How the OC Fair inspired ‘Set!’ A table competition film – Orange County Register

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When filmmaker Scott Gawlik and a few friends walked into the OC Fair in 2018, the plan for the day was straightforward.

“We just went drinking beers and hanging out,” he says. “You have a big beer in your hand and you are walking around the fair.”

Hours later, Gawlik left the funfair with the idea of ​​becoming his first feature documentary. He would make a film, he had decided, about the unusual and very entertaining world of – this is no joke! – the competition of the table.

  • “Adjust!” is a new documentary set in the world of competitive table setting at the OC Fair. The only man in the film, Tim Wyckoff has been setting competition tables for 30 years. (Photo by Jon Salmon / Crazycow Productions)

  • Director Scott Gawlik, on his knees, with the contestants and judges who are featured in his new documentary, “Set!” which focuses on the 2019 OC Fair Dressage Competition. They are seen here after its premiere at the Newport Beach Film Festival on October 23, 2021. It debuts on Discover + on November 12, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Scott Gawlik and Crazycow Productions)

  • Crystal Young of San Dimas won the 2018 Best of Show award at the OC Fair with her Free Your Inner Farmer themed table. She is now featured in the new documentary “Set!” which was shot during the 2019 competition. (Photo by Lilly Nguyen, Orange County Registry)

  • Janet Lew of Laguna Hills is seen here as part of the 2018 OC Fair Table Dressing Competition. She is featured in the new documentary “Set!” which was shot during the 2019 competition. Here she measures the distance of her cutlery and cutlery on the table. (Photo by Lilly Nguyen, Orange County Register)

  • Hilarie Moore adjusts her plastic centerpiece for her table with the theme of In The Sand at the OC Fair in 2018. She won in her thematic division that year. She is now featured in the new documentary “Set!” which was filmed at the 2019 show. (Photo by Lilly Nguyen, Orange County Register)

  • Candidate Crystal Young and her entry Good Food = Good Mood are seen in 2018 in setting up the table at the OC fair. She is now featured in the new documentary “Set!” which was filmed at the i fair 2019. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, collaborating photographer)

  • Although mother and daughter Christel and Marie Schoenfelder have always faced each other in previous dressage competitions, in 2019 they decided to join forces for the first time in 20 years. They are now featured in the new documentary “Set!” which was filmed at the 2019 OC Fair. (Photo by Jon Salmon, Crazycow Productions)

  • Contestant Cheryl Von der Hellen and her Cape Cod Crab Fest entry are seen here in the 2018 Table Dressing Competition at the OC Fair. She is now featured in the new documentary “Set!” which was filmed at the 2019 show (Photo by Michael Fernandez, collaborating photographer)

  • Janet Lew of Laguna Hills is seen here as part of the 2018 OC Fair Table Dressing Competition. She is featured in the new documentary “Set!” which was shot during the 2019 competition. Here she poses with her entrance, Palace of the First Thai Princess. (Photo by Michael Fernandez, Contributing Photographer)

  • “Adjust!” is a new documentary set in the world of competitive table setting at the OC Fair. (Photo by Jon Salmon / Crazycow Productions)

  • Tim Wyckoff, left, and Cheryl von der Hellen, right, assemble their cutlery at the OC Fair in Costa Mesa, Calif., Tuesday, July 9, 2019. They are now featured in the new documentary “Set!” which was filmed the same year. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register / SCNG)

In search of triple-digit heat relief, Gawlik had hid in the shadows of the Culinary Arts building and in a room filled with richly decorated tables. He ended up in a place where “tablescaping” is a real word.

“I was like, ‘Oh, this is a place to eat, we’re going to eat now,'” he said. “And they say, ‘No, no, no, you can’t put your garbage here! It’s the table dressage competition.

He realized that these weren’t regular tables and, to his surprise, the over-the-top designs and themes spoke to him.

“Right away I had very strong opinions on the tables,” says Gawlik. “Like this one was better than this one.” And believe me, I never had a table setting opinion. Already.

“Other than, you know, we just need a knife or a fork and a napkin, and that’s it.”

Now, three years later, his film “Set! Was screened at the Newport Beach Film Festival and will debut on the Discovery + streaming channel on November 12.

His arrival is proof, he says, that his instincts that day at the fair were correct.

“I was like, ‘If that could make me worry about setting up the table, and the people I was with care about setting up the table, maybe they can care. sit in front of a movie, “Gawlik says.” So I immediately went home and sort of Google searched.

“And at the time, when you Google searched for ‘competition’ from the table, a certain woman came up. “

The queen and the court

Bonnie Overman of Hacienda Heights was the woman whose name filled Gawlik’s search results that night.

