SIDE DISHES: The Cast and Crew dish about their experiences on the set of Chasing Taste.
How did you join the project?
I had worked with Maitely Weismann and Ashley Wren Collins on the first season of the web-sensation Mother Eve’s Secret Garden of Sensual Sisterhood and they invited me to collaborate on this film.
What's the dish on the cast? Come on, you can tell me.
Ashley Wren Collins has a passion for pastries.
No, not pasties- PASTRIES.
Other than that there was little time to get any dish on anyone because of the zany way were filming. I only got to experience what the ensemble brought to the set. Elisa Blynn’s openness and vulnerability, Ryan McDonough’s never-ending sense of humor and great timing, April Wilkner’s playful and contagious energy, Ty Jones’s creativity, humor, and professionalism, and Jabari Gray’s wit and rock hard abs- seriously, he’s the reason I had to wear an undershirt in every scene because his torso makes mine look like a stack of cheese logs.
Cheese logs are actually quite defined.
Oh, then I mean the opposite of cheese logs. And then there were those few actors that I entered the project already knowing. It was a great comfort to rely the comedic chemistry that Ashley Wren Collins and I have, and the hilarious subtle choices of Maitely Weismann that constantly made me laugh inside. And then there's, Uma Incrocci, who is one of the funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of working with. We have worked together over the years as actors and writers in various projects including Mother Eve and even participated in each other's weddings. It's always a treat to work on a comedy with her.
Then what about the crew?
The crew has been the most trusting, professional, fun-loving group of individuals I've worked with. They made coming on set delightful. I’m not one for superlatives but our director Sean Gannet is great! He promised the cast from the beginning that this would be treated as an ensemble piece because he felt that the only way this crazy unique film process would reach its potential. And even on the toughest of days he kept his sense of respect and sense of humor. And a definite tribal shout out our make up and hair expert on the film, Jody Formica.
I heard that sometimes, you would arrive on set and get a new scene in the make up chair. Talk about that.
Lori Fischer, the screenwriter, is an amazing talent. She has create an interesting story and engaging characters that it is very easy to relate to. The job she has done to make sense of all the ideas passed around on a moments notice and write amazing scenes under the gun has been heroic. I assure you, it's a prop gun, and we have insurance, but still it’s a talent that cannot be ignored.
The three years we spent in Long Island, we were shooting the radio station scene- I got on the train at midnight, a brand new scene was sent to me- and I read the new incarnation- I was thrilled! Lori had written a great new scene. Then my excitement turned to panic because I realized that I had a little over an hour to have it prepared.
Please, it's doesn't make me a hero- I just had to memorize lines - there are more heroic tasks that have been done in less time- performing the Heimlich or defusing a bomb comes to mind-
That's true, it's not that incredible. Let's talk about Chase.
I am so grateful that Maitely, Ashley, Sean and Lori cast me as Chase. I don’t know why they thought of me to play this role. I think early on, I convinced myself that they recognized my talent for being tall, so that the money they allotted to spend on apple boxes could be spent on the amazing catering.(You’re welcome.) But I also know that as an actor I was able to offer them something much more valuable to an independent film than height- my lack of scheduling conflicts. I’m just so proud to have been a part of this experience.
Seriously, what do you and Chase have in common?
Like many of us, I have had moments of desperation, grasping so tightly on to my own dreams that I choke it within an inch of its life just like Chase. But then, I let go and let it breath, and by trusting the process and trusting there is enough room in the world for everyone's success, I naturally take steps toward fulfillment. How's that for serious?
That was a little too serious... I'm a little uncomfortable. Well, I'm excited to see the movie when it's done...
Ladies and Gentlemen, the deliciously amazing Lori Fischer. Lori, how did you come up with Chasing Taste?
I guess the first name I want to mention is director Sean Gannet. Working with him is truly one of the joys of my creative life. So, when Sean asked if I would be interested in writing a feature film for Project NYC XY? (Project NYC XY was the working title for Chasing Taste) I said an immediate yes. The project was to be done in a nontraditional way; meaning all of the lead actors had already been cast. My job was to write a story that somehow gave all of these uber-talented actors interesting roles that would somehow intersect in a coherent storyline.
After meeting the actors, I went on a long walk with a good friend. As I told her about the project, I suddenly realized that the story I was looking to find had been bouncing around in my mind for over ten years. It would be a comedy about a food critic who couldn’t taste or smell. I raced to my writer’s space, laid all of the headshots out and asked myself, based on having met them, who would be the food critic, the sidekick, the sister, the agent, the romantic interest and the main antagonist/obstacle etc? Then, with a mind racing and full of plot twists, I dove into writing the outline.
After spending the better part of a month writing the first draft, I met with the producers, Sean and the actors to hear the first read-through. It was exciting and literally as soon as it was over, I was back at the Writer’s Room working on the next draft. Sean had given me a mountain of notes and since we were days within our first day of shooting, I was non-stop at the computer.
Once shooting began, I would literally go to my various freelance jobs (I teach a “Writing Great Characters” class at NYU.) and then hurry home to take the newest batch of notes. I would write till Sean and I felt the scenes were right, which often lasted till the wee hours of the morning. Then, I’d send the pages to our A.D. and the actors for the next day’s shoot. The actors (some of whom were also our producers!) were amazing and working with them was a hilarious privilege. I also got to feature some of my favorite New York eateries: Azuri Café, Don’t Tell Mama’s Restaurant and Rice and Beans. The thing that is rare and, quite frankly, a screenwriter’s dream about Sean is, if a line wasn’t working for one reason or another, he would call me from the location and ask me to re-write the line while they set up the next shot. I loved it!
