Filmmakers transform IC restaurant into television set, wrap up ambitious pilot

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On the scene at Short's Burgers and Shine
Hotel P creators will soon screen their pilot for television executives. — photo by Shauna McKnight

Short’s Burgers and Shine briefly transformed into a television set Monday as area filmmakers wrapped up the final shot for an independently produced pilot based — for the most part — in The Lodge Hotel in Bettendorf, Iowa.

Cast and crew spent most of Monday afternoon packed into the downtown Iowa City restaurant, however, shooting a Christmas Carol-esque flashback scene involving a few startling revelations and copious amounts of (faux) alcohol.

The potential series, titled Hotel P and directed by Iowa native Joe Heath, takes place in a rustic hotel filled with a strange assortment of guests and staff — all of them deceased. The hotel serves as a sort of purgatory, and the show itself is pitched as a cross between The Shining and Lost. The whole production is wrapped in a subtle film noir aesthetic, right down to the loose, bumbling cigarette hanging off the protagonist’s lower lip.

Dennis Haskins (Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell), Todd Bridges (Willis from Different Strokes), Benjamin Busch (that mohawk cop from The Wire) and R. Keith Harris (Big Fish, Under the Dome and Hotel P’s lead role) fill out the cast.

How’s that for a Hollywood hodgepodge?

Joining them is a slew of Iowa-based talent, including a brief cameo by Scott Siepker of “Iowa Nice Guy” fame, assistant editor Eric Anfield, associate producer Misty Blank, dialogue coach Blake Daly, as well as actors Mollie Pratt, David Beatty and Sam White.

Former Hawkeye football player Tyler Luebke is filling in as the assistant to the director, with Iowa City-based musician Dustin Blank serving as assistant director. Blank, who launched a successful Kickstarter for his debut album earlier this year, has written several songs for the series, as well.

The pilot’s creator and executive producer, Mic Van De Voorde, is originally from Fairfield, Iowa.

With shooting finished up, the pilot will now enter several weeks of post-production before being shown to television executives. Hotel P officials plan to market the pilot to HBO, and although the odds are admittedly slim (as they are for most pilots), never say never, right?

Check out Hotel P’s Facebook page for a behind-the-scenes look at the pilot’s production.

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