Grilled cheese. Pork Belly. Mango Salsa. Lava Cake. Are we hungry yet? Last night’s screening of Chef delivered pangs of hunger accentuated by decadent shots of cuisine, perfectly selected musical tracks, and a script full of heart, humility, and humor. There’s no denying that the film is fabulous (you should all run out and see it when it releases wide), but for a theater full of aspiring filmmakers, writers and marketers the Q&A with Jon Favreau was the pièce de résistance of the evening’s menu.
Joined onstage by Filmmaker-in-Residence Donald Petrie (Mystic Pizza) and professor Alex Rose (Norma Rae), Petrie kicked off the Q&A by describing Favreau as a triple threat: writer, director and actor, and asked him to speak to each. Favreau described the position of director and actor as fairly easy, for the most part: there is encouragement, support, you’re surrounded by other people that offer suggestions, input, opinions. But the writer works alone.
“Writing is the hardest part of the gig. It’s a magical thing that doesn’t always happen and it isn’t always good. You don’t really know what you have when you’re writing it… But I do know nothing has hit me this hard since Swingers, so once I had it I wrote it down as fast as I could.”
An avid fan of cooking shows like Bravo’s Top Chef and renowned chefs like Anthony Bourdain, Favreau went on to describe how the concept for Chef came to him during a meditation session. Being in his forties, he also knew he wanted to do something about balancing work and family life. “I wanted to make a movie that wasn’t just escapism,” says Favreau.
True to their inquisitive natures, Dodge students unleashed a bevy of questions ranging from budgets (“The budget was significantly less than Iron Man”), to improvisation (“I encourage improv if it’s disciplined improv. I don’t like to catch myself or others acting”), to selecting music (“It’s like what chefs do with food, playing on words, deconstructing, experimenting, but it always goes back to the ingredients”); and the difference between working on blockbusters versus independent films (“Small films afford more creativity and enable me to have a lot of fun and enjoy what I’m doing and why I’m doing it”) and Favreau took it all in stride, providing invaluable insight and inspiration that resonated with each audience member.
Favreau’s recipe for success? If you have something you’re really excited about, make it. “It’s the most fulfilling thing, don’t wait on others.” Pick something you’re excited about and that you can obsess over, something you’re “hauntingly excited over.” Then the rest will fall into place.
“It all comes from preparation, concentration, layering, lots and lots of layering…and love.”