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An Independent Film Set In Your Favorite Restaurants

By Staff in Food on Apr 18, 2013 6:20PM

Filming at Perennial Virant.

For many city-dwellers, their social lives revolve around food. Memories are made in restaurants, from first dates to breakups, including moments both dramatic and comedic. Open Tables is a forthcoming independent film that explores the social dynamics that occur in restaurants - particularly those in Chicago. Currently in production, writer/producer/director Jack C. Newell has amassed an ensemble cast and joined up with Chicago restaurants to help film a romantic comedy centered around food.

Open Tables takes the world of food and restaurants we all know and dramatizes it by honing in on the multifarious social elements that arise when we dine. By utilizing improvisation, Newell aims to take two things Chicago is really known for — food and improv — and combine them into one prolific film delving into why we eat where we do, who we eat with, and what happens when we do. Featuring a 20-person cast, the movie revolves around three central story lines, each of which takes place in restaurants and bars throughout the city. The film is largely inspired by the style of dinner party improv, wherein actors recount stories aloud and then switch settings to improvise the stories in flashback scenes.

Newell graduated from film school at Columbia College Chicago, where he currently teaches film directing. Last year he did a film called Close Quarters, another ensemble movie that took place entirely in coffee shops. His love for cooking, restaurants, and food culture has helped inspire his restaurant-centric film career.

The first act of Open Tables concentrates on the connection between romance and dining, showcasing dates and missed connections that transpire in restaurants. The second act is a bit more visceral, revealing the kinds of heartbreak that can also occur amidst food.

While 80 percent of Open Tables will take place in Chicago restaurants, the film crew is also set to go to Paris in a couple months. “You can’t have a film about restaurants without going to Paris,” says Newell. He’s already hit a number of spots in town, including Trenchermen, Longman & Eagle, Perennial Virant, and Scofflaw, with more to come. The film will be roughly 90 minutes long and is set to debut later this year in time to hit the film festival circuit next year.

By Matt Kirouac