I was excited to be interviewed by Matt Toffolo over at WildSounds about my latest project “Disco Sauce: The True Untold Story of Penne Alla Vodka”. This irreverent and hard hitting doc about a very beloved (and hated) pasta dish is riddled in controversy and saucy history, so bringing it to the screen was a real pleasure. It’s been getting some really fantastic initial reviews and some amazing awards and festival wins, so I’m excited to see where this little film goes, hopefully to be developed into a series. We shall see.
If you want to hear the live interview you can jump over to the WildSounds podcast on Apple Music.
DISCO SAUCE: THE UNTOLD STORY OF PENNA ALLA VODKA, 35min,. USA
Directed by Roberto Serrini
Penne Alla Vodka is America’s dirty little secret. You can have it hungover from the diner, or for 40 bucks a plate at the finest restaurants. While it’s secret origin might surprise you, it’s sordid history will baffle you, which is why two best friends decided to deep dive into this disco sauce and discover it’s secret powers that polarize the culinary world like no other dish.
Get to know the filmmaker:
1. What motivated you to make this film?
My previous documentary with Peter was called “Italy In Bocca” (www.italyinbocca.com if you want to get hungry) and it really put us on the map. We had a few show runners and production companies calling us asking if we were interested in developing the concept into a series. Because we felt like the food film scene was so saturated with these high stake shows we wanted to do something really different that focused on why we love food: because of the way it brings people together. So we wanted to see if we could take a recipe like Penne Alla Vodka, something seemingly inconsequential, and blow it completely out of proportion like they do on all these other cooking shows, really deep diving to the point that you can’t believe anyone went to that kind of trouble to make a simple bowl of pasta. I think it worked.
2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this film?
It took a few days to film as it was self produced and during a pandemic, but fortunately everyone was excited to be a part of it and make time to be on camera. Edit wise it took about a month to assemble, do all the animations, graphics, and mix. It will take about a year to work off all the bowls of pasta I ate during the edit process however.
3. How would you describe your film in two words!?
4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?
Honestly not overeating while editing … staring at delicious bowls of penne alla vodka for 8 hours a day is not healthy for the mind. As for the actual project, the biggest difficultly was the audio. While we had a lot of interest to make this film a reality, we didn’t have any budget. Fortunately I’m used to self producing content and shooting/editing everything solo. Sound however is something I would have happily put money towards to have the cleanest audio possible, but because we were moving so fast it wasn’t possible to have a dedicated sound guy with us, so my mixer worked overtime in post to make it sound delicious thankfully, but next time hopefully we’ll have the resources to give him the best quality across the board. If you’ve seen the film, you know we’re only about the best quality.
5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?
My initial reaction in watching the audience reaction to my film was pure smiles and validation. I never know if people are going to really get what I make and honestly have the reaction I have when I make my films. It’s amazing to hear candid reactions and critique from a really wide audience of tastes and they all arrive at the same conclusion. Even small moments that could easily be overlooked they mentioned and that to me made a film I already love become even more adored.
Watch the Audience Feedback Video:
6. When did you realize that you wanted to make films?
Randomly I had a roommate at UCSB that was a die hard filmmaker who said I should audit Film 101 with him. I was studying photography and journalism and thought why not. My first paper was on Blade Runner and after I turned it in the TA pulled me aside and told me to my face that it was the greatest paper he ever read. That my ability to analyze film was extraordinary and I was effectively a “film genius”. I didn’t know what to do with this information, but I knew I was supposed to be a filmmaker. Funny thing … about 20 years later I’m at a reunion with a bunch of film guys and they go “oh, did Chad the TA tell you you were a genius too?” … Apparently he told everyone that to get the numbers up in the film department so they would have more funding. Frankly, it was a relief knowing I’m not a film genius, and still had a really fantastic career doing something I really love.
7. What film have you seen the most in your life?
Blade Runner. It’s like therapy at this point.
8. What other elements of the festival experience can we and other festivals implement to satisfy you and help you further your filmmaking career?
The feedback is revolutionary and better than any statue or laurel to be honest. I loved listening to the recorded comments, loved knowing that they were candid as they would never meet me or have to give feedback to me directly. The power of anonymity works in our favor for once. Obviously I think comments and reviews like this are super powerful, so getting them in other publications and media would only help other people discover the film and bring it to a larger audience.
9. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway. How has your experiences been working on the festival platform site?
Nothing makes it easier than Film Freeway.
10. What is your favorite meal?
If I said Penne Alla Vodka would that surprise you?
11. What is next for you? A new film?
I’m finishing a sequel to Italy In Bocca that we shot in Rome with the original writer of the cookbooks. We rented a 500 year old apartment with a stone hearth to cook in and put together an epic meal out of these rare and funky cookbooks. It’s the first thing I’ve shot overseas and I’m really excited to release it given the popularity of the first installment. Careful Stanley Tucci … I’m coming for you;)