How did you become a part of Chasing Taste?
To be perfectly honest, my original connection is pretty stereotypically one of those stories that everyone has but no one really wants to be the one to tell. A friend of a friend of mine is friends with our producer and actor Maitely Weismann. I'd have to guess that Maitely and I played a bit of phone tag over the course of a year and almost worked on a project together but ended up with a few scheduling conflicts. I have no idea which one of us got back in touch with the other first, but ultimately Maitely connected me to Sean, invited me to join the cast at our films script brainstorm storytelling session, and then a few weeks later I found myself crammed into a basement pantry with a camera and four other people. I have no idea how I got there.
Honestly, the cast, crew and script was a blast to work with, and I'm so happy that the random chain of film industry connections led me to be a part of this project.
Can you talk about how important the cinematography plays in the film as far as establishing the overall feel of the film and characters?
This is actually an interesting question because there are a significant number of factors that play into the cinematography of the film, both creative and technical. When Sean and I first discussed the film during pre-production, we were both pretty clear about what we wanted and what our limitations were. We knew that we were going to be working with a modest budget of both time and money. This always creates an obstacle - as a DP you want the cinematography of the film to match the production aesthetic the Director had envisioned. In this case, both Sean and I agreed that we wanted a film that had a clean, natural cinema look that could stand up against anything else on the big screen while highlighting our actors and the great locations we had access to throughout New York City. I basically threw out a lot of the indie tricks I knew right away - with the clean look we were going for, we couldn't hide behind and purposefully incorporate technical limitations into our aesthetic. So it meant getting creative with locations, setups and equipment to squeeze out every bit of production value we could. I enjoy that kind of problem solving and I think we all had a lot of fun with.
In terms of the cinematography from a narrative standpoint, the focus was always on the characters first, and then the image that surrounded them. Intimacy with the ensemble of characters in this film is essential. Sean and I agreed on using just the right balance of natural and creative lighting techniques. While we wanted the film to have a polished look, it was also important to have the characters and their surroundings feel natural and not over-crafted. Whether we were using natural or additional light in any space, we paid close attention to lighting scenes naturally first, then accenting them slightly. From the camera's perspective, presence with the characters was also the primary goal, and for the most part we shot with a narrow depth of field and flattening focal lengths that felt natural and intimate.
I don't understand a word you just said..
I guess you just had to be there.... or have studied film.
Well, good luck, I'm excited to see it.
Good morning, Lena. Thank you for taking the time to talk about Chasing Taste. What was it like to work on this film?
Every day working on Chasing Taste was an adventure. Each day we got new script pages with new characters. Always, but especially in smaller parts, the costume is the first step in creating the character. So after looking at the lines and situation Sean Gannet and I would discuss and decide how we wanted to represent the character's status, whether they are funny and/or angry, and if we are looking to surprise the audience somehow by challenging expectations. Once decided, I would send the information over to Jody Formica our makeup artist to get her on the same page. Then my fearless assistant, Lauren Boumaroun, and I went to work looking through our collection of clothes and sending countless emails with descriptive photos attached - "please wear a dress with a little pizazz, short or long. And by the way, do you have any feather earrings?" sometimes our most outrageous requests came easily, and people responded that, no, they did not own any polos or yoga pants or sneakers.
That's hysterical- so then you would get to set, and then what?
We would get to the set with our bags full of tricks. The party scene at the end is a huge scene with what's supposed to be a really artistic crowd, and of course everyone is dressed up. I had every party dress in my closet as well as jewelry, boas, colorful stockings and shoes. When the actors arrive each one checks in with Laura or me and we decide, are they perfect? Do they need baubles? Or do we have to start from scratch? We take photos of everyone to use for reference while ensuring the continuity of each look from take to take.
And what is continuity for a costume designer?
Continuity means knowing every detail from how many buttons are left unbuttoned to where a necklace sits. This ensures the stability of the look from take to take, and even over numerous shooting days. We also document who's wearing each piece meticulously in writing. We need to make sure to get it all back!
What was the biggest challenge or the most fun for you and your team?
Costuming Lena (the character, not me - though there was confusion sometimes) for that scene was really fun. Lena is such an eccentric character that there's a lot of room to play, she's always a bit dramatic and this is her shining moment. Elisa Blynn knew she wanted to wear loud makeup and do her hair like the Statue of Liberty. So we picked a dress that would encapsulate that this is Lena's big moment and that she is trying a little too hard because she feels out of place.
Well, I can't wait to see it. From what I gather, everyone had a great time working on it.
Working with everyone on this film was a great experience, but especially Sean, Jody and Lauren without whom I could not have survived.
We were told you had quite a "hair-raising" moment during the shoot...
