Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Trailer: Brandon Monokian’s “Happy Yummy Chicken”

We are thrilled to share an interview with Brandon Monokian, theatre artist, writer, and library-incubated extraordinaire. If you haven’t heard of him, it’s time to read up, because he just wrote, produced, and stared in a new film called Happy Yummy Chicken with an exciting cast you will most certainly recognize from your favorite movies and TV shows. Enjoy! Erinn

Ramona Tim Kee, Bonnie Kelly, and Megan Greener

Ramona Tim Kee, Bonnie Kelly, and Megan Greener

Library as Incubator Project (LAIP): So, this is your first film!  Congratulations!  Obviously, we can get the gist from the hilarious trailer, but tell us a bit more about it. You’ve worked with some fantastic people here.

Brandon Monokian: Thank you! Yes, they are fantastic, I am very lucky to work with them, especially on my first film! Happy Yummy Chicken is about two men making a musical based on a news story they discover of a woman who sits in a restaurant eating fried chicken for two months after her boyfriend breaks up with her. It’s a satire of real news events and also a collection of the ridiculous experiences I’ve had or people I know have had working in theatre. The film is shot documentary style and it’s super quirky and features a cast with people from the incredible show Orange is the New Black, classic films How Stella Got Her Groove Back and Uncle Buck and even the lovably disastrous reality show Jerseylicious. An extremely eclectic bunch!

LAIP: We know you as a writer and a director for stage (and sometimes no-stage) productions. What made you leap into writing longer scripts for films?  Was that always a goal? 

Brandon: I’ve always wanted to do film from a very young age, but I wasn’t booking any film auditions I went on, so I decided to write something for myself! Most of my career has been me not being hired for jobs I’ve wanted but being too stubborn to sit around and leave my employability up to someone else. Going into film was a fantastic challenge artistically, but it was also a business move. In theatre, even if you sell out every night, there are only so many people you can pack in to see the show, and even then your audience is limited to the surrounding area of the town you are working in. With film, you can reach a global audience right in their own homes. Plus one day when I have kids, I want to have something on film captured that I can point to and say “look, that’s how Daddy’s face moved before Botox.”

Most of my career has been me not being hired for jobs I’ve wanted but being too stubborn to sit around and leave my employability up to someone else.

Julie Fain Lawrence, Suzzanne Douglas, Erik Ransom, and Brandon Monokian at a read-through.

Julie Fain Lawrence, Suzzanne Douglas, Erik Ransom, and Brandon Monokian at a read-through.

LAIP: What came together to make this project possible?

Brandon: A lot came together in a short amount of time, and it was such a blur I’m not even sure how it all happened. I wrote this in November 2014 and we filmed May 2015 on a really intense 6 day shoot. There is this great quote from Kelly Cutrone: “You can fake your way to the table, but ultimately you have to learn how to eat” and that’s totally what my producing partner Katie Frazer and I were doing. We had never produced a film before and suddenly we were working with these people with fantastic careers who didn’t sign on until right before we were about to shoot the film, and it’s not like we were going to say “no, come work with us when we have more experience.” The stars were never going to align the way they did for our first film ever again, so we had to grab the moment by the proverbial balls and do better than our best. Did we know what we were doing? Absolutely not. Did we figure it out and make a damn movie? Heck yes we did.

Did we know what we were doing? Absolutely not. Did we figure it out and make a damn movie? Heck yes we did.

Emma Myles, Katie Healy, and Diane Guerrero

Emma Myles, Katie Healy, and Diane Guerrero

LAIP: So you’ve got your own company now, which is awesome. How can we find out more and get in touch with you and your team?

Brandon: I do have a company now with Katie Frazer called Love Drunk Life. I never wanted a company because there are already so many great companies out there I could be working with or supporting, but the fact is no one else was going to produce this film right now for many reasons, so we had to start our own company for legal purposes (working with unions and paying those union members, liability insurance, all the non-glamorous shit). A lot of people start arts companies because they think they are going to change the face of art or something like that, and some of them really do have novel points of view that benefit tremendously from being an established company, but that was never how I saw myself releasing my passion projects. For me, the company came out of those passion projects intersecting with business. But now that we have a company, we are going to produce some sexy, rockin stuff under the Love Drunk Life name. Through the company, we produced a play I wrote called The Most Awkward Love Life of Peabody Magoo for Philly Fringe this past fall and have some fun future plans in the works. Katie Frazer is writing something we will produce. She is amazing. or are the websites, but the most up to date info I post to twitter @brandonmonokian. Also a lot of tweets about wine and Britney Spears.

Taryn Manning, Erik Ransom, & Brandon Monokian

Taryn Manning, Erik Ransom, & Brandon Monokian

LAIP: Where is Happy Yummy Chicken being screened? 

Brandon: Right now, just my laptop! We are in the process of submitting to film festivals happening throughout 2016 and then we want to sell it to a distributor. I really believe in the film, so I feel confident you will see it in festivals in the coming year, but who knows…. If you see me on the street corners of NYC in 2017 handing out burned copies of the film, you’ll know it didn’t work out.

Elaine Bromka and Diane Guerrero

Elaine Bromka and Diane Guerrero

LAIP: We’ve shared a bit of this story before, but we love hearing it over and over again– tell us about how you got involved with libraries as collaborators and venues for your work. 

