In May, Jon Favreau sat down to discuss his latest movie ‘Chef’ with Jeff Goldsmith of Q&A. In a Hollywood where his last studio picture as a director was ‘Cowboys and Aliens’, it is interesting that his latest movie is personal one, written and directed by him, and almost wholly independent.
What makes Chef a small independent movie? While Favreau has not made the actual budget public, he has been open about it being small. If you’re an independent filmmaker of course you’re wondering, how small is small?
Well, he wrote it in a personal way, that is to say, there was no team of writers on a lengthy revision process taking notes from executives. Jon Favreau had his ideas, and he was the one who sat down alone and wrote them.
The film was shot in approximately a month. That’s doable for a small feature, many are shot inside a month, but no big studio picture shoots that quickly.
As an unknown, Favreau wrote Swingers in 1996, which was made completely independently, and then audiences were able to see it outside of film festivals because it got picked up by a distributor. It’s very compelling to me that 18 years later, despite directing and producing huge studio pictures like the Iron Man series of movies and Cowboys and Aliens, he would want to go back to making films independently.
While it’s true Jon Favreau can attract stars now, the only way a film like Chef can be made with them is if everybody gets scale. Open Road did step in to distribute theatrically, but it had been Favreau’s original intention to distribute Chef himself after its festival run.
Jeff Goldsmith’s interview with Jon Favreau is an extremely pleasurable listen; he is very comfortable and it has the feel of talking shop with a friend. Personally, I’m delighted that someone who is now a studio director had the desire to make a smaller more personal film, then followed through and did it. It feels like something has come full circle.
With this film, Favreau wanted to give an authentic view of kitchen life, and given the language used in professional kitchens, this means it’s a movie with a soft ‘R’ rating, that a ‘PG13’ rating was sacrificed. That means it may draw a smaller audience, but it’s going to feel more honest to anyone who’s ever worked in a kitchen.
Chefs work with food yes, but the tools in their arsenal are stainless steel, clean cuts, and simplicity. The French phrase used in kitchens around the world to describe the proper set up for your work station is ‘mise en place’; putting in place.
All of which nicely applies to independent filmmaking, I think.
You can listen to this interview on podcast platforms or you can go to Jeff Goldsmith’s Q&A page to download the podcast.
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