Impossible Foods and Hey Wonderful’s Sam Spiegel on an interstellar adventure with RZA, GZA and Ghostface Killah to launch a plant-based burger at the American slider chain
White Castle is an American burger chain famous for serving small, slider style, square hamburgers. Last week saw the launch of its new collaboration - a burger created with plant-based food gurus Impossible Foods. To celebrate the new relationship, the two brands teamed up with Wu Tang clan’s RZA, GZA and Ghostface Killah and filmmaker Sam Spiegel to debut a four-episode online series called 'Wu Tang in Space Eating Impossible Sliders'.
The four-part series, which was created in house at Impossible and directed by Hey Wonderful director Sam Spiegel - a longtime collaborator of Wu-Tang Clan - features the hip hop artists eating White Castle’s new Impossible Sliders while they orbit Earth answering questions from fans. We’ve only seen one episode so far, but it’s brilliantly ‘70s and got a lot of lols in the office last week.
LBB’s Addison Capper spoke with Impossible Foods’ executive creative director Sasha Markova and director Sam to find out more.
LBB> Sasha, tell us about the idea to set everything in space
Sasha> At Impossible Foods, we make delicious meat from plants with a big mission - to remove all animals from the food production system by 2035 and restore biodiversity on Earth. But when you start talking about the reason to do that (as obvious as it sounds) it's problematic. The reasons feel logical, rational and not emotional - but to save Earth, we've got to start feeling really emotional about it. When astronauts go into space and look back at Earth, they experience an epically emotional connection with the planet - they understand how we are connected, how we are one, and just how important earth is. We've decided that actually if you really want to get people engaged in Earth, you need to go to space. So that's why we decided to set the White Castle/Impossible campaign in space.
LBB> When did it first come into discussions to get Wu-Tang Clan involved and why were they the perfect ambassadors?
Sasha> As Ghostface says in the first episode, 'it's a crazy time on planet Earth’, and it really is. We wanted some modern-day philosophers who encompassed that spirit of oneness and connectivity to go up to space and give us some answers. Not from a binary, this versus that perspective, but from a universal standpoint of Earth, love and oneness. There was only one group of people who fit that bill. The Wu-Tang Clan. They were literally the only people we could think of who might have some answers right now. We wrote to GZA, Ghost and RZA and they said 'yes' within 24 hours. They are big supporters of the Impossible, and GZA even just wrote 'Impossible Sliders' into their recent Wu Tang Forever song with Logic.
LBB> Sam, why was this a project you were keen to get involved? I know you’ve worked with Wu-Tang Clan before AND are a bit of a space fanatic, I think? So maybe that’s a silly question…
Sam> Yes! When Impossible and White Castle came calling I was excited to collaborate. I love Impossible sliders! I love Wu-Tang Clan, and I love space! So, it’s my dream project!
LBB> You were involved early on in this project - how did you find that and how did it affect the end result?
Sam> I feel like projects turn out the best when I’m able to collaborate with a creative client like Impossible Foods from conception to completion. That way there’s a steady and consistent vision guiding the project from start to finish. It also helps that I respect what they stand for and their willingness to push ideas and surprise audiences.
LBB> It’s all very Star Trek! Why was that an important reference? And where else did you look for inspiration?
Sasha> We just loved the innocence and futurism of those shows. I also think it was a good excuse for Sam to watch over 30 hours of ‘60s Star Trek, which he did.
Sam> Yes! I love the OG Star Trek series. It was just a fun reference to emulate. The show was so rich with clichés and has been interwoven into the sci-fi DNA in such an integral way. I also watched a ton of old Japanese science fiction from the ‘60s like Ultraman and the Godzilla series.
LBB> And how was it for you as a creative to put yourself in that time period of filmmaking?
Sasha> It's an odd time, because it's so dated and yet right now, it seems very timeless. It almost belongs to another much sweeter, simpler paradigm that feels like the past, but we long to be the future.
