A Bed & Breakfast, a Movie and a Cookbook
On an otherwise uneventful day (if there is such a thing for an innkeeper) I got an email from a man who introduced himself as a writer/director/filmmaker. He wanted to talk to me about the possibility of using the Strawberry Creek Inn as a location for a film shoot. I didn’t really make much of it, in fact I’m not sure I even responded to the first email. I had gotten quite a few similar emails and phone calls before (a side-effect of being so close to Los Angeles), and for one reason or another they never seemed to pan out. Either the filmmaker found another location that didn’t care how they were portrayed on camera, funding disappeared, they didn’t want to divulge what the film was about (not a good sign) or I simply never heard from them again after having one or more conversations. Suffice it to say I had gotten a little jaded in the ‘B&B as film location’ area.
Well this filmmaker turned out to be award-winning actor, director, playwright, and acting coach Paul Kampf. In a follow-up conversation Paul explained to me that he had recently driven to Idyllwild with his wife and newborn daughter to introduce his cousin, who teaches at Idyllwild Arts Academy, to his family’s new addition. He had also just completed a script, so recently that he had not even begun to think about locations or other such details. As he drove by the Strawberry Creek Inn, he felt drawn to stop and park. It must have been after hours, or he just wasn’t ready to vocalize the thoughts that were coming together in his head, because rather than ring our doorbell he inspected the place by peeking into a few windows. At this point my curiosity was definitely piqued. This ‘Hollywood guy’ sounded a lot more sincere and sentimental than any I had ever talked to (no offense to Hollywood guys).
We arranged for Paul, along with Director of Photography Rene Jung and Editor Edgar Burcksen, to come for a proper tour and to further discuss the possibility of working together. Upon first entering the Inn Paul handed me a copy of his script, again highly unusual and refreshing based on my brief history with the entertainment industry. I read it that night, and was struck not only by what a great story it was, but also by how perfectly it seemed to fit our Inn. I emailed Paul to compliment him on the script, and to tell him that it felt like he wrote it specifically with the Strawberry Creek Inn in mind. Obviously he hadn’t, but he admitted that it felt that way to him too the moment he walked in. It was at this point that Paul explained to me in more detail the true nature of this project, doing so very carefully, as if he felt a very real possibility that this information would kill any prospect of us working together. In fact, it did just the opposite. You see, this was an experiment of sorts to show that high-quality art could be made using an abundance of talent and positive energy rather than money. The film had such a small budget that none of the actors or crew were being compensated. Everyone had signed on only because they believed in the project and wanted to see it succeed. The Strawberry Creek Inn was at that point honored to sign on and become a part of the experiment.
Another thing I noticed, and mentioned to Paul, is that food seemed to play a major role in the script. As I read it, mouth-watering close-ups of enticing dishes being prepared and served were as prominent in my mind as what was going on between the characters. ‘How would you feel about using our recipes in the film?’ ‘Oh, and I’ve been intending to write a cookbook for a while. How do you feel about tying the two together?’ ‘Absolutely!,’ he replied, so quickly I suspect he had already thought the same thing. Suddenly I was in the Film Food Production & Design business, if only for a short while.
For three days in August 2009 we housed the unusually small cast and crew, fed them breakfast every morning, set up kitchen prep scenes and moved out of the way at specific points so the lead actress (Suzie Kane, or ‘Grace’) could step in and take over for the camera. We prepared finished dishes for dining room scenes, wrangled chickens and coaxed them to do what Paul and Rene needed them to on film, and provided props as necessary for this scene or that. In between we watched amazing dedication, talent, and energy from the cast and crew come together into impeccably acted, poignant scenes. Having no experience with film sets, Ian and I had no way of knowing if this was pretty standard, but it was later confirmed by both cast and crew that this particular film shoot was extraordinary, and that an incredible bond had been created.
The end result of all this is a beautiful work of cinematic art with the force of Emmy and Academy Award winners behind it. As I write this, From Grace is scheduled to be shown at film festivals all over the world, and it has already garnered awards from the jury submission festivals at which it has already shown. As fate would have it, the premiere of the film to the general public will be at the Idyllwild Independent Festival of Cinema in January 2011. By the time you read this, who knows what great things will have happened with the film, but for all of us involved the payoff has already occurred.
Oh, and the other end result of this life-transforming experience is the cookbook you’re holding in your hands. I hope at least some of the positive energy we felt during the making of the film comes through in the book.
The Continuing Saga
of the Strawberry Creek Inn Cookbook
It’s late in the Summer of 2012. The pines are deep green and the Idyllwild sky is a rich blue. I sat under a trio or tall pines on the deck of the StrawberryCreek Inn. The sun, blue sky and puffy white clouds performing that great screen saver in what I could see of the sky above. The breeze kept the deck cool, the chickens clucked and cooed in their pen be hind us. Rodney appeared... “Tom, I know you’re up here for a vacation. And I know you showed me how to put the dust jackets on the books...”
“I’ll gladly help dress some books!” I offered as I jumped out of the deck chair.
Rodney had just sold what he thought was the sample copy of his cookbook. His partner had found two more copies in the bunk house. “Don’t they have machines that put jackets on books?” he asked as I deftly wrapped the large cookbook in its jacket. “Those machines do exist,” I replied, “but they would eat more jackets during setup than we need for your entire run.” I handed the book to Rodney and he delivered it to a guest’s room as I returned to the deck to read.
A craftsman making books and dust jackets by hand. A master chef creating incredible meals from fresh ingredients. We both enjoyed the compliments we received this weekend from the guests enjoying our respective arts.
Strawberry Creek Inn Cookbook
- library edition hardback
- Published in 2011
- 84 pages
- Initial run of 50 copies published in January, 2011
- Second run of 50 copies published in November, 2011
Services provided by Creative Continuum
- Compelling design and typography
- Full-color short-run printing
- Printing and bindery services
- Designed by Tom Underhill
from the author's website