Ralph Gilmore gave up his millions to sell tuna tacos out of a used shipping container
1st August 2019 by Will Stewart
A Taco Told In Texas isn’t really about a taco. It’s about a guy with an eighth grade education who became a millionaire. And then he lost it all. And then he became a millionaire again. And then he lost it all. Again. And then he bought a used shipping container on Craiglist and started slinging the best tacos you’ve ever had out of it.
I was lucky enough to catch up with David Gorvy to ask him a few questions about his film, A Taco Told in Texas. If you’d like to see your film on MadeGood.tv, then please feel free to make a submission.
MadeGood – Please tell me a bit about yourself as a film maker, and how you got into film making. Is A Taco Told in Texas a typical example of the kind of films you make?
David – I’ve been making short films since I was around 9 or 10. I’ve always been into technology and telling stories so, to me, planning a video, shooting it, and then piecing it together in post is the perfect combination of those two things.
I was also lucky that I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, which had a growing filmmaking community because of VCU’s brandcenter and film program. When I was 15, I reached out to Justin Dray, one of the leaders of that community at the time, and he took me under his wing and let me use their cameras and editing computers, and he also let me work on their sets.
I was able to use those resources to make mostly terrible dramatic videos in highschool that I’ve since removed from existence (you’re welcome), although I’m still proud of this little Ben & Jerry’s commercial that won me a free trip to Vermont to meet Ben and Jerry in real life.
More specifically, the story of how I got to the point in my career where I could say ‘I make videos for a living’ is a bit complicated…
When I graduated from college in 2011, I got a job at Google doing what you could call tier 3 technical support for companies migrating their data to Google’s enterprise servers. Obviously, that’s not at all related to filmmaking, but I majored in economics and didn’t have a creative degree so I figured if Google was as hip and flexible as it made itself out to be, I’d be able to carve my own creative path there.
So, I started making tutorial videos for data migration, but I used After Effects and live-action shots to make them look like agencies made them. The videos played well online, and marketing teams within Google took notice and started asking me to make their own videos since I was internal and they didn’t have to pay me.
And so my wild ride at my own ‘Google film school’ began. I started hiring crews and working with cinema gear and learned as much as I could about the logistics of commercial-grade filmmaking, from contracts and insurance COIs to navigating rental quotes and transporting gear to figuring out the best RAID array for storage vs editing. It was the best learning experience I could ever think of because the demand for my videos only existed if I could make a $100K+ agency-quality video for $5K – $10K, which forced me to be ruthlessly efficient and scrappy, just like how I had to be to get resources in high school.
My managers built a creative team and business goals around me, and I ended up traveling all over the world producing & directing branded and VR/360 content. Without those experiences, I would never have been able to make A Taco Told In Texas, so I can’t thank my managers at Google enough for letting me do what I did. I will honestly be forever grateful to them.
MadeGood – How did you find out about Ralph Gilmore, and what made you want to make a film about him?
David – I moved to Austin from New York in 2011 to work at Google, and that’s how I discovered Ralph Gilmore’s tuna tacos at Turf n’ Surf. I was pretty much obsessed from the first time I tried them, and they still are easily my ‘last meal’ choice.
Eventually in 2017, after having learned the logistics of higher-end filmmaking, I was ready to make a big personal project. I’m a huge fan of Chef’s Table and, honestly, I wanted (and still want to) to direct an episode of it so I thought the best way to do that would be to make my own version of it. And the obvious choice for the ’star’ was Ralph’s tuna.
The problem was I didn’t know Ralph Gilmore nor did I live in Austin anymore – my team at Google was relocated to New York City in 2013. So my co-producer, Erica Rabner, found him on Facebook, and I reached out. Maybe a month later, I flew down to Austin to meet Ralph and to see if he had an interesting story that was worth me spending my time and money on telling. Long story short, he did, and it was.
MadeGood – I see you’re also credited for the musical arrangement- I take it you’re a musician as well? Tell me about the process of writing the music for a film you’ve also directed.
David – I just want to be clear here in case there’s confusion – I *did not* write the music. I bought all of it stock on sites like Pond5. I spent probably in the neighborhood of 30-40 hours selecting, editing, and arranging all of the music in it, hence the ‘musical arrangement’ credit.
In terms of my musical abilities, I can play the piano and guitar, but not well, and I would definitely never call myself a musician. That said, I also beat-box and was a beat-boxer in an a capella group for four years in college so while I’m no musician, I think I have a decent sense of rhythm/timing, which definitely helps when I edit.
MadeGood – You directed, co-produced, edited and arranged the music for this film, but worked with a DOP (Jordan Parrot). Tell me about your working relationship with Jordan. As somebody who is a bit of a Jack of all trades when it comes to film making, is it easy to place your trust in your DOP?
David – Early on at Google when I was trying to get marketing teams to notice my support videos, I realized (after a lot of failed attempts) that the best way to do that was to make my videos look like they were made by professional agencies. So, I figured if I spent basically 100% of my small budgets on talented DPs, I could produce, direct, and edit myself, and the videos would look like they were big agency productions.
That’s how I met Jordan Parrott. For one of my Google videos, I needed to hire a DP in New York so I searched on Google and reached out to him because his work looked amazing. We kind of just hit it off on a personal level and have been friends ever since.
To answer the question of whether or not it’s easy to place my trust in a DP, the answer is it’s insanely easy if you’re working with great DPs like Jordan or a number of the other DPs I’ve been lucky enough to work with.
Anyone can shoot a tropical waterfall at 120 FPS with a RED Weapon or an Alexa/Amira and make it look good. (We shot this on a Weapon with Summicrons.) I hire DPs because I’m looking for people who can shape light to both help tell the story I’m directing and to make sometimes very ordinary settings look cinematic.
The craft is in the light, not the camera settings or the post options. I can work my way around any camera and have spent probably well over a thousand hours in After Effects and Photoshop, but I don’t have enough experience shaping light to be foolish enough to think I could make something look truly cinematic on my own.
I also want to give a quick shoutout to Josh Bohoskey and Evan Bauer at The Mill for their incredible color grade, and to Greg Goodhew at Mammoth Production Packages for renting us all the gear for this.
MadeGood – What are you working on next?
David – I left Google in 2018 to work on getting opportunities to direct bigger commercial projects so I am definitely open to commercial representation opportunities should anyone in that space be reading this 🙂
In doing so, I also formed own company, Find A Way Productions. So if you’ve got a story to tell or a commercial to make or a VR piece in mind, or really anything to do with video, reach out to me!
Personal-project wise, I just produced, directed, and edited my first music video. It’s a total 180 from what I’m used to directing, and I can’t wait to release it.
MadeGood – Thanks so much David! Can’t wait to see your music video when it’s out.