I’m one of the founders and partners of a production company called Cousins. We’re based in Greenpoint. We do, well, a lot of different things. What we’re mostly working on right now is documentary-based projects, and a lot of integrated marketing. But we also have a couple of feature-length—or what we intend to be feature-length—documentaries in production. And we’re also starting to move into narrative.
We just wrapped a big series called “Her America.” The tagline is “50 Women, 50 States,” but it’s larger than that—there's least one woman for each state. Some of the stories are documentary portraits, some are photo essays, some of them were things like a Moth partnership.
We started the company at the beginning of the year, so we’re really fresh. It’s myself and three partners. We all come from different backgrounds within video production. I’ve been in advertising in a commercial role for a long time. Cortney has always been narrative and worked with Jill Soloway on all four seasons of Transparent and I Love Dick. Ana has been doing a lot of directing and editing. And then Jess is exclusively documentary. I don’t know that it’s entirely reflective of where we hope to be but we are very pleased with how we’ve started. We’re funding a handful of feature docs right now and seeing where those things take us.
All of the sudden I was a producer without realizing I had made myself into a producer.
I actually went to culinary school in upstate New York, at the Culinary Institute of America, and then I moved to New York City seven or eight years ago to cook. I worked at Gramercy Tavern for awhile. I was in the test kitchen at Saveur. I was a private chef, I bartended, I took wine classes—that whole thing. And I was simultaneously throwing a series of parties called Witches of Bushwick.
It started as a party and evolved into a creative collaborative thing where my partner and I were representing a handful of artists across various mediums. And then we started to do some production with them. We had a magazine and a calendar and we were doing Fashion Week events—it just kind of exploded. So all of the sudden I was a producer without realizing I had made myself into a producer. And at a certain point, it just all converged in the fact that I really loved film, and it made sense to move in that direction.
I’m not looking for celebratory events; I’m looking for the experience of going out to the place to be a celebration.
I’m still wrapped up in the food world a little bit. I direct and produce a lot of the cooking videos for the New York Times. How-to stuff, some of the “hands and pans” things, and I did their Thanksgiving guide this year. So I’ve stayed pretty looped in that way. And I’m just an obsessive, obsessive eater. I have a handful of supper clubs. I’ll call a restaurant that’s difficult to get reservations to and then make reservations for a random date in the future for a random number of people and then I try to backfill it. I’ll just be like, “I have reservations to, say, Juku for six people at 10 PM in, you know, April next year. Is anyone interested?” And then we just go. I’m not looking for celebratory events; I’m looking for the experience of going out to the place to be a celebration.
I’m definitely trying as best as possible to continue to link food and video production, but for me food has always been much more about the experience of dining than it was me necessarily cooking. Although me knowing what I’m talking about and having the technical skills make me a better eater, I think. But yeah, I like the part where I’m eating.
I have a couple of favorite restaurants. For a long time it was Little Prince in SoHo. I think that their french onion soup really, really cannot be beat. But they started charging to add brisket to it which was so crazy to me. Now you have pay $3 for brisket.
I also love Fanelli’s. It’s completely silent. They don’t play music at all. And it’s the perfect New York place. It’s a mix of tourists, fucking fashion assholes, and then you’re, like, sitting next to Clive Owen, you know? And the server’s been there forever, the bartender’s been there forever.
Food has always been much more about the experience of dining than it was me necessarily cooking.
And then there’s this place on 13th and Sixth called Spain. It’s the only sort of true Spanish-style tapas restaurant I can think of in New York where you actually get, like, free tapas. You sit down and this guy who’s somewhere between 175 and 300 years old brings you a plate of meatballs. It tastes like Frank’s Red Hot sauce and nothing else but it’s brown. You also get these slivers of potatoes that are ... not exactly fresh. Of course, they’re also covered in Frank’s. And have toothpicks sticking out of them everywhere.
You’ll spend six minutes fighting with him about what you want to drink. You’ll say, “I want a gin martini with olives.” And he’ll say, “Great. A dirty martini with vodka.” And you’ll be like, “No.” And then he’ll say, “OK, red wine.” And then he’ll leave and then somehow you actually get what you asked for and you'll be like, “What? I for sure thought I was going to get lots of Chianti.”
The shrimp cocktail is hilarious. It’s in an ice cream sundae cup—one of those little glass ones—and it’s filled with shredded lettuce, sweet ketchup, and eight completely denuded shrimp with no tails. And then a ninth one that’s just sitting right on top of the ketchup. Not a fleck of horseradish to be seen. The taste? Impeccable. They’re just great. Anyways, that’s the sell. You should definitely go. It’s really fun.
I totally rediscovered a relationship with weed that was unexpected because I used to be a paranoid high.