Not only had Overman entered the tables at Orange County and Los Angeles County fairs for decades, but she won so often that Gawlik came to see her as the LeBron James of the table setting.

“I called her, I talked to her, and that sort of thing was a catalyst for everything,” he says. “She was open to what we were filming, and it kind of took off from there.”

Overman served as his entry into the world of competitive table setting, but he quickly connected with many others, eventually focusing on nine competitors who offered a range of different personalities.

There was Hilarie Moore from Orange, who told her that she enjoyed stepping into a sensory deprivation tank to clear her mind and let the inspiration for each year’s table theme surface. (She also wrote about the experience in 2014 for the OC Registry.) Tim Wyckoff of Garden Grove, the only male contestant featured in the film, shared his struggle to find a job and spoke about his increased confidence. in itself a victory at the fair could provide.

Crystal Young of San Dimas was the new kid on the block, winning the Best of Show ribbon and a check for $ 150 in 2018, her second year in competition. Cheryl Von der Hellen and Virginia “Ginnie” Jacobson called themselves the Water Babes thanks to the Seal Beach water aerobics classmates they consulted when designing their tables.

Janet Lew of Laguna Niguel is happily eccentric. While most competitors definitely dismantle their tables at the end of each fair, she collects them at her home, usually in a room dedicated only to tables. However, with that room full, she put one in the bedroom she shares with her husband Ron.

The film follows them and a few others over the six months leading up to the fair, going back and forth between contestants to track their progress.

Moore, whose tables tend to make statements like the 2018 table made entirely of garbage that ends up in the ocean, is the renegade, the one who does things like including taxidermy in his designs at large. damn traditionalists like Overman.

“Hilarie plays a bit of the antagonist throughout the film; she’s kind of the fire starter, ”Gawlik says.

“Tim told me early (about his struggles),” he says. “I was like, ‘Hey, are you sure you’re comfortable talking about this?’ I think to be really honest people react to that, that’s exactly the kind of person I am.

Knives out?

“Adjust!” celebrates the unusual personalities of the competitors in a warm, friendly and often humorous way. Despite this, Gawlik says he wasn’t sure what the featured contestants would think after seeing the finished film.

“I was so nervous about Hilarie because she could be considered the bad guy,” he said. “I love Hilarie, we became friends, and I was like, ‘Oh my god, she’s going to hate me.'”

The next morning she saw the movie she called. Gawlik said his hand was shaking as he held the phone.

“She said to me, ‘Do you want to hear what I thought of the movie?’ He said. “I was like, ‘Oh my God, yeah sure.’

“And after a dramatic break she says, ‘Loved it,’ he says, adding that she said she was a little harsh.

By the time of the Newport Beach Film Festival screening on October 23, most of the contestants featured had seen the film, although Gawlik says it was the first time they had seen it together.

“There was a competition in 2021 and Tim and Hilarie were side by side and made it up and they’re best friends now,” he says. “But in the 2021 competition, Bonnie and Hilarie didn’t even look at each other.

“I was a little nervous about what the drama would be,” he says. “It’s like having divorced parents, but they go to someone’s mutual marriage. You know they’re going to have to talk to each other.

“I looked at the end of the screening and there they were talking to each other,” Gawlik says. “I was like, ‘Oh my God.’

“I think the movie maybe pulled them apart a bit, but the projection and that environment brought them closer together, and maybe they’re friendly now.”

Table art

At one point during filming or editing, Gawlik had a revelation about the passion trainers have for their work.

“Take the words ‘table setting’ out of the script and just call it art – because it’s art they make, isn’t it? ” he says. “Then you say to yourself: ‘This is a film about people passionate about art. People probably wouldn’t blink at the movie, they would say “OK, this is a passion movie, we got that”.

“It’s like that,” Gawlik said. “Setting the table is kind of what appeals to you, but it’s really not about setting the table. The film is about people’s passion for art.

Art means different things to different people, of course, and that applies to trainers as much as it does to the public.

“For Crystal, she is facing the loss of her father,” Gawlik says. “She puts all her energy into her art and is able to cope with it. The mother-daughter team (Marie and Christel Schoenfelder from Rancho Cucamonga) had signed up individually for years before deciding to team up in 2019.

“Bonnie, every time you go to her house, for example, all the furniture is rearranged for a different season or color. She loves to create, it’s her passion.

Tim, he doesn’t have the financial means that some of these women have, ”he says. “But who said it takes money to create art? Tim, sure, doesn’t feel that way.

Gawlik says he came to feel that he was no different from his subjects in terms of the passions they pursue.

“My art is cinema,” he says. “I did it because it was my passion, and I think I’m like those ladies.

“The only difference is that it’s not a table setting, it was this movie. And I think that’s really how I was able to capture them like I did.


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