‘Dinner in America’ serves up a human experience at the Sundance Film Festival
“Dinner in America,” an entry in Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition, is set to screen at the following times and locations:
Friday, Jan. 24, 9:30 p.m., The Ray Theatre
Saturday, Jan. 25, 11:59 p.m., Broadway Centre Cinema 6, Salt Lake City
Sunday, Jan. 26, 8:30 a.m., Prospector Square Theatre
Friday, Jan. 31, 3:30 p.m., Eccles Theatre
Saturday, Feb. 1, 2:30 p.m., The MARC Theatre
Filmmaker Adam Rehmeier’s “Dinner in America,” a feature in Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition, is a funny and dramatic serving about a fugitive punk rocker named Simon, played by Kyle Gallner, who meets an eccentric fan named Patty, portrayed by Emily Skeggs.
The story follows the connection that develops between the two as they make their way through Midwestern suburbs.
Rehmeier, a musician who wanted to shoot a film that had a punk-rock theme, cooked up the story by combining the ideas of some scripts he had been cultivating over the past six years.
“I had a script years ago that I was dinking around with that had the Simon character selling his body as a guinea pig for clinical testing for drugs to get money so he can record his records,” Rehmeier said. “But it was was a sketch that didn’t work and just lingered around for many years. So I put it away in my idea garden, and began sketching out something else.”
The new script was called “Dinner in America,” and it was originally about a girl and a new boy that moved into her life.
“It was very high school, but nothing was sticking to it, even though I did like the family that was in it,” Rehmeier said. “But it was just a collection of scenes and ideas about people having dinner and talking.”
Rehmeier tucked that idea away for awhile and began writing a third story, but “Dinner in America” kept popping into his head.
“Then the Simon character came to mind, and he hijacked the script,” he said. “I thought it might be interesting if ‘Dinner in America’ took place a few years after high school, and then I thought about Simon coming into the story and disrupting the life of the family. So I integrated the two together.”
Rehmeier had tried to start making the film a few times over the past six years, but nothing got off the ground until he cast Gallner and Skeggs.
“This film originally looks like a cartoon on a page, because it’s loud and wacky,” he said. “What happens when you have the honor of working with Emily and Kyle is that they humanize the story in a way you can’t see on the page.”
Gallner was on Rehmeier’s original list of actors he wanted for the film
“I had an inside connection and had someone email him a screenplay, and he didn’t read it for three-and-a-half years,” Rehemeir said.
Gallner only read it because of Rehemeir’s director of photography, Jean-Philippe Bernier.
“JP was working with Kyle in Romania, and he told Kyle about an exciting film he was going to start shooting,” Rehmeier said. “Kyle asked what the film was, and asked if we had cast the lead.”
After hearing the story, Gallner said, “I know that script,” and dug through his emails.
“He then called his agent and said he wanted to do this film,” Rehemer said. “I’ve never stopped teasing him about that.”
Skeggs got the role in a more traditional way, via video auditions.
“Emily really got the character, and her aesthetic choice for her outfit was 100 percent correct,” Rehmeier said. “I was immediately drawn to her mannerisms and ticks from the tape.”
Skeggs even added her own flair to the character by purchasing $10 reading glasses from Walgreens.
During a production meeting with costume designers Anais Castaldi and Hannah Greenblat, production designer Francesca Palombo, Skeggs and Rehemeir tried to come up with an iconic look for the character.
“The glasses kept coming up, and I kept, gravitating to was the glasses Emily wore during the audition,” Rehmeier said. “The only thing we had to do was to put some anti-glare lenses in, so we only needed to spend a couple hundred bucks for hero glasses.”
With all of the ingredients in place, Rehmeier began filming, and finished a rough cut a little more than a year ago, and that was when he knew he had the right cast and crew.
“I’ve been surprised by what they all have done, even down to the actors’ nuanced performances,” Rehmeier said. “I’ve cried more in the last year working on this film than I have my entire adult life, because it all just resonates with me.”
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This year’s New Frontiers exhibit at the Sundance Film Festival will allow passholders to explore biotech, mixed reality, augmented reality and virtual reality exhibits and films from the comfort of their homes.