My dad was in the Air Force, so I think my interest both in food and in production relates to having basically moved every two years growing up. Mississippi. Colorado. Virginia. Oklahoma. Hawaii. If my parents did anything super-well (which was not cooking), it was taking a vested interest in the place we were. My mom would say, “You’re gonna learn to ride horses 'cause we live in Colorado.” When we lived in Hawaii we ate a lot of Asian food. We had a lot of Korean, Japanese, and Chinese food. And so, you know, my brothers and I were exposed to a wider array of flavors than most of the kids I knew on military bases.
I also developed a love for things that move fast. I don’t need a ton of permanence. Obviously working in video is really similar, where I get drowned in a project for three weeks or two months or whatever and then it’s completely done. And you just sort of move on.
Three things keep me in New York, though, and one is that I still have managed to move apartments almost every year or two years. I spent some time in Bushwick; I was on the Upper East Side; and now I’m in Bed-Stuy. So those neighborhoods are all, like, pretty vastly different.
The second thing is that New York is endlessly interesting and exciting and vibrant and there’s so much going on all the time.
And then the third is that, at this point, I’m settled in. I own a business. I have business partners. I have a lot of established relationships here. It behooves me to stay put a little bit and to grow some roots in a way that would benefit myself and the business. And, you know, it’s New York. Working in commercial, this is the best place for me to be. For now.
Historically I haven’t been a weed smoker. I did really poorly with smoking weed in high school, although I dabbled in selling. Whatever, I’ve always been an entrepreneur! But recently I’ve gotten into the oil-based stuff. And I like really low-dosage tinctures and stuff like that.
I don’t like to smoke at work, although sometimes with creative things it’s fun. But I’ll get myself super-high on adrenaline. I don’t need drugs. And then it’s like, the day’s at least funny for me. But I totally rediscovered a relationship with weed that was unexpected because I used to be a paranoid high. This new iteration has been really grounding and relaxing and fun—weed as an adult drug. I feel better than I do when I’m drinking. It seems fun. There’s just something about it that’s like, yeah, this is a nice way for me to kind of transition into my night or into the next thing I’m doing or watching Wild Wild Country like everyone else.
I’ve somehow amassed, like, 65 tattoos now. I haven’t counted them but it’s a lot. I’ve developed a funny relationship to my tattoos in that they’re like a passport through time. I have every clichéd tattoo. I have a pineapple; I have a palm tree; I have a ghost; I have an alien. I have a mythical griffin on my chest. I have a triangle, for Christ’s sake.
I told myself I wouldn’t get any food tattoos. But it’s the only thing I talk about. It’s the only thing I care about. Somebody recently told me I was a food top. They said, “You’re a dinner top! Listen to you order.” And I was like, “Well, that’s awesome.” 'Cause, yeah, that’s where I’m dominant. That is the one place where I’m like, I’ll order. I got it.
I have an “L.A. Sux” tattoo but I like L.A. Doesn’t everybody kind of end up there?
I’ve always tried to avoid having food tattoos and then I looked down at my arms one day and I was like, “Wait, what?” I have a hot dog and I have “Hot Sauce,” and I have a bagel and a donut, and it’s like, oh shit, when did that happen? But I realized I’ve passed the fulcrum where now I have free-fucking-rein. I can do whatever I want. This shit doesn’t make any sense anymore.
People ask, “What was your ideology? How did you put your arm together?” And I’m like, I don’t know, it’s loosely based on Russian prisons? I didn’t want too much color. I’ve started creating scenes, maybe because I work in film, but also who knows? My wrist is like a whole desert scene with a car driving around it. I have a tornado and I put a house next to it with the roof blowing off. I just thought it’d be funny. And now I want to add in a car or RV that’s driving away. I wanna see if I can play with it so it looks like there are actually things happening.
I have an “L.A. Sux” tattoo but I like L.A. Doesn’t everybody kind of end up there?
Everyone’s like, “I hate it. I’m New York. I love darkness and I love how hard it is to be here, and I don’t mind my sixth-floor walk-up. It doesn’t matter that I don’t have an air conditioner.” And then you go to L.A. and you’re like, “I want to quit my job and I’d love to have a backyard.” But I have a totally skewed version of L.A. because every time I go it’s, like, six nights at a strip club and everybody’s in a hot tub. And I’m like, “I love L.A. This place is amazing!”
I think people come into our lives that are really important and sometimes we place them in the wrong spaces.
My ex-wife moved to L.A. We were living in SoHo together. We actually have a really, really lovely, I don’t know, friendship?
Being married was not fun. I would say within seconds of stepping on the light bulb at the courthouse, it was like, holy shit, I want to get out of this. But we stayed married for two years, because why the hell not? Now that we’re married, might as well do it; go ahead and give it all a try.
I think people come into our lives that are really important and sometimes we place them in the wrong spaces. Maybe she wasn't meant to be my wife. But we’re highly compatible, just not as romantic partners. She’s my best friend and the person I trust the most and she gives me really incredible advice about my career and really incredible advice as a friend. I call her and she gives me advice on girls, and she calls me and I give her advice on her relationships. It’s good, it’s really nice.