“One of the most meta documentaries within a documentary that I’ve ever seen.”
— Alan Ng, Film Threat
Filmmaker Zachary Capp was happily self-funding the pilot for his travel/food show idea when he came across Minnesota native Larry Lang’s onion rings — “the best onion rings in America”, according to The Washington Post’s Tom Sietsema. Zachary became a man obsessed — with Larry’s onion rings, and with making Larry’s onion rings a world-famous brand.
While the makers of fictional narrative films can keep some sense of separation from their story and characters, documentarians work directly with their subjects, walking a tightrope between creating a compelling narrative for an audience and remaining respectful of their subjects.
It’s fair to say Zach Capp falls off that tightrope.
Zach does indeed gets Larry’s rings noticed — by a bunch of people, including 80s glam-rockers KISS and the Las Vegas Raiders football team. The birth of a successful brand and everybody’s future success seem inevitable. What could possibly go wrong?
Larry, one of only two people in the world who knows the recipe for his onion rings, turns out to be a man bereft of ambition, averse to attention, a man truly content being a one-man show in a one-horse town.
“7 out of 10 French fries
think this movie bites.”
Can Larry cook? Hell, yes. Are he and his onion rings loved? Yes, indeedy. But off-camera is where he longs to be; and when he can’t escape being on-camera, he comes across as a man whom personality has given a wide berth.
Zach’s plans are failing. His self-funded film is coming apart at the seams. His crew decides to make a different film from the one Zach is making. As train wrecks go, this one’s a doozy.
Enter directors Molly Dworsky and Dave Newberg.
Zach agrees to let go of the director role, and become the subject of a documentary about his documentary. The Ringmaster — a human tale of mistakes, love, respect, and the desire to succeed — is born.