(By Daniel Crosier) Denver, CO – Heather Dalton, a Colorado native, has tackled music and television throughout her professional and creative life. In film, Dalton tackles larger hurdles exploring the life, family, and friends of one of Denver’s favorite sons, and beat generation icon Neal Cassidy in Neal Cassady: The Denver Years.
GROOVEY TV: I know you as a creative as a filmmaker, musician and producer at Channel 12. How did you come to branch out to all these different fields?
HEATHER: Just by happenstance – I kind of fell into different things. I started out as a bad musician – I still only know three chords. This parlayed into Teletunes, Channel 12’s flagship music video programs, and fell into television production through that loved it and stayed. I think our approach to life, as a creative, is very A.D.D. So with filmmaking, it is very long term. I have to exercise a lot of patience, whereas music is so instantaneous – certain aspects of production can be instantaneous. But trying to balance that out, because I am so impatient, that I want the big pay off. Filmmaking doesn’t do that for you.
GROOVEY TV: With Neal Cassady, what drew you to his story, his family, and his legacy?
HEATHER: Growing up in Denver was the greatest catalyst. I had an affinity for the city. I loved the city. My peers, at the time, really didn’t recognize that. They would talk about leaving this “cow town”. I felt that there was something greater (here). I stumbled upon Jack Kerouac’s On The Road – America’s right-of-passage. I saw that Kerouac had a great respect for Denver, as well as Neal Cassady. I felt that that history was being over-looked, even by people raised here, had no idea of our literacy history. So I started out on the mission to tell that tale, and ended up learning a lot more in the process.
GROOVEY TV: Can you summarize what is Neal Cassady’s significance in the local literary world as well as the larger arena?
HEATHER: I think he is the archetype of Americana. At a time in post war society, he was that rugged independence that we all aspire to be. I think Denver has that rugged American quest persona, as a city. That’s magnified when you look at the nation. That’s not just hampered to our borders – it’s an international message. It is apart of our fabric, especially here in Colorado.
GROOVEY TV: With film-making, what is your creative process?
HEATHER: My process is trial and error. Creatively with a documentary, you can’t interject too much of yourself into the project. One of the driving forces is working with others – adding new life. Adding new perspective. Bringing in other viewpoints in, visually, made the creative process. It elevated it. So it wasn’t just a personal journey it was a journey of a lot of other people, who were generous enough to lend their time and talents. The process is evolving. It’d be nice to see if I do another project of this magnitude what lessons I have learned.
HEATHER: Taking the first step, and this is weird when we channel outside of ourselves. I had heard that there were several producers around town that received cease and desist letters, so I sat down and had this letter come out of me. It was a very personal, passionate plea to allow me to make the film. I sent it off, and within two days I got a positive response. That was the first hurdle. Then proving myself to Carolyn Cassidy, which I was glad – it was kind of a boot camp. We were able to forge a close bond, which was so key to tell this story. I was so honored.
GROOVEY TV: When showcasing the film, how would you like the audience to respond or interact with the film?
HEATHER: As with the books, everyone has a personal relationship with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady, and I would like to illicit that response. I don’t think this film is going to be what was expected. I think the take away will be that the story isn’t as sensationalistic as we thought, and that we all have dualities. Some people let that be their demise, while others choose to channel that in a more positive way. Cassady and Kerouac’s story is kind of the tragic means of creative minds. Hopefully they they’ll be able to see the beat generation in a different light.
For more information on Neal Cassady: The Denver Years and director Heather Dalton as well as soon to be announced upcoming premiere and future screenings visit www.facebook.com/NealCassadyTheDenverYears.
Neal Cassady: The Denver Years Film Premiere
May 15, 2014 at the SIE Film Center, DocNight Series
Neal Cassady: The Denver Years