Brandon: I got involved with libraries by protesting the ludicrous banning of the book Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology in two South Jersey libraries. From doing that, I was connected with Janie Hermann and the Princeton Public Library and together we produced a program called Page to Stage for 3 years. The program involved us putting up staged readings of plays that had been adapted from literature, and you can see all about it in a mini documentary here:

Page To Stage: Bringing Literature to Life from Princeton Public Library on Vimeo.

Besides that, I’ve also worked with libraries such as New Canaan library in CT writing plays based on books in their pre-existing curriculums, which is a total DREAM JOB. Doing art that ties into a community is what I’m most passionate about.

LAIP: Give us a little advice as a library-incubated artist. How can libraries help bring theater to a wider audience and support work like yours?

Brandon: I think with this project specifically, I’d love to do screenings and then workshops with young people coming up in the business. I really enjoy working with college kids because I can speak to a lot of what they are going through or are about to be going through. A few of my friends achieved amazing success right out the gate but that hasn’t been the case for me or many of my peers, so I can speak to the struggle they will go through pursuing a life in the arts and how to turn limitations into successful ventures. I get asked to teach younger kids a lot but I always so no because I curse too much. Libraries are great spaces for these kinds of workshops. People go to libraries seeking knowledge, so I find that anytime I’ve done a workshop or a Q&A at a library there are always some super insightful questions, and I end up learning as much as the people asking the questions.

Libraries are great spaces for these kinds of workshops…anytime I’ve done a workshop or a Q&A at a library there are always some super insightful questions, and I end up learning as much as the people asking the questions.

LAIP: What’s next for you? What have you got up your sleeve?

Brandon: I thought I was going to take a bit of a break, but I ended up going right in to writing 5 projects. Two of them commissions, the rest of my own invention. I thought I needed a break mentally, but I’ve actually been super productive. Between writing, acting and directing, I’ve been working nonstop for the last few years, 7 days a week for months at a time, but this is one of the few things I’ve done interviews about because the other things didn’t have famous people in them. I thought I needed a break before I could write anything good again but when inspiration comes or when job offers come, you have to jump on them like the last buffalo wing at the buffet. I was doing a show with an 8 year old once and she turned to me and said “when you get a job, you gotta take it.” Smart 8 year old. In this field it’s true, not only with jobs but with inspiration. I’m not always inspired, so when I am I try and run with it as fast as my little hobbit feet can carry me.

Taryn Manning and cast

Taryn Manning and cast

Want More?  Check out the Happy Yummy Chicken press release below, and connect with the film & the cast on social media!

PRESS RELEASE: Taryn Manning, Diane Guerrero, Suzzanne Douglas, Emma Myles and more star in mockumentary Happy Yummy Chicken

Taryn Manning (Orange is the New Black, Hustle & Flow) and Diane Guerrero (Jane the Virgin, Orange is the New Black) star in the upcoming mockumentary Happy Yummy Chicken written by Brandon Monokian. Directed by Anna Loyd Bradshaw, Manning and Guerrero are joined by Suzzanne Douglas (How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Lifetime’s Whitney) and fellow Orange is the New Black cast member Emma Myles. Rounding out the ensemble cast are Happy Yummy Chicken writer Monokian, Elaine Bromka (Uncle Buck), Ashley Biel (Concussion), Julie Fain Lawrence (Concussion), Jessica Romano (Jerseylicious), and Michael Liscio Jr. (Pokémon).

Happy Yummy Chicken follows two men (played by Monokian and Erik Ransom) as they create a musical inspired by a news story of a woman (Biel) sitting in a fried chicken restaurant for two months after a breakup. A satire of true events, the film takes a simultaneously outrageous and poignant view of the insane things we do for love.

  • Director: Anna Loyd Bradshaw
  • Writer: Brandon Monokian
  • Producers: Taryn Manning, Aden Hakimi, Julie Fain Lawrence
  • Executive Producers: Katie Frazer, Brandon Monokian
  • Starring: Taryn Manning, Diane Guerrero, Suzzanne Douglas, Emma Myles, Brandon Monokian, Erik Ransom, Ashley Biel, Elaine Bromka, Julie Fain Lawrence, Jessica Romano, Michael Liscio Jr.



Brandon Monokian (on set but not a still from the film) photo credit Javed AliBrandon Monokian‘s credits include: Film: Happy Yummy Chicken (writer/ star). Playwright: Grimm Women, Peter Pan is Dead, The Most Awkward Love Life of Peabody Magoo, echo narcissus narcissus echo, How Persephone Learned to Listen, The Murder & Booze Cabaret. Actor: Select stage credits include- How To Build a Forest (dir. Katie Pearl and Lisa Damour, The Kitchen), The Ride (dir. Suzzanne Douglas, The Vineyard Playhouse, Luna Stage), PastTENSE (dir. Robert Woodruff), Shlemiel the First (dir. David Gordon, Alexander Kasser Theater, Skirball Center NYC), Love is in the Air (dir. Jeremy Bloom, The Cell), Peter Pan (Dir. Michael Hartman, Ocean City Theatre Co.) Uberboy: The Story of a Hero (Dir. John Bow, Ocean City Theatre Co.) Director: Select stage credits include productions of The Vagina Monologues, Dog Sees God, The Laramie Project, Revolutionary Readings, and the Page to Stage series for Princeton Public Library. twitter/ instagram @brandonmonokian

from Library as Incubator Project

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