STATUS: In distribution. World Buffet is available throughout the U.S. on Amazon, YBS’ own online movie platform, Serenergy, the Roku TV channel, All Hawaii TV, and has been uploaded to the online movie distribution company, Filmhub, where it has been picked up by the online movie platforms, Tubi, Popsy on Plex, Stash TV on YouTube, and Cineverse. World Buffet was also accepted into the online Lift-Off Global Network 2020 Sydney Film Festival, and 2020 Melbourne Film Festival (see official selection laurels below).*
*Note: Lift-Off’s Film Festivals, like all other film festivals, are usually screened in the host city with attendees who watch the films as well as attend pre and post festival activities. Due to the pandemic of 2020 these festivals were screened solely online.
World Buffet was also subsequently accepted to and screened in the 2022 London Lift-Off Global Network’s Online Film Festival, the 2023 Berlin Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival, the 2023 Manchester Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival, the 2023 Austin Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival, the 2023 Tokyo Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival, the 2023 Toronto Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival, the 2023 New York Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival, the 2023 Los Angeles Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival, the 2023 Paris Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival, and the 2023 Amsterdam Lift-Off Global Network Online Film Festival.
LOGLINE: Low-level diplomat Wilhemina Nilly’s dream of staging the greatest food festival in the world goes awry when she leads a committee comprised of the misfits from other U.N. offices.
IMDb: World Buffet
Eric Nemoto initially wrote World Buffet as a dark night stage production back in 2009, in order to bring in added revenue for the theater he founded, TAG – The Actors’ Group. It not only helped to bring in some needed cash flow for the theater but proved to be a surprising hit.
The play centered around a bumbling mid-level bureaucrat in the U.S. Ambassador’s Office, William J. Nilly, who by a quirk of fate manages to impress the Secretary General of the United Nations that an annual food fest with different countries bringing food would help contribute to world peace. Of course, William has never chaired any project of any significance before and the members he is assigned are made up of the “dregs” from other offices as well and the result is absolute (and hilarious) chaos.
Fast forward to 2015. Having completed Natural Reaction, the movie written for and starring herself, Ana Jimenez McMillan approached Eric to produce and star in a film version of World Buffet. Admittedly, Eric did not jump at the prospect for he could not envision the character of the committee leader (William Nilly) being a woman. But Ana was persistent and eventually Eric agreed to produce and direct the movie version which he would rewrite to not only change Nilly to a female, but to then take this opportunity to expand the storyline and add a few more characters he believed could help move the story along. Having agreed in principle, the two decided that the movie would be filmed in the fall of 2016. Eric eventually did in fact rewrite the script and the synopsis follows.
The UN – Sponsor Of The World Buffet.
Wilhemina Nilly, also known by her nick name of “Willy”… Nilly, has hit the mother load of accidental serendipitous career opportunities. While she has been known to have led a highly undistinguished foreign affairs career by being the “go-to” person for such important assignments like walking the German Chancellor’s dog and accompanying the Prince of Japan for a Karaoke singing night, suddenly she has received a mission of significance. Because she happened to have been fortuitously seated next to the Secretary General of the United Nations at a luncheon, she was asked the infamous “What would you do for world peace” question by the Secretary General merely so as to be brought into the conversation. To which Willy responded, more out of panic than ingenuity, that if it were up to her, she would create a big food festival whereby every country in the world would be invited to bring a dish and in the process of eating and dining everyone would come to know each other better and learn how to live together. Of course, after blurting out this thought, Willy imagined she would be laughed at, as she often is. But to this the Secretary General commented that it was positively the greatest idea he had ever heard in his entire foreign relations career! So great it was that he then asked the U.N. to pass a resolution establishing what Willy termed the “World Buffet,” and made Willy the chairperson of a planning committee to whom he would personally ask other diplomats to send members to help plan this amazing event. Of course while the idea has great potential it also has many drawbacks. The first of which is Willy herself, a career diplomat who is not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed and who has never headed any project of any significance before. Second, most of the committee she is provided with also happens to be the “dregs” of other U.N. offices as well.
