Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Cake Eaters

I saw "The Cake Eaters" at the Austin Film Festival in 2007. I absolutely loved this film. Open for Disucussion had a chance to catch up with Jayce Bartok (the writer and actor of the film). I asked him a few questions.

What transpired between the festival circuit and the theatrical release of "The Cake Eaters?"

We basically played every festival under the sun, and had a great time and watched the film play really well in front of audiences, but were frustrated about the opportunities for distribution for "The Cake Eaters" after a year and a half since it’s premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Mary Stuart and the producers recut the film, and it had started to win some great awards, but it was the massive success of Twilight starring Kristen Stewart (who plays Georgia so wonderfully in "The Cake Eaters") that began the resurrection of the film.

Jesse Scolaro (producer 7th floor) & Jayce Bartok

What's the meaning behind your title?

The Cake Eaters is a term I grew up with in Pennsylvania. My mom used to use it to describe those who had it made, had their lives mapped out for them, where the most likely to succeed…"The Cake Eaters." I thought it was an interesting metaphor for this group of misfits who begin the story searching and longing for love, trying to overcome grief, and through the course of the story…find their “cake”. They find some love, happiness, peace… The title gets a lot of questions, it’s pretty controversial…and unforgettable.

What have you been up to and what are you working on now?

My company with my wife, Tiffany – Vinyl Foote Productions - has three projects in development. The most recent is a project I wrote called "Red River," which I am directing. Check out It’s a true crime story about these strange drownings in the Mississippi River around Wisconsin. The film revolves around this super normal family – the Casey family. The dynamic and characters have a real Cake Eaters feel, but there’s this huge twist and darkness underneath the surface. The Casey family is connected to the murders.

Vinyl Foote is also working on "Tiny Dancer," a film about a ballerina struggling to get back into the company directed by Jackson Gay and Dream Country. It's based on the best selling novel by Luanne Rice, directed by Will Geiger and starring Bill Pullman.

What's it like to work with Mary Stuart?

Mary Stuart and I had a really amazing time working together. We both pushed each other to find the best in the story. She is wonderful with actors, of course. And she cares. Which is SO rare.

How long did it take you to write the script and do you have a routine?

The Cake Eaters was started in the end of 2003. The first draft took a month or so. It was my first script so, boy did it change! I think we shot the 21st draft. I always feel the script starts to take shape around the 3-5th draft.
My routine is pretty simple – I try to dodge writing as long as possible. I will do anything not to start. But then when I do, it’s like a fever. Then it’s done, whether it’s a rewrite or first draft. And then I try everything I can to not write again.

Aaron Stanford & Kristen Stewart

Proudest moment (any not just on Cake Eaters)?

Well, we are expecting our first child any day now….so I think that will take the Cake (yes, a pun was intended).

Any regrets?

Of course, I wish I had started writing movies when I was in my early twenties, instead of mid-thirties. But alas, I probably wouldn’t have had anything to write about.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?

Not to freak out during the rewriting process. It’s still hard not to when you get tons of notes from a director or producer or friend, even. Writing really is rewriting. It sucks, but it’s also just paper, y’know. Best to get it right before you shoot it.

What motivates you?

The love of cinema. I love movies. I love characters, and stories. I love hearing a great story, telling one. It’s that simple desire to be like, “I saw this guy on the subway today….

Jayce Bartok and Bruce Dern in "The Cake Eaters"

Craziest moment?

During the filming of The Cake Eaters, I was shooting a scene on a roof during a real storm. They rigged this tow line to me under my clothes, and then I had to pretend to fall off the roof. There was this little teamster on the other side of the house holding onto the tow line so I wouldn’t fall. I was like, “Is this guy gonna’ hold me?” Needless to say, I did the stunt. It was amazing. And it never made the film! Hilarious.

Any hints you can pass along to aspiring actors/writers?

Do everything and anything to get your movie made. You have to have 100% belief that your project will get made. It’s a long road, but one door leads to another. Write great parts for actors, and get some really talented ones involved.

Press line at the Tribecca Film Festival

What got you into the industry?

I started out doing plays and commercials in NYC when I was a teenager, and that led to films and tv, and that led to writing…and hopefully directing next.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Hopefully, as a successful writer/director. I want to develop my company, Vinyl Foote, into a growing indie film company.

"The Cake Eaters" opens up on March 13, 2009. If you get a chance, go see it!

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