DINNER AT FRED’S, written and directed by Shawn Alex Thompson, is a comedic independent feature film shot in studio and on location in and around Toronto. The story takes straight-laced businessman Richard, played by Gil Bellows, from his glass-walled corporate office in the sky, through a snow storm detour leading to a bazaar set of circumstances and characters rooted in an off-the-map small town talent contest. Upon winning the contest using tricks from his childhood magic act, Richard lands in the middle of an even weirder local family celebrating Christmas in their own imitable style. Christopher Lloyd plays the winged-out but kindly patriarch, Parker Posey plays the eccentric but loveable daughter who lives in the attic and dreams of hair-styling in Paris, and Kevin MacDonald (Kids in the Hall) plays the deadpan Fred who has befriended Richard. The rest of the family is equally individualistic.
The primary aesthetic of Fred’s world was rooted in a frozen-in-time story point, and to this end I was able to draw upon the best (ie: worst) that the 1970’s had to offer towards domestic, vernacular design.
Snow played a major role within the story–from the storm that forced Richard’s detour to creating a sense of Christmas magic to a cartoonish chase scene involving a snow blower. Despite shooting in December, it happened to be a year when there was literally no snow in Toronto, thus a considerable amount of the design and planning was focussed on creating a snowy world that Dr. Seuss might enjoy, yet with limited means and time.
The story also contains a tremendous amount of reference to a host of iconic entertainment figures – Liberace, Elvis, Wayne Newton and this proved to be the most challenging aspect of this project. Dealing with clearances and copyright protections became a new and major effort in the Art Department, stemming from the huge spike in all things litigious. This project was the first time I remember this being an issue and thus marked a threshold for what continues to prevail to this day