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What was the inspiration for Ham on Rye?
A friend mentioned a sandwich shop where you go to hook up. Soon I was visiting that shop in my head: I saw the local teens anxiously chewing on sandwiches, overdressed to meet the moment of their redemption. I became intrigued by what happens to people who don’t fare well at the mythic delicatessen and the film morphed into a contemplation of my suburban hometown.
Ceremony is a key theme.
I was even more interested in the tradition embedded in ceremony, the charms of nostalgia and alleviation of free will that draw us to it. I’m fascinated by how previous generations’ traditions weigh on us and how helpless we are in the face of ceremony’s potential injustices.
Did you always know that Ham on Rye would focus on a collective experience?
Yes. I like films that focus on ecosystems; Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday changed my life. When I imagined the teens at Monty’s Delicatessen, I dreamt of how a variety of individuals would meet the ceremony. It’s incredible how standardized our culture is in a world full of disparity.
Ham on Rye references the teen movie. What are your favorites?
In the US you can go 30 years without watching a John Hughes era classic and still know exactly how they operate. They're ingrained in us. We didn’t watch any to prepare, hoping they would blend together in memory to provide a catch-all feeling. We did use aesthetic references like American Graffiti (1973) and Dazed and Confused (1993), two films that reside forever in my heart. Still, the dissonance in comparing my actual and cinematic experiences was important: my film parades on as if life were just like a John Hughes film until the realization hits that nobody gets to have that life.