Specials (USA, 15 Min )
Directed by: Georgi Richardson
Written by: Georgi Richardson, Natalie Gee, Welland Scripps
Cast: Donald Corren, Johnny Sanchez, Nick Stevenson, Georgi Richardson, Natalie Gee, Welland Scripps, Mahnaz Damania, Georgia Kate Haege, Joseph Monge, Loring Griggs, Damian Shembel, Josephine Lorraine.
Since Maggie was a little girl, all she ever wanted was to follow in her father, renowned celebrity chef, Mr Green's footsteps. When opening a restaurant with her self-centered boyfriend doesn't pan out, she sets out to open a Brooklyn restaurant on her own, hiring a team of food-loving misfits in the process. Pancho, the busboy narrates this chaotic and delicious story as it unfolds. Will Maggie open her restaurant in time? Or will the pitfalls she encounters prove her father right; that following your passion may lead you down the garden path to nowhere...? SPECIALS celebrates food in all it's beautiful glory and rejoices in pursuing what you love.
Interview:CSB: We’re here with Natalie, who wrote, produced and acted in the short called Specials, which will be shown at the 2015 NYC Independent Film Festival. Natalie thank you for joining us.
NG: Thank you.
CSB: First, I’d like to ask you to tell us something about yourself and your background, how long you’ve been in New York and what brought you here.
NG: Sure, I’m from Australia, I moved here five years ago and I studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse. Since then I’ve been making short films and I am also curating the narrative features as part of the New York City Indie Film Festival. Specials came out of meeting with Georgi Richardson, who directed the piece and also co-wrote and produced it, after we met at Labyrinth Theater Company. After we finished working there, we had this idea of doing a short film, but we weren’t sure how to begin or what to even pick as an idea. We were brain-storming, and both of us having come from a hospitality background, we thought about the restaurant industry and wrote Specials together with another friend, Welland Scripps. Then we all produced it, the three of us, and we did a Kickstarter campaign, the whole thing, and just kind of, you know, jumped into the deep end with it. We’re really happy its part of the festival.
CSB: As you mentioned, your film is about the NYC restaurant scene, so I am wondering if you think there is anything particularly special about the scene in NYC and what some of your favorite restaurants are.
NG: Oh, I think New York has a great restaurant culture. A lot of people here are very passionate about food and we were really lucky to film in some beautiful restaurants. We shot all the dining scenes in Buttermilk Channel in Cobble Hill, and then we shot all of the kitchen and cooking scenes in a restaurant called Bubby’s in Tribeca. One of the co-owners of Bubby’s at the time came on board the film as our food stylist and he taught the actors how to properly cut up the food and chef up all of the ingredients, and it was really fun. We could only use the restaurant after it was closed, obviously, so we were in there from like 2:00 AM till 7:00 AM filming all of the cooking scenes, which was really crazy.
Some of my favorites restaurants… oh my gosh… there’s a really great restaurant in Brooklyn Heights, I think the owner is actually from Melbourne, and its called Colonie. I love Mercer Kitchen, Bar Jamon, that’s a really nice wine bar, and L'Artusi. And, oh my gosh, I don’t know, I’d have to think about it more. New York has so many great places, sometimes it’s not even the fancy restaurants that are the best, I also love the Brooklyn Smorgasburg Food Market, because it’s fun and interesting food, the chefs there are so creative and passionate.
CSB: What was it like to write, produce and act in the film, what was your favorite role?
NG: Probably my favorite was acting, because that’s what I have the most experience in and for me is so rewarding. I love organizing things, so producing was just a lot of fun for me. It was about getting a group of people together and getting the project off the ground, and it was really great to reach out to people in our communities, like at Buttermilk Channel, and ask for help. Everyone seemed to be just so generous with time and resources. We reached out to local butchers for the meat that we used for the lamb tartar, and they gave us it for free. You know, it felt like we were bringing all these different people and different communities together, and that was really fun, just getting to know new people. And people seemed to embrace the film a lot, they were like “Oh, about food? That sounds cool!” So we were really lucky.
CSB: What was the most challenging role that you had?
