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Deep Dish: A Docuseries from MA Graduates Justin Herrera & David Moench

By Elise Czyzowska

30 May 2024

Since graduating from MetFilm School Berlin, Justin Herrera (MA Cinematography) and David Moench (MA Directing) have teamed up for an ambitious docuseries: Deep Dish.

The series, which is set to explore the culinary harmony between remote communities and their environment, one dish at a time, will see the pair travel the world. Having already shot the pilot in the Lofoten Islands, Norway, we caught up with Justin and David to find out more…

David Moench – Director

Can you tell us a little about how Deep Dish began?

The idea originally spawned when Justin and I planned a holiday to the Lofoten Islands in January 2023. Leading up to the trip, we decided we should film something there – since it’s such a unique location. I knew I wanted to shoot something related to food, and looking for interesting restaurants in the area, I randomly stumbled across Holmen Lofoten.

After doing a bit of research, I learned about their unique approach towards food, community, and sustainability, we began to flesh out the concept. We then reached out to Ingunn at Holmen, who promptly let us know that Holmen was closed in January! Nevertheless, she told us that if we ended up visiting, she’d be happy to take a meeting.

With no specific plans in mind, we embarked on our vacation, and when we visited Holmen, Ingunn welcomed us with open arms!

There was such a strong synergy and alignment of values in regards to what we wanted to create, and it was immediately clear to us that we had to return and shoot this episode. After a couple months of prep, we did just that, returning at the end of May (a much better time than in January, when there was only two hours of daylight!), and shot the pilot over four days.

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Did you plan the wider narrative for the series during the pilot, or is this still emerging as you develop each episode?

Shortly after shooting the pilot, we started thinking about potential locations for future episodes. To help with this, we focused on three elements that would drive each episode:

  1. The Dish: presenting one dish, breaking down each individual ingredient
  2. The Community: introduce the local community behind these ingredients
  3. The Environment: showcase how the environment affects their way of life

Creating this framework was important to maintain a coherent structure, as you can easily get off track when visiting completely different parts of the world.

What was the highlight of shooting the pilot episode?

I think the highlight was the honest connection we built with the local community. We were such a small crew, which helped us to get quite close to everyone we interviewed.

The entire shoot felt loose and natural, and the atmosphere was incredible. On the last day, we all jumped into the freezing water at 1am – while the sun was still out! – and that will remain a core memory which will stay with me for a long while.

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Now looking to partner with a production company, what has this process taught you about your craft?

It’s taught me that the creative and business sides of the film industry are… quite different! Haha. To be honest, the hardest bit is yet to come, and the real battle will definitely begin the second we’re fully finished with the pilot episode.

Even though there’s not a doubt in my mind that we’ll turn this episode into a series, I’m also aware that this will not be an easy task. Right now, I’m mentally preparing myself for the many rejections we will probably have to face before finding the right partner and distributor.

And finally, of all the places you’re hoping to visit across the series, which are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited about all seven of the locations we’re currently planning, but there are two that definitely stand out:

In terms of food, Okinawa. I’m obsessed with Japanese food, and learning from the local elders how to prepare healthy, delicious food that nourishes you into old age is something I’m eagerly anticipating.

And in terms of location, the Sahara. Besides literally looking like Arakis from Dune, I’ve been obsessed with oases and Fata Morganas since I was younger. I think living with a Nomadic Tribe in the desert will be an experience unlike any other.


Watch the official teaser trailer for Deep Dish…

Justin Herrera – Cinematographer

As a cinematographer, what unique opportunities or challenges come with shooting a docuseries?

The biggest challenge would be how unpredictable it can be. Before arriving at the Lofoten Islands, we were so excited to shoot in the Arctic Circle during the summer. The days are longer, and the sun stays around the horizon for hours, which makes for very flattering light. But the weather had other plans when we arrived!

I think we saw the sun for maybe an hour or two, all four days we were there. It was either raining or overcast, nothing else. So right off the bat, the vision for the episode had to change.

Each interviewee mentioned how storms on the island could spur up within minutes, so David spearheaded the idea to lean into the ‘ugly weather’, to showcase their point.

Because of this, I think we have a much more unique story – visually, at least. And it also gave us the opportunity to approach the story differently, which in my opinion also ended up more truthful.

And from these challenges, how do you think Deep Dish is helping you to grow in your craft?

It might be a boring answer, but this experience has helped me to hone my problem-solving skills the most. Travelling with our equipment, and being such a tiny crew, it was kind of a nightmare to make everything fit in our suitcases, and to get the correct travel paperwork sorted.

I think that’s the part of documentary filmmaking that gets swept under the rug – it’s a sweat-inducing logistical maze! But once you’re on the other end, it feels great; you get a boost of confidence in your ability to overcome these types of challenges.

Deep Dish also made me feel so grateful for the circle of peers I’ve been lucky to build over the years. Without those crucial relationships, and the incredible donations from our friends and family, this project would just never have happened. Specifically from those at Arri Rental Berlin, and my good friend, Kadir Yilmaz.

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Filming across the globe, how are you planning to maintain visual cohesion from location to location?

Communication is key. I’m sure the crew will change from time to time, so it’s up to David and I to make sure that we clearly convey our ideas to each new person who joins us.

It’s important not to get carried away or side-tracked by things that ‘look cool’, but which don’t serve our story or message. The weather in the pilot is an example of this – we may not have the most aesthetically pleasing shots, but the images serve the message. In my opinion, that’s what can make or break a story.

Can you share any standout moments from filming the pilot episode?

Getting the opportunity to hop in the water and shoot one of our subjects, Runhild Olsen, cutting and harvesting seaweed, was the most memorable for me.

The water was freezing, a storm was just minutes away, the rocks were slippery, and I was shooting with our B-cam, David’s personal Blackmagic, in essentially a fancy plastic bag.

The focus was stuck at four feet, which meant I had to guess how far everything was underwater – really, I was shooting blind.

When we were finished, I was so nervous to review the footage that I had to step away. When David came in and told me everything had turned out great, it was one of those rare moments where everything just turns out the way you wanted it to.

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And finally, of all the places you’re hoping to visit across the series, which are you most looking forward to?

Tuvalu, by far! It’s a stunning country in the middle of the South Pacific, and is one of the smallest countries in the world, with around 10,000 visitors a year.

It’s one of the only countries that farms a crop called Pulaka, so it’ll be really interesting to try that, and to see how they incorporate it into their food.

More importantly, Tuvalu is under serious threat from climate change, with some of its islands almost entirely swallowed by the surrounding water. So there’s a seriousness about it too, that I think will be difficult but important to share.

I think that’s what is most interesting about working on Deep Dish: yes, the locations are beautiful, but that comes from the level of care that the community has for its environment. You need to match that respect and care if you’re going to truly share these places with the audience.