Dinner In America receives critical acclaim for NC native

Kirt Manion
Nebraska City News-Press

Award winning director and Nebraska City native Adam Rehmeier honors the creative process.

It was that process, long, taxing, and all encompassing, but always satisfying, which yielded an award winning cinematic release in Dinner In America.

How long? From original idea to final product, its 14 years tracking backward in time to Nebraska City on a wintery night in 2006.

The cadence of a winter walk started a magical journey for Rehmeier. He remembers the night, the snow and the crunch under foot. Those were the sounds that led him and inspired him to first conceive of one of the main characters in the film—Simon.

Adam returned from the walk to his parent’s home in Nebraska City.

Rehmeier is the son of Nebraska Citians Randall and Candace Rehmeier.  

It was there that the first notes were taken and the first step completed.

It all ended with a story about characters named Simon, played by Kyle Gallner; and Patty, played by Emily Skeggs.

“It’s an underdog story about two misfits who find each other through music,” Rehmeier said. “It’s for a crowd that probably won’t respond to When Harry Met Sally.”

The summary of the film, courtesy of the Internet Movie DataBase, describes the work as a story about on-the-lam punk rocker and a young woman obsessed with his band. The two unexpectedly fall in love and go on an epic journey together through America's decaying Midwestern suburbs.

It’s completed now. And it’s getting noticed. It was one of 16 films nominated for one of the most illustrious awards in filmmaking at the Sundance Film Festival. The film has won awards at three film festivals so far. Rehmeier received an award for his work in directing.

All of that momentum and all of that creative energy. Now it may seem like this was the only way the story could end.

But none of it was guaranteed.

It goes back to that creative process.

Pick your analogy here. Many would work.

Rehmeier is always hatching ideas, working on projects. Maybe the creative process is comparable to a fishing trip. Get multiple lines in the water and see if you can get a bite. Or a garden works too—the seeds being ideas.

Some develop quickly. Others develop over time. All share the same soil and in some ways play off one another.

Dinner In America was one of those lines or seeds. There were others. In fact, Rehmeier said he felt another project would beat Dinner In America to the finish line.

What you expect to happen rarely does. And that’s what makes this all so great.

“The job is just absolutely never boring,” Rehmeier said.

It can be frustrating. Financial backing can be a variable that changes plans. Momentum can be there one minute and gone the next. For someone invested in a story, the threat of that story never being told in the manner you want it to be told—that’s a real phenomenon.

Through it all, you can’t let things be heartbreak. You have to keep pushing to tell the story.

This production definitely encountered difficulty along the way, but it endured. And, after filming wrapped in 2018, it would end up finding another challenge in COVID-19.

Rehmeier said the 2018 wrap was riding too close to the deadline for submission for the Sundance Film Festival. And that was definitely the desired route, so a 365 day wait for submission. The Jan. 24, 2020, release at Sundance went as well as anyone could have expected. The film received critical acclaim and had the Sundance audience members literally rising to their feet.

This was just the beginning of the film festival reception for the movie. Of course, COVID-19 has slowed things down. Festivals are choosing virtual routes in these pandemic times, but the movie charges forward.

Rehmeier feels satisfied with the process and the film, its cast overall and its lead characters.

Skeggs was the right actor at the right time for this production and for the character of Patty

“Her heart was in the right place,” Rehmeier said. “She could bring her own experience to the role.”

For Gallner in the role of Simon, the film was one he re-visited and then embraced.  Rehmeier approached movie producers who had worked with Kyle and got the script to him. He had it for years and was looking for a project. When he read it, he wanted to do it.

And it worked well.

“He is so perfect in the film—he’s electric as Simon,” said Rehmeier.

As this process with Dinner In America concludes, Rehmeier is already on to the next thing. Remember the fishing and gardening analogies? The creative process has to go forward. There are more stories to be told.

None of the stories can be told without a story about Nebraska City, however. Rehmeier remembers the city fondly. He remembers being a newspaper carrier for the News-Press and feeling safe in Nebraska City during his formative years back in the 80s. Rehmeier says he was well nurtured by good teachers in the schools. He recalls the fall festival of AppleJack and hometown nature of a thriving community. Put emphasis on that word—community.

“There was a sense of community,” Rehmeier said. “It felt very magical compared to other places I have lived. Everyone was so friendly.”

As he grew, Rehmeier remembers developing an interest in a lot of the elements that make up film, from writing to sound to cameras. He experimented and interest turned to passion.

The love of film landed him in the seats of the Pioneer theater where the interest deepened.

He attended the University of Nebraska in Lincoln and then Columbia College in Chicago where he studied cinematography. From there he moved to Los Angeles in pursuit of opportunity. He currently resides in Michigan.

The interest continued to deepen until film was more than a job—it became a way of life.

“There is a magic in combining it all together,” Rehmeier said. “There is so much to do on a production.”

And every work becomes part of your life story.

“Every time you invest in a project, you are looking at several years of your life,” Rehmeier said.

And those years are filled with work that can prove hard on relationships.

Rehmeier said he is lucky to have found a partner who understands that fact. Adam met his partner, Sarah, at a production company and said she understands the movie business well. The couple has three children, all boys, ages 7, 6, and 4.

What’s the next project for Rehmeier? That’s hard to know. But the pursuit continues and the creative process is honored.

“Overall, this is a very rewarding craft,” he said. “Each project is like a chapter in your life.”