NG: Probably financing, I would say, and then keeping on top of a budget. It was the first time any of us had done a Kickstarter campaign and had raised money from friends and family and also outside donors. And we didn’t really realize how expensive post was going to be. We were like, you know, “we wanna do this movie and the most important part is just getting it done”, and then we didn’t realize, its not done until its done in post. So we raised about twelve grand on Kickstarter and then we raised more money after that. But we didn’t plan accordingly for post, so it took longer to finish the movie than we hoped because we were getting more favors and had to wait for others to help when they could, because we weren’t always paying people their normal rate. When you have people donating to your project you have a responsibility to them to finish it. But again, people were really generous and it’s really a great little short I think, its kind of fun, I’m really happy with it.
CSB: Great, yea, I had the chance to watch your film, and, in fact, I watched it twice, so I would agree that it was a very fun film. I especially liked the diverse team at Maggie’s restaurant. What inspired the collection of characters?
NG: That’s a good question. As a student I had jobs in restaurants, and it was funny because it was always very international, in terms of staff. As students who were just trying to get by and pay their rent, and it was an easy thing to do and a way to meet friends, and they kind of become your family because you work such long hours together. So, we wanted to explore that and put it into the film because it’s something that also happens in New York … A lot of us were friends anyway, and had come to New York from all these different places, so it was interesting to see that reflecting in the restaurant industry. Restaurants attract all kinds of people with different goals and desires, but they all have this passion for food or the restaurant culture, so that was really fun.
CSB: Why was the decision made to hear the story from Pancho’s perspective?
NG: We thought that busboys are, perhaps, not appreciated as much as they should be. They’re usually the people who work the hardest in restaurants as well. We thought it would be funny in terms of communication. Maybe you don’t know how to speak Spanish, but they usually know how to speak English. And they are not usually the center of the restaurant’s focus, but they are kind of the backbone of it. So, we thought it would be really interesting to have someone who is not heard from a lot, narrate the story and tell it from an emotional point of view. And I think he does, because Georgi’s character, the lead, leans on him a lot, and they become very close, so it’s a really interesting dynamic.
CSB: The soundtrack lent the film a fun “50’s diner” feel. Who was in charge of choosing the songs, and why was this style chosen specifically?
NG: The music was a lot of Georgi’s ideas. She wanted it to have fun quality, really uplifting, and she did an amazing job. We got the music from, there’s a free online resource, a free library of music, where the rights for the songs have already expired. So we spent a lot of weeks going through that and seeing what songs fitted really well. But she had the original idea of picking that feel for the music. I think it fits really well, it’s not something that I wouldn’t have chosen right off the bat, but I think it helps bring the story to life.
CSB: How long did the project take to complete?
NG: My gosh, I would probably say two years, from the initial first draft of the script and planning the Kickstarter campaign, and getting resources from that, pre-production starting; shooting was only a week, and then post took a really long time. So, I would say just under two years, which seems crazy for a fifteen minute film.
CSB: Which other festivals will your film be shown at, if any?
NG: At the moment we are still in the process of submitting. It was shown as part of a Big Vision Empty Wallet event via Livestream, which is a really great community for artists. It’s a collection of people from all different creative backgrounds and they do all these events in the city to showcase each other’s work. It was shown there back in May, at the moment we are just waiting to hear back from other festivals.
CSB: Great. Is there anything else you’d like to share with festival-goers about your film or the Independent Film Festival in general?
NG: The independent film festival has been around for six years, so were still pretty new. You know our focus has really been on indie film, which can mean a lot of different things now. But, we are trying to help people get exposure, especially first-time filmmakers, or filmmakers that are out of school. We really just want to build a strong community of filmmakers. So when you come to the festival, hopefully you’ll get to meet other people who’ve got films in, and mingle, and share resources and knowledge, and hopefully keep that relationship up, even after the festival is finished. I think that’d be really great.
CSB: Wonderful. Ok, well Natalie, thank you for your time, and we look forward to seeing you film Specials at the film festival.
NG: Awesome, thank you!
***Interview with Carolina Solms-Baruth, press representative for the 2015 NYC Independent Film Festival, and Natalie Gee, co-writer, co-producer and actress of Specials.