Brunch: Carl Bessai at Fray

Brunch is a favourite past time shared by many and should be an extraordinary experience, one that you will cherish. Vancouver has some wonderful places for brunch. Each of the places I visit is unique for what is offered along with the type of service and selection of dishes. I am on a journey around the city to find these extraordinary places and, at the same time, I will be joined by a notable personality who may be a Film Producer or Director, Musician, Arts Festival Director, Actor or other well-known individual for Brunch at restaurants in and around Vancouver.

For my eighth brunch in this series, I was joined by Film Director –Carl Bessai at Fray on Fraser Restaurant in East Van talking film, acting, food and more!

Carl Bessai

Carl Bessai is a director, producer, writer and cinematographer. Last year I saw his film “Fathers and Sons” , he recently joined me for the Brunch at Fray on Fraser.

How did you become a Director?

I grew up in Alberta, studied English Lit, head for business, went to Toronto for film school and studied at the Ontario College of Design and Art graduating with a Masters in Film at York University. I then worked in the business on many films in Toronto including Gus Van Sant. My 1st film was ‘Johnny’ it was me and a camera and actors staged out of my apartment and we filmed the movie. The film was invited to the Toronto Film Festival and launched my career in 1999.

What were your next films after “Johnny”?

My next films were Lola (2001), Emile (2003), Severed (2005), Unnatural & Accidental (2006), Normal (2007).

How did your first film of your non-scripted series come about, that began with Mothers & Daughters ?

I wanted to go back to making a raw low-fi movie non-scripted. People care about emotions. This film came after my previous film “Normal”. The film was an experiment, but it worked, looking at structure with different relationships. I did “Mothers & Daughters” first because I had a daughter with my 2nd wife, I then got 3 of the actresses I wanted to play the mothers. We had 3-4 months of dialogue leading up to shooting then 12-15 days to shoot the film.

Is there anything you learned from Mothers & Daughters, which you did differently when making Fathers & Sons?

More confident cause I knew the structure, more comedy and funnier in this film. How to realize what I wanted – accidental magic.

If you made the Trilogy in LA vs Vancouver what would have been different?

We would have been more successful, but it would have cost more money to make.

Will you make any more non-scripted films like the most recent Sisters & Brothers that was out this year?

Yes – I have a project set in LA “Vices and Virtues” (working title). King Lear related will shoot over a long weekend in real time with 7 cameras and 14 characters in the film.

How did you find the actors to be a part of your non-scripted films?

If they don’t know, then it is a bit of a sales pitch. I used a casting director but in the end I used lots of my friends.

Is there any difference for you directing a TV series vs a film?

Totally different – tv is a writers medium. Have to execute on the day in tv, participate in the show runners vision –playbook of the show. The latest is Brent Butts show.

Scrambled Eggs, Bacon & Toast


French Canadian Toast

Buttermilk Biscuit

Side of Bacon

Carl had the Scrambled Eggs, Bacon & Toast ($6.95) and Organic Yogurt ($5.50), Orange Juice ($) and Coffee ($) and Richard had French Canadian Toast ($10.95), Buttermilk Biscuit ($2) , Side of Bacon ($2) and an Apple Juice ($)

What is your favourite food?

Striploin Steak – aged grass fed, NY strip

What is your favourite restaurant inside and outside Vancouver?

  • In Vancouver – Boneta
  • In Los Angeles (Silverlake) – Malo Cantina

What are you working on currently?

  • Large scale project (untitled Chekhov project) – comedy Entourage style –version of the Seagull – set in a theatre will be filmed in 2012.
  • Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) – “Healthy Nutz” set in a healthy juice bar – filming at Bridge Studios.

What do you do in your off time?

  • Ski
  • Mountain biking
  • Doing the Barcelona Marathon with my son we are running in March 2012

How far in advance do you plan your films?

A couple of years but every film has the right time to come to life. Sometimes almost instant.

How do you decide what your next film is going to be?

There are themes that I am interested in but I also get behind a project that has a momentum to it.

Where was your most recent trip?

  • England over a month ago.
  • Los Angeles – Vancouver every other week.

What are your favourite places to hangout in Vancouver?

  • The Narrow – coolest bar in Vancouver
  • JJ Bean – in the Woodwards building
  • Acme Café –for meetings
  • Gene Café –for meetings
  • Prado on Commercial Drive

Who are your Mentors?

  • John Cassavetes – American Director
  • Adam Agoyen
  • David Cronenberg
  • Sir Ian Murray McKellen
  • Tantoo Cardinal

Are there any film makers who have influenced your career? If so who?

  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder (German Director)
  • Antonio
  • Mike Leigh
  • Lars Von Treer
  • John Cassavetes
  • John Sayles
  • Terrance Malick
  • Guy Maddin
  • Adam Agoyen
  • David Cronenberg
  • Dennis Villeneuve

Style: a La Carte

Attire: Casual

Time: Brunch is offered Saturday and Sunday 9am – 3:00pm


3980 Fraser Street, Vancouver


For Reservations, please call 604-558-FRAY

Stay tuned to my next guest Interview along with the next Brunch in and around Vancouver.

By: Richard Wolak

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