Why ‘A Love Song’ Director Built Indie Film Around Dale Dickey

“Picturing her in this role just gave me a huge amount of confidence,” Max Walker-Silverman tells TheWrap

"A Love Song" (Bleecker Street)

Writer-director Max Walker-Silverman returned to a central question while writing and filming “A Love Song:” is the pain of losing someone worth having had them?

“At the same time that I was falling in love to some of those around me, they were in various ways falling out of it, whether that was by death, or divorce, or all the many ways that our lives can be changed,” Walker-Silverman told TheWrap.

“A Love Song” follows Faye, a lone traveler who visits a rural camp ground and awaits a visit from her old flame, Lito, who traverses his own journey through the West.

Fixated with admiration for veteran actor Dale Dickey, Walker-Silverman wrote the film centered around envisioning Dickey as his protagonist. “Picturing her in this role just gave me a huge amount of confidence to allow the silence of the world to play a part in it, because I knew that she had the ability to ground this character and a past and in a reality without having to explain it to the world,” Walker-Silverman said.

When Walker-Silverman asked himself, “Who the hell can share a screen with an actor like Dale Dickey?” a short list came together, including Wes Studi, whose casting as Lito gave Walker-Silverman the confidence to “leave as much unsaid as it is, and to trust [Dickey and Studi] to fill the characters with everything that [he] wanted out of them.”

“They both come from quiet places from Tennessee and Oklahoma, respectively. They both loved and lost. They’re that age, I’m not,” Walker-Silverman said. “And I’ve felt great to trust them to do that, and to work those things out themselves.”

As the Faye and Lito reminisce about their adolescence, their interactions are tinged with melancholy as they express their grief for their widows. Since the characters share a childhood and the experience of loss while also spending a lifetime apart, the film honors “different expressions of love” and solitude.

“It’s about two characters who, in their own way, begin this story alone, and in their own way, leave it alone, but their relationship to that solitude is changed completely, and their lives are going to change completely,” Walker-Silverman said.

Bleecker Street

Filmed in southwest Colorado about a half hour from where Walker-Silverman grew up, he recalled fishing crawdads and swimming in the park where the pair reunite in the film. “It was no struggle to imagine these characters’ childhood memories of that place, since I had plenty of my own,” said Walker-Silverman, “There’s a story ultimately about like people… choosing to be there and choosing to seek out beauty even if their relationship to it is unsure.”

Mirroring Walker-Silverman’s own upbringing that was surrounded by a “mix of hippies… rednecks, and all the other strange people who wash up in strange place,” the film incorporates these colorful characters in a group of siblings who want to improve the view of their father’s burial site.

“It does seem important to pay a tribute to the quirky characters who are not only able to exist in the right backroads places, but are able to be sort of cherished,” Walker-Silverman said. “My life has certainly been made much richer by all the strange sort of folks who spring up in these places, or who wash up there.

At the end of the film, Faye receives Lito’s photograph in the mail, a sign that confirms there is a future for both her and him. This tangible memory, that verifies that something very real happened happened between the two, is a “huge step” for “a character who avoided photos and avoided memories and avoided experience for a very long time,” according to Walker-Silverman.

As for whether the two cross paths again, Walker-Silverman said he likes believing that they’re going to “be part of each other’s lives, maybe just through letters.”

“It’s going to be a happier life than it was coming into the movie,” he concluded.

“A Love Song” makes its theatrical debut July 29.