Film Courage I heard you touch on this in another interview, I’m wondering if you can elaborate? That everything is a cliché and it’s all been done before? So how do we keep films fresh?
Jay Silverman, Director (OFF THE MENU)/Photographer: It’s an interesting thing because I don’t think a filmmaker sets out to ‘I want to do a fresh approach to food. I want to do a fresh approach to a romantic comedy.’ I think what you do if you’re doing a good service to storytelling is try to do it with the best experiences that you’ve got with the knowledge and knowing that people don’t like to be preached to. With the knowledge and knowing that ‘Oh I want to make a strong female character and it’s written strong but I’d like to make it even stronger because I’d like to make a statement about (in this particular case food).’ And I also think clichés, it’s part of the vernacular of human communications so it’s not a bad thing to make a cliché.
People have compared this movie [OFF THE MENU] to CHEF. Who wouldn’t be more flattered than that or a reviewer just reviewed it and compared it to CHOCOLAT. CHOCOLAT was a major influence on me choosing to make this movie because I wanted it to be a discovery. I wanted it to be warm. I wanted it to be rich. And I wanted it to be real.
It’s funny, there’s a TV show on Amazon right now that’s basically a mimic (and I’m not going to tell you the name) of UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN. And it’s all filmed in Greece and it’s unbelievably, magical done. It takes place in the 1930’s and I look at that and I say to myself ‘Is that a cliché? Is that an exploitation?’ No, it’s just another way to tell the story that is about place. I want to go watch that (it’s a TV show), I want to go watch that every time I feel a certain need to see the warmth. To be perfectly blunt with you I am not an exterior filmmaker typically so for me to want to go to New Mexico and exploit that, the biggest compliment you could give me is comparing it to a movie like SIDEWAYS that took parts of Northern California and made it popular because the movie was filmed there.
I think Taos [New Mexico] will be a major benefactor if the movie is successful.
Film Courage: But clichés versus remakes? How are they different or are they the same?
Jay: Actually it’s one and the same because you go out today to make a remake of any of these TV shows that are being made now. I think you can temporize it. You try to make it more conducive to what’s going on in the world today and hopefully try to do a better job than the original and it’s interesting because I think that Hollywood has got a formula for doing that now and much of it has to do with bringing in the right writers and the right directors as it is an art form and it’s failed as much as it’s succeeded.
So clichés I think are just part of the vernacular. Someone is always going to say to you “Have you seen this? It’s just like that.” I just did it! You know the old story that George Lucas once said there are only 7 to 10 stories ever told. All these stories have been told before. So your ability to catapult it into a different look, a different drama, a different tone is what makes this all so exciting.
It’s funny the movie I was about to do was a Holocaust themed movie but it took place in the 90’s. And what motivated me to do this movie is it’s not about the Holocaust because I didn’t want to do a movie about the Holocaust. I wanted to do a movie about psychology and about the concept of the aftermath of the wall coming down. That was appealing to me. Is it a cliché? Well if you do what I did as a filmmaker and looked at everything that was on either Netflix or Amazon about these concepts of World War II or even World War I you walk away with just a huge jar full of wonderful content and then say I don’t want to do anything like that. Is it a cliché? I don’t know? Some people would say it is.
Film Courage: So a cliché and then keeping a fresh voice? How does someone keep a fresh voice? We always hear that. I’ve been reading a biography on David Foster Wallace and how he had a “fresh voice” at that time [INFINITE JEST] and how he was breaking all the rules. Do you think that could really be done today? I realize he’s a writer [author].
Jay: I do and it’s interesting because my movie is a romantic comedy that takes place surrounding food and I’m here to tell you with no problem dropping names because THE CHEF’S TABLE on Netflix is just a brilliantly produced show. I wouldn’t want to do it but I love to watch it and it takes place all around the world and they broke all the rules because there’s a million shows about food. So why is that one different? Because the filmmakers are great storytellers. They take you to the far corners of a Buddhist Monk in South Korea. I mean who would have done that? And they have drones and they have technology that they are using to make this not only a delightful one-hour special but you’re there. You feel it. I’ve been doing this for so many years. I can go back to the beginning where they had these food shows and you got these people (Martha Stewart) cooking and then they show stills behind her of Tuscany or wherever the food she is cooking and there is really no difference in the storytelling except for how they went about executing it.
Question For The Viewers: How do you avoid clichés in your work?
About OFF THE MENU (description from OffTheMenuMovie.com):
Romantic Comedy An unlikely heir to a Mexican fast-food empire goes ‘cuisine’ hunting for the next culinary big thing, and finds himself in a small, dusty New Mexican town where foodies come from all over to salivate over the culinary treats of a local, authentic, and feisty female chef.
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¡CALAMBRE! is a 53 minute episodic black and white film about a poet who returns to his hometown of New York City to rekindle an old flame, only to complicate his return with new women in his life. A film by Carlos Renaso.
LA-based filmmakers! Join us Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 from 7-9 p.m in North Hollywood for this 2-hour Q&A style event with horror filmmaker James Cullen Bressack. James will help you navigate the ins-and-outs of being a horror filmmaker (whether it’s your own production or as a director-for-hire). His 61 producer, 38 writer and 34 directors credits show his intense commitment to his work. He’s grown up around the business and he’s still several years shy of turning 30. More info via Eventbrite page here.