Go backBack to selection

Trailer Watch: Alison Tavel’s SXSW Premiere, Resynator

Initially endeavoring to make a short about the synthesizer her late father, who died when she was ten weeks old, invented, documentary director Alison Tavel found herself learning much more about her dad and his legacy, leading to a feature film that’s both a music picture as well as one of family reckoning. Resynator, named after the synthesizer, premieres March 10 at SXSW, features music names such as Peter Gabriel and Jon Anderson, and is Tavel’s first picture. She’s made previously shorts and music videos for the Tom Petty Estate, where she’s the sole archivist. Read below her director’s statement and, above watch the trailer.

The film that I finished this year was not the film I set out to make ten years ago. I had no background in filmmaking but thought it would be fun to put together a short film about the resurrection of a unique synthesizer that my late father Don Tavel had invented. I wanted to get some context about the synthesizer, so I got in touch with some of the people who my dad had worked with on creating the Resynator. Everyone I met with ended up telling me stories about my dad that were painting a wildly different picture of him than his family had ever shared.

He was not this picture-perfect, famous and accredited master of music; he was a small-town, hustling man striving for success in order to feel loved and accepted. He was broken, confused and insecure. He was likely a genius – that part seems true, but he still couldn’t figure out how to be loved. It led him to depression, abuse and a bad marriage – and it may have led him to suicide.

At some point along the way, I realized that this film I was making was not really about a synthesizer, but about how this synthesizer opened my world up to wanting to know who my dad really was for the first time in my life, at 25 years old. I felt that it was important to continue filming when the narrative turned personal, because as uncomfortable as my conversations with his family and friends were, I knew that other people could relate to this situation. Unconditional love is something that I am lucky to have had growing up, and therefore my Resynator project has continued despite my years of rejections and mistakes (with both the film and the synthesizer). My dad never felt he had that, and I believe a large part of his abandonment of his Resynator project was fear of failure. This film is deeply personal and it’s scary to put out into the world. But I think people should know Don—the real Don—and his Resynator. I’ve done everything I can to tell his honest story and in turn, learn a little more about myself.

© 2024 Filmmaker Magazine. All Rights Reserved. A Publication of The Gotham