Scarily relatable, surprisingly humorous, undeniably intriguing, Eric Ford Holevinski’s indie film “The Restaurant” has it all—from moments every food industry worker will understand to startling, jump-out-of-your-seat scares. As his first endeavor in filmmaking, Ford seems to have found subject material that draws from personal and universal experiences, while maintaining both humorous and horrifying themes. “The Restaurant,” a comedy-horror centered around a fast-paced New York City Italian restaurant, leads viewers into a spiral of scares and laughs as the busboy discovers a dark secret the manager is keeping. The secret? A customer-hungry entity in the basement that must be fed for the rave reviews to keep flooding in. Being his first foray into the indie film industry, Ford explained the motivations, developments and experiences of his career in the film industry in a Q&A.
QUESTION: What sparked your interest in filmmaking?
FORD: Six years ago, I went to a career counselor to see if I should become a doctor or an MBA or whatever, and they suggested I give filmmaking a try. I grew up shooting video with friends, but we hadn’t thought of it as a career option. So I went to film school and started writing, producing, and directing my own projects. I loved it and quickly decided I should run with it as far as possible.
Q: How long have you been making films? How has your career unfolded so far?
FORD: After film school, I became the head of video production for CityMD, a chain of urgent care medical offices in New York City. I shot a handful of short films and music videos during this time. Eventually I wrote “The Restaurant,” launched a Kickstarter to secure an initial budget, and the rest is history.
Q: What was the inspiration behind the film “The Restaurant”?
FORD: I was busing tables at a fancy Italian restaurant, and I actually loved that job, but I was also a little creeped out by the service industry culture, how they talk about food using this over-the-top language and take themselves way too seriously. I conceived “The Restaurant” as a send-up of that experience.
Q: Can you describe your experience working with the cast and crew and the process of making the film?
FORD: I was very fortunate to have the cast and crew that I did. As a result of this being an overnight shoot, people were pushed to their limit, and our team was compensated far less than their true worth, as is so often the case with indie filmmaking. But because it was so hard, you knew that everyone there was hungry and cared about the project. Most of those that worked on this are young and still cutting their teeth, myself included, and we want to make a name for ourselves; we have something to prove. We also had some more established personalities like Bobby Clohessy who came on board because they loved the script, which made everyone feel really good. And that comes through in the final product, which came out better than I could have hoped.
Q: What do you think will resonate with viewers about the dynamic of the restaurant workers in the story? Were some of the interactions inspired by personal experiences or real-life interactions?
FORD: Most of us have worked in customer service, whether you’re a cashier at McDonald’s or a high-powered lawyer — handling customers, the good and the bad, is a fundamental human experience. Dealing with temperamental or difficult supervisors is also pretty universal. The murderous restaurant manager, Andy, has bits and pieces of several bosses I’ve had, but it’s a testament to the acting talents of Mark Robert Turner that more than a few people told me they were rooting for the manager after seeing it.
Q: Was the premise of the film intended to be a commentary of sorts, or are there any underlying themes in the story that would give viewers more insight?
FORD: I strive to entertain above all. As long as I’m having fun writing a script, I know my audience will have fun too. With that said, every writer’s personality and hang-ups will find their way into his or her work. I live in New York, which is famous for being a tough place. Life here is hyper-competitive, there is an intense momentum you have to maintain at all times, and it can make you lose yourself if you let it — as arguably describes certain characters in the movie. There can be a feeling here that you’re moving so fast and fighting so hard to keep up that you don’t have the time or energy to slow down and question your own choices. I think those tensions are woven into “The Restaurant.”
Q: What has been the reaction so far to the film? Have you seen the response you expected or has anything surprised you?
FORD: We held a private viewing for cast and crew and friends and family, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The most pleasant surprise for me was how well the humor landed. People were laughing their butts off and they were fully engaged start to finish. Also, the movie is more comedy than horror, so seeing people jump at the scary parts was highly gratifying.
Q: What do you see as the next few steps in your career as a filmmaker? What are your goals in the industry?
FORD: My goal has always been to write and direct narrative films. Before I went to film school I was a novelist, and whenever I finished writing one book, the next one was already in my head. It’s the same with movies. If I could shoot one feature after another for the rest of my life, I’d be truly happy. When we have distribution and get “The Restaurant” out there, I know it will find its audience. I live for that day and seeing where we go from there.
Q: Do you have any projects on the horizon?
FORD: I’m currently working with my executive producer, Kris Maxx, to develop an anthology of shorts which we’ll direct together. The first of the series should be ready by this fall.
For information on when the film will be released publicly, please follow “The Restaurant” on Facebook at facebook.com/therestaurantmovie, or on their website at hayridefilms.com/films/the-restaurant/.