Shaina Feinberg is the creator, writer, and director of the BRIC TV original series Dinette. Season two of Dinette stars Alysia Reiner (Orange Is the New Black), Lisa Haas (Search Party) and Maeve Higgins (Extra Ordinary). Shaina’s short film, Shiva, which is a hybrid of improvised comedy and real-life grief, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival (2017). Her follow-up to that piece, a 60-minute film called Senior Escort Service, won the Visionary Award at Cinequest Film Festival (2019) and is distributed by Random Media. Her third feature, Blunderpuss, is about a clown who goes on an apology tour after a brief stint in rehab. In 2019, Shaina was named by Indiewire as 1 of 25 queer filmmakers to watch. She co-wrote and directed Aliens of Extraordinary Ability, an original series for Audible. She also directed a second original series for Audible, Phreaks, which stars Christian Slater, Carrie Coon and Justice Smith. Her bi-weekly column in The New York Times, “Scratch” is an illustrated look at the world of business. Her first book, Every Body released in January 2021 from Little, Brown and Company.
We talked with Shaina about Dinette, the new additions to the cast, her most difficult moments in creating this series, blending comedic storytelling with harsh realities and more.
Dinette debuted with an incredibly solid first season centering women, gender non-conforming and queer actors and characters. Do we have any new additions to the ensemble?
Yes! There's two new main characters for season two of Dinette. We have Lisa Haas who plays Inga, she's the diner owner. We also have Alysia Reiner, who plays the character Lisa, Inga's best friend and the money behind the diner. We also have Karim Namett, who plays a refugee who is seeking sanctuary in a church. He is not part of the ensemble cast, but he has a lot of scenes with Maeve Higgins towards the end of the series.
why are there borders? It makes no sense. It was something that was weighing on me and I wanted to put it into the season and I wanted to add something serious to a series that is essentially a comedy.
Having a storyline that touches upon refugees is very timely. To that end, how did you decide which issues to tackle while writing, directing and editing a comedy show?
There are some serious moments. Before Trump, our country had an issue with the way we treated our immigrants and I think it exacerbated during Trump, although Obama was called the deporter-in-chief because he did a lot of deportations and now we are having this issue with Biden and we are seeing horrific images of how Haitian immigrants are being treated while they are trying to find sanctuary here. It is definitely something that I have thought about for a long time that feels like an ugly side of our country, so when you zoom out into the world you ask why are there borders? It makes no sense. It was something that was weighing on me and I wanted to put it into the season and I wanted to add something serious to a series that is essentially a comedy. Hopefully it works!
“Oh no, we might be screwed, we can't find the right church or diner to film in.”
Creating a show with a slim budget always brings challenges. Can you talk about how you worked through the difficulties of creating this series?
It was difficult with an ensemble of seven main characters. There are many locations, and even a marching band in the final episode — it was a lot of people to get all the filming into six days! It was intense for my producer Elizabeth Durkin and I. There was a point in December when we thought, “Oh no, we might be screwed, we can't find the right church or diner to film in.” We were lucky that everything came together. We went to this beautiful church in Greenpoint when we were worried that nothing was going to work out, and Paster Foster, of this very LGBTQIA+ friendly church, asked if we could pray together. I'm Jewish but it was such a beautiful moment to be in this space, have a moment of silence, know everything would be okay and it would all work out. When you have a low budget project there's always issues — like being too cold or you have to do 22 pages in one day! It worked out, we had a lot of fun and ate delicious food.
Finally, what’s next for you?
So much stuff, I'm a lunatic! I finished a short documentary, My Mom's Eggplant Sauce - a cooking show about trauma. It's both powerful and funny. I just started working on a second book with my creative partner Julia Rothman. I also have a column in the New York Times that comes out every other week. Plus, I will be finishing up a couple of short films about my dead dog. There's tons of stuff on top of being a new mother, again!