I’ll never forget going to the Drama Bookstore (They had graciously let us use their wonderful store as one of our locations.) to find the whole back section covered with books titled The Widow’s Second Stepson. What a thrill to see this book that I had titled for one of the characters come to life in that way. There are so many great cameos in the film: Lynn and Ron Cohen, Sidney Myer, Kevin Brown, Chuck Cooper, Jeff Hiller and Nancy Opel.
One of my favorite nights was the all-night shoot with my dear friend, country singer/songwriter, Phil Vassar. In between shots, Phil and I spoke about what ultimately became Sean, Phil and my next feature film Fat Biscuit. We’re currently in pre-production, so, stay tuned!
HOW IT ALL BEGAN!
The Spirit of Independent Film
Like most great projects, if anyone told you what the experience was going to be like upfront, how long and how hard you were going to have to work, and that the time and energy required of you was going to surpass anything you could possibly imagine, you’d probably never even attempt them. Fortunately, we can’t see into the future. Walking home from being on set on a NYC soap opera (back when they used to shoot in NY) in May of 2010, I called Sean Gannet and said, “Sean, there’s a little voice in my head telling me that we should make a movie together.” Sean’s immediate response? “I like that voice.”
We had met on a fun short film he directed in May 2006, and I dug his button down shirts, snazzy tie and big nerdy glasses he wore on set – he was so serious and yet so funny at the same time. And so flash forward from the conversation about the voice in my head, Sean and I decided to meet at a Starbucks on 23rd Street to discuss the vision for this project (he would direct and produce, I would produce and act) – a web series or a movie with our friends, made in one location, maybe two, shooting one or two weeknights over time until we finished. I look back on that conversation now and just shake my head and laugh.
Untitled, we called the endeavor Project NYC XY. NYC because, well, that’s where we were. And XY because we wanted something like 4 men and 4 women in it (originally) – so some X chromosomes and some Y chromosomes. (Believe me, the reasoning and logic for all of this was brilliant in May of 2010.) By July we had brought Maitely Weismann on board as another producer and actor. By August we had assembled the remainder of the core cast.
And by September our screenwriter Lori Fischer had come up with a script speaking to the talents of the chosen cast. And then, the 300 e-mails a day began. We begged and borrowed for locations – my own dentist lent us his office, a catering company I had worked for lent us their kitchen, our supervising producer had a room in his building that became the yoga studio, our other producer lent her home, our costume designer lent the balcony of her father’s building, our UPM and AD, Ashley LoFaso, convinced her father to lend his produce stand and her stepfather to lend his radio station. Someone had a friend who had a boat. Someone had a friend who was a doctor who knew another doctor who had a sort of hospital. (If you are making an independent movie, never ever write a scene with a hospital in it. This was our hardest location to obtain.) Our screenwriter hit up all the restaurants she loved to dine at…the list goes on and on. By the end of production we had well more than 45 locations and at least 100 cast and crew total, if not more.
Every producer has a different function; during the actual shoot Sean was focused on directing while Maitely and I juggled contracts, union stuff, location issues, casting, and too many other things to count. One of the fondest memories I have is the 2-day shoot we did on Long Island. A caravan of cars trekked from Manhattan to Suffolk County to the home of our UPM and AD (the other Ashley). Country western star Phil Vassar joined us to play Randall for one of those days.
We shot a small scene in the upstairs bedroom of Ashley’s house, and then went to the radio station for an all night shoot. We had a hard out at 5:00am, meaning we had to be gone, no trace of our presence left in the building. Actors Jabari Gray and Uma Incrocci took the LIRR in from Manhattan to shoot a short scene. I’m pretty sure Jabari may have had a beer and some nachos before he shot. Sean walked full speed into a glass wall and broke his glasses in two and spent the rest of the night directing with a big piece of tape holding them together. At least one person had a mental breakdown. Both Phil Vassar as Randall and Ty Jones as Bennett Brulee were brilliant, professional and in great spirits the whole way through.
I shared a bed with Costume Designer Lena Sands that night. Girls got the beds upstairs; boys slept in the family room downstairs. Some people couldn’t hack the communal living, and trekked all the way back to Manhattan for night. The next afternoon we woke and celebrated Lena’s birthday at an IHOP, and then went back to bed and woke again to shoot at a produce stand before heading over to Ashley’s (again, the other Ashley) mother’s house to shoot in a basement closet we used as the pantry.
To this day, I love to turn to Kirk McGee, our leading man Chase Guidry, and say, “Remember the 3 years we spent on Long Island?” It never fails to make me laugh. Possibly me more than Kirk, but those 2 days really did feel like 3 years.
Making a movie takes blood, sweat and tears. It is a sacrifice. And nowhere was that sacrifice more apparent to me than those November days we spent on Long Island. I was so very proud of our cast and crew for making sacrifices in their day jobs, relationships, and lives to come make some art with us. We are super duper proud to share this little comedic gem, and we hope you enjoy it and have as much fun watching it as we had making it.