Brave Gentlemen Wear 100% Vegan Menswear

This fashion week, it’s safe to say I wasn’t expecting to find myself sitting in a PowerPoint lecture. But that’s exactly what guests saw first at the Brave Gentleman presentation. Designer Joshua Katcher, whose line is 100% vegan and ethically made, introduced his new collection by first giving a short presentation about the history of fashion and animals. To be perfectly honest–it was fascinating.

Before Katcher started his fashion line and his lecture series, he was first preoccupied with a trend he saw frequently in fashion magazines: models pictured with live animals while also wearing items made from other animals. From there, an exploration into this trend had begun–what do these contradictory pairings reveal?

Katcher later combined his interests in environmentally friendly fashion and classic menswear with his line Brave Gentleman.

“I saw a void in the market, there weren’t many beautiful suits and shoes that met my standards. I found that other people had those standards, too,” said Katcher. The result is beautiful, classic menswear made with fabrics sourced from recycled materials. Upon viewing the collection, I couldn’t help but do a touch-test of the materials, and not only did they feel exactly like leather, suede, and their substitutes, they also looked amazing.

I caught up with the designer for a quick q&a:

What was the inspiration for this collection?

Taking traditional menswear cuts, giving them an edge, and having fun with innovative textiles. Very much about the feel and also how you feel wearing them. There’s a real revolution in menswear and suiting. With Brave we want men to feel confident with the brand, about both aesthetics and having pride in the production.

How much more difficult is it to source 100% vegan materials than to go the normal, largely unsustainable route?

It’s a fun challenge, but it’s becoming easier and easier. It’s not a limitation–instead I’ve been able to focus on sustainability. It’s difficult in a challenging, fun way that any good designer would take on.

What’s one piece of style advice you would give to the general male public?

Read the label, in the same way you read your food label. Abandon the idea of being a consumer, embrace being a citizen investor.

What person, real or fictional, would you most like to dress?

I would go back in time and dress Don Draper. He’s an ideas guy, he’d be excited about our approach. We’d do a trade; he’d do an ad, and I’d dress him.

If there was one song or album to capture the collection, what would it be?

“Yahoo or the Highway” album by Lockah.

Club Kid-Turned-Raw Food Queen: Talking To Karliin Brooks, Founder Of The Squeeze

I’ve know Karliin Brooks since she was a kid …a club kid, that is. Years later, Karliin has put all that behind her and is living the good life, dedicated to helping others live a healthy lifestyle by founding The Squeeze: a company devoted to “producing the best-tasting raw foods in the city, such as detox cleanses, superfoods, and fresh live produce prepared into raw gourmet meals.”

In this week’s series of where are they now?” for fabulous types, Karliin is alive and very well. Her truck is a solution to getting your act together, and her partner is club royalty Jen Gatien, who has a successful film career. Gatien producedLimelight and a bunch of other flicks.

Karliin – who has worked for ABC as a freelance producer and owns a production location agency – graduated NYU with degrees in broadcast journalism and nutrition. It all makes sense now.

Karliin also has, at any given time, 15 to 20 pets under her care, which is why The Squeeze is cruelty-free. I caught up with my old friend and asked her all about it.