There is Mara (not Martha) Stuart, Wilhemina’s anal, worrying personal assistant whose personality could not be deader than a door nail. Michael Al Sadih, from Egypt, whose claim to fame is his knack for making like he doesn’t know English when it is beneficial for him, when in fact he is a wise-ass whose education was honed during late night undergraduate bullshit sessions while a student at Boston University. Ida Sawyer from Florida, who is brash and bold and who will make it her personal mission in life to remake Mara into a ball busting woman of substance, i.e. “bitch.” Sophie Trudeau of France whose nose is so far up in the air she could rival the Eiffel Tower. Alexander Baraquio Concepcion Harbaugh Smith Mina… the third, whose accent and mannerisms are so Filipino that you almost forget that he is white. Rajeeve El Swaify, from India, who everybody calls Ricky, who believes that the world will come together by this wonderful new mode of communication he calls, “e-mail.” Louise Hilgart, who everyone assumes comes from a different country because of her Afro-European heritage, but who actually hails from London, England and speaks with a highly British accent. Henrietta Ojuwan, who actually does hail from Africa (South Africa that is) and whose bubbly optimism can make the cynics of the world (like Michael) puke. Solomon Sataraka, a charming Asian know-it-all and been everywhere type who would give “the most interesting man in the world” a run for his money, and whose witty philosophical one-liners ultimately turn into rhetorical nonsense. Throw in FBI agent Ted Calley, who is initially asked by Mara to merely help with lowering the AC temperature in the room and then never leaves, and the photographer, Victor Conch, whose photos for posterity constantly cut people off because he can’t see his hand in front of his face, and we’ve got the committee that is going nowhere fast. Their antics are followed by YouTube conspiracy theorist, Malcolm Whiteman, and his co-host Jackie Douglas. As they report on the progress of the World Buffet committee, the group bumbles through their own personalities and through a series of hilarious revelations.
The first is that after planning the event for some time they come to realize they really have no funding, so their only means will be to negotiate and influence, two skills most have very little of. It’s a daunting task but they band together and assign each member to visit various ambassador offices of other countries all of which are situated right in New York (see following video); and through their diligence (amateurish as it is) they manage to get contacts with every country! The second is when they come to a near stalemate, as some committee members insist that every country be allotted the same amount of booth space for the event, while the others feel that some of the more developed countries (i.e. “non third world”) should naturally receive “greater” square footage for their areas. But the “piece de resistance” is when they follow Willy’s lead and make the decision that causes the most controversy of all; her edict that instead of letting each country merely bring what they want, that the committee will tell each country what particular food or drink item to bring, thus assuring that each country will bring the “one” food item it is most famously known for. Of course their decisions to ask countries like Korea to bring their iconic Kim Chee, the Irish to bring their world renown Guinness, and the Japanese to bring only their sushi, is met with claims of stereotyped racism. And when Willy also manages to subsequently get the committee to approve the U.S. bringing only “American Fried Chicken” or “AFC” (since America is the home and inventor of “fast food”), it seems the world is entirely against them. So a combination of all of this creates a farcical scenario whereby the best of all their intentions ultimately results into one gigantic, and hilarious, implosion!
