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114. Chicago Film Crew Takes Over Canteen Restaurant for a Day

114. Chicago Film Crew Takes Over Canteen Restaurant for a Day

Home Newsroom 114. Chicago Film Crew Takes Over Canteen Restaurant for a Day

Did you see the Canteen Restaurant with windows covered, shrouded in black curtains and surrounded by giant film production trucks spilling out onto Lake Street Wednesday?

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I logged onto Facebook in the morning and people were buzzing with speculation about what was going on inside. “Rumor has it that it’s for ‘Restaurant Makeover’,” one friend shared.

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Another friend added, “From what I’ve heard, the show ‘Empire’ is filming there today.”

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And, finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked straight on over to the Canteen from our home on Cook Street. Playing the part of Nosy Neighbor, I set out to do some “research” and struck up a conversation with a crew member on the sidewalk. I’m happy to report that I got to the bottom of all of the brouhaha. I found my way inside to see all of the action and even talked to the man in charge!

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It’s not “Restaurant Makeover” and, no, Barrington’s Canteen will not set the scene for an upcoming episode of “Empire”.

A Chicago director named Joe Otting of Fiber Films and Ogo Productions chose the Canteen as the backdrop for his latest project, a short film he’s directing titled “The Talk” about a life-changing conversation between a young girl and her dad.

Director Joe Otting of Fiber Films and Ogo Productions at The Canteen Restaurant
Director Joe Otting of Fiber Films and Ogo Productions at The Canteen Restaurant

Joe says he spent months casting this project which they filmed all day Wednesday at the Canteen. “I approached this one-day piece the same way I would have a larger project for Sony or for Showtime, just on a more compressed timeline.”

During a break, Joe invited me inside to see the transformation and learn a little more about the film. To keep the element of surprise in tact, I wasn’t able to freely photograph the set. But Joe let me take his picture, right after we had this conversation…

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So what is this film all about?

“For my company Fiber Films, I do a lot of commercials and features and this is sort of a passion project. I got together with some of my feature writing partners in Los Angeles and said, ‘Hey, let’s write ten short films and we’ll shoot one of them.’ And we picked this one and that’s what we’re doing here.”

“The short film is called ‘The Talk’ and it will be around eight to nine minutes long. There are two principals in the cast, a dad and his daughter, and then we have about six extras who are background actors.”

Can you share anything about the story?

“I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s basically a dad taking his daughter to a diner. It’s way too late at night. She shouldn’t be here. But he brings her here to have a talk with her and, during that talk, things are revealed and secrets come out and completely flip both of their worlds upside down.”

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The set of “The Talk” inside Barrington’s Canteen Restaurant

You’ve piqued my interest! But how did you end up at the Canteen?

“I started out scouting for locations in Chicago and finally decided to check out the Canteen. My business partner lives in Barrington and I’ve always been curious about the Canteen when I’ve driven past it before. I’ve always loved the exterior of the building and I didn’t want something that felt more contemporary or modern. I wanted an old-school, dusty diner feel and could envision transforming the this space to match that. We wanted to come in and change the whole environment and give it a different vibe. At the Canteen, the bones are perfect. It has the counter and the stools that work really well for this project. It just has a great feel, it looks amazing on film and it was ultimately the best place.”

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What did you do to transform the space?

“The film is modern day, but we wanted to give the diner a throwback quality — something that’s been around for decades but hasn’t changed much.  We brought in booths and the lighting was a big thing. We brought in all these hanging lights and we went for more of a vintage look on the walls with some old advertising and menu boards. We also brought in neon signs and a juke box and moved the cash register station to create a whole different world.”

When will the film be complete and where will you show it?

“There will be months of post-production and, if we do festivals, it’ll be a little longer before I can release the film on the web. I’ve had shorts in the past that have gone on to big film festivals and wide-scale distribution. The hope with “The Talk” is that we do a very big push for distribution with big film festival markets and a big web push as well. It’s a passion project. It’s a showpiece and, hopefully, it’s something that people get to see all over the world.”

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And if you missed your breakfast and coffee at the Canteen’s bar during the filming, they’ll be back open Thursday at 6 a.m. with lots of stories to tell as “The Talk” of the town this week.

Did you know that the Canteen Restaurant was one of the first local business we featured in May of 2010, not long after 365Barrington’s debut? CLICK HERE to read that post and more about the Canteen’s colorful history in Barrington.

I enjoyed spending a little time with owner Sam Romas out in front of the restaurant on Wednesday and will be making my own trip to the Canteen soon. Sam says their beef brisket and pulled pork sandwiches are among their best sellers and their omelets and breakfast skillets are always a hit. Stop by, say hi to Sam, and don’t forget to tell him Liz sent you ;).

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You’ll find the Canteen Restaurant at 214 South Hough Street. They’re open seven days a week from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 7 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sundays. You can reach them by phone at 847-382-0900. Find menus and learn more at CanteenRestaurant.com.

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