Odd Machine director Mann earns Beard nomination


“Lost Kitchen,” directed by James Mann

Odd Machine director James Mann received the James Beard Foundation’s 2017 nomination for Video and Technical Expertis for the web series Uncharted, sponsored by LL Bean, last month.

The trio of segments, which air on tastemade.com, combine the branding expertise and documentarian finesse of the director, who works out of Odd Machine’s LA office.

“The videos embody LL Bean’s values, integrity and craftsmanship, and we show their clothes in different landscapes and weather conditions,” explains Mann. “But on another level, it’s a series about cool people doing cool things.”

"Lost Kitchen"The people and the things they do make the stories not only cool, but also compelling. One is the founder and builder of Mule Resonator Guitars in Saginaw, Michigan. Another is a couple of former New York City fashion models who launched a successful traveling blog called, This is the place I was telling you about. Completing the trifecta is Lost Kitchen, which actually involves food.

Lost Kitchen is the story of a woman who was prompted by divorce to chase her childhood dream all the way back to her childhood home, in upstate Maine, where she opened a thriving, community driven, female empowering restaurant of the same name. The combination of New England scenery, fresh local produce and homegrown artisans is fairly irresistible.

Mann “gets to the heart and soul” of the people in his films by defying the popular food show technique of propping everything up around a host.

“A host’s job is to push the conversation and reiterate what you already heard,” he explains. “It doesn’t respect the intelligence of the audience. Once you lose that person, the film becomes a lot more intimate and deep and meaningful.”

Lost Kitchen proprietor, founder and chef Erin FrenchThrough extensive research, he knew that French’s poise, personality and profession would complement his technique.

“She knows how to tell her story,” he explains. “In this media age, being a chef is not just being a chef: it’s also being able to hold your own on camera.”

French tells her story over footage that looks like a Winslow Homer painting come-to-life. “I had this burning need inside of me to just contribute something,” she explains. “To do something with my hands and create something.” Less than a minute later, she takes the audience on a tour of her “little divorce mobile,” an Airstream trailer that she lived in shortly after moving back to Maine.

“If you can’t fit everything you need in this space,” she continues, “then… I don’t know.”

The narration sounds neither staged nor rehearsed, which makes it totally believable.

From there, a legion of friends and family talk about their contributions to the daily function of the Lost Kitchen. Images of the restaurant, which occupies an old mill in the center of town, are cut with pottery, flowers, farmland, trees, dirt, gardens, wine, vegetables and, of course, entrees that look wholesome enough to touch.

"Lost Kitchen"The quality is no surprise, especially given Mann’s passion for the genre.

“I got into shooting food because my wife had a food blog and we started making videos,” he says. “In my downtime, I made food films with her.”

Sounds like a couple of cool people doing cool things.

The James Beard Foundation Media Award winners will announced at a ceremony on April 25 in New York City. The James Beard Awards Gala will be held on May1 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Odd Machine is a production and post-production company for content, film and digital that was founded in 2008 with headquarters in Chicago and an office in Los Angeles.