by Peter Hanson

2004, Un-rated, 13 Minutes,

Leave it to a film student to pony up one of the most impressive entries in the Shorts Program IV at the ‘05 Sundance Film Festival. Rebecca Cutter’s Eating is confident, slick and poignant, and it’s a product of USC’s storied film program. The picture couldn’t be simpler. An overweight man in his thirties sits in an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, listening to the stories of the OA members around him. In a succinct voiceover, he wonders aloud what brought him to this place, and that conjures a flashback to his childhood in the ‘70s. In the flashback, we meet a seemingly well-adjusted adolescent deeply hurt when his parents shun him while they throw a swingers’ party. He sulks alone until an older boy shows up with unexpectedly lascivious intentions, then retreats to the kitchen, where he smothers his anxieties by diving into food left over from the party. There’s nothing especially bold or surprising about the material, but the execution is exquisite. Cutter evokes P.T. Anderson’s work with her lyrical camera movements, emotion-drenched closeups, obvious skill with actors, and even her fetishistic interest in ‘70s kitsch. Even in the confines of this succinct film, Cutter generates drama, empathy and real human feeling. At the risk of an insensitive pun, Eating is a tasty snack that whets the appetite for the main course of a Cutter feature.

Eating at Sundance

by Paul Lamont

Rebecca Cutter likes carbs. The writer/director of the movie 'Eating' likes carbs and I know because she told me so. Actually, she wore the shirt. I know she likes carbs.

We met at the infamous Dresden in Los Angeles' Los Feliz, a community losing the LA version of the gentrification battle. Cutter had just returned from the Sundance film festival where 'Eating' was pretty ecstatically received. Peter Hanson of Film Threat, likened her to Paul Thomas Anderson, loved her fetishistic interest in '70s kitsch, and was salivating at the prospect of a feature-length debut in Eating's wake.

Eating catches central protagonist, Dave, at an Overeaters Anonymous meeting, reminiscing about a particularly vile adolescent evening, perhaps the one that brought him here, while the others in the meeting blether on.

Shot on 35mm film, Eating looks great, it sounds great, and the dialog is at once brutally painful and leading. Unfortunately, people say and do these things. Rebecca Cutter's camera never wavers as they do, and the revelation is as joyously painful as the start of an affair... It's like a Kathleen Edwards Failer reduction sauce, poured into 13 impeccable minutes. What it is, is Rebecca Cutter's a star is born turn.

She is sick. When we meet, she's so very sick. Ten days at Sundance on a steady diet of cigarettes and coffee and two hours of sleep a night have taken their toll on her physically. The seven screenings of 'Eating' buoyed her. "They were all sold out shows. I called up and even I couldn't get tickets. But then, all the shows at Sundance sell out. It's Sundance!"

Did I mention, Rebecca Cutter is currently LA's most self-effacing movie director?

The 80 shorts and 180 features shown during the festival are drawn from perhaps 4,000 entries. When I wondered how she surmounted such insurmountable odds, she says getting to Sundance was easy. "I just sent a tape in."


"Eating" gives Sundance something to chew on

Rebecca Cutter, who received a MFA in film production, shows her work in Utah.
By Casey Onder
Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Each January, tens of thousands of film enthusiasts flock to Park City, Utah, to bite their nails, wipe their tears and laugh uncontrollably during the menagerie of creative storytelling known as Sundance Film Festival.

Many USC cinema students dream of someday displaying their films at the Sundance Film Festival. Rebecca Cutter, who has an master's degree in production from USC's School of Cinema-Television, is living that dream.

This week, Cutter's short film, "Eating," screens at the festival. Only 82 shorts were accepted out of almost 4,000 submissions.

"Just getting in is an honor," Cutter said.


First of all, Eating

by Paul Lamont

It took me two years to catch up with Dean. We met as he was loading up his iPod (Jimmy Cliff, Elvis Costello, James Carr, Specials, Kinks, Bonzo Dog Band…) for a trip to the Sundance Film Festival. He had designed much of the collateral materials for the short film (highly anticipated festival entry) ‘Eating.’ Written and directed by Rebecca Cutter. “When I met Rebecca, 'Eating' had just been accepted by the festival, and we had precious little time to get everything else ready,” he says. "We worked intensely; Rebecca and the movie’s publicist came up with ideas for the sorts of things we could use. T-shirts were out, it’s too cold in Park City and no one would see them, Chap Stick and beanies were in.” Each of these items key off Jim’s poster for the film, one of the more arresting examples of film poster art we’ll see this year. The imagery absolutely demands that you give Eating your attention. It’s that good.


Film starring Brainard native shown at Sundance

On Jan. 21, more people than live in Mike Bruner's hometown packed into theaters to watch him on the big screen.

They watched the short film "Eating," in which Bruner stars. The 13-minute film is one of 38 dramatic shorts shown this year at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, which ends this weekend. Tickets for the group of films sold out on that Friday, the first day of the festival, Bruner said.

