Dinner Out Devour Special: An interview with the creators of “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date”

Dinner Out Devour Special: An interview with the creators of “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date”, Leanne Bishop, Michael Mason, and Kelly Perine by Scott Campbell.

Lia Renaldo (Managing Director of The Devour Food Film Festival) referred to this creative trio (who last year brought us “Reservations for Three?”) as the Darlings of Devour. It turns out they love The Devour Food Film Festival just as much and have honoured it with the Canadian premiere of their new film, “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date”. I was lucky enough to see an advanced screening of the film and then arrange a phone interview with them from Los Angeles (with Kelly joining us from Las Vegas). I wanted to know what they have in store for us at Devour this year.

Scott: Before we start talking about “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date”, I’d like to get a bit of an update on “Reservations for Three?”. I’m told that after premiering at Devour last year it has gone on to win several awards in almost 20 festivals. How does that make you feel?
Leanne, Kelly, and Michael: It makes us feel ecstatic. “Reservations for Three?” took off and has so far garnered four awards after its premiere last year. Shortly after the Devour Festival this year, “Reservations for Three?” will be screened at the Toronto International Short Film Festival. It just doesn’t seem to be losing any momentum as it continues to travel well from festival to festival. Leanne calls it “The Little Film that Could”.

Scott: “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date” seems to harken back to “Reservations for Three?”. Besides being about the same couple trying to enjoy a meal – what other qualities do you think the two films share?

Leanne, Kelly, and Michael: Both films share a nice sweetness and camaraderie that builds from one film to the other. There is always an uncertainty between Peter and Candice but in the end, love prevails. This is a trait shared by both films. They also maintain a playfulness about them and they truly enjoy each other. This was an element we made sure both films had. And there is also simply good chemistry between the characters that allows everything else to flow easily between them in both films.

Scott: Is this a part 2? I felt like the characters were more comfortable together – more playful. Has their relationship grown or is this a part of the progression of their whole story?

Leanne, Kelly, and  Michael: This is another slice of their life. We’ve moved along in their relationship but they’re still navigating and discovering each other. It was tricky to create a stand-alone film in “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date” and also maintain a link to “Reservations for Three?”. The goal was for “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date” to be a companion piece to “Reservations for Three?”.

Scott: This is for Leanne and Michael. This is your directorial debut. What can you tell me about that experience and how it made the project different for you personally?

Michael: It wasn’t really my job to define the characters. Leanne and Kelly wrote the script for both films so Candice and Peter were already well defined by them – they know them. My job was to show the comedy and the story and let the actors do their thing. We also had the same Director of Photography – Ryan Griswold – as we had for “Reservations for Three?” so that part was very familiar. And Steven Bennet (Director of “Reservations for Three?”) had paved the path for them.

 Leanne: I thoroughly enjoyed the experience but I was definitely nervous about directing and starring in the film – it’s a lot to bite off. It was good to have a level of control and ability to shape the project with an incredible team of people to help you achieve that vision. Directing this piece made sense to me and was very empowering.

Scott: And Kelly – Can you compare your experience of playing Peter under Steven Bennett’s direction in “Reservations for Three?”, to playing Peter under the direction of Michael and Leanne in “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date”?

Kelly: I’m used to working in television series where we work with a different director for every episode, so that part of it wasn’t different at all. But you always want to do a good job for your friends. I mean, you always want to go a good job, but it becomes more personal when it’s for your friends. Sometimes you’re like, “How about one more take?”.

Scott: Okay, without giving away too much of the story, I think we can say that there is a bit of a disagreement about wine. Now, was I imagining it or did Peter and Candice seem to take on the characteristics of the wines?

Leanne, Kelly, and Michael: That’s interesting (general laughter). The idea for the film came from a conversation between us and Lia Renaldo and Michael Howell (Managing and Executive Directors of The Devour Food Film Festival) after last year’s festival. They suggested we do another film and hold onto the themes of food and wine – wine being such a huge part of the Annapolis Valley. So we ran with that idea.

Scott: I also love the Yin/Yang of Candice’s frequent “purring voice” and Peter’s sometimes erratic movements and speech. How much of this was directed and how much of it evolved with the characters?

Leanne, Kelly, and Michael: It definitely evolved with the characters. Candice’s purring voice is part of her sexuality and her confidence. Peter is often caught off guard by this – both figuratively and literally. It’s a way of delving into the playfulness of the characters. It’s sort of like a tennis match with lobs and then hard hits that move the game along.

Scott: Again, I don’t want to give away too much of the story and maybe I’m over-analyzing but did you intend any similarity between the characters of John the waiter in “Reservations for Three?” and Syrah and Steve in “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date”?

Leanne, Kelly, and Michael: In both films those characters are peripheral to Candice and Peter. Their world is interrupted by these other characters who seem to come in and save the day. They are outside forces that tend to nudge them both back to reality.

Scott: Devour patrons will want to know – How important is it for you to have that strong element of food in your films?

Leanne, Kelly, and Michael: It’s very important. It’s part of the characters – the joy they take from food and wine is part of them – it’s integral to them. After chatting with Lia and Michael last year we really wanted to do something for them. We wanted to honour the love of food and film that is represented by The Devour Food Film Festival.

Scott: Future plans?

Michael: One thing (of many) is the expansion of the short films, “Reservations for Three?” and “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date”, into a television series. We’ve been working with Canadian writer, Anthony Farrell (“The Office*”– 2005 – USA production) on an ensemble piece for Peter and Candice and getting it going as a series. We’re also beginning the festival run.

Kelly: I’m also involved in two other short films going into production this winter. I also appeared in a feature film with Omar Gooding that is slated to be released in 2017.

Leanne: You have to hustle in this business. Hollywood doesn’t come to you. We’re also working on a feature film entitled “What If”. The film is a discovery of family and what family really means to everyone. It’s a really exciting project for us because the plan right now is to shoot the film in Nova Scotia next year. We’re keeping busy.

My interview with this fantastic trio of filmmakers was a lot of fun and we laughed as much as we chatted. If you haven’t got your Devour Food Film Festival event tickets yet make sure you do soon. Many events sell out quickly and the tickets to “Candice and Peter’s Smokin’ Hot Date” are sure to go quickly, with last year’s “Reservations For Three?” being sold out! The Film screens Saturday, November 5, 12:30pm – Short’s Program. And not only is this the Canadian premiere of the film but it is the first screening where Leanne, Michael, and Kelly will be present. Come out and enjoy the film and meet the filmmakers. See you there. Cheers.