The Fat of the Lens

From man-breasts and money comes a local documentary film star

Miles's mother is as much a recurring theme as his man-breasts in Fatboy. In the film, she recounts the time she couldn't hug him after he'd been away for a while because she was so taken aback by his weight gain and long hair. "He looked like a flippin' ape!" she exclaims. When he does finally lose weight, he flies out to Montana to surprise her.

"My mom always wanted us to have the best. I tried carob before I tried chocolate. I ate escargots when I was six. Being an only child, I think that helped make my relationship with food much stronger, because I didn't have anyone to look up to. I made food a form of expression. I was never a binge eater, to the point where I would eat a giant box of Twinkies and then cry, but when I would come home from school, I would have a snack, and it was very important that I had that snack. Plus the fact that my dad worked so much and my mom had a busy schedule as well, they didn't want to hear me bitch when they got home, so I think they kind of gave in when it came to food."

And then Miles went to a boarding academy. It was at the Blue Ridge Preparatory School outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, where Miles, at the age of fifteen, learned of his parents' divorce. "My stepmom had thought they already told me," he recalls, "and she sent me a condolence letter, and that was actually the first I had heard about it. That really set me on a tailspin. When I came home, everything was magnified times ten — if some kid made fun of me, I'd fly off the handle. My mom had moved to our summer home in Montana, and my stepmom was almost already living in the house already. So it was difficult to have your parents wave goodbye to you at the airport and then come home ... it was very Twilight Zone. When that happened, I was completely done with any governing of food." More than a decade of rebellion-via-junk-food later, at the age of 28, five-foot eleven-inch Miles weighed about 250 pounds.

Miles Forman talks over his Fatboy film persona with director Michael Landsberg
Miles Forman talks over his Fatboy film persona with director Michael Landsberg

"So I called Michael [Landsberg] up and I told him the reason I want to do this film is I know if I don't, I'm going to be fat forever," Miles explains. Landsberg, who has also lived in South Florida his entire life (Coral Gables, to be exact), opened his own production studio — Capsule Media — in his father's dentistry practice. The 29-year-old pays the bills by shooting corporate commercials for companies such as Palm Pilot, DirecTV, and the Discovery Channel. Although Landsberg knew nothing about the subject of weight loss or obesity — he's weighed a buck fifty since high school — Fatboy, he says, was a way to be a part of something more creatively fulfilling than a two-minute Burger King corporate video.

"I'm always looking for something outside of advertising, because that's how we make a living, so it's a real joy to spend your days on something else," Landsberg says. The director's only stipulations: that the movie be shot on film instead of digital video, the format of choice for most of today's documentaries because it's easier to shoot, easier to edit, and a hell of a lot less expensive. His reasons for wanting to keep it old-school? "First, you can shoot six months on video and it's easy to walk away from that project if it doesn't seem like it's going to get where it's gotta go. When you're shooting film, it costs so much every second. It appeals to me in a much greater sense, though, because just the craft of working with film. It's the process. It captures the human personality — better skin tones, everything seems to be a lot brighter."

Landsberg's other condition was that Fatboy be 100 percent South Florida. Though the city seems to be the locale of choice for Hollywood to blow things up, set things on fire, and go really fast — all while looking superhot — Miami has never succeeded at providing much more than a backdrop. And when a big production does roll into town, and its A-list celebrities frolic at Prive while residents curse I-95 closures, the filmmakers bring most of their crew with them. "Miami Vice, for example," Landsberg says, "the only thing they're hiring here is hotel rooms. They even bring their own assistants. When people ask me how Miami is, I say it's the fanciest truck stop in the world. In a way, people treat it like that.... They stop, they take a shit, and then they leave."

Conversely, everything about Fatboy is homegrown: The staff, the crew, and all the health experts in the film live here; the film was edited in-house at Landsberg's studio; and all the music was done by South Florida-based musicians, including a cover of Strangelove's "I Want Candy" by Plutonium Pie, who reunited just to record music for Fatboy, as well as original scores by Jim Camacho, the Spam Allstars, Humbert, See Venus, Godbaby, Tereso, Summer Blanket, The Curious Hair, and Emily Easterly. Of course, pulling in favors from family, friends, and friends of friends was also a good way to save money.

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