It was a nice way to start the festival. After the films, some  audience members sought Bruner out and complimented him on his performance. And as Bruner strolled down Park City streets, he saw people wearing buttons and hats emblazoned with the name of the film. What was it like for a Brainard native and a first-time attendee of the nation's most prestigious film festival?

"Mind-boggling is a really good word," Bruner said.

So many people. So many movies. And, hopefully, opportunities, too.

Bruner, a former nurse and 1990 East Butler grad who lived in Brainard, then Hastings, then Omaha, then Phoenix — before moving to Los Angeles in 2001 — is, pretty much, a full-time actor. He estimates he pays 85 to 90 percent of his bills with money he's made in appearances on shows like "CSI," "The Shield" and "The Man Show." He's done a few independent films that no one picked up. He's done a few programs for the Travel Channel and the Learning Channel.

He's hoping his role in "Eating," for which he plays a compulsive overeater, will bring more work. It was a challenging roll for him, he said, because his character had been abused. While Bruner could relate to some aspects of the role, that part he couldn't.

"As far as a weight problem, obviously, I've struggled with that," he said. "I have no idea what somebody who goes through abuse would feel like."

Bruner was an actor long before he was on screen at Sundance, said East Butler English teacher and one-act coach Nancy Schulz.

She remembers casting Bruner as the radio announcer in a play about grammar. He ad-libbed. He was funny. He was in seventh grade. When he entered high school, he went out for one-acts, Schulz said. And  each year she cast the play around him.

"I always did comedies just to showcase Mike, just because that was his thing, and he was the best male actor when I had him," she said. She remembers him spoofing the Saturday Night Live shark-at-the-door skit, something that made even the principal laugh. "He was always a big ham," she said.

Back in Brainard, he's a bit of a celebrity. His mom, Sharon Bruner, said people sometimes call when they see him on TV. "And they say, ‘Mike's on. Turn to such and such a channel,'" she said.

Mike Bruner gets those calls, too. He gets e-mails from old friends, asking if the man on the small screen is the same guy they knew in high school or college. He likes that. 

"It's kind of fun to write back to them and say, ‘Yeah, that was me.'"


Schmoozing with celebs
Bruner stars in Sundance short

By Eric Freeman
Regional Reporter

Mike Bruner has entertained audiences since elementary school at East Butler. This past weekend Bruner’s starring role in the short film “Eating,” was previewed by Hollywood’s best at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City Utah. Bruner portrays the 36 year old adult “Dave”, an obese man struggling with his lifelong addiction to overeating.

Bruner began his professional acting career several years ago in Phoenix while also working as a registered nurse. He moved to Los Angeles in 2001 and has since appeared as guest star on several hit television shows. Bruner’s credits include guest starring roles on “The Man Show,” and “C.S.I.: Crime Scene Investigation.” His most recent work on the new sitcom “Shacking Up, “starring Fran Drescher, will air this year.

“It’s a great experience and I’m very excited about it,” Bruner said. “It’s a great honor to have something like this go to the Sundance Film Festival. It’s great exposure for everyone connected to the film.” Bruner said he can easily identify to the fictional story portrayed in “Eating.”

“I can relate to the isolation felt by overweight teens,” Bruner said. “My hope is that the film does well at Sundance and that it might help someone who’s going through that isolation.” In a phone interview Sunday evening Bruner said he had spoken with actor Michael Keaton after one of the seven screenings of the film and he had seen many other notable celebrities during his time at the film festival.
“Everything is going fantastic,” Bruner said. “It’s really exciting to be here talking with Michael Keaton. The place is pretty full of celebs.” “Eating,” directed by Rebecca Cutter, is Cutter’s thesis film made to fulfill the requirements of her masters program in cinematography.

Bruner’s parents are Jim and Sharon Bruner of Brainard.

Brainard native Mike Bruner stars in “Eating,” a short film that’s getting a showing at the Sundance Film Festival, a prestigious showcase for independent film.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Native reports from Sundance
Melanie Conklin

Verona native Dave O'Brien, a 2000 UW-Madison grad, is enjoying show biz's coldest hot spot, the Sundance Film Festival, where he's presenting a flick he produced called "Eating."

It's a 13-minute piece about a morbidly obese man's food addiction. "Eating" was one of 82 short films screening at Sundance through Sunday, picked by hungry judges from among 3,887 submissions.

Seeing the famous folk that have flocked to Park City, Utah - Sundance's posh but puny home - isn't all that different from life in L.A., where O'Brien now resides. But at risk of "being a dork," O'Brien admits that rubbing shoulders with star directors and actors, as a colleague, is "an amazing validation . . . at least for a few days."

In December, O'Brien fulfilled another dream - filming a movie on the UW-Madison campus. "Straight Boys," a film about a gay UW student who falls in love with his straight roommate, is currently in editing. O'Brien reveals that the film's one-sided romance "doesn't work out so well." But filming in Madison did: "People are so much more supportive and helpful in Madison than they are in LA."

And we have less traffic.