After watching and falling in love with his new film “Dinner in America”, I couldn’t wait to talk to Adam Rehmeier about the film — and much more.
When I heard that filmmaker Adam Rehmeier had a brand new movie coming out, I was ecstatic. Already a huge fan of his because of his extreme horror, hard to watch at times film, The Bunny Game, I knew I was in for a treat. I was lucky enough to screen his film Dinner in America for Fantasia. And while I knew it was nowhere near the same as The Bunny Game, I was not prepared for how vastly different it was, and definitely not prepared to love it as much as I did.
Adam and I have spoken off and on for about two years because I really wanted to interview him. He had sworn off talking about The Bunny Game, so he wasn’t too keen on an interview at that time. Thankfully, with Dinner in America making its festival rounds, I was able to catch up with Adam. We talked about how he conceived this new punk rock dark comedy, what he has coming up next, and of course, horror movies.
MORBIDLY BEAUTIFUL INTERVIEW WITH ADAM REHMEIER
Morbidly Beautiful: I loved Dinner in America. I loved it so much that I watched it twice in one night. It’s such a new direction for your filmography. What inspired it?
Adam Rehmeier: In the Midwest, I grew up in Nebraska, and I was back in the winter of 2006. I came home and was at my parents’ house, and I was walking along the curb. You know when the snow plows shoot out the salt and sand? You’re in Arizona, right?
MB: Yes, but I grew up in Ohio.
AR: Okay, so you know. When they deice the streets and shoot out the salt and the sand, right? And it was the sound it was making in combat boots walking along. It was that rhythm that started this idea about this character, and how he moved. I started having my kind of… just the general essence of a character and how he moved, and the speed at which he moved, and what he physically looked like, which is very close to what Kyle (Gallner) looks like in Dinner in America.
I wrote a little sketch and went back after I was listening to the sound of walking in the gravel. I’m a musician too, so I think about rhythms and elements like that a lot. It’s very much a part of my process.It was 2006, and I wrote the opening where he goes from the clinical trial place through the first family…through to the part where he throws the shit through the window. And then it just sat. Later, it became part of a project called Kicks for a few years that was about a punk rocker kid selling his body to science to pay for recordings.
And there I had another sketch…
When I have writer’s block, I do anything. I’ll write anything. And a lot of ideas come out of that. So I had another thing I was sketching a few years later, maybe around 2009 or so, and it was called Dinner in America. It was kind of like a Heathers kind of high school coming of age. Darker. Possibly a little darker than this. Patty was a little different, but that was the genesis of Patty. And then at a certain point, both projects were stalled out and I wasn’t doing anything with either of them. So I thought, what if I took that one idea about that little nuclear family, that suburban family, and I brought in the character from Kicks and let him just disrupt the family dynamic, and see how it affected everybody in the family?
And that was the genesis of taking those two ideas and sticking them together. It was the type of project where I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and it was more of a free form type of script. Other things I had were very structured, and I plan every detail. Dinner was a bit more free form and experimental when I was writing it.
MB: Wow, you worked on that for a long time! Starting back in 2006…that’s some dedication! But I thought it was phenomenal, so it definitely paid off.
AR: Well, like I said, it was an idea, a seed that was planted. I had a garden of projects. So when you were wondering what I am working on, there’s a lot of things in the garden that I tend to, and they had different timelines. Certain projects are really fast projects, and other things take many, many years to come to fruition. Plus, it’s just hard to get a film up anyway. It always is pure pain, no matter what it is, I think really.
So there was this seed of plants. And just over time, I kept watering it and watering it, and experimenting with it in different ways and different scenarios. And, among the garden, there was one that I felt like… this one works. And that’s the film that we’re talking about.
MB: So how does it feel to have this film that you’ve been working so hard on for so long end up playing all these festivals and getting such positive reception?
AR: I get really excited. Especially for Patty. Patty’s very special to me. I’m very protective of her. I love that so many people of so many walks of life have connected with her, and I just love that. I love her as a character. She’s one of my favorites. She’s like my music girlfriend.
MB: She takes awkwardness to a whole new level. People always talk about how The Bunny Game is so disturbing and hard to watch. Wait until they see this. This is, I don’t want to say disturbing, but it is on a whole other level. Her awkwardness is painful. You can feel it, and it’s really hard to watch sometimes in a completely different way.
AR: Emily (Skeggs) was such an absolute joy to work with on this, and we were so collaborative. She’s such a wonderful human being. I love her so much.
Just everything from the design of the glasses, and Patty’s eyes — like this window, this exaggerated window into her soul where everything is amplified. I like that you brought up those nuances of her performance, the ticks and different mannerisms. Because this film — the design of it, the way that JP (Jean-Philippe Bernier), Francesca (Polombo) and I designed it as far as the look and the rhythm, the feel and the shots — there’s just a lot of stuff that’s reverse shot. Same size.