Sam> The late ‘60s and early ‘70s is probably my favourite era of cultural history. I think the combination of the Baby Boom and the fact that we were making all of these giant strides in space travel led to a society that was looking to the future in a really free and explorative way. I feel like part of me lives in that period anyway, so it was natural to throw back to that.
LBB> How did you achieve that effect? What did you shoot on and why?
Sam> I had a blast incorporating many of the shooting and special FX techniques from that time period. I shot as much as I could practically, with homespun-looking models and miniatures. I felt like keeping it homespun would give the show charm.
Check out the teaser film for the campaign below.
LBB> You worked with TV writer Dan Curry to write the shows - how did you get him involved and how did it aid the end production?
Sasha> When you're in living in LA, you start to think, wait a sec, I'm living next door to the greatest entertainment industry ever, full of the best writers in the world - why would I use an ad writer to write a script for a campaign, when I can get a writer who has already created pieces of amazing content with engaged audiences? I'd known Dan, who is the head writer on the Eric Andre Show, for a couple of years and had been lucky enough to work on some stuff with him, but this was the perfect project for us. We got him involved right from the beginning, with Sam, and treated it far more like a mini show than a campaign. We set up writers’ rooms for days and days with me, Dan and Sam, and interjected other writers and GZA and Ghost face. Then we created four episode scripts that were half scripted and half improvised. It was the best process I have ever had and will do this from now on.
LBB> The girl is ace - what was the casting process like for her?
Sam> Jolee is just a friend of mine. I’ve spent a lot of time with her and her parents. Whenever I’m around her, I’m always amazed at the stuff that comes out of her mouth. She’s an amazing person, and I’ve always thought she’d be great on camera. I asked her to come through to audition and just talk on camera, and she was fearless! She was the same way on the show. It was as if she was in her living room talking to her parents. And she loved the Wu guys as well. She’s been asking if they could come babysit her.
LBB> And some of the stuff she comes out with too! The bit about all your dreams being real - that’s very profound - was it in the script or more natural?
Sasha> That was completely natural and straight from the mind of Jolee on the spot. I think kids that age are tapped into a way of thinking that we miss so much as we grow older.
Sam> All of her dialogue was improvised! She’s a very special person.
LBB> Sam, I know you’ve worked with them before, but how was it for you both working with the Wu-Tang crew on this project?
Sasha> They profoundly get what we're doing at Impossible Foods. RZA and GZA have been vegans since the ‘90s and Ghost is a vegetarian. Growing up, they were some of my biggest heroes ever and when we first heard them on the phone to talk about the project we all had this moment of, 'oh my god! they exist! And those voices are talking to us…’ They were amazing; so creative and so collaborative. Every time they rewrote stuff they added magic to it. GZA came up with the name of the ship, the Wu-F-O.
Sam> Impossible brought Ghost in for the launch event at White Castle in Brooklyn where he played with Questlove. And I’ve worked with Wu-Tang a lot in the past which was awesome. RZA is a friend and also someone who’s inspired my creativity a lot. Ghost and GZA are great people and also really interesting, smart creative forces.
LBB> I’ve only seen one episode so far - what can we look forward to from the rest?
Sasha> You can expect some serious Mars trashing in the next episode. That's right Mars, your allure is temporarily over. There are also some strange cameos from Pat Brown, our CEO, and a legitimate time traveller called Star. GZA will also answer the question, 'what is the first thing that made the first thing?’ The episodes are also about to get even stranger. We've made the rules, now we want to break them.
Sam> We uncover the meaning of life.
LBB> What were the trickiest components and how did you approach them?
Sasha> It's always the same two. Time and money. But with an amazing team, which we had, you can laugh a lot in the tense moments.
Sam> The trickiest components were, as always, budget and not having enough time. But I have the best production company in the world, Hey Wonderful. Plus shooting as much as we could practically was a creative decision, but had the added benefit of shortening the time spent on post.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Sasha> In episode four we reveal the meaning of everything. Please tune in.