Vanessa Block and Michael Sarnoski at the premiere of “Pig.” ##Photo provided

Q&A: Michael Sarnoski & Vanessa Block 

Dynamic duo behind the movie “pig”

Michael Sarnoski (director, co-writer) and Vanessa Block (co-writer/producer) recently debuted their much-anticipated movie “Pig,” a thriller/drama starring Nicolas Cage, Alex Wolff and Adam Arkin. The story follows a truffle forager whose beloved truffle-hunting pig goes missing. Released on July 16 by NEON, the movie and was filmed on location in Portland and other Oregon locales. Chefs Gabriel Rucker at Le Pigeon in Portland and Chris Czarnecki at The Joel Palmer House in Dayton consulted on the film. 

What inspired you to write the movie script?

MS: Initially, I just found the image of an old man in the woods with his truffle pig intriguing. From there, it was a matter of asking where he may have come from and why. As the story developed, it became clear it wanted to be an exploration of issues of grief I had been considering within my own family, and all these pieces gradually coalesced.

How did the collaboration happen for the movie?

VB: Michael and I first collaborated on a documentary called “The Testimony,” which explored sexual violence against women in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The creative alchemy was evident so we went on to develop the script for “Pig.” From the outset, this was more of a meditative exploration of loss and the commonality of pain than an action film, despite the expectations people seem to have based on the conceit.

Official “Pig” movie poster showcases leading actor Nicolas Cage. ##Photo provided

How long did this project take? What was your favorite part of the process? What was the most challenging?

VB: The process was protracted, spanning something like three years from inception of the idea to completion of the product people are now seeing. COVID didn’t help. It really is a marathon, not a sprint. My favorite part of the process was working with such a phenomenal cast and crew in such beautiful natural environments. The most challenging was probably working with an adorable — albeit untrained — pig.

Was the movie written with Nicolas Cage in mind?

VB: We didn’t have any particular actor in mind when writing the script. Just a man with a beard on his porch guarding his truffle animal.

What was it like to work with Cage? Did you have much interaction with him?

VB: The thing that struck me most with Nick, apart from his commitment, was his totally intuitive and highly sensitized insight into the character. He had an uncanny ability to sense authenticity and was unaccepting of anything less. That’s really the most critical ingredient in making a compelling film — capturing truth — and to collaborate with an actor with that kind of internal compass was an asset and pleasure.

How was truffle trailblazer Jack Czarnecki, founder of The Joel Palmer House, involved in the making of the movie?

VB: We met with Jack and his family on our first scouting trip to Portland. It was important for us to imbue each step of the filmmaking process with authenticity, and sons Stefan and Chris were incredibly helpful to us. They showed us forests where they hunt for truffles, walked us through the process with their truffle dog and shared recipes for dishes that were meaningful to them. They also spent a lot of time educating Nick on how to interact with food like a proper chef.

Any new cinematic projects on the horizon?

VB: Next up is a television show based on the true story of a man with extrasensory perception, and a female-driven sci-fi I’m directing that tackles humanity’s relationship to personal and collective trauma.


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