Eating is a 35mm thesis film, shot in cinemascope, made to fulfill the requirements of the USC School of Cinema-Television M.F.A. Production Program. The script was first written in 2002, but the story was wildly different. In early drafts, young Dave is kidnapped from his parent’s home during a party and taken to a strange apartment – where he manages to kill his kidnappers and escape. He returns home without being missed, but promptly begins bingeing on the party food.

The film turned out to be quite a lot subtler. It focuses on one night in the childhood of Dave, a morbidly obese adult sitting in an Overeater’s Support Group. We witness young Dave being ignored by his parents as they plan for a “grown up party in the back yard.” He is shunted off to the TV room, where an older neighborhood boy named Tommy visits him. Their conversation soon turns sexual, and Tommy tries to take Dave to the bathroom to teach him “the thing that guys do.” Although they are mercifully interrupted by a party-goer, Dave is traumatized and cannot sleep. But when he tries to find his parents at the party, they are too self-involved (and drunk) to comfort him. He promptly begins bingeing on the party food.

Mike Bruner in a scene from Eating.

Although the final film is quite different, the concept, and what interested me in the subject matter originally, remains the same. Eating was conceived as an exploration of weight and food addiction – an answer to the political discourse on obesity that seems to miss the boat on the emotional/ psychological aspects of the problem. I wanted to show the genesis of a weight problem; to see how a seemingly "normal" boy could grow into a morbidly obese adult. In this case, to see how an unsafe incident, poorly handled by dysfunctional adults, causes a child to begin the process of eating himself to death.

To that end, I wanted to explore the concept of addiction from a fresh perspective. There have been virtually thousands of films exploring drug addiction and alcoholism, but what about food addiction? I believe this is the “elephant in the room” of the American obesity debate. Clearly no one wants to be fat – it is a health risk and a social nightmare. Yet there are some people who can’t stop overeating, despite the horrible consequences of obesity – and it can’t all be blamed on the fast food industry or a sedentary lifestyle. The film's portrayal of the Overeater's Support Group (based on a meeting of Overeaters Anonymous) is meant to show that there are emotional and spiritual solutions to this problem, even if the central character in the film is not ready for them.

Finally, I wanted to make a compelling family drama set in the 1970's. What better decade to explore overindulgence and addiction? The film reveals how the sins of the father (or the mother) are passed down to the son. In this case, Dave’s mother is too entrenched in her own alcoholism and sex-capades to comfort her son when he is in pain, and his father is too invested in his wife to see how she is hurting their son. Food becomes the only option.

I hope that people leave the film with a more compassionate perspective on obesity and addiction. At the same time, I believe filmmaking is about telling a story, and the political "message" must be secondary. So on that note, please enjoy the film.


– Rebecca Cutter