies like this, where people act up on these impulses, for people who need to work out those types of emotions.
Kasra Farahani: Yeah, I think Joe's absolutely right, and I'm very gratified to hear that you were conflicted about the character, because that's really what we were hoping was going to happen. Because it isn't easy just to put anyone into one box. Even despite seeing them do despicable things, that doesn’t mean you can’t have empathy for them. That doesn’t mean you’re excusing their behavior, you can just see where they're coming from. I think that's true of all horror, actually.
In case you missed it, check out our previous coverage of the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival.