Saturday, March 3, 2018

Lunch Ladies - Clarissa Jacobson Interview

Photo Content from Clarissa Jacobson

Originally from Minnesota, Clarissa Jacobson is from the only family in the state that isn’t Norwegian and didn’t eat Tater Tot hot dish every Sunday. Clarissa started out as an actress, has a BA in theatre from Indiana University and trained at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She went on to perform off-Broadway and in numerous film and voice over roles before realizing her true passion was writing. A long-standing member of Twin Bridges Writing Salon, she thrives on creating kick ass female characters and has several scripts under her belt including the full-length version of Lunch Ladies. Her feature screenplay, Stella By Starlight, has been optioned by Beverly Nero Productions and Norman Stephens Films. Clarissa happily resides in Los Angeles with all the other weirdoes.

  • 1) Get in a class – work hard, learn your craft and never stop learning. 
  • 2) Believe in yourself – so many people will say you can’t do it. Don’t listen. Be fearless. And, when you are scared to death, fake it!
  • 3) Remember that you are not in competition with other filmmakers. Their success or failure has nothing to do with yours. Support others and people will support you. 
  • 4) Find your peeps – the ones who have your best interests at heart – the ones who will give you criticism that comes from a place of wanting you to succeed not wanting to tear you down. 
  • 5) Get rid of your ego, it doesn’t matter where you are now, it only matters what the film/script ends up like – so do your prep, work everything till it squeaks, take criticism.
  • 6) Be humble – when you keep an open mind and listen, magic can happen. 
  • 7) Be open to things not happening the way you think they should - often something that seems “bad” is actually “good” – for example I had a set designer quit one week before the shoot, I was upset, freaking out and then hell if the best two set designers didn’t show up a day later – a hundred times better than the guy who left. 
  • 8) No one does it alone, filmmaking is collaborative, have respect for everyone from the PA to the director – they are all needed and all equal and when you have respect for others you really work like a team and people are HAPPY on set.
  • 9) Come from a place of joy. Remember that you are doing this because you love it. If you have joy in what you do, it’s infectious!
In your film; LUNCH LADIES can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
Lunch Ladies is a comedy horror short based on a full-length screenplay I wrote first. I made the short as a proof of concept to get interest in the feature. The film is a quirky fun ride about two burnt out high school Lunch Ladies who do whatever it bloody takes on their quest to become Johnny Depp’s personal chefs. It’s a movie about reaching for your dreams and not letting anything stand in the way. It’s a movie about underdogs. And it’s a movie with a lot of heart but hey, it’s also twisted. I have been told that people have seen the influence of John Waters, Tim Burton, John Hughes, Wes Anderson and even the Cohen Brothers.

Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that writing was not just a hobby, but that it would be your life and your living?
I don’t make a living at writing yet, but it’s a huge part of my life, my happiest place and I work very hard at it and love it! I think I knew I was a writer when I realized I had no problem with sitting my ass down and doing it. Sure, it’s hard sometimes to be disciplined, and I’m super disciplined but the second I sit down and work for about 15 minutes I’m pretty much into it for the night. Sometimes I look at the clock and hours have gone by. It’s a great form of escapism for me. And, I love the challenge of it - it’s SO HARD.

What do you hope for people to be thinking when they leave the theater?
I want people to have a hell of a great time, laugh their asses off and to be entertained. I want them to think about how much fun they had. I also want them to be inspired to go for their dreams. Because, as crazy as these Lunch Ladies are, they go for their dreams 100% and let nothing stand in the way. Sure, they go for it in a pretty awful way, but you gotta admire their drive. LOL. I also want people to be thinking about how satisfied they are that the Lunch Ladies got even. I think all of us have been underdogs at one time and I hope they relate to the Lunch Ladies in this way and love that they WIN.

What were your inspirations for the character development?
Seretta was inspired by Donna Pieroni who plays the lead character in Lunch Ladies. We had been in a play many, many years ago when I was an actress and that’s how we met. Donna has long pink nails and wears a beehive to auditions and is larger than life and that’s what I started with - a character that encapsulates her awesome qualities. LouAnne – her fraternal twin sister - I wanted to be the exact opposite - like the Odd Couple or Laurel and Hardy. So she had to be understated and kind of manly looking but the levelheaded one of the two. I worked the characters for a year and a half in my writing class – Twin Bridges – till they were full-blooded one hundred percent real to me.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Seretta and LouAnne?
That people like them and get them. They’re weird! I know! So when people like them, which is what I always hope for, I’m still always surprised.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I have a sweet coming of age road trip script that was recently optioned called Stella By Starlight. I also have a woman in jeopardy thriller I just finished and several other scripts including one about Elizabeth Bathory. Currently, I’m working on a really fun female comedy script with Shayna Weber. Shayna was a producer on Lunch Ladies and is in my writing class – Twin Bridges – which is run by Joe Bratcher who also helped to produce Lunch Ladies and choreographed the whole dance sequence in the film. My biggest focus right now however, is Lunch Ladies – finding the producer to come on board to make the feature!

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another movie, who would it be and why?
That’s easy – any character that Johnny Depp plays! The Lunch Ladies aren’t particular when it comes to Johnny - every film “The Depper” as they call him, he made is brilliant and they would die to meet any of his alter egos. But if we must name one, we can start with Cry Baby - The Depper was super cute in that.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your viewers. What would it be?
Be non-judgemental. The world would be a flipping better place if everyone would just accept people and rejoice in differences.

The Last Book you’ve read?
Trump: Dystopia or Utopia Anthology. An author named Ross Baxter has a story in it. I met him on Twitter – he loved the Lunch Ladies and I wanted to read something of his. So he suggested his most recent story in this Trump book - which I highly recommend, it’s a lot of fun – and this comes from someone who hates even reading anything about politics.

Tell me about your favorite movie.
OMG there’s so many! How can I decide… I’ll just name a few – 16 Candles, The Exorcist, Let The Right One In, Taxi Driver, A Man And A Woman, American Werewolf in London, Nocturnal Animals, Moonlight, Jacob’s Ladder, Gone With The Wind, Sean of the Dead, Springbreakers, Young Frankenstein, Anything Almodovar, Anything Del Torro, Anything Chaplin, Raising Arizona, Bartleby, Breathless, 400 Blows, Animal House, Terribly Happy, Donnie Darko, The Shining, Secretary, Planes Trains And Automobiles, Breakfast Club, Spinal Tap, Godfather, Barry Lyndon, Shame, Saturday Night Fever, La Femme Nikita, Barfly, Nightmare Before Christmas, Mean Streets, Woody Allen… okay this is getting ridiculous – I LOVE MOVIES!

What were you doing at midnight last night?
Hahahahaaa omg, I was writing a blog – all I do is promote my movie! I’m relentless.

When you looked in the mirror first thing this morning, what was the first thing you thought?
“Damn, I have a lot of blogs to write.”

Favorite things to do alone?

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
Oh gosh… well, this is sad, but hey you asked. I was very close with my mother – and she passed away unexpectedly when I was at university. We talked all the time. The night before she died, my Dad called to tell me something and before we got off the phone he asked if I wanted to talk to my mom. And I said “nah, I’ll talk to her tomorrow.” So yeah, if I could go back I’d talk to her one more time.

What decade during the last century would you have chosen to be a teenager?
Don’t wanna answer it will date me hahhaaa

  • 1) The Feature took 15 months to write, and the short took another five - so anyone who tells you writing is easy is full of crap
  • 2) The score was recorded by a 60 piece orchestra – The Budapest Art Orchestra – and it was flipping magical
  • 3) I called over 100 schools no one would let us film - finally we got a Catholic School to let us!
  • 4) The Catholic school used the location money to fund a reading program
  • 5) We used 10 gallons of “blood”
  • 6) 15 gallons of “food”
  • 7) 40 pounds of potatoes (200 bought to set)
  • 8) 13 pounds of ground meat which stunk like mofo
  • 9) We filmed four days over two weekends in September
  • 10) Making the film was the hardest and best thing I’ve ever done
I’ve always written, since I was a little kid, but it took a long time for me to get back to it and realize that’s where I was happiest. I thought I was an actress ever since I was in the first grade. I went on to major in Theatre, went to acting school after college and always took classes, auditioned, performed in plays and did voice over work. But what I was best at and what I loved the most – was sketch comedy. I was always creating characters and wanted to be on Saturday Night Live. I wrote so many weird characters and performed them – I had Nadia Fulloshitzky the Russian Balance Beam Artist, Maggie O’Ghoul, the Irish soccer player with a missing tooth always talking blarney, Shari Copenhagen, the southern belle who owns her own dating service… it went on and on and on. The common thread to this all, was the writing. I loved to write these characters.

As an actress, I never particularly liked being the center of attention – which is not good for an actor lol – but I loved hiding behind the characters. This is when I should’ve figured out that it was writing I loved and not the acting, but it still took a while to get there. What finally propelled me into writing was I wrote a script for myself because I wasn’t getting the parts I wanted. I didn’t know the first thing about writing a script but I did it. I entered it in a competition in NYC and I got in the finals - which is shocking to me now because I look at that script and what I know now about screenwriting and it sucks big time. But I’m so thankful that happened because it opened the door to my writing!

The competition allowed you to rework the script before you came to NY to have meetings, so through a series of events I met Joe Bratcher who runs Twin Bridges Screenwriting and I enrolled in his class to help me fix it up. I had no intention of ever leaving the acting world. Well, hell if I didn’t love his class so much and feel so happy writing that I 

LEFT acting and joined up. I’ve been there 13 years now. It’s so hard and so wonderful and I’ve never looked back.

For the past twenty years, obsessed Johnny Depp fans and fraternal twin sisters, Seretta and LouAnne Burr, have shared a miserable existence as high school Lunch Ladies serving up rubbery chicken parts, ammoniatreated government meat and whatever else the cash-strapped national lunch program sends their way.

This year is going to be different: The twin’s Cheesy Burger Bites recipe is the Grand Prize Winner of Johnny Depp's Cook for Kid's Charity Event!

Convinced this is their ticket out of high school hell town and that “The Depper” will hire them to be his very own Personal Chefs, their dreams are shattered after a snotty head cheerleader pushes them one step too far.

This forces the Lunch Ladies to ask themselves…

WWJD? What would Johnny do?

  • We used 10 gallons of blood, 10 gallons of slime/goo, 15 gallons of “food,” 40 pounds of potatoes (200 pounds brought to set) and 13 pounds of ground meat. 
  • 48 pie tops were made of salt dough and varnished, a hot glue gun was used to attach the tops to pie tins. 25-30 real pies were made. 20 pounds of flour was used and the meatloaf was made from cheap very fatty ground beef, SpaghettiOs and Saltine Crackers - a big loaf of greasy gristle with wormy looking bits – yummy! 
  • We prepped the film for four months and filmed over the course of two weekends in South Central Los Angeles. 
  • Our first catered meal was awful – we had to fire the real lunch ladies on the Lunch Ladies’ set. 
  • Shayna Weber, our producer, gave birth to her son, Max Bowie Band, two weeks before we filmed. 
  • We had a diverse cast and crew which included African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, Caucasians, a French production coordinator, Spanish composer, music producer and music manager, an orchestra in Budapest and handicapped actor/screenwriter Kent Rodricks who was one of the first successful spinal fusion surgeries in the world. (Kent told me to put this in.) 
  • Our final horror scene went way over schedule and we finished cleaning up gallons of fake blood only one hour before kids were to arrive for Monday morning school. 
  • The fake decapitated leg that Seretta holds up in the T-Rex Meat Grinder scene is a cast of Clarissa’s. The fake ear in the pie is a cast of Matt Falletta’s.
  • After the shoot, Clarissa hung up the Lunch Ladies’ parking sign in the parking spot at her apartment.   
  • The landlord made her take it down.

Providing a terrific blend of unsettling sound effects, gross-out visuals and hilarious dark comedy, Lunch Ladies is an exhibition of fine- dining retooled for a new generation of jaded fast food junkies. It is the age old classic theme of good hearted people, down on their luck with aspirations of greatness, these two women are on the verge of success after winning a cooking competition and need money to fly out to get their prize (because airfare is not included). Set in a dystopian suburb where garbage is home and trashy people run rampant through the duration of this film drenched in full blown millenial satire.

Sounds, not unlike something that fans of "Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job!" have grown accustomed to. From the squish of haphazardly prepared cafeteria slime, slopping on tray after tray passed to listless students, to the slippery sounds of partially congealed body matter. All of these shamelessly executed instances feel like a well prepared symphony of disgust that at crescendo's end will leave the viewers, skin crawled, and with an array of goosepimples. Performed in a way that even the creators of "The Greasy Strangler" would admire, with blissfully over-the-top performances by our lead chefs and sets that nostagic fans of 80's video nasties would nod their heads in approval (hello "Street Trash" anyone?). With a run time of just over 17 minutes, the audience might benefit from a few more capers with our lavishly grotesque lunch heroes as they work their way to culinary stardom.

Lunch Ladies definitely has a unique spark, one that could benefit from the feature length treatment (with spirit intact) in all of it's goo spattered greatness.

DONNA PIERONI – Seretta Burr
Donna Pieroni has busted her ass for the last twenty-five years and her career is finally starting to take off! She has over one hundred credits on IMDb and has worked with the likes of Jessica Lange, Ben Affleck and Viola Davis, to name a few. Donna studied at Second City and Columbia College of Chicago, as well as Illinois State University. After graduating Illinois, she booked a contract with Disney MGM Studios in Florida where she was discovered by an agent. She ended up being cast in Edward Scissorhands (with a very young Johnny Depp) which got her a SAG card and off she was to Los Angeles. Her career more or less began with Johnny Depp so this film is quite dear to her!

Mary Manofsky was a Sunday Company member of Los Angeles’ renowned improv comedy troupe, The Groundlings, where she got her start working alongside Will Forte, Chris Parnell, and Cheryl Hines. She recently appeared on Criminal Minds and the HULU original series Future Man. Mary can also be seen in the films The Garage Sale, directed by J.M. Logan, and Rumor From Ground Control. Originally from Ohio, she graduated from Ohio State and currently lives in Osaka, Japan with her husband, two children and dog, Lucy. 


Newbie actress, Daisy Kershaw is a Level Five Cheerleader, an avid rapper and prolific writer who makes her own movies. At the ripe old age of sixteen, Lunch Ladies became her first supporting role. Daisy currently attends Santa Barbara College proving she not only has talent and beauty, but brains too.

CHRIS FICKLEY – Principal Grossfetig
Chris Fickley, our faceless Principal, is a small town boy, taking the midnight train going anywhere. He has spent years writing, producing, directing, teaching, and acting in the occasional role when his life is threatened. He enjoys long walks on the beach, piƱa coladas and getting caught in the rain. He directed the feature film Gunfight at La Mesa and is currently searching couch cushions for loose change.

Originally from Minnesota, Clarissa Jacobson is from the only family in the state that isn’t Norwegian and didn’t eat Tater Tot hot dish every Sunday. Clarissa started out as an actress, has a BA in theatre from Indiana University and trained at The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York City. She went on to perform off-Broadway and in numerous film and voice over roles before realizing her true passion was writing. A long-standing member of Twin Bridges Writing Salon, she thrives on creating kick ass female characters and has several scripts under her belt including the full-length version of Lunch Ladies. Her feature screenplay, Stella By Starlight, has been optioned by Beverly Nero Productions and Norman Stephens Films. Clarissa happily resides in Los Angeles with all the other weirdoes.

Shayna Weber grew up in Bend, Oregon and attended Oregon State University before moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. In addition to producing, Shayna is a screenwriter who focuses on femaledriven projects and plans to start a production company. Shayna has also been a producer of reality programming for the past fifteen years for network, cable and online channels for the hit shows So You Think You Can Dance, Brew Dogs, and RuPaul's Drag Race among others. She is a long standing member of Twin Bridges Screenwriting Salon and resides in Los Angeles with her husband and new baby.

J.M. LOGAN – Director/Producer
Josh is an award-winning filmmaker and cinematographer who has lived many lives in the film industry. Starting in makeup effects building big rubber monsters and slinging blood on movies like The Dentist, Wishmaster 2, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, he transitioned through visual effects, sound design, composing and supervising post production for the studios. He now wears diverse hats as a multi-faceted filmmaker directing, shooting, producing and editing. In addition to directing Lunch Ladies, his recent projects include an interactive feature film The Garage Sale, producing a feature documentary The Disunited States of America for Sky TV and Manson Family Vacation for the Duplass Brothers. He is currently completing the pilot for a new anthology series CTRL|ESC.

JOE BRATCHER – Producer/Head Choreographer
Joe Bratcher seems to reinvent himself every seven to fourteen years. Retrieving various incarnations from his 45 year adventure: After graduating Northwestern University, Joe was an actor in Broadway musicals, television and film, a writer of movies, episodics, and books, a screenwriting teacher at UCLA Ext. Writer’s Program for eight years, creator of the first beginning screenwriting on-line course for UCLA, artistic mentor to many including the trifecta producing team on Lunch Ladies – Clarissa, Shayna and Jessica - owner (with wife Judy Farrell) of Twin Bridges Screenwriting Salon – 28 years and counting, literary manager and producer… but always always always… at heart… a tap dancer. (Still taps three hours a week.)

Jessica Janos graduated from the American Film Institute MFA directing program and on to direct Seduced which premiered on Lifetime, “Prettyface,” a short film she wrote and produced along with Fred Roos and Shayna Weber, and several music videos including “Glamorous Misery” by Jesika von Rabbit and “Acid Waves” by Pale Blue.

MATT FALLETTA – Executive Producer/Special Effects Supervisor
Matthew Falletta grew up in North Carolina and attended The North Carolina School of the Arts to study acting, mime and dance and Columbia College in Chicago. In NC he helped create East Coast Stunts at Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington as well as opening a special effects shop working on productions like One Tree Hill and Virus. Today Matt resides in Los Angeles and is the coowner of SOTA F/X which has been in business for well over 20 years. 

 *We are pleased to have obtained Matt through the Los Angeles Prison System on a work release program. He has been cleared of all charges against him and is looking forward to reintegrating himself into society as a rodeo clown. Matt continues to maintain that "the swarm of dried leaves came at me with obvious malice and I simply did what had to be done."

CHRIS EKSTEIN – Director of Photography
Chris Ekstein graduated from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and received his MFA from AFI, where his 35mm thesis received the prestigious Alfred P. Sloan Grant. He is also the recipient of the Panavision New Film Maker Award. In 2010, Chris won best cinematography at the American International Film Festival and was the cinematographer on the features Mexican Sunrise (Gold Award-WorldFest) and Callous (Best Picture-IndieFest). Chris is a founding partner of Market Street Productions and the father of two girls who lent us their one-eyed hamster, Smarty, for our classroom scene.
Amelia Allwarden grew up between two horse farms in New Hampshire, and worked on a blueberry farm as a teenager. Never wanting to be anything other than an editor, she moved to Los Angeles and interned with American Cinema Editors, where she learned the craft of editing in depth. Reading the Harry Potter books as a kid made her want to pursue a career in story telling. She still believes in magic, probably because editing IS magic.

ANTONI M. MARCH – Composer
At age 7, Antoni M. March won his first prize for a composition. At 14, he wrote and copyrighted an opera for symphony orchestra, choir and vocal soloists. Today he is one of the youngest composers to have conducted and recorded his own music with a 67-piece symphony orchestra at the Eastwood Scoring Stage/Warner Bros. Studios. A recent graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Madrid, Antoni has composed over seventy works with more than thirty of them performed in cities such as Los Angeles, London, Paris, Stockholm, Madrid and Milan. Awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for arts studies, he will be attending USC for their “Screen Scoring” Program.

Desmond Evan Smith is a costume designer, stylist, art director and scenic artist based in Los Angeles. Desmond excels in detail, which can be seen right down to the mildewed food stains he lovingly painted on LouAnne’s hideous comfort support orthotic plastic kitchen clogs. He has a degree in art history and a background in fine art painting, custom clothing construction and tailoring. He's worked on numerous productions for clients and artists including Bruno Mars, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears, Chris Brown, Big Sean, YouTube, Apple, Toyota, Ford, Fiat, Chanel, Vanity Fair, Young the Giant, and even UFC wrestlers. 

RAY & ALICIA HO – Production Designers
Husband and wife team, Ray and Alicia Ho have done production design and set dressing for film, TV, various music videos and theatre. They also own a badass custom upholstery business by the name of Cashmere Cuts. In addition, Ray is a bitchin’ tattoo artist while Alicia, who was a ballet dancer in her past life, does costuming through her company Loral & Stag. A force to be reckoned with, Ray and Alicia were hired one week before filming, and were able to transform the Lunch Ladies’ empty kitchen into a huge crazy mess, complete with amazing homemade stenciled food cans and boxes (see photo to left) and an overkill of Johnny Depp memorabilia. 

ERIC RAGAN – Line Producer
Eric Ragan is a freelance producer, director, editor, writer and is a graduate of Los Angeles Film School. Eric specializes in working on new, non-traditional and innovative projects for television, film, and the web. His current feature film project, Scumbag, won Best Ensemble Narrative Feature at Queen’s World Film Festival 2017. Eric was a calming force throughout the production and his Burning Man photos he shared on set were super sweet.

SUSAN BOYLE – Food Stylist
Susan Boyle is producer Jessica Janos’ mom and wanted to remain incognito telling Jessica, “I just did it to help out your friend.” Too bad, she’s being outed for the amazing OCD Martha Stewart she is. Hours upon hours of work and creativity went into her sick and unsavory creations: chocolate “diarrhea” pudding, pies upon pies, chunky cheerleader stew, limp green beans, meatloaf gristle (see side photo), and painstakingly handcrafted “beef turds” designed to soar effortlessly through the air at the Lunch Ladies. Susan is also a registered RN – which helped us breathe easy on set with the vomit-worthy food that was served up.

KRYSTOPHER SAPP – Artist who Created T-Rex The Meat Grinder
Krystopher Sapp loves to stay locked up in his studio creating dark and twisted worlds in the form of mixed media assemblage. Inspired by his favorite horror and sci-fi movies, war history books and intense nightmares his works are cultivated from fear and molded into beauty. He uses found objects and items purchased at Home Depot – the place he calls his art supply store. By day, Sapp is a commercial artist and has created album cover, t-shirt and poster art for bands such as Demented Are Go, Meteors, Necromantics, Penis Flytrap, Zombie Ghost Train and many others.

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