Shaina Feinberg on Making Dinette, Representation and More
Shaina Feinberg is the creator, writer and director of the BRIC TV original series Dinette. The show follows a group of female and gender non-conforming friends navigating their relationships with each other, the world and themselves. It premiered the the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival and BUST Magazine called the comedy "uplifting, original... [and] a great way to smash the patriarchy from your bed."
We talked with Shaina about Dinette, her creative process, the extended cinematic "Shaina-verse," the importance of representation on screen, and more.
Dinette features a really talented and diverse cast, some of whom aren’t actors in the traditional sense. Can you talk about how you got these folks together and what it was like working with such an ensemble?
Everyone in Dinette is either my friend or a long-time collaborator of mine - or both - so when I was writing it, I wrote for the people I wanted to work with. I've made two feature films with almost the same exact cast (my friend Drae calls it the Shaina-verse, like universe but Shaina-verse), so each of these people were people I know how to write for. I chose them because they are funny and talented and also because I wanted to see them represented on screen. Getting everyone together was a real feat - it's a lot to work with such a huge cast and scheduling was intense. But it was also so much fun to film with everyone - it made the scheduling headache worthwhile. I feel really lucky that all of these talented people made time in their busy lives to work with me.
In everything I make it is really important to me to represent women how I see them in real life.
To that end, how did you approach the individual stories such a large cast of characters while you were editing the show?
Not all of the characters have their own arc, but a large number do. When I was sitting down to write I made a little spreadsheet to track their stories, but then that felt overwhelming, so I just went with my gut. There are some characters I wish I could have spent more time with, but we did what we could with the time and money we had.
Speaking of, Dinette features a cast of women and gender non-conforming people presented in ways that we don’t usually get to see on TV and in movies. How did you approach this idea of representation in your creative process?
In everything I make it is really important to me to represent women how I see them in real life, so when I set out to make Dinette I knew I wanted it to be a big ensemble cast, which meant getting to see a lot of different kinds of women. It is so fun to see all of these women and gender non-conforming people in one place. I honestly don't know why tv and film doesn't do this more often.
I wrote for the people I wanted to work with... I chose them because they are funny and talented and also because I wanted to see them represented on screen.
The show has a nice autumnal feel, it’s like a cup of hot apple cider on screen! Can you talk about how you achieved the cinematic look of the show?
I worked with my tried and true cinematographer, Zach Smithers - he is super talented and works in tv and film doing grip and electric, so he knows his way around lighting. When it came to making Dinette, we had such a small budget we really couldn't afford lights, so we did what we often do - we used Christmas lights. Zach worked with our AC, Chris Libbey, to hang Christmas lights in a lot of the scenes and it gives the whole thing such a warm, glow-y feel. We've used this approach before in the other work we've made. A couple of years ago we spent $120 on several strings of Christmas lights and we've been carting them around in the trunk of our car, using them in all of the stuff we shoot. One thing that Zach taught me is to light the people, not the furniture. A lot of TV/film makes that mistake and it makes things look harsh. When you light the people, everything gets cozier looking.
We really couldn't afford lights, so we did what we often do - we used Christmas lights.
One of our favorite comments we’ve received from the internet about the show is “I want to eat at this dinette!” While we’d like to think they’re speaking metaphorically, it begs the question: where did you shoot this?
We shot it at Queens Comfort! Which is an awesome diner.
Finally, what’s next for you?
I've just begun sending my second feature - Senior Escort Service - out to festivals. I'm almost done editing my third feature, Blunderpuss - and I will send that out to festivals. And I am gearing up to shoot a funny short about depression. Plus I am getting ready to record an original series for Audible - I co-wrote it with my frequent collaborator and friend Maeve Higgins. Maeve will be starring in it and I will be directing the series. That's all for now. But I am sure I will cook up more soon. I am a work-a-holic.
Stream Season 1 of Dinette below!