Week by Week

How we made and released this film

The Progress So Far

Enjoy reading this reverse-chronological (newest first)  list of news and updates about the making and releasing of "Where's My Food?!"

From early planning and research, to filming interviews, to editing, to distribution, the highlights are all included here.

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Where’s My Food?! is a new documentary film that serves up the surprising truth about waiters and waitresses, the powerful restaurant industry, and the real reasons we tip.

Now Available

You can rent or own "Where's My Food?!" online, or you can own the documentary on DVD.

Expert Insight

Featured experts in the film include Cornell University’s Michael Lynn, Ph.D., who describes how tipping works from psychological and socioeconomic perspectives.

Back of the House

Executive chef Michael Shafer shows how he (sometimes eccentrically) runs the restaurants he owns with an iron fist and a soft heart.

Film Reviews

This newly released documentary is already receiving positive reviews from viewers. See for yourself why "Where's My Food?!" is described as informative, provocative and emotional.

Your Motivations

Surprising revelations about what motivates restaurant customers to leave a tip. (Hint: The quality of the service you received accounts for only a small part.)

Same Since 1996

Americans spend half of their food dollars eating in restaurants, which fuels the industry’s ability to lobby lawmakers through the National Restaurant Association, sometimes referred to as ‘the other NRA.’ In 1996 the NRA successfully convinced Congress to keep the federal minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13 per hour. It’s been that low ever since.

On the Big Screen

The documentary "Where's My Food?!" recently premiered at a theater in Long Beach, California.

A Powerful Lobby

The NRA doesn't only support laws that favor highly profitable restaurant chains, they also WRITE those laws. Do those laws protect the rights or the health of the one-in-ten Americans who work in the restaurant industry? No.

Personal Stories

For many waiters and waitresses, this is their career and they love what they do. One of the nine restaurant workers featured in the film is a single mom raising four children on waitress wages. Another is a champion mixed martial arts fighter who’s also a waiter at BJ’s Restaurant. One waitress has worked at the same diner for over twenty years. Another waiter lives in his car, but arrives at work every day looking clean and energetic.

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Serving Up the Surprising Truth About Waiters and Waitresses
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What We're Up To This Week

Announcing Google Play Release

This week the "Where's My Food?!" became available on Google Play. Not just for Android lovers, Google Play is growing in popularity with Apple iOS users, because their movie library can can accessed on all their devices...including their at-home television.



Announcing Amazon Instant Video Release

This week we went live on Amazon Instant Video, one of the largest platforms for HD documentaries. You can watch "Where's My Food?!" on Amazon Instant Video on smart TVs and Blu-ray players, PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox 360 and One, Wii and mobile devices like the iPhone, iPad, Kindle Fire tablets and the Fire Phone. Of course it's also viewable through Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.   



Announcing Online and DVD Release

This week "Where's My Food?!" became available for rent or purchase on Apple iTunes. DVDs are also now for sale. More online outlets are coming soon, including Amazon Instant Video. 



A Wonderful Evening at the Film's Big Screen Premiere

This week we enjoyed premiering "Where's My Food?!" on the big screen for an appreciative audience. The full cast and crew also attended. 



Launching the New Trailer

After a few weeks of intense editing, we just released the new movie trailer for Where’s My Food?! You can view it here.

The new trailer is only 107 seconds long, but it captures the impact and passion of the full documentary in a rapid-fire, high-energy style. With a pulsing musical beat that sounds eerily like a Nirvana tune, the trailer moves fast! If you take your eyes off the screen for a second you will miss something. Let us know what you think.



Closed Captioning

This week we completed the labor-intensive task of Closed Captioning of the documentary. This step is required by federal law to help people with hearing impairments enjoy films and television. Closed Captions are quite different from subtitles, which are intended for viewers who hear normally, but who simply don't understand the language spoken in the film. Closed Captions must convey all relevant meaning, including non-verbal sounds, collectively known as "atmospherics."

One tricky element of Closed Captioning was repositioning 5% of the 3000 or so total captions -- which are normally at the bottom of the screen -- above "lower thirds," which are speaker-identifying information inside a colorful frame, as shown in the video captures above.



 Reading a Review

This week we were happy to read some inspiring words about "Where's My Food?!" written by author and bartender-to-the-stars Kyle Branche:

“Where’s My Food?!” is the MUST SEE documentary of the year. Something is cooking in the food and beverage industry, but from within the ranks. Workers are rising up and speaking their minds about the difficult issues they face in an industry that doesn’t take care of its own.

