Indie distributor scores
‘Open Tables’ and
by Second City’s
Harold Ramis School
In Newell’s signature style, both of the stories use food and humor examine relationships: Open Tables does it through a dinner party setting, while Close Quarters takes the audience into a coffee house.
Besides writing and directing, Newell serves as Program Director of the Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City. Known for his food-focused work, he was recently listed on The 14 Best Netflix Food Documentaries for directing 42 Grams, which tells the story of a Chicago man who becomes a celebrity chef after running an illegal restaurant out of his home.
Chicago is known for its food scene, which takes center stage in Open Tables, a romantic comedy where every table has a story. Featuring some of the most prominent Chicago restaurants, Open Tables includes Longman & Eagle, Scofflaw, Sunda, and Acadia.
Through exclusive dinner parties, Open Tables explores colliding stories of love lost, love found, and all the details in between. Over the nine months of filming, the actors and staff truly lived the premise of the film — “the people you eat with make a meal special — not the meal itself” — as quoted by Newell in IndieWire.
Open Tables stars notable Chicago actors including: Desmin Borges (Living with Yourself, Private Life); who graduated from The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago; David Pasquesi (Veep, Groundhog Day), awarded the 1989 Joseph Jefferson Award for Actor in a Revue for The Gods Must Be Lazy at the Second City Theatre; Joel Murray (Mad Men, Shameless, Vendors) who owns a restaurant near Chicago’s O’Hare called Caddyshack; and TJ Jagodowski (Get Hard, Computer Hackers).
“I’m excited that we have signed on with Cow Lamp Films to bring the film to new audiences that are going to love it. Open Tables screened very well across the country (and internationally) at film festivals to usually soldout crowds. It’s a great film to watch when you have friends over for dinner. Like a good meal, it’s a film that is made with a lot of love, and I’m looking forward to more people getting the opportunity to see it,” said Newell.
The Chicago Tribune’s Nina Metz called it “dinner with a side of romantic tension.”
5411 Empanadas | Acadia | Antique Taco | Big Shoulders Coffee | Bistronomic | The Boarding House | Boiler Room | The Bristol | Elaine’s Coffee Call | Fat Rice | Found | Goddess and Grocer | Graham Elliot | Home Bistro | Kamehachi | Longman & Eagle | Perennial Virant | Province | Scofflaw | Storefront Company | Sunda | Table, Donkey and Stick | Table Fifty-Two | Topolobampo | Trenchermen | UrbanBelly | The Violet Hour
Totally improvised, Close Quarters tells the story of two young baristas who must come to terms with their relationship and deal with the issues of their diverse customers while they work an extra shift.
The cast includes many of the actors from Open Tables including Pasquesi. Jagodowski, Greg Hollimon (Strangers with Candy, The Fugitive, Black Magic), and BAFTA and WGA Award-nominated Tim Kazurinsky (Saturday Night Live, Police Academy), who also appeared on Broadway in critically-acclaimed comedy, An Act of God.
Over the course of an 11-day schedule, 127 people interrupted shooting because they thought that the coffee shop built for the production — in an abandoned storefront at Sheffield & Barry — was real.
“It’s fitting that we are distributing Close Quarters through Cow Lamp Films because it’s a uniquely Chicago Film,” says Newell. “We embraced the Chicago art form of improvisation when we made this.”
Noting that the completely improvised film features “the best improvisers on the planet,” Newell describes the agreement with Cow Lamp as a “marriage made in Chicago-Heaven.”
“Close Quarters is the hot dog,” he concludes. “Cow Lamp films is the mustard.”
Close Quarters and Open Tables are both currently available on Amazon. For updates and availability, check out Cow Lamp Films. Open Tables won Best Feature Ensemble at the L.A. Comedy Festival and Best of Fest, Best Narrative Feature and Best Screenplay at Blue Whisky Independent Film Festival.
Close Quarters won Best Actor for TJ Jagodowski, Best Actress for Susan Messingand Best Editing for Jill DiBiase at Midwest Independent Film Festival.
About Jack C Newell
Jack C. Newell is a Chicago-based, award-winning writer, director, producer, actor, and public artist. He is the Program Director of The Harold Ramis Film School at The Second City, the co-creator of Destroy Your Art, and the co-creator of the public art project, The Wabash Lights. His films have been featured at the Sidewalk Film Festival, Bend Film Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Newport Beach Film Festival, and on Netflix.
About Cow Lamp Films
Cow Lamp Films is the Midwest’s first and only full-service, independent film and television distributor. Cow Lamp Films provides the full-service distribution opportunities to independent filmmakers that are difficult to access without the support of large studios.
Send your indie updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, firstname.lastname@example.org.