There’s a lot of ways you can shoot a film like this, and I had three different tiers. We ended up shooting it in my middle tier budgetarily. We kind of employed different tactics. If it had been lower budgeted, it might have been looser, but we could kind of control the color palette, control the frame. And obviously, I edited the film as well. I treated it much like a song or musical in both the sound design mixed with John Swiart’s score and just the rhythm of the cut. It’s a very unusual cut, especially around the dinners like that.
It reminds me a lot of That ‘70s Show, the way they used to spin the camera. In a way, it does the same thing because you’re always centered with each person, and it’s like pop pop pop. It creates this rhythm that’s like badminton. It’s constant. I feel like it’s a very rhythmical cut. It’s very musical. The cut itself is very musical. I treated it like music or a mix-tape. I feel like it’s bubbled, like it’s a little snow globe. Francesca and I talked about making this little snow globe. It’s what I tried with The Bunny Game, too — creating this little thing that you’re inside.
MB: That’s so cool! If you could collaborate with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
AR: Great question. When we were coloring Dinner in America, a producer asked me that question, and I said I would love to collaborate with David Berman from Silver Jews. His lyrics, they’re so visual, and I am such a big fan of his words. But he committed suicide. I had inquired with the producer and said that yeah, that would be a big one to check out. I just think there’s something there. I have a couple other projects that have a music element, and I just thought that would be really interesting. Maybe I could explore that.
I haven’t thought about working with other artists very much just because… I don’t know. It’s a newer thing for me. But David was one that I would definitely want to collaborate with and see if there was any interest, because who knows? Maybe there would be zero. Now I’ll never know.
MB: Aw. That’s really sad. I know that covid has stalled a lot of things, and everything has been put on hold. Is there any information you can give us on what you’re currently working on?
AR: I’m currently putting together a feature called Save A Bullet For Me that I wrote. But I don’t have any information that I can share right now. There’s a TV show, too, but I can’t talk about that one either. There hasn’t been any official announcement. So, unfortunately, until there is, I probably won’t say too much about it.
MB: Well, that just gives us something to look forward to!
AR: I can say that I’m a big true crime guy, so I have something in that space. That’s a bit of a tease. Right now, I’m working on just writing, and I’m outlining a few projects as well. So that’s fun. After editing this film, and then attending all the festivals, it required a lot of energy — especially Sundance. It’s a lot on the system. These festivals are such a wonderful experience, but they are tiring. And for Sundance, I was working up until the last minute. Then of course, you get sick when you’re there. You can’t avoid it. So it takes a toll.
MB: Do you have a release date, or do know when Dinner in America will be available?
AR: I don’t have an update for you on that. We’re working on things right now. But everything has been delayed because of Covid, so it’s just…unfortunately, it is what it is.
MB: Freaking Covid.
AR: I especially feel like a surge of energy as things have been ramping up. Like we’re doing screenings in Germany that are actually in theaters. And it’s like a seven city experience. So that’s cool. There’s big festivals that haven’t been announced yet and stuff happening, so that’s cool too. Obviously, we have stuff like the Sundance screening coming up. But it’s geofenced for Utah residents only. It’s continued support like that that really matters right now.
They’re going to do five or six movies, and we’re one of them. And that’s really great for the film right now. A lot of the films, they come with built-in support like a distributor already built in. They have ten times the amount of money to work with, too. I feel like we’re a scrappy film. But again, I’m just really happy and proud of Patty and how people connect — because people come up to me from all ages. I would think it would be a lot of younger people, but it’s more middle aged people and older, elderly people. The film really resonates with them.
MB: Wow! You’re reaching a whole new audience with this.
AR: I’m telling you. I got a lot of hugs at Sundance. A lot of hugs. I’m a hugger, and there were a lot of hugs. That part felt really good, and it was emotional too to have people so personally connect with Patty. As a filmmaker who did The Bunny Game, it’s such a different experience. I had a tour with The Bunny Game, because I love the excitement of live shows. But you never really knew what was going to happen in a The Bunny Game screening. You never knew what the walk out situation was going to be, or what angry question you might get from the crowd. You’d get all sorts of weird things.
MB: I can only imagine.
AR: It has to do with your intentions. Rodleen’s [writer/star Rodleen Getsic] involvement with The Bunny Game and mine, it was a joint effort. There’s an interesting story there with that because it’s not what people thought it was. And when it didn’t do what they thought it was going to do, they would either be confused, or supportive of it. I like polarizing work. I think you’re doing good work when you’re polarizing with it.
MB: One last question for you, Adam. What is your favorite scary movie?
AR: My favorite of all time is Alien. 100%. I go Alien, and then The Thing. I am a huge horror guy. Huge. I’m a huge fan of Pieces. Pieces is amazing.
It was so amazing having the chance to chat with filmmaker Adam Rehmeier, someone I’ve admired for a long time. I sincerely hope Dinner in America gets widespread distribution soon. It’s an incredible film and one I can’t wait for more people to see and fall in love with. If you get the chance to attend a festival where it’s playing, or whenever it makes its way to VOD and other outlets, don’t miss it! It was easily a 5 out of 5 for me.