November 18, 2016

The Coffee Man: Why Specialty Needs Coffee Films


How often do you get to really know a World Barista Champion? Not often. Which is why The Coffee Man is so special. It’s an insight into what drives a person to devote hundreds of hours of their life to preparing for one fifteen-minute performance. It shows the pressure, the nerves, and the dedication (obsession?) it takes. And it reveals who they are when they take off that apron.

The documentary on Sasa Sestic has received great reviews, and is available for download as of the 30th November (pre-order from today onwards for a 25% discount).

We couldn’t wait to speak to Producer Roland Fravel about how he set out to capture Sasa Sestic’s journey – and why he thinks the specialty industry needs film.

Spanish Version: The Coffee Man: Por qué la Industria de Especialidad Necesita Películas Sobre Café

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Get to know Sasa – when he’s not behind the bar. Credit: The Coffee Man Film

The Coffee Man is going to be available on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and more. How does that feel?

It’s actually a little nerve-wracking. It’s kind of like we’re sending our baby out into the big bad world. Maybe this is how parents feel when they send their kids off to college! You’ve taught them all you can and provided for them but, in the end, they have to look after themselves. Maybe that’s a bit of a strange analogy, but after six months it’s really exciting to see it get out there. While we’ve had nearly 200 screenings in 37 different countries, having it available to everyone around the globe is a really exciting thing and we can’t wait!

Why do we need films about coffee?

I think the most challenging thing that the specialty coffee industry faces is telling stories. It’s easy to walk into a coffee shop, buy a coffee and walk out thinking “mm, that is delicious!” and not think anything more than that.

But it is the story of that coffee that is the most important part! Who grew the beans, how did they grow them, how did it get to the roastery and who roasted it… These are really important aspects of specialty coffee, because the industry needs to be about more than just good coffee. It needs to be about creating a good industry. And that’s why films, magazines and podcasts are important, because they share the bigger story of coffee with the people who enjoy it every day.

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There’s a story behind every coffee. Credit: The Coffee Man Film

Do you think The Coffee Man is a story just for specialty coffee lovers?

We really believe, and have seen proof, that this is a film that transcends coffee and can be enjoyed by any audience. The film has screened at film festivals where the majority of the audience had never even heard of the phrase “specialty coffee”, and we’ve actually had some of the best responses from these screenings.

The film deals with some really universal themes like following your passion, determination, family and teamwork. And while it might sound a bit over the top, above all else it really is an inspirational personal story.

SEE ALSORelationship Coffee: What Makes Sasa Sestic’s ‘Best Of’ Auctions Special?

Having worked with Sasa on this film for so long, how would you describe him?

Passionate, manic, dedicated, energetic, focused, and  single-minded when trying to achieve a goal… yet fun and silly when it’s time to relax.

During filming, we met three different Sasas, though. First, there’s origin Sasa, who when he’s traveling to origin countries is relaxed and fun yet focused on meeting as many people and cupping as many coffees as possible. He wants to find the next grower, farm or coffee that will blow his mind.

Then, at the Australian Championships, we met competition Sasa who’s serious, locked in, focused and always has one eye on his goal. And that goal is not to win, but to simply be the absolute best he can be.

Then, finally, there’s Sasa when he’s back at home with his family and business. That’s when he gets pulled in four different directions at once by his roastery, cafés, green bean importing business, cafe renovations, new menus, staff and roast profiles, training his baristas to compete in their practice area, and of course his family. This Sasa is always moving, full of energy, sometimes distracted and a bit forgetful, but always doing, doing, doing!

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Get to know the real Sasa. Credit: The Coffee Man Film

What’s your favourite scene and why?

It’s hard to go past the final scene when Sasa wins, but I think my favourite is when Betti, his wife, and Dragan, his brother, describe when they bought their first café together and the way Sasa, despite not even being a coffee drinker, committed 100% to his new direction.

A very close second is the final scene in the film, while the credits are rolling, when Sasa’s son does a pretend barista routine for Sasa and his daughter Anna using orange juice instead of coffee. It’s hands down the cutest moment in the film – and it shows that the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree!

What was the most challenging thing to capture?

Definitely all the stuff at origin as each of the trips were so hectic. We traveled to origin twice, once to Ethiopia and the second time to Honduras and Colombia. During these trips it was just myself and Jeff, the director. We were very hard pressed to capture everything we wanted to.

Add into that the crazy amount of travel, the hours upon hours of cupping – there’s only so many times you can film Sasa slurping before you get bored! – and it was a real challenge to capture the beauty, challenges and essence of each of these locations.

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Sasa (centre), Jeff, and Roland during an origin trip. Credit: The Coffee Man Film

Was it difficult to choose which scenes to include or cut?

It was definitely hard to work out what to leave in and what to cut. From the beginning though, we didn’t want to make a “hooray for Sasa” film. We wanted to tell the story honestly, and Jeff, the director, worked very hard with our editor, Tony Stevens, to do just that.

We started with over 70 hours of footage and the first cut of the film was over 100 minutes long, so we had to cut a lot to get it down to the 83 minute version we ended up with! Lots of the deleted scenes have ended up on the special features version of the film though, so if people want to get an insight into the process then they can download that from our website. Shameless self promotion? You bet!

How did you capture coffee, which is so sensory, on film?

I think that of all the coffee films out there, The Coffee Man is quite different. It’s more of a personal story that uses the world of coffee as the backdrop. You’ll notice we don’t have a single slow motion shot of coffee in our film, which seems to be an absolute staple in every coffee film, but we wanted the star of our film to be Sasa, and not the coffee.

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the coffee wasn’t important, but it is only through understanding Sasa’s journey and the journeys of those around him that the coffee in the film is given meaning. When you’re watching the final scene of the film you want Sasa to win, not because his coffee tastes the best and has been processed in a unique way, but because of the story that led to that moment.

So in answer to your question, while I always want to drink a coffee after watching the film, I think we overcame the sensory nature of coffee by focusing on the Sasa’s story – not the amazing flavours within his coffees. And having tasted the dregs of his cappuccino on the finals day at the World Barista Championship, I can confirm they were mind-blowingly good!

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An emotional moment – and not just because of the coffee’s profile. Credit: The Coffee Man Film

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think just that we are super proud of this film. We can’t wait for it to be out there on the internet so that anyone can enjoy it. While it’s been amazing to see it screened so many times around the world, having it available to everyone will be really special!

Congratulations, Roland, and thanks for talking!

 Jeraff TV, the company who produced The Coffee Man, is a sponsor of Perfect Daily Grind. This interview was conducted in accordance with our editorial policies, and Jeraff TV  has had no greater influence on the final copy than any of our other interviewees.

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