PES Talks Fresh Guacamole
DS: It must be difficult to find the right object all the time.
PES: Sometimes in these cooking films there’s an ingredient that’s a real challenge because there’s no obvious look alike. Part of the pleasure of making a film like this is that you stretch people’s imagination. It’s a little bit like a puzzle where not everything is a perfect look alike. The audience has to define the connection and identify the object through different means.
So for instance in Western Spaghetti, I did come up against a wall finding a substitute for garlic. Think how you rip off a clove of garlic with your thumb. You apply pressure to a head of garlic until it snaps [off a clove]. And I remembered when I was growing up in the 80s that’s what we cheaters used to do with the Rubik’s Cube. We used to apply pressure to that corner cube until it came apart and then we rearranged it. So even though a Rubik’s Cube looked nothing like garlic, through that [snapping] action there is a connection. Obviously the sound effects helped to sell it as well.
PES: Some objects are pure lookalikes and some carry different associations and connotations. Sometimes there’s wordplay going on, as in the case of dicing an onion using real dice. It’s interesting because dice are the only objects that appear in both films. I used dice as sugar cubes in Western Spaghetti. Then I had a better idea to use them as “dicing something” to play on that word pun. That’s one of the reasons why I felt like making a second iteration of a [cooking] film which I’ve never done in all of my work. I’ve got sequels that are written for almost all of my films, like Roof Sex and Game Over. For a lot of these films I had plans to do multiples, but then I just moved off them into new stuff.
DS: I’m sure you have no shortage of new ideas.
PES: Yeah. Making Western Spaghetti was the first time I had a lot of [related] ideas to keep going here and explore. So that’s why I figured I could take the liberty where dice can be a sugar cube and a diced onion in two different films.
DS: Have you had a situation where an object you thought would really work was just so difficult to animate that it forced you to use something different?
PES: Well, the first shot in Fresh Guacamole was always intended to be a knife because the film is really about a knife. Western Spaghetti is about cooking objects and Fresh Guacamole is really about cutting and mashing objects. So like a good topic sentence, the first shot is chosen to be the subject of the film. That’s why it’s the sharpening of a knife. Originally, I really wanted to get some sparks in there to create a little extra visual flair. But once I experimented with different things I wasn’t happy with any of them. So, I abandoned that idea and figured the simple sound of sharpening a knife that looks this big and terrifying is okay. Occasionally there are little things that I am not happy with or struggle with.
DS: So how long did it take to make this film?
PES: About four months from start to finish. And that’s just production.
PES: I work on these ideas for years and then once I decide to go I start collecting the objects. Occasionally, I collect things along the way that I know I’m going to use. I bought that cutting board a while ago because it was a once in a lifetime kind of object. I’ve never seen one as cool as that. In Fresh Guacamole that giant cutting board was like two hundred years old.
DS: I cook so I can appreciate how cool that board is.
PES: Yeah, the knife too. The knife I found searching on eBay. It’s a 200 year-old butcher’s knife hand made in Mexico.
DS: What type of setup do you use for filming?
PES: Just a straight forward setup. I used to use a LunchBox but now everything is done with Dragon. It’s not that it doesn’t have its annoying things, but it still has many more benefits. So the simple Dragon setup, a digital camera setup, captured still images, edited in Final Cut, sound design in Final Cut, then I take it to a final mix. That’s it. A tiny bit of retouching in Photoshop and we’re done.
DS: Primarily, don’t you do all the work on your films?
PES: Mostly. I do hire people for specific tasks. In Fresh Guacamole I had a co-animator named Dillon Markey. Those were my hands in the film and I needed someone there to manage the video feedback system and help with the animation when my hands were tied up in the shot. Which was usually all the time. With Western Spaghetti I had a different co-animator. They were both successful collaborations.