Snack Shack: How the Movie Takes a Nostalgic Trip to the '90s, Explained by Director (Exclusive)

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Snack Shack movie 2024

The director and cast of the upcoming film Snack Shack talked about how their new film is the perfect nostalgic trip to the '90s.

The film, directed by Adam Reheimer, follows two 14-year-old boys during the summer of 1991 as the best friends take on running their own Snack Shack at a local pool.

Snack Shack Cast and Director Talk About Nebraska City

Conor Sherry in Snack Shack

In some exclusive interviews with The Direct, the cast and director of Snack Shack spoke about their time filming the movie in Nebraska City, the impact of their characters, and how it brings the perfect '90s nostalgic tale to audiences.

The movie is based on real-life events and people from director Adam Rehmeier’s real life growing up in the same town where they shot the production.

Rehmeier reminisced that growing up, he and his friend had "a system" for "gambling" at "the Greyhound racing track," where they would then poor their winnings in their back in 1991:

"My best friend and I, growing up, we would hit the Greyhound racing track. We'd get somebody to pay us to take us up or hitch rides when we were 14 because we couldn't get up any other way. Or somebody's older brother would give us a ride. And we would take our gambling winnings, we did have a system, we had a system for big money long shots, and that's how we fucking rolled, and we would sink all of that into real beer, which was our beer brewing operation that in 1991…”

He explained how, surprisingly, "it wasn't illegal to buy barley, hops, yeast, and malt" in bulk:

"I can tell you there were not kids brewing beer; we were out there on the perimeter brewing beer, and we figured out that it wasn't illegal to buy barley, hops, yeast, and malt. We could go right into the fermenter supply store and buy that and buy the tubs. And we had a big tome, because it's pre-internet. So we have this big manual on how to brew different pilsners and ales and lagers. And we're doing it while his parents are at work. And we're getting the bottles and capping it ourselves and all of that.”

The director went on to examine how within the movie "there’s fact" and "there’s fiction" all "blended together:"

"So, I mean, it was that the framework for it, and the fact that we found a way to get the Snack Shack, we did it for two summers, all in, that was all true... When I built this film out, it was just on a series of note cards, and I just took all of my favorite stories… I just put them on a wall and then just stared at it for like a year and tried to figure out how to stitch everything narratively and kind of do this meditation on my childhood. There's fact, there's fiction, they're blended together. "

Mika Abdalla in Snack Shack

Mika Abdalla plays Brooke, the love interest of Conor Sherry’s A.J., who moves in next door for the summer.

Abdalla compared her character’s role in the story to those people one meets in their life for only a fleeting moment:

"Yeah, my character wasn't based on one specific person, but like, several different girls that Adam either went to school with or who would be visiting their family over the summer and, like, in and out style people. But I think everyone can relate to meeting someone on vacation and having a crush on them. And then you have to go home. That's more where her story comes from."

The actress noted that, for her, the most unique aspect of the production was how she met "the real people who were there in the summer of 1991:"

“Meeting the real people who were there in the summer of 1991. I mean, it just adds a level of something, some kind of fun magic that I don't think he would have gotten anywhere else.”

Director Adam Rehmeier explained how Brooke is "an amalgamation of all those proto relationships" he went through growing up:

"I think that it's like an amalgamation of all those proto-relationships. I wanted to honor that in this film. So out of my context, just like, in my context, you know, girls and things that I learned maybe all the way into my 20s, really, with Brooke, you know, different relationships. I just, I'm interested in those proto relationships where they're kind of the building block and foundation for how you'll interact with future relationships."

He clarified he’ is “married now,” but that does not keep him from thinking “about those foundational building block [relationships]:”

"I'm married now, so I often think about those foundational building block [relationships] and how they each lead up to this moment. So it's interesting. And I think that they're often kind of not talked about or forgotten about. Somebody goes on a cruise or a vacation, and they meet someone the same age as them, and they maybe have a kiss or something and have a crush or think about that person. And then it's a few postcards—at the time, it'd be like postcards, maybe now it's emails, but eventually it tapers off and just disappears."

"All of those added up" are "still in the fabric of what makes you," the filmmaker continued, and exploring that isn't something audiences "see that very often:"

"But it's still in the fabric of what makes you, all of those added up, and now everything that you're basing decisions on, or how you interact with your wife, or your spouse, or whatever it is, is just like, a combination of all those things that led to that. So, in a way, it honors those types of relationships. And you just don't see that very often."

Nick Robinson plays Shane in the movie, an older friend and role model for the main character, A.J.

Speaking on how he helped get into the right mindset for the role, the actor admitted "a lot of the work was already done" by filming "in Nebraska City:"

"Speaking for myself, I think a lot of the work was already done just by being there... in the place where it happened. We were in Nebraska City. That's where Adam grew up. That's where the story is set; that's where these characters are all from. And so just by being there, and kind of soaking up the just surroundings and scenery and local nightlife... It just felt like we were all of a sudden transported to 1991. And at the pool even, I mean, we spent a lot of time with the pool. And so, to me, it felt very natural and organic, just by virtue of being where it happened."

Mika Abdalla jumped in, stressing the importance of filming in the same city the real events happened in—something director Adam Rehmeier fought for:

"… We can't undermine the importance of being in Nebraska City. I know there were talks of maybe doing it in Ohio or like, you know, somewhere that--it's not a tax incentive state. There's no reason that the producers should have let us shoot in Nebraska City. But Adam just like put his foot down. And that's, like, what makes the movie, I think."

When audiences watch the movie, they will undoubtedly notice the infectious high energy present throughout the entire feature.

Robinson accredited that to Rehmeier’s writing, which he called "frenetic and fast-paced:"

"I think a lot of it has to do with the writing. Just Adam's writing and Mika's talked about this too, but how there's a rhythm to it. It just is frenetic and fast-paced. And I think, you know, Adam wanted the movie just to go... So that was, I think, a lot of that came from him and his writing style."

At the end of the day, once viewers finish the film, Robinson hopes that audiences can remember the impact his character left on everyone around him and that if anyone has the opportunity to be that person in someone else’s life, they should do it:

"Hopefully, people can take away that Shane's happy-go-lucky kind of attitude and the impact that he left on the kids and just make sure that if you have the opportunity to be that person for, somebody else to do it."

Leading the movie are Conor Sherry and Gabriel LaBelle as 14-year-olds A.J. and Moose—though, in real life, the actors are actually in their early twenties (23 and 21 respectively).

Speaking on how they worked to come across as far younger than they are, Sherry noted how he worked to "[try] to bring back the innocence that you have at that age:"

"I think a lot of it was just trying to bring back the innocence that you have at that age. You know, A.J. goes through almost all of his firsts, if you will, in this movie, and obviously, I've gone through all of those things before, and Gabe has as well, I'm assuming…?"

For LaBelle, he attributed a lot of it to "the dialogue" and a "lack of self-awareness:"

"I think the dialogue just informed so much. I think a lack of self-awareness and, you know, being like a young adult and moving out on your own to a new place and taking your life seriously, I think, definitely changes your perspective on yourself in the world. And so it's a lot of fun to try to get rid of all of that as much as possible... Just bring as much youthful energy as possible… I think just going back into your camera roll and remembering what it was like to be a teenager and be 14."

The friendship between A.