'Chasing Taste' Director on Making Food-Centric Romantic Comedy

Can you name all of the ingredients in a simple layer cake?

That's the premise of the Palate Challenge game show, featured in the above clip from the food-centric romantic comedy Chasing Taste, which is now available on iTunes and Verizon Fios. Early in the film, down-and-out writer Chase Guidry (Kirk McGee) is watching an episode of Palate Challenge, and later the contest "plays a key role," as director Sean Gannet teases, after Chase becomes a food critic who suddenly loses his sense of taste and smell and enlists his friends to serve as his mouth and nose.

"From the very beginning, it was important to us to create a culture and a world within the film where food critics are celebrities," Gannet says about introducing the game show early in the film. "We wanted to sort of have this parallel universe where everything's kind of the same except people's sense of taste and smell and their relationship with food is heightened. And that's kind of something we see throughout the film. So having this [game show] so early in the film, I think orients the audience to that world."

Gannet and screenwriter Lori Fischer created the film around its actors' background, ideas and interests as well as Gannet and Fischer's shared passion for food, which they discovered when they worked on a short film together a few years prior.

"We brought together a core cast and crew based on people that we'd worked with before or had previous relationships with, so we had done a lot of play and work with the core members before we even got together in the room to tell stories that first night," Gannet says.

"As we got to hear the stories of our main cast and their voices and hear what the overarching theme of the movie would be, gravitating towards food in film was a natural fit for both of us," he adds. "We kind of stacked the deck when it came to the romance part. I didn't really realize it until afterwards but it's basically four guys and four girls as our core cast, so I think it just naturally let our mind go in that direction when we started talking about it."

"I am an avid food lover," Gannet says. "I'm definitely the guy that's tweeting about my food and obsessed with cooking. And I definitely go deep on food culture. I love food movies. I love looking for new restaurants. I'm part of a rotating dinner club where everybody makes dishes from a different region of the world."

As they added castmembers, Fischer and Gannet tried to create characters custom-made for each person.

"Lori and I made a specific choice to make sure that each character we brought in, we were writing specifically for a voice of whoever we were going to bring in," Gannet says. "We wanted to really maintain that idea, that original, 'write for your cast' mantra throughout."

That cast includes Lynn Cohen (Sex and the City, Master of None), whom Fischer had worked with before, and country musician Phil Vassar, who both Gannet and Fischer knew and thought would be well-suited to playing a straight-talking DJ. Additional castmembers include Uma Incrocci (How to Get Away with Murder), April Wilkner (America's Next Top Model), Maitely Weismann (Masters of Sex), Jabari Gray (Law & Order: SVU) and Ty Jones (Power).

Weismann also served as a producer on Chasing Taste and connected the filmmakers with Seed & Spark crowdfunding and distribution service, which is releasing the movie and continues the communal approach Gannet and fellow producer Ashley Wren Collins, who also appears in Chasing Taste, took in making the film.

"We had a huge crowdsourcing, not just for initial funds but also to bring in people," Gannet says. "Our network was so huge we were constantly expanding and reaching out to the New York film community and so many people helped contribute to the film."

Gannet is excited that the film, which played at a number of festivals and won best comedy feature film at the 2013 Burbank International Film Festival and the 2014 Manhattan Film Festival, will be able to be seen by a wide audience via its VOD release and encourages people to make Chasing Taste a "date-night movie."

"If you want to order in your favorite restaurant dinner and chill in front of the TV," Gannet says. "It's just an easy film to watch."

He adds that now that technology has created more filmmaking and distribution opportunities, the challenge is to create something that cuts through the noise.

"Now that we have so many different ways to release films, the challenge is not the mechanisms of making it or how to get it out there in the world, the challenge now becomes how do you stand out from everybody else and create a movie that will have an audience. How do you create a story that will be appealing to either a niche audience that is drawn to the subject matter or has a unique sense of storytelling that no one's ever seen before," Gannet says. "I think that we're all as creators and filmmakers trying to individuate and create a unique voice and the nice thing is a lot of the obstacles have been removed. Now that we can put it out in the world, we're trying to create things that can hopefully break through the noise and find their audience."

Read more: 'Chasing Taste' Clip Introduces Unexpected Food Critic (Exclusive Video)

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