New York – The Market Place For The World Buffet
Casting for the production could not have come out any better with each actor truly embodying the wackiness of their characters. Of course, there was Ana Jimenez McMillan as Wilhemina Nilly, who served as Executive Producer as well. Ana, through diligent rehearsals with Eric, along with a ton of self preparation on her own, mastered the “tonnage” of Wilhemina’s dialogue (particularly an amazing opening three page monologue) as well as her slowly developing paranoia. Jinsong Chu Riles, while being absolutely new to film acting (well, new to acting in general for that matter), fit the anal Mara Stuart perfectly. Her natural Chinese accent gave her character an added comic boost. Patrick Jeppeson played the near (or rather “non”) sighted Victor using a pair of Coke bottled bifocals that literally had him acting blind. Patrick also greatly helped the production in other ways. He filled in on sound when called upon, contributed financially to the project, and would voluntarily assist with contributing craft items. Maseeh Ganjali, who holds dual citizenship in both Iran and the United States, reprised his role from the TAG play of the annoying and sarcastic (and chief Wilhemina antagonist) Michael and was even better than he ever was. Mary Ann Vasaturo, who was one of two actors who had roles in Yellow Brick Studio’s previous ensemble comedy, Juniper Lane, brought the brassy Ida to life; adding a deep Southern Belle drawl to her speech that was terrific. Rebecca McCarthy, a multiple Po`okela (Hawaii’s excellence in theater awards) winning actress, embodied the condescending persona of Sophie brilliantly. Having taken a trip to Ireland just prior to the shoot date, you would have thought she traveled to France to prepare for her role instead, since she arrived on set with her lines fully memorized, a French accent flawlessly spoken, and additional French words and phrases which she tossed in with a natural flair. Another multiple Po`okela recipient, Wendy Pearson, similarly portrayed the ebullient but also level headed (and wig wearing) Louise Hilgart flawlessly; adding a wonderful English accent to boot. David Baquiran also reprised his role as Indian accented “Email King,” Rajeeve “Ricky” El Swaify, whose hilarious calls for “We must have email,” may one day eventually rival another phrase that immediately brings a chuckle, “Gotta have more cow bell.”
“I Am The Rubber Tree” – Footage featuring Maseeh Ganjali, as negative and pessimistic Michael, demanding that nice Alex, portrayed by Jimi Wheeler, vote for certain countries having more booth space than others (edited by Larry Cortez).
Ron Riles (he and Jinsong are husband and wife) was, aside from Ana as Wilhemina, one of the first cast by Eric, who saw in him the perfect actor to play the happy, tactless, FBI agent Ted Calley and he did not disappoint; adding his natural Southern accent to the “good ole boy” nature of Ted. Ron also helped out tremendously behind the camera, operating the sound boom and working the slate; and he and Jinsong also contributed to the project’s budget. Alexandra Roth had not been initially cast as the ever optimistic Henrietta Ojuwan. But due to the original cast member having to drop out right before production, a search for a replacement had her fortuitously being not only available, but turning out to be perfect for the part. In no time at all she had caught herself up to where the other actors were and her South African accent, learned in a couple weeks, made her efforts even more remarkable.
The third cast member to reprise his role was Jimi Wheeler, arguably the laugh riot of the play when he portrayed the “awesomely” wacky, Filipino accented, Alex Mina. Given he had relocated to Japan to work as an actor for Universal Studios Japan at its theme park, Eric assumed he would be unavailable. But just to make sure he messaged Jimi and was excited to receive a return message a minute later communicating that he wanted to be a part of the production. Of course, this was easier said than done since Jimi was on contract with Universal as one of its daily performers in the park and could only get away for six days (part of which was for a much needed vacation as he had been away from Hawaii for seven years). But Eric coordinated the shoot schedule to assure that all of Jimi’s scenes could be shot on three days (November 12th, 14th, and 15th and the rest was history. Film and theater (Kumu Kahua) veteran Eric Mita took the newly created role of Solomon Sataraka and made it his own; first depicting him in the beginning as a citizen of the world with innumerable experiences until the end when we realize that he just might actually be the wackiest of a wacky group. A third Po`okela recipient actor, Thomas Smith, tore into the role of Malcolm Whiteman, proving that a character can be passionate, obsessive, and hilarious all combined and also shot in one night. Starla Marie, the second Juniper Lane alumnus, rounded out the cast as Jackie Douglas, Malcolm’s assistant, who dutifully follows her boss’ lead until the end when she ceases her supportive ways due to self-preservation (“What do you mean ‘us’ Whiteman?”). Rounding out the cast were two enthusiastic background artists. Michael Carter appeared as the Security Officer and Mika Thomsen played the Receptionist.
