TCFF 2019 Spotlight: The Ringmaster documentary + Interview w/ creator/producer Zach Capp

What do world-famous onion rings, legendary band KISS, a beloved chef from Minnesota and a former gambling addict have in common? A loving tribute to a special family in Minnesota.

Hi everyone, Ruth here. This is perhaps one of the most unusual documentaries I’ve seen… it’s rare that a documentarian ends up being part of the subject of the film he’s creating, but that’s what happened here. Zach Capp initially wanted to make a film about a film about the Worthington chef and his famous onion rings, but The Ringmaster is what I would call a ‘meta’ film as it turns the camera on the filmmaker and ends up documenting the efforts and almost-failures over a 3-year journey. The result is something extraordinary… bizarre, sometimes even painful to watch, but also fascinating and endearing. I think the film is a sweet love letter to chef Larry Lang and perhaps even the town of Worthington as well. Zach said to me at the beginning of our chat that the film reminds us of an onion – the more you peel away the layers the more you discover. 

Before I get to the interview, let me share a bit about the background behind the film, and Zach Capp specifically.

Zach’s subject, shy, quirky chef Larry Lang, is loved by his town, Worthington, MN and known for making the best onion rings in America (as verified by food critic Tom Sietsema of the Washington Post). Zach’s mother is from MN and his family vacationed in southwest MN when he was a young boy. Zach never missed an opportunity to sample the world-famous rings at Michael’s which was the Lang family’s restaurant. Larry’s father Michael created the “secret recipe” in 1949 – the 70th anniversary in 2019.

 Zach’s beloved grandfather, Martin Capp spent his formative meager beginnings in St. Paul and later in life became a huge philanthropic figure in the Twin Cities area. His name appeared on downtown hotel towers in Minneapolis and St. Paul and thousands of families would live in houses built by his company, Capp Homes, which pioneered affordable pre-fabricated housing in the postwar years. Martin and wife Esther Capp aided many charities in the Twin Cities including the Minnesota Children’s Museum.

Papa Martin with his grandson Zach Capp – photo credit: Zachary Capp

Martin Capp thought that his grandson Zach should pursue his passion and become a filmmaker. When Martin passed away, Zach decided to use the inheritance his grandfather left him to make a documentary. The young former gambling addict began a four-year journey filming onion ring chef Larry and sister Linda Lang with the intent of making them and their onion rings world famous. Much of the hundreds of hours of filming took place in Minnesota. Additional footage was shot in South Dakota and Las Vegas.

Larry Lang and his famous onion rings – Photo Credit: The Daily Globe

This documentary was made in loving memory of Martin Capp, who had such strong roots in The Twin Cities. Zach is continuing his grandpa’s philanthropic endeavors. Part of the proceeds from the film will go towards Alzheimer research.

Check out the trailer:

Listen below for the Q&A with Zach Capp:

1. Have you shown this documentary to Worthington residents who knew Larry? If so, how has the reception been?

2. In the doc, you said that ‘maybe I should’ve cut my losses and walk away.’ I’m curious as to the main reason why you didn’t walk away and persisted in telling this story?

Zach Capp & Larry Lang – still from The Ringmaster

3. Watching the doc, it’s evident that you really had a heart for Larry Lang and want to see him succeed. But it was evident that you faced some challenges in making this film. What was the toughest day filming in your 3-year journey?

4. How was working with directors Dave Newberg + Molly Dworsky?


Dave and Molly helped me see what I couldn’t see because I was too close to the story… they really reshaped the whole narrative, they breathe new life into this whole project. I’d say they helped the film find its voice.

5. Some people might see the film and think that you and the directors were unfairly coercing Larry into doing something he didn’t want to do. How do you feel about that viewpoint?

Larry Lang with a KISS band member and the band promoter – still from The Ringmaster

6. The part in the film with the KISS band and seeing Gene Simmons ate those famous onion rings, that must have been surreal. How did that scene come about?

7. Now that Ringmaster film is done. Are you still interested in making the American Food Legends series?


Thank you, Zach, for chatting with FlixChatter!


TCFF screening time:
Monday, October 21st 7:15 PM

4 thoughts on “TCFF 2019 Spotlight: The Ringmaster documentary + Interview w/ creator/producer Zach Capp

  1. PrairieGirl

    Ruth, this film sounds absolutely fascinating! But big bummer, the sound won’t play for me. BTW, onion rings are one of my favorite foods ever ;-O

      1. PrairieGirl

        Ah, ha, today it’s working directly from Flixchatter, yeah! I hope it’s showing somewhere again where I can see it, it sounds excellent.

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