Tell me about raw food porn.
The Squeeze’s cold-pressed juice and raw comfort food have been known to induce states of euphoria. It tastes naughty, but it’s healthy! Our Mint Choco Chip Mousse is a babe – made with raw unpasteurized coconut meat, spirulina, Irish moss, and activated cashews. It’s so good, you’ll think you have to give it up for Lent. We convert high-energy raw food into something that people can recognize and would consume: like Mac ‘n Cheese, Funyuns, Almond Joys, Almond Buttercups – all your favorite American classics without the guilt. And lets face it, vegans taste better and have superlative stamina. I have done the research.
You certainly enjoyed your stint in clubland and saw its excesses and pitfalls. Did that experience shove you toward a healthier lifestyle?
I did bear witness to a tragic amount of ODs in my day. The ’90s were very excessive, very gluttonous very narcissistic. There was an utter disregard for personal responsibility regarding one’s health. Drug use and experimentation were rampant.  Alkalization, raw juice, and cleansing were still foreign concepts. The green juice of the ’90s was a Midori punch laced w xtacy.  All the club kids of yore are now juicing – the ones still alive and not incarcerated anyway. Pressed juice is the new drug of choice because it allows you to get high on your own supply and reclaim your beauty from the days of yore.
What makes your juice the craziest in the juice craze competition?
We use a lot of uncommon ingredients in our juices, like fennel, clementine, peppermint, dandelion, turmeric, and cayenne. We are also one of the few pressed- juice companies in NY that still use the Norwalk Juice Press. And we sing to our green juices. Music not only makes plants grow faster, but it increases the levels of enzymes and photonic energy in each juice.   
Club people come home from a night of debauchery and unhealthy choices; what should be waiting for them in their fridge?
A blood transfusion and an enema kit. Food and beverage choices should be anything vegan and raw, and cleanses are a way to purify your blood the natural way, and a lot more fun. They’re a reboot button for our bodies. The best foods for restoring liver function after a night or 20 on the town are dandelion, chicory, endive, and rocket. For Christ’s sake, make a shake. 

Here’s how to make a scrumptious and hearty detox smoothie:
4 – 5 x tomatoes
3 x stalks of celery
1/2 x spicy Pepper (optional)
1/2 x avocado
1/2 x bunch of fresh dandelion
1 medium sized endive
1/2 x the juice of a lemon
pinch sea salt 
And 2 ounces of vodka (just kidding)
Or just order our liver detox juice from

So how does juice cleansing actually work?
Cleansing gives your body a chance to clear out the accumulated toxins that have built up over your lifetime. Digestion takes up most of the body’s energy, and when there are more toxins coming in than the body can immediately eliminate, the body stores these toxins to "deal with later." The only problem is that unless you radically improve your lifestyle, "later" may never come. Supplementing your diet on the regular with Squeeze juices, smoothies, foods, and snacks help to maintain that balance.
What’s in your products and are animals everywhere smiling?
We are 100% cruelty-free at The Squeeze – except in the bedroom, of course. Products contain fresh, live food prepared into raw gourmet meals. Our mission at The Squeeze is to make animals smile. I have a small focus group of 18 animals that live with me, and they cannot attest to that.
How did you come to do this, and do you still work in production?

After years of being an armchair activist, I decided it was high time to vegucate the world about the health benefits of a plant-based diet for themselves, the planet, and the animals. Jen Gatien and I created a reality TV series called The Squeeze, a show about healing, human connection, and the dirty politics of food – all taking place in the three fattest cities of America. 

What’s the advantage of the company being a truck instead of a store?
Visibility and presence at events and premieres, and allows us to keep our price lower. It also makes cruising vegan boys a lot more fun.  
Where can I find you and will there be a fleet of trucks in other cities?You can find our truck in Union Square West and 15th St. and Chelsea at 26th St. between the West Side Highway and 11th Ave. We will have 2 trucks in The Hamptons this summer, and will be expanding to Bethesda MD and Miami soon
What did you eat yesterday?
I am not big into solids. I started the day with an aloe water and a shot of ginger. Once you go ginger you never go back. It gives you loads of sustained energy without the post-coffee slump. I had a couple of I Have a Heart-On’s (leafy green with pineapple and peppermint), a Jeans I Wore In High School (oj, grapefruit and lemongrass) and a Don’t Cry Over Spice Milk (spiced nut milk) which I consume warm, because it tastes like mother’s milk, which if mammary serves me, is also warm. Never heat food or beverages above 118 degrees lest you expose it to enzyme degradation. For dinner I had a strawberry cheesecake (coconut meat-based "cheesecake") and a gazpacho.

Peacefood Cafe: The New & Healthy Option For Semi-Obligatory Dinners

In NYC, there’s a push to be social. Of the five days of work, there’s a good three days (at least) of semi-obligatory, drinks/dinner time, where we sit, wistfully staring out the window of a trendy, mediocre, exposed-brick spot, dreaming about a date with Netflix and that still-unfinished spiritual book about living a fulfilling life. And yet – there’s a compromise: peacefood cafe, aka A Little Ray of Healthfulness and Sunshine Right By Union Square.

