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An Interview with Gabrielle Rosson, Director of Dessert

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2021

Films directed by Gabrielle Rosson on (re)Serach my Trash

 

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Your new movie Dessert - in a few words, what is it about?

 

At its heart, Dessert is about longing for love, and loneliness. Although the film is set in glamorous 1930s Hollywood, it also takes place during the Great Depression. Therefore, our main characters only seem to have everything; in reality, theyíre missing all the things money canít buy. Your main character, Faith, must learn how to say yes to her own happiness.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing Dessert? And is any of it based on personal experience?

 

Always. I may not be influential or live among the upper crust, but I know a thing or two about love and longing, and so I definitely poured all of my own issues, for lack of a better word, into the script. But the big secret is, that this story is really an analogy for filmmaking. For me, saying yes to my own happiness meant writing and making this film. I wrote it in the middle of the night while my partner was out making a movie. And I thought: Iím a writer, too. I donít need anyoneís permission to make movies and tell stories I love. So I did.

 

What made you set Dessert in the 1930s, and do you have any special predilection for the period and its movies?

 

Living a block off Hollywood Boulevard as a kid had a big influence on me growing up. My best friend at the time was older than me, and obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and classic movies. We would watch old films, run up and down the boulevard studying sidewalk stars, and buy black and white movie stills for a quarter. There is no way to live in Hollywood and not become low-key obsessed with vintage cinema and all its glamour. I still dream of one day creating something truly reminiscent of the periodóhuge sets, dancing girls, fantastic costumes, and all. Someday.

 

On the flipside of the last question, what were the challenges of setting Dessert in the 1930s, and how did you overcome them? And based on your experience with the movie, could you ever be persuaded to make another period picture?

 

I could definitely be persuaded but cost is the issue. There was talk of turning Dessert into a series, but I could never film it the way I want to on an indie budget. This film cost roughly a thousand dollars a minute to make. And we still have costs pending for music licensing. So, money is the biggest challenge. But raising money doesnít necessarily scare me, so if the right story comes along, who knows.

 

What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I let the music guide me with this one. Iím a huge Billie Holliday fan, and I see shots as I write. So, I spent a lot of time playing the songs, visualizing the action, and syncing the dialogue. I felt this was a story that didnít need a lot of fast and fancy camera moves. Those would have pulled us out of the moment. Instead, I wanted people to immerse themselves and get lost in the story, so, I kept it simple. In terms of shooting, we were up against some unique challenges because our main set was 360 degrees and had a limited backdrop that we had to move around for each shot. This meant planning shots for four different room setups and filming everything out of order. It was hard, but my director of photography Geoffrey C. Bassett and I got it done thanks to an awesome crew and our set designer Darby Lyons jr. Likewise, our exterior shots had challenges. For example, I needed a location on Cape Cod that looked like Hollywood, but that didnít show too much of its surroundings. I basically needed a location so amazing that all eyes would be on it, and not on the lack of palm trees. So, shooting on the grand staircase of the historic Chatham Bars Inn made that possible.

 

Do talk about Dessert's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Paul Kandarian and Samantha McMahon both had supporting roles in my first film Get Up Eight. I remember thinking when we filmed that movie, that if I ever had a chance to showcase their talents again, I would. And Dessert was such a story. I actually visualized Samantha as Faith when I wrote it. But Paul wasnít as simple for John. Although he read for the part perfectly, I had originally envisioned our male lead with a full head of hair, which Paul is the first to say heís missing. So, we invested in a quality toupee and the rest is history. Problem solved. Also featured in Dessert are Kris Salvi [Kris Salvi interview - click here], Michael Leporē, Seamus Sartin, Emily Entwisle, and real-life Boston Burlesque star Elsa Riot, each of whom were cast for their amazing look and talent.

 

A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?

 

Stressful. Iíd like to say it was all fun and no work, but thatís not the case with Dessert. These were long days in extreme conditions. Covid-19 being a main contributor to our stress. Had we shot this any another time, there would have been three times as many actors in the speakeasy scene and more crew, but we had to work overtime to keep people spaced out, masked, and safe. The thing about making movies though, for those of us who really love it, is we forget how hard it all is the minute we wrap. Itís like childbirth. You hate it while youíre doing it, but then say you want another one the minute that sweet bundle of joy hits your chest. Itís sick, really.

 

The $64-question of course, where can Dessert be seen?

 

Dessert is screening one last time Saturday, 10/9 at the Elm Draught House Cinema in Millbury, MA. as part of Rob Levinsonís Indescribable Film Fest, and then itís off to festivals. Iím hoping it gets a lot of play there. Follow GR Films on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram to learn more about that moving forward.

 

Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

I have two projects Iím really excited about right now: Night Owls, which I wrote and directed, and A New York Minute, which I co-wrote with Kris Salvi [Kris Salvi interview - click here], and starred in. Both of these films were shot by the mega talented Chris Esper [Chris Esper interview - click here] and will premiere next spring. Thereís so much to love about these films. And I think itís some of our best work, if Iím being honest. We canít wait to share them with you. Stay tunedÖ

 

Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?

 

@gabriellerossonfilms on Facebook, @grfilm YouTube & Instagram.

 

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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?

 

I would be remiss, nay, doomed to hell, if I did not take this moment to shout out Geoffrey C. Bassett for his work on Dessert. Not only did he shoot it, he edited and colored it, too! And he did a beautiful job. Dessert will live in its own time and space foreveróa testament of our shared determination to make something great. I owe him my life. The same could be said if I left out our sound recordist, sound editor & sound designer Jay Sheehan, who single-handedly brought our world to life through sound. Jay is incredibly talented and I will never not try to work with him. Even if we really canít stand each other. Also, please let me thank the cast, crew, producers, executive producers, locations, and supporters of this work. They are the real MVPs. I love you guys to bits. And finally, thank you for interviewing me, Michael. I truly appreciate you and your amazing platform. Letís do it again, soon, hopefully!

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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written by
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