With excellent editing pace, director Lee Godden’s 75-minute film takes the viewer into the dark side of the profession, showing the lives of several food service workers.

In Europe, this is a true and honest profession and career. But in America, it’s not allowed to be, due to a severely reduced minimum wage, usurped through Congress. Caught in the middle between establishment owners and NRA (Restaurant, not Rifle) lobbying dollars, servers come home with a zero paycheck. It’s about time someone brought these dirty little secrets to the nation’s attention.

           Kyle Branche, author of “Life Behind Bars” and 30-year veteran bartender  



  Enhancing the Story with Music

What’s a movie without good music? We layered in a total of 34 songs to the 75-minute fine cut version of Where’s My Food?! We took our time selecting only the scenes and sections that called for musical enhancement. Instead of utilizing the entirety of each piece, we edited them down to somewhere between 20 to 60 seconds each. Some fade out, yet some have the song’s original beginning and ending intact, with the middle surgically excised.

The pieces we selected vary wildly in style and feel, and were applied based on the emotion of the scene they support. For example, upbeat: ukulele. Oppressive: cello. Nostalgic: country guitar. Sad: ethereal (Werner Herzog-style) guitar. For the “History of Waiters and Waitresses” section we used a timeline of 17th century harpsichord minstrel, 19th century French accordion, 1920s ragtime and 1950s big band swing. Most frequently we went with piano to express everything from sadness to hopefulness.

The advice we received from our music consultant Charles Wiley was invaluable.  



Polishing the First Rough Cut into a Fine Cut

After seventeen months of work we viewed the film's first rough cut from start to finish. (Yes, we've seen and tweaked every second of video and audio hundreds of times, but never the full 75 minutes as a whole.) The rough cut has no titles, no credits and no musical score, but nevertheless we allowed ourselves a brief celebratory smile at this milestone.

Now the really detailed work begins. In addition to title, credits and emotion-supporting music, subsequent rough cut versions will have better color, sound and graphics. When all that looks good we'll have a fine cut, from which we'll create the documentary's updated trailer. Following that [cue fanfare]: final cut.       



The Rough Edit

new Where's My Food?! logoSixteen months into this project we've completed the assembly edit (see below) and have begun working on the rough edit. Coinciding with this progress we are rolling out our new logo, a vector graphic showing an impatient restaurant customer clenching a knife and fork in his fists, hovering over an empty plate, with the unspoken thought bubble of Where's My Food?! (You can click on this thumbnail to see a bigger version.)  

The 3-part (set-up/conflict/resolution) story structure is in place and first phase of fine-tuning is underway. What were placeholders for narration are now being filled with actual narration. What were markers to add specific graphics are now being filled with those graphics.

The first rough cut is only a couple of weeks away. Producers and other stakeholders will view it and submit their comments, then editing will continue. Every week more visually-exciting and story-enhancing components and graphics are being added.

Rounding out the rough edit process will be color correction and sound normalization. Placeholder music and sound effects will also be kept until most of the rough editing is complete.

The film’s goal remains clear: to accurately portray the profession and professionals of food service in a manner that’s timeless, relevant and appealing to a wide audience. Onward!     



The Assembly Edit

After 14 months of shooting we’ve finally made it to the “assembly edit” phase of the documentary filmmaking process. From the dozens of food servers and experts we’ve spoken with and interviewed, we’ve narrowed the list down to 12 individuals (not counting our person-on-the-street interviews) whose on-camera stories and expertise will likely be included in the final cut of Where’s My Food?!

Countless hours of raw footage were reviewed, then distilled down to an "unassembled" 180-minute collection of short clips (ranging from 3 to 30 seconds), each of which was identified by data location, topic and segment, and all of which tell part of the story.

The target TRT (total running time) goal of the finished documentary is 75 minutes. During this assembly edit phase we're focused on preserving only those clips that help move it briskly through a classic 3-part story arc involving set-up, conflict and resolution.

During the set-up we introduce viewers to the industry, to the job, to the psychology and affects of tipping, and to the servers and their personal stories and goals. During the "second act" (or conflict phase) we detail the servers' struggles with the physical demands of the job, with customers, with the BOH (back of house), with "the other NRA," with poverty, discrimination, addictions and with healthcare issues. During the fast-moving, high-emotion resolution, viewers learn if the servers achieved their goals. (Some do, some don't.) Viewers can then draw their own conclusions about the story's meaning.

After the assembly edit is complete we'll move on to editing the rough cut, which involves story flow, graphics, color correction, sound correction, music, titles and helpful B-roll.


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