After the phenomenal success of its Upper West Side location, the vegan café and bakery – started by an antiques dealer and interior designer – expanded six weeks ago to a downtown location, amid yoga shops, vitamin stores, and $1 greasy pizza joints. But unlike most expansions to downtown, this expansion was also in actual size: the Union Square peacefood is a good 3x bigger than its UWS counterpart – all three floors-worth – which is basically unheard of unless you’re opening on a shrub-lined, side street in Topeka, Kansas.

But why is peacefood such a success? Why are people gobbling up quinoa, pumpkin, mushrooms, and walnut pate like they’re cherry pie? It’s all in the ingredients of such hit, unusual dishes like chickpea fries (trick: dip them in agave nectar), fluffy quinoa salad, a submarine-sized roasted squash dish with mushroom gravy, and a rich and raw cocao mousse pie saddled in a walnut-date-coconut crust.

I’m not even vegan, but when I finished this meal last night (after downing a frothy banana-coconut-date-cardamon shake), I felt like I had finally found my weekday, kindred spirit. A place to dine out with friends that doesn’t leave me waking up in the morning bloated, my conscience shaking her head, and the better part of me wondering, “Man, what did I eat last night?”

I know what I ate. Clean, invigorating, healthy food that doesn’t have that generic healthy taste, loved by carnivores and pescatarians, and has a soothing, ocean-inspired, blue and cream interior that makes me think of seashells and sand castles. Peace is exactly what you get here – peace from food-guilt, fried temptations, and your Netflix dreams.

Get the scoop on peacefood, and follow Bonnie on Twitter here


The Virgins’ Donald Cumming on the Band’s Comeback, His New Sound, and Being a Life-Long New Yorker

Donald Cumming has led and continues to lead quite a life. From the trials and tribulations of his youth to those that accompanied signing with a major label, the 31-year-old born-and-bred New Yorker has no shortage of stories illustrating his hustle, his hang-ups and his regrets.

Cumming’s cult band The Virgins—which loosely formed in 2006, was signed to Atlantic in 2007, experienced a meteoric rise in 2008, and continuously toured the world after that—has kept somewhat mum for a few years, but returns today with their sophomore album, Strike Gently, out now via Julian Casablancas’s indie imprint Cult Records.

In the interim since his debut, Cumming has overhauled his sound—essentially morphing from shiny pop to folk rock—and begun playing with three entirely new “dudes,” as he is wont to collectively identify his bandmates. Max Kamins (bass), Xan Aird (guitar), and John Eatherly (drums) round out the updated ensemble, which last month played an intimate set at Soho House and tomorrow plays SXSW. The remainder of March and early April the foursome will tour the US, and they can next be enjoyed in NYC at Bowery Ballroom on April 1.

Connecting with Cumming, who I’d feel more comfortable calling Donald, was particularly special for me, as The Virgins was the first band I ever interviewed. Last time, we crouched together at Highline Ballroom in the designated “VIP” section. Five years later we could be found at his studio space in the East Village—walls lined with blankets in an attempt to muffle their rehearsals—sitting on his beat up sofa beside an open window while he basically chain smoked. “It’s, like, my shame,” he told me, explaining that in part his shame stems from the fact that cigarettes are tested on animals and for the past few years he’s been vegetarian-turned-vegan.

He seemed to me to be in a better place, and said so. Married for two years to Canadian visual artist Aurel Schmidt, Donald, the only child who dropped out of high school, ran away, and did odd (and undisclosed) jobs to make ends meet, seems to have found his footing again. He was gracious and humble and open to talk. We caught up for an hour and a half, and what follows is the most meaningful, entertaining, and informative aspects of our conversation. Donald discussed a number of things, including his take on The Virgins’ audible departure, what he’d do if he didn’t have his music career, and how, despite a challenging childhood and professional woes, he feels ever so fortunate.

Tell me a bit about this switch. New members, new sound…
It’s been a minute. The dudes [and I] wanted to do different things. I love those dudes, those guys are like family to me, [but] we were ready to move on. We changed a lot. These guys, I’ve known them a while. We played together in a country cover band. When I was writing new songs, I started playing with these guys, and it felt really good. It just made sense that, since we were friends—we’d been hanging, playing music—they would be the dudes I worked with. It was a cool vibe; when we started writing new stuff, the songs grew naturally. It worked right away. I love these dudes and the way they play. We don’t have to tell each other much. Everybody does their thing.

What was the process of bringing the album together?
We’d been writing songs, started playing around the city. Because we had an opportunity to do a one-off, we had a single. We had, like, half this record written and started recording. We didn’t know who was going to put it out. We probably thought we’d end up putting it out ourselves. Through a mutual friend we found out Julian [Casablancas was] interested. We played him songs, talked about what [we] wanted to do, and he [told] us about the label. It felt really cool. The vibe was good right away.

Sounds pretty painless.
It was. This experience has been amazing. A lot of painful shit happened with the last album, with the label we were on.

What compelled you to maintain the name while transitioning the style?
The first thing I ever made was a demo in my room. I started giving [it] out and put “The Virgins”—I thought it would be cool to be in a band. Then, when I got a deal really quickly, I didn’t have a band, so I put the band together [and] made the EP. Things were progressing logically, except we had [signed with] a major label. When we went to make the record, a lot of stuff didn’t fit for me. It changed our direction, without us having control. We started having to deal with the business model and projected earnings and all the things that come with being on a big label.

It’s the name of my band. It was my name before the label, before the record and, after, it’s still the name of my band. When we started making this record, it was like going back to when things flowed naturally. We made what we felt like making. It didn’t feel like a change of direction. It felt like getting back on track. Personally, [“The Virgins”] doesn’t mean anything to me. It’s a name. I don’t have any attachment to it, emotionally or aesthetically. It just seemed like it would be more trouble changing it than leaving it alone.

Why the aesthetic shift?
For me, the music isn’t different. It’s just songs I believe in. I was deciding whether or not I even wanted to make music anymore, the conclusion I came to was, I’m not interested in doing anything I don’t believe in. It wasn’t a decision to change the style. I had to make what I wanted to make. I couldn’t have done anything else. If it throws somebody off, there’s not anything I can do. There might be fans that are like, “Oh, this sounds different.”And I understand. It definitely does. But, it just sounds like the way we play. We’re just doing it, and it sounds different. It’s not an ideology where we have to present a new thing. We didn’t say, “Let’s do it differently.”

Can you share a bit about your uncertainty surrounding continuing to make music?
Making the record with Atlantic was kind of crazy. I don’t want to go into it, but we all felt [that] wasn’t what we were trying to do. It affected all of us. Then we toured extensively. It was a strange experience. It wore away at me. I couldn’t identify with the music [anymore]. It got to the point where I was like, “I hate this. I hate this whole thing and I don’t know how to fix it.” So, I guess I had a bit of a spiritual crisis. [Laughs]

That was 2008?
’08 through ’10. Maybe ’11. It went on and on because we just kept touring.

Did you do anything else between then and now?
A ton of shit, but I needed to get my brain together. Besides getting married, finding out what means most to me, follow[ing] goals to their logical conclusions. There’s always somebody with an opinion, a reason you shouldn’t do what you want. Most times in my life, when I haven’t done what I wanted, I’ve ended up regretting it.

When I saw you perform last month, I kept thinking about Tom Petty and Bob Dylan. Have you gotten that before?
No. It’s great to hear. Everybody has their own take. So far it’s been stuff I like. It’s cool with me.

So, where do you like to play?
I love Mercury Lounge. I’ve enjoyed every show we’ve played there. It’s my favorite spot in the city. It sounds good. It feels connected. You’re sharing an experience with a room full of people. Obviously it’s cool when we play bigger venues, but the bigger the place the less personal things feel.

Do you become homesick pretty easily?
No. I really like traveling. It’s one of my favorite things about being in a band. Making records is amazing—it’s its own special thing—but the fact that you get to travel is quite cool.

And you grew up in Manhattan.
I grew up a few places, but I lived on Canal and Greenwich when I was a kid and, when my parents split, I [divided] my time between [there] and Astoria, with my mom. I’ve probably moved 10 or 11 times.

You have a favorite neighborhood?
I love Chinatown. I don’t live there anymore, but it’s peaceful and I like that. It’s gentrified, but doesn’t look like a mall. It’s heartbreaking to walk around the city and see how fucked it is. But, I love New York.

You’re a lifer.
Oh yeah, for sure.

Me too. So, of course this city influences your music.
Of course. All my memories are here and all my friends are here. Every place reminds me of somebody or something. It has an affect on me.

You didn’t finish high school, did you?

And no college.

You’re self-taught. How many instruments do you play?
I attempt to play the guitar and the piano. That’s it. I’m not that guy who masters instruments. I get by. Shit’s not sounding so crisp anymore, you know what I mean? It doesn’t have that pop. I’m not the world’s tightest rhythm guitarist. Any little addition to my repertoire feels like a big achievement. [Laughs]

What’s been the biggest challenge?
Getting back to a place where I [can] express myself and feel like [I’m] making music for reasons valid to me. I didn’t know if that would happen again and was prepared for that not to happen. I feel grateful to have had the experience [of] making this record and excited to make more and play with these guys. I just feel really fortunate.

Do you do anything else apart from this?
I mean, I’m not really qualified to do anything else.

If you couldn’t make music, what would you do?
Honestly, without wanting to be overly romantic, washing dishes. That was [a] job I had that felt pretty all right. But you can’t support yourself doing that. Well, obviously people do. I don’t want to sound flippant. I’m lucky to make music for a living. But, when I washed dishes, I had some good friends and some good times. That’s a job I look back on without frustration or anger. A lot of things I’ve done for money in my life I really regret.

[Deciding] to do something because I needed money, as opposed to believed in or wanted to, that stuff stayed with me. I’m not resolved. I needed money, so it was good to alleviate whatever problem I was having. But, I don’t have that money now. And those things are indelible. So, is it worth it? I don’t know. When I was younger, I avoided all work all the time. I was always broke. Beyond broke. No money whatsoever. I would paint myself into corners. If an opportunity came up to [make] money, I had no choice. I feel like it was cosmic punishment for not working. Like, you do shit for money you don’t want to do. I’ve got hang-ups about this obviously. [Laughs] I’m grateful to be a professional musician, to support myself with music. But washing dishes was a job I don’t have bad feelings about. I just got into tight situations. You do what you gotta do.

Did you receive monetary support from your family at all? Were you “privileged,” as they say?
No, not at all. My dad had a liquor store, my mom worked in an office. My dad was an alcoholic and basically went bankrupt. Closed the store. Moved in with his boyfriend. He was a committed alcoholic and died when he was 41, 42. I was maybe 11 or 12. My mom worked in Jersey, I went to school in Manhattan and we were living in Queens. She would take me, then get on a bus and go to work. It was tiring for her. When I was, like, 14, she met this guy from Florida and moved there. I went with, but didn’t get into it. My life was here. So, I ran away. I left home and moved back when I was almost 16. I had a little bit of money from social security—from my dad dying—and I started renting a bedroom from my friend’s mom. I got a job working at a coffee shop and was trying to go to high school. But I stopped going to school. I stopped working. That led to figuring it out. I wouldn’t trade it or change anything.

Wow. So, no regrets?
Only petty stuff that fucks with my ego and shit. I regret not going to school. I regret not going to college. I’ve always had to do shit on my own. It might have been cool to have a professor and be with other students, finish an assignment, and get feedback. I would have been down. But, I was way more focused on the opposite of that. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Switching gears, you’ve got a certain look. Can you comment on your personal style?
I only buy used clothes. I don’t believe in manufacturing clothes. It’s a drain of resources, putting all that shit into the world. I believe in secondhand. I’m vegan. I don’t wear animal products that are new. There’s definitely enough clothing on the planet, not only to clothe everyone, but [also] to stop fucking with animals, stop polluting the world, stop using plastic, stop exploiting people—all that shit. Like, I’m just not down. I could go on and on.

Didn’t see that coming! What prompted the veganism?
I bought The Animal Rights Handbook: Everyday Ways to Save Animal Lives by Linda Fraser at a secondhand store, because I liked the cover. I was already vegetarian and it was on my mind. I felt super guilty eating cheese and was like, “Fuck, I know I shouldn’t be doing this.” I didn’t know what was going to be “the thing,” but I knew it was coming. I started reading this book and that was it. I have never thought about going back. It’s not difficult at all. It makes perfect sense. It’s quite strange how willing people are to not give a fuck. 

Brunch to Celebrate 2013, or Help Your Hangover

It’s no mystery: on the first day of 2013 you will probably be hungover, as will I, as will my boyfriend, as will just about everyone I know. But hey, isn’t that what New Year’s Eve is all about? Hence, brunch is in order to help ease you gently into a new year, and the one week you swear off booze because of some silly resolution.

For those of you stuck on being healthy, Apotheke co-owner Heather Tierney’s, The Butcher’s Daughter Juice Bar & Café will be open New Year’s Day and you can stuff your gullet with fresh juices and vegan meats.

If you want to go for more of a boozy hangover cure and the party route, head to KTCHN Restaurant for their “All Day Revive Brunch” from 10am to 5pm. For $45 you get a choice of chef Dale Schnell’s entrees like Steak and Eggs Benedict that comes with a pinot noir hollandaise sauce, or go to the sweet side and choose his Belgian waffle with hand-whipped vanilla cream. But why $45 you may ask, well this also includes unlimited Bloody Marys and mimosas.

Uptown, at A.G. Kitchen they also stay on the sinful side and chef Alex Garcia offers guests the ultimate hangover burger and shake combination for $29. The 100-percent ribeye burger comes with a crispy potato skin, cheddar, and bacon, and your choice of shake, including the salted caramel made with Jim Beam, malted powder, and caramel sauce.

Starting at 11am on January 1, chef Michael Berardino is whipping up an array of tasty brunch treats at Angolo SoHo, including roasted grapefruit with Aperol and mint, ricotta pancakes, tagliatelle Bolognese and an exquisite grilled cheese with Parmesan, speck, tomato, and topped with an egg. You can indulge in this à la carte menu until 4pm.

The Dalloway in SoHo has the right idea of kicking off 2013 by debuting their brunch menu. Starting at 11am, January 1 and beyond, chef Vanessa Miller will serve mascarpone stuffed French toast, breakfast pizza with spinach and poached eggs, and fried chicken with waffles. Naturally, they will offer boozy brunch cocktails too, including the Clarissa & Mary, their special bloody with clear-pressed tomato juice that aptly tips the hat to owners Amanda Leigh Dunn and Kim Stolz’s presence in the lesbian scene.

Now if these places don’t get 2013 going in the right direction, you are already lost.

‘In Our Nature’ Filmmaker Talks The Silver Fox, Dwyane Wade & Rent-a-Bears

Last week, Cinema Village waved goodbye to one indie flick from a first time filmmaker—Alexander Poe’s rom-com Ex-Girlfriends—and welcomed another.A comedic drama written and directed by Brian Savelson, In Our Nature opened Friday and is slated to screen at the East 12th Street theater through Thursday. The movie, which features a cast of four—Zach Gilford, Jena Malone, John Slattery, and Gabrielle Union—orbits around a single location, a lake house upstate, and a simple, yet increasingly complicated, core conflict: an estranged father and son each drive with their respective girlfriends from New York City for a weekend in the wilderness, only to discover their romantic getaway has morphed into an awkward 48-hour double date. Talk about deflating. Add to this the apparent age disparity between Vicky (Union) and Gil (Slattery), and the latter’s intention to sell the property, and you’re left with the opposite of a Kodak moment.

With an emphasis on dialogue, gestures, and expressions, which the 32-year-old discusses in greater detail below, the film trots along at an enjoyable pace and, to my relief, never treads too close to cliché. Several recurring themes (like veganism) and standout moments (as when Gil and Andie (Malone) bond over a joint) are explored, though it’s the subtleties and nuances within and between the bigger things that propel the story forward. From the very first scene, which is bound to elicit laughs, I was a fan. My advice? See it before it’s too late. New Yorkers, you have four days.

Known for his music video production, his theater experience and an award-winning animated short, Savelson is brand new to the box office, though Nature’s been navigating the festival circuit for nearly a year. He and I linked up last week and got lost in a conversation littered with tangents, but we covered more than enough Nature-related territory. Read on for more, including how he and Mad Men’s Silver Fox became besties, the D-Wade effect, and how to hire a black bear. Oh my.

Where did the concept for In Our Nature initiate?
It started with the idea of a place. It started with an image of a house, which ultimately is the most stable character in [the film]. The house play[s] a role. There’s plot around it, in it.

A lot of people, myself included, have remarked on the film’s play-like quality.
What interested me most about this was taking it out of the theatrical place and putting it on screen. To take this talky thing and explore the details of it. Things you can only see in a close-up. The most important things to me are between the lines— awkward silences, expressions, flashes of anger or of embarrassment—things you would never catch on stage.

How long did it take you to write the script?
The script was quick. It probably took less than a month to write the first draft. But then you continue working on it for, like, a year. It’s just four characters in one location over two days. Morning-afternoon-night, morning-afternoon-night.

True, but still. And dialogue, does that come easily to you also?
It’s generally easy. I think I’m able to write dialogue to a fault. Too much talking. Dialogue’s easy if you know who the people are.

Don’t tout that too loud. Other writers might be envious. How did you tackle the logistics of pulling everything together?
This movie’s all about actors and performances, so I needed to make sure I got the right actors, which I think I did, in the right place at the right time. Then [we needed] someone to give [us] money to make it. 

How does one go about doing that?
Beg, borrow, steal? It’s actually the same thing with actors, or getting anybody involved. It has to be the right material and the right person. You can give the same thing to 100 people…

I get it. Filmmaking sounds like dating. So, how did you secure Slattery?
John is the man. John came on just a month before we shot. We’d been talking about him for a while and we thought he was perfect for the role. At that point, we had some other people cast, including Jena, and there was an article, I forget where it was, about the Mad Men hiatus. The title of the article was, like, “Roger Sterling Needs a Job” [sic] or something, and John Slattery was quoted saying, “Hire me.” We looked at the article and were like, “We don’t need much more of a sign than this, do we? It says ‘hire me’ in the paper today. “

Then what?
I reached out and got [the script] to him. We met up for the first time for, like, a six-hour lunch and afterwards [he] asked me to his house to read through the script. We spent all day reading through the script and talking about it at his house. Then we were buds. It worked out really well. He’s amazing, as you know.

Indeed, I do. So what was shooting like? Retreating upstate…
The cast stayed in this nice hotel around the corner and the rest of us, all the crew, took over this motel for a month. Which was kind of fun.

I bet.
The sell to the actors was it would be a couple weeks of shooting at this lake house and when you’re not shooting you can be walking around the lake or reading or whatever. Of course, when you get there, it’s a low budget, strenuous shoot where you’re waking people up at four in the morning and walking them through poison ivy and ticks. We shot something like 108 pages in 18 days, which is unheard of. But, they all bought the pitch that it was going to be easygoing.

I imagine it wasn’t the first time they’d encountered surprises of this kind. Any funny stories from on set?
The problem with all those stories is that they’re restricted.

I can’t publicly say, like, “This happened to this famous actor.” Because then there’s a whole pile of stuff to deal with.

I know you’ve got something for me.
I have a good one! Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle are together. We were shooting the movie during the NBA finals and Gabrielle between takes was rushing to her iPad for updates. Unfortunately, the Miami Heat lost the finals and, about 36 hours later, D-Wade was on the set. He came up to hang with Gabrielle.

Aww, that’s so cute.
It is so cute. So, the crew has worked with all sorts of famous people, but when D-Wade showed up, they were unable to contain themselves. Everybody was taking pictures. He’s, like, twice as tall as everyone. I couldn’t get anyone to do any work. Gabrielle had to keep sending him on errands so we could keep focused, because everyone was so enamored with him. “Go pick up some bagels and spend time in town now…”

That is super amusing. Speaking of Gabrielle, was Vicky in the script written as African-American?
I didn’t originally envision the part specifically for a black actress, no. I just thought Gabrielle would be great in the role, and the idea of her opposite John was kind of thrilling. I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time, but never saw her do a role like this. And, as a side note, I’m tired of seeing cosmopolitan indie films with all white casts.

I can appreciate that. Something else we don’t see a whole lot of, indie or otherwise, is veganism. Why did you make it a prominent theme within this film?
There’s a Manhattan-Brooklyn divide. They’re stereotypes. In a lot of ways, it’s taking archetypes and, instead of entirely subverting them, it’s exploring them, in a hopefully realistic way. So, the vegan thing creates more of a divide between these two generations, in a sense. Gil’s so removed in his own world that he doesn’t even care if there’s a difference [between vegan and vegetarian] or not. There’s, surprisingly, a lot of people like that. It’s about lifestyle choices and defining yourself.

And so much more! Refreshing, though, to see it addressed, however peripherally. So, does the cast actually eat the food that’s in the film? The vegan meal looked good…
Good question. It takes hours and hours and hours to shoot a scene, so they basically had to keep eating. The food for the vegan [meal] was really good, really well catered. They were all psyched. But we were going to be shooting for, like, eight hours, so [I said], “Pace yourselves. When the camera’s not on you, don’t eat. And when the camera’s on you, don’t shovel it in.” The first take, they’re scarfing it down.

[Laughs] I don’t blame them. On the topic of scarfing, a bear pays a visit to the lake house and begins stuffing his face, too. Can you tell me more?
I learned a lot about bears that I didn’t know before. This is how it works with a bear. First of all, these bears have credits. Do you want the bear that rides a tricycle or do you want the one who was on Law & Order? There were only two or three choices in the Northeast. They’re film bears. You want to make a commercial with a bear? You get these guys. You want to make a TV show with a bear? You get these guys. How many bears are on TV? Not many. So, these were the ones. [Ours] was a female bear named Adrienne, who did a great job. Normally what they’ll do is bring two bears that look the same. In this case, it was Adrienne and her daughter. When one gets tired, you just exchange her for the other and no one knows the difference, because she looks like a bear. But, we were a production of limited means, so we couldn’t afford two bears. It’s very expensive. But, they basically starve the bear.

Tricycles was troublesome enough. Now I really don’t like where this is going. Hoping there were no Hobbit-type tragedies…
You don’t starve her all day. You starve her a little bit, because the bear listens when you offer her food. Bears are one of the few animals that are “undomesticatable.” Not only that, but the wranglers wrestle the bear, to get her to do things. It’s really rough. You know tug-of-war with a dog? It’s like that, only it’s about domination. It’s this weird domination game.

Not helping.
You know what black bears want more than anything? Sugar. They’ll start out with fruits to get her to do stuff. Then they’ll give her Captain Crunch and Lucky Charms. Then Skittles or whatever else. Then, top of the sugar chain, soda. It’s got more sugar than anything. Soda is liquid sugar, basically. She’ll do whatever you want.

People shouldn’t even know there’s a bear in the movie. I’m spoiling the whole thing.

Los Angeles Openings: Morinoya, AV, Link-N-Hops

Morinoya (West Los Angeles) – LA hero Chef Takayuki "Mori" Morishita does it again, this time in West Los Angeles.

AV (Hollywood) – Ballerina burlesque girls. Bottle service. Dance floor.

Link-N-Hops (Atwater Village) – Sausage gastropub that dares to offer one of the best vegan dogs in the city.