“No, I Did Not Invent Email!” – Footage featuring David Baquiran, as email fanatic Ricky, wrongly thinking that Alexandra Roth, as kindly Henrietta, has credited him with inventing email. Edited by Larry Cortez.
Pre-Production & Production
Periodic rehearsals were held in October in the production offices of the Island Film Group courtesy of Ric Galindez and principal photography ensued in November 2016. A minimalist crew subsequently managed to pull off an absolutely terrific shoot. Eric not only was World Buffet’s writer, director, and producer, but seemingly its chief cook and bottle washer as he handled craft and props as well. Larry Cortez served as Director of Photography, Art Balligui and Wes Cortez worked second cameras. Art and Ron Riles (Ted) worked on sound with assistance from Robert Carlos and Patrick Jeppeson (Victor). Veteran Hawaii actor (and previously seen in Natural Reaction, Juniper Lane, and So Close Shig), Dann Seki, helped on set design and also served as an AD on certain shoots and with organizing SAG-AFTRA paperwork. Starla Marie (Jackie) helped on slate, watched for continuity, worked as script supervisor, and also helped contribute craft. Mahealani Diego, who had helped in previous productions (Natural Reaction, Tiramisu On The Beach, Juniper Lane, and So Close Shig) in various capacities, while unable to physically be a part of the production due to her commitment to other shoots, was helpful nonetheless. She arranged for Nina Bellord (who worked on many previous YBS productions) to take on the challenging task of being singularly responsible for handling hair and makeup duties for a cast of 14 and did so very efficiently.
Eric Nemoto talks with Lance Motogawa on his Motogawa Music Entertainment Show (AM 650) on June 25, 2018, about the LegacyVision Films produced by Yellow Brick Studio and Lance doing the music for World Buffet (Note: Video image inverted).
The location for the shoot was provided courtesy of Eric Mita (Solomon). This was the offices of his company, Innovative Insurance Resources (IIR), situated on the 17th floor of a high rise building located at 615 Piikoi Street in downtown Honolulu (see photo at right). IIR allowed the production to shoot in and around its office premises for a total of 18 days spread out through the month of November 2016 (began on November 3rd and completed on November 30th), and their staff (in particular Casey Matsuda) were amazingly accommodating. To IIR, Yellow Brick Studio owes a great debt of gratitude. The production could not have filmed World Buffet without their assistance.
A production with a world of laughs! World Buffet bloopers as edited by Larry Cortez.
Post-Production & Premiere
With the production in the can, the footage was then transferred into the hands of Earl Louis Williams (photo follows), who continues as an editor for Yellow Brick Studio’s LegacyVision Films. Earl had also been the Director of Photograpy (DP) for Natural Reaction, Tiramisu On The Beach, and So Close Shig, as well as the DP and editor for Juniper Lane.
Earl subsequently brought the movie to picture lock, utilizing music supplied by Lance Motogawa and animation (for the character testimonials) created by Eric Nemoto. This cut was then transferred over to the Audio Bytes Corporation, where owner and sound engineer extraordinaire, Ross Okamura, applied the finishing touches; which included leveling and improving the sound, adding sound effects to the character testimonials, and inserting additional music. World Buffet was finally completed and considered done on September 21, 2019. A private premiere was then held on November 2, 2019, at the condominium and townhouse building, Keauhou Place, located at 555 South Street in Honolulu, Hawaii, which was graciously arranged by Lisa Glenn who was the executive producer of yet another YBS movie, Closing Costs. World Buffet was finally released to the public on Amazon and the Roku TV channel All Hawaii TV, on November 3, 2019, exactly three years from the first day of the production shoot in 2016. In his speech during the event (see photo at right), writer/producer/director Eric Nemoto said of executive producer and star Ana Jimenez McMillan: “Many people talk about making independent movies, but those, like Ana, who actually do are very few and far between. Everyone associated with this production are indebted to her. Because of her desire, commitment, and perseverance towards making World Buffet, the rest of us got to be part of making a movie.”