The nostalgic tale of a boy who wakes up craving his mother's chocolate cake.
Interview with Director/Producer Benjamin Shweky
Why did you make your film?
We made the film for many reasons, but the most important was that we found the subject meant something important to each of us. While the story might be simple - that of a boy who craves his mother's chocolate cake - the nostalgic theme was something that we all felt strongly connected to. There was an undeniable truth too, one that we agreed could make for good debut material. The intention, however, besides good film making, was to make a movie with an impact that could be appreciated by people of all ages and of all cultures. Personally, I felt compelled to make a film that I myself would want to see, and that wasn't about drug abuse or crime or violence, something I grew up seeing plenty enough of either first hand or in the news.
Why should I watch this film?
This film is for anyone and everyone. Our theme is neither the contemporary nor the contrived, and our interests when making the film were, and still are, innocent. It's going to make you feel good and giggle and candidly nod your head in agreement, for you will realize that you - the audience, and we - the filmmakers, are on the same page. Basically, watch this if you want a reason to smile.
How do personal and universal themes works in your film?
I'd say that personal and universal themes compliment each other constantly throughout the film, making them practically parallel. Would you agree that Nostalgia is both personal and universal? And young love? The thing about "Chocolate Cake" is that even if you can't relate to the specific cake, isn't there something that we all miss from our childhood? Doesn't that make the film and its themes both personal and, simultaneously, universal?
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and prod.?
It all started with this poem that my father read to me often when I was a child. While sitting in my grandfather's backyard brainstorming the appropriate subject for a debut film, the thought "who doesn't like chocolate cake?" crossed my mind. When I finally presented the idea to my collaborators, Julian Bass and Daniel Clark, we all agreed that while the film possessed the basics we'd been craving, there was still something missing. It lacked a certain cinematic essence, the "X-Factor" - which we realized was a little romance. So we added a little girl, a classmate. It was an addition that we thought might off set the boy's peculiarities. We were fortunate to have found the perfect person in Skylar Dunn. I had no idea what else was to come though, having only ever worked - up until that point - one full day on a professional set. I hadn't anticipated the extensive processes of coloring, or sound design, or any of the post production, really. So that's where I'd say the film evolved the most: in its polishing.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
One piece of feedback that I often contemplate, as it has emerged more than once, regards one or two of the performances. While some view them as stiff, I see them as perfectly fitting. I say so because the story of the film is meant to be told as a fond recollection - a fairy tale of sorts - not nail-biting realism. I wanted it to be as though the characters were active not of their own, natural accord, but because they were being told so by the narrator. It was, to make a long story short, meant to be told as a memory, and the bits and pieces of warmth and nuanced interaction were, as is sometimes the case in recalling past events, lost. We tried to recreate the subjective experience of a memory.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
The feedback I've received has lead me to regard my work in ways that I might never have considered before. I'm profoundly grateful for it all. Consider the mother's reaction to the boy's mischief. She does not scorn and berate the child, but instead responds with a sort of adoring-understanding-resignation. Some viewers I've spoken with have refused to believe her leniency, expecting a much harsher response. In trying to explain my intention with such a scene, I find I learn not only about my film and myself, but the people watching it. Especially about where we're all coming from.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on wearemovingstories?
My intention is to promote a film that might spread smiles across the lips of those feeling a bit blue. There isn't much awareness for any social causes that can be attained from such a film, but there is an intended positivity to be absorbed. By having our film "Chocolate Cake" available to more viewers, I want to further open a door that connects us with anyone and everyone interested in cinema, be it in its making or its viewing. It's our flag, so to speak; a rallying call. I'm calling out to those willing to be entertained by cinema, and those who may even be willing to partake in its creation.
Who do you need to come on board to amplify this film's message? (Prod. Sales. Buyers. Distrib. FF Directors. Journalists.)
Without a doubt, every starting filmmaker needs help in one way or another. In the case of "Chocolate Cake" we can use all the help we can get in making it more available and more present to the public. I won't narrow it down to any one particular department or specialist, as I would not want to deter anyone from collaboration.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I'd like to think that the film is subtly provocative, with its color coming through more in the combination of voice over and image rather than the story itself. It's in the telling of the story that we hope certain distinguished sentiments are stirred, instead of depending on some shocking series of events. We can't expect a radical reaction from a film about childhood follies. But we can cross our fingers in the hope that everyone leaves the film craving chocolate cake. One of the greatest experiences I've had with screening this film was at CAIFF where, during a Q&A, someone shared an experience of their own wherein a sister had - years ago - eaten an entire cake and, in an effort to cover it up, baked a whole new one. However, they had applied a different frosting, but it went unnoticed by the one who baked it. It was a perfect connection, her and I, and that's the sort of reaction we hope for.
What's a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
What represents nostalgia to each of us?
Would you like to add anything else?
This film means a lot to me, but not because of the delusions of grandeur and fame that one would dream for following a positive reception. Rather, it bears a significance where, with every screening, my belief that the film is being understood is reaffirmed by the sound of people grinning. When you can feel that specific grunt of approval with your opening shots, that "mmmmmm" that seems to echo the very words of the narrator...it's the feeling that you and your audience are on the same"page, and it's one of the greatest sensations I've ever experienced as an artist. In adding this anecdote to the interview, I mean to - more than anything - thank the Big Apple Film Festival and all of its staff for allowing us to screen, and for providing us with the opportunity to enjoy the film in the sort of dark and spacious environment where smiling and laughter become so easily contagious. A special thanks is in order for Carmela Baranowska for reaching out to us for this interview, without whom we wouldn't have a platform with which to reach an even wider audience.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We've a few things in the works, but the next film you can expect to see from me is a short documentary about my grandfather, a painter living in the South of France. Following that, we'll be shooting a feature documentary about a celebrity Korean chef. The Director of Photography, Julian Bass, recently wrapped on his directorial debut in New York and is producing a short in Bali. The Costume Designer, Katelyn Mueller, was most recently on the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black" and a new feature named "The Bleeders" as the Assistant Costume Designer.
Interview: November 2016
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
The nostalgic tale of a boy wakes up craving his mother's chocolate cake.
Length: 8 minutes 43 seconds
Director: Benjamin Shweky
Producer: Benjamin Shweky
Writer: Michael Rosen / Benjamin Shweky
Key cast: James Ciccarelle, Rose Jensen, Skylar Dunn
About the writer, director and producer:
Writer: Michael Rosen, who wrote the poem that Chocolate Cake is based on, was the Children's Laureate in the United Kingdom between June 2007 and June 2009.
Director/Producer: Benjamin Shweky, who studied film in New York and Paris, aims to eventually direct features, and is based out of the Lower East Side in New York.
Looking for (etc...)
Producers, representation, distributors; the works.
Every penny came straight from my bank account.
Where can I see it in the next month?
Next month, we'll have our Caribbean premiere at the 13th Annual Bahamas International Film Festival.