I don't know know about "raising" but... This was the first time I was the key makeup artist and hair stylist, which made the concept of continuity all the more terrifying, especially when it came to hair. I don't really do hair, actually, I'm afraid of hair. I didn't cut my hair until I was 28! My fears were made manifest when I had to cut Kirk's (Chase) hair. I confess, the first trim, mid-shoot, went fairly well, having had a little practice on my husband who shares a similar pelt; but that gave me a false sense of security for the second trim, toward the end of the shoot. Armed with dull scissors and inordinate confidence, I attacked Kirk's head a little too enthusiastically and took an unsightly chunk right out of the front- I would have preferred to have lopped off a finger!-
His or yours?
I removed my hand with horror as it revealed the disaster, the death knell to the continuity it was my task to maintain. I freaked out, soaked with tears and self loathing, while Kirk calmly assured me it was not that bad.
I finally shut up, but I still felt like a hack - pun intended-
In conclusion, Kirk is a very good liar, an even better friend, and I don't do hair.
Which scene is it?
You'll just have to watch...
Any memorable moments for you during the filming?
I have to say, I have a lot of "memorable" experiences for various reasons. I'm going to go with the first one that pops in my mind, behind the whole Long Island weekend -- le pettite orbitte.
Being the owner of one of the only production vehicles on set, my Ford Explorer certainly experienced a wide array of operational uses, most of which involved creatively stuffing an obnoxious amount of equipment, food, and people into its frame. As if navigating the cramped city streets of New York wasn't hard enough, the overflow of script revisions and sound equipment blocking all available mirrors made for some rather interesting drives. One particular day of production was set aside specifically to accommodate the travel of the largest prop on set - Le Pettite Orbitte. The sheer weight and girth of this piece of artwork inspired many strategically planned, contortionistic approaches to successful transportation. After descending a narrow elevator shaft, the orb was hoisted into my SUV, engulfing the majority of trunk space. One by one, cast and crew members, sporting their heaviest winter attire, folded their way into the vehicle. Props and catering were then positioned within the remaining pockets of available space, leaving practically rationed-out air for breathing. Despite the crisp, pre-dawn hours and the uncomfortable proximity to a sleep deprived production team, every single person packed into that vehicle found a reason to smile and keep a good vibe going. Not to mention, we prevented the accidental demise of Le Pettite Orbitte, so that's a plus. Now I drive a Mini Cooper.
Sweet . Well, I can wait to see both the film and your car.
So, Karolina, what was it like to design the food for the Palate Challenge?
Cooking, designing, and styling the food for the Palate Challenge was so fun.
For those that don't know yet, the Palate Challenge is the game show that is featured Chasing Taste.
Imagine having something you made showcased on the Price is Right! Sort of like that. But better. Even though the food I made was only used in one day of shooting, it took several days on the back end to test, prepare, and cook, of course!
How do you prepare the food?
Food shows up so much differently on camera than it does in front of your face. As a food stylist, you need to be able to convey smell, texture, and taste through a visual medium. This means sometimes using inedible things in place of foods or pairing foods that look good on camera, that you probably wouldn't eat in real life. The oxtail stew was prepared with various soup ingredients glued to toothpicks and chopsticks so that they perfectly floated on the soup. But I can't give away all my secrets...
We always hear about divas on the set, was there a particular food that you would say turned out to be a diva?
One of the foods I had to prepare was a layer cake for the challenge. The week prior, I had tested several different frostings at home to see what showed up best. From homemade to store bought, I checked to see which one looked "frosting-y" enough. As it turned out, a combination of several store bought frostings did the trick. As a result, I had a lot of frosting fans hovering around the food table all day. I recall quite a few sugar highs that day. Leftover frosting made for a perfect afternoon pick me up for much of the cast and crew. As did the several leftover layer cakes, once we were done shooting that scene. Cake for everyone!
Yeah! I love cake. Well, don't tell anyone but I believe that the food is really the star Chasing Taste.
I'm so happy I got to be a part of this project as food certainly plays such an important "role" in my life. An actor, I am not, but at least my food can be!
How did you become involved with Chasing Taste?
Auditioned. I was the second choice. No hard feelings.
Tell us about the character you are playing.
Don't want to give it away. I'm still trying to break character. Yes, I am that deep.
So, you've told us. Now, your first day of shooting was filming a sex scene with Ashley. What was that like?
Ask my scene partner. She's probably still blushing. It was a great way to grow into the role.
How is this film different from the other projects that you have previously worked on?
I didn't play a person with a gun. No ebonics were required.
What did you enjoy most about being on set?
I'm ready to be cast in their next project. Even as second choice. From top to my scene partner's bottom, I loved this crew.
(giggling) You are just so charming! I can't wait to see your work.
(giggling) Stop it, I'm ticklish!
*** please note that I made that last bit up. A girl can dream, can't she!
If you had to describe your character in five words, what would those words be?
Loving, frustrated, unemployed, caring, & hungry.
Is there anything special or noteworthy that you did to prepare for this role that the audience should know?
The audience should know that I worked closely with a master barber, Giovanni Agramonte, to keep my hair groomed at the same length and style for over 3 months to maintain continuity in the film. No easy task! I also maintained a strict diet over the holiday season as not to balloon in weight over the course of the filming of the movie.
What does your character bring to Chasing Taste?
Nate's character brings a really hot, good looking wife to the project. No, seriously, Nate brings a lot of humor to the story with his unique life circumstances and extraordinary ability to taste any ingredient in any food! Despite being educated and groomed to be a successful white collar corporate type, Nate finds himself jobless and is forced to undertake some pretty ridiculous and creative ways of making money until he finds the courage to tell his wife the truth about his situation. I think his character brings to life the all too familiar sense of desperation felt by people with money problems. He's also a metaphor in a way for the strange, unexpected, and innovative ways people solve these problems in life.
This is your first feature film; describe how you became interested in acting and how you became part of Chasing Taste?
Well, like most reality tv alumni, failed wanna-be supermodels, I decided acting was a spectacular way to keep myself quasi-famous while allowing a smidge more carbs into my life. :) I also love playing make believe, and creating characters and the acting community embraces such quirks while most others offer me therapy and meds.
Is there anything special or noteworthy that you did to prepare for this role that the audience should know?
YES! I signed up for the BIKRAM YOGA 30 day challenge, bought a magenta yoga mat, some new lululemon attire, and downloaded some awesome yogi tunes to my i-pod. I lasted through two sweaty classes before the smell of the 1970’s rug got to me and my now forever tainted yoga mat. 2 out of 30 isn't so bad right?
I also temporarily lifted my boycott on Dunkin Donuts for listing their caloric contents- in plain view for all to see- and once again indulged in regular half-dozen helpings of boston crème donuts when feeling especially hormonal.
Describe your character, and do you and your character share any similarities? If so explain.
We are both slightly confused, often hypocritical, moderately spoiled whiners who use sugar and the attention of men to sedate the pain that is our privileged existence. We also both wear a lot of purple and a push-up bra.
Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. I only have a few questions.
I’m going to be all over the place in talking aboutChasing Taste, I’m sure, but it’s only because I’m exhilarated by what we’ve accomplished together. It has been a wonderfully fulfilling journey, and I can’t wait to see how it all comes together on the screen. That said, I will do my best to answer some questions about working on this incredibly funny film.
What is the role of FOOD in the film?
That’s like asking what the role of cars is in The Italian Job. Or guns in Reservoir Dogs. Or spaceships in Star Wars. They all provide a means to and end, and food inChasing Taste is no different. Food provides fuel and nourishment of course, but also comfort and purpose and entertainment and so much else. And since food and restaurants are ubiquitous and diverse in New York City, there are seemingly endless choices of how to feed ourselves. It’s a great metaphor for life in the big city. There are so many options that often people need someone to narrow down the choices for them so they don’t starve of indecision.
What is it that the characters in the film are looking for?
All of the main characters in the film are looking for happiness and fulfillment in an often unforgiving city of millions. Their amusing lives are at best incomplete and at worst painfully unmanageable, and they must each find the secret ingredient for their own individual recipes for success. To do so, these individual characters with unique personalities and aspirations – like several disparate ingredients plopped together into a pressure cooker – have to mix and change and allow themselves to become part of something greater.
Nice foodie imagery there...
Chase, the de facto protagonist in this ensemble film attempts to b.s. his way into being a published novelist by making his name as a popular food critic. When he loses his sense of taste and smell, he needs others to be his taste buds and nose so he can fabricate elaborate and entertaining restaurant reviews for New Yorkers to feast on. His desperate and misdirected quest to be the ultimate foodie drives the film.
Talk about AJ...
My character, AJ, has a unique relationship to food. He is a closet binge eater who devours junk food at times of high stress and anxiety. Because he can’t find his true calling in life (or a simple paying gig!) after leaving his job as a lawyer – causing his highly motivated and domineering fiancee, Palmer, to lose all patience with him – his moments of stress and anxiety become more and more intense and more and more frequent. He seeks help from Savannah, a beautiful married yoga instructor who becomes his Binge Eaters Anonymous sponsor (and something more, he hopes) but who has fallen off the wagon herself. Eventually AJ must stop eating his feelings and listen to his heart in order to make a real decision for himself.
And, what -
Did I mention this is a comedy? Well, comedies are about love and food, so we’ve got both. That’s the short answer.
THAT'S the short answer? I see. What is it like filming in New York City?
It is incredibly challenging but extremely rewarding. There was a tangible energy that was infused into our exterior scenes particularly. Because we were an ultra-low budget project, we often shot on the run and always without the benefit of having a locked down set. So when I was running down the street, screaming, with a mouth and sweater full of Twinkies several times in downtown Manhattan, there was genuine concern expressed by passersby for my sanity. I have to say, that made it even more fun than it would have been on a closed set.
I think we had cool locations simply because we shot in New York City. Using only locations that project members had access to provided us with some truly wonderful and contrasting places to shoot, and that is mostly because there is just so much to choose from in New York, especially when you reach out to everyone you know and everyone they know.
What are your most memorable moments that happened on set?
Now THAT is some alliteration! I’d have to say my favorite moment was working with Joseph Gannascoli and Nancy Opel during the Binge Eaters Anonymous scene which we shot at Don’t Tell Mama. I guess I was a little nervous, especially doing a scene with such talented and accomplished actors, and they rode me a bit.
After each take, I asked Sean Gannet, our fearless director, if my entrance through the door was timed correctly, even though I wasn’t even in the scene at that point. Finally, Joe was like, “What’s the deal with your entrance, huh? Jeez!” Nancy immediately piled on with something like, “Real professional!”, and I was desperately hoping they were only kidding with me. I felt kind of like the Jeff Daniels character in Dumb and Dumber immediately after Mary Swanson hits him playfully with a snowball. Thankfully I didn’t retaliate the same way! Instead, a few moments later, Sean corrected Nancy on a small line she had been omitting over the last few takes – not that big a deal at all – and I tapped Joe and said quietly, “My entrance ain’t looking so bad now, is it?” And there was laughter and joy and love and tolerance and peace.
What is your favorite part about working on Chasing Taste?
I loved working with all the wonderful people on this project. It is a miracle that we were able to do this from beginning to end using only what we had access to. It was a true team effort with incredible leadership by Sean Gannet, Ashely Wren Collins, Maitely Weismann and Ashley LoFaso. I have no idea how they did what they did, but I’m so grateful to them. Also, the entire cast and crew were so giving and tireless and relentlessly devoted to creating excellence. What a great experience to work with all of them, day in and day out. And I can’t say enough how wonderful it was to play a part written by Lori Fischer. Man, I just love her. I really felt like the role was written for me even though (I hope) it is very different from who I am. Okay, I’m kind of a lovable loser, too, but it was just great to play this fun role in a wonderfully scripted feature film.
So enough ass kissing. Seriously, all the above is from the bottom of my heart. But my favorite part of shooting this project would have to be the consummately professional but also entirely loose and fun atmosphere on every set. We got our work done and we had a blast doing it. I really enjoyed joking with cast and crew between shots and the bonding we experienced throughout the project, and also knowing that the work came first for everybody. Such a great mix of purpose and unadulterated fun. Like a mullet - business in the front, party in the back. Okay, bad example. Awkward. Anybody want a Twinkie?
No, no.. I'm on a diet.. okay, what the hell. Thank you.
Side Dishes: Uma Incrocci (Katie)
How did you join Chasing Taste?
In 2010 I worked with two of our producers (the very talented Ashley Wren Collins and Maitely Weisman) on a crazy fun webseries called Mother Eve’s Secret Garden of Sensual Sisterhood and they asked me to be a part of this film they were creating. I jumped at the chance to work with them again, and I suddenly I found myself telling long stories at the getting-to-know-you-brainstorming session. And then a few weeks later, Lori had created Katie for me to play. Ta-dah! Amazing! I feel so lucky to have such a great role written specifically for me.
Who IS Katie?
Katie’s the Girl in the Boy meets Girl part of our story—and luckily, unlike most rom com heroines these days, her principal personality trait is not being klutzy. She’s loyal, smart, honest and funny – and (like me) LOVES food and all things food related. She’s the assistant to the very demanding literary agent Madison Hunt, and she’s assigned to find a new food critic for Madison to represent. She’s the one who brings Chase (our hero) in for a life changing meeting with Madison. Katie and Chase hit it off, and I don’t want to give too much away, but the rest of her quirky love story involves pies, a cantaloupe, a lobster roll, a roof top, a stoop, a make out session in an industrial kitchen, a betrayal, an apology and anaphylactic shock.
How what the experience of filming this way?
My experience on the set was fantastic. Our director, Sean Gannet, has been really open to ideas from the cast—for example, when you release two shtick monsters like Kirk and I (Kirk plays Chase and in his real life, he’s a clown. Really.) into a scene set in a fruit market--- of course, all we want to do is goof around with the fruit. Sean let us be silly and play around and I think we came up with some great (and hopefully funny) stuff that makes our characters’ connection even clearer.
I have to give a shout out to Jody Formica, our amazing make-up artist, and Lena Sands, who somehow magically created a fun funky rom com wardrobe for Katie—all out of clothes I already owned.
Well, I can't wait to see the movie when it's done...
I can’t wait to see how it all came together. Thanks to Sean, Lori, Ashley, Maitely, Kirk and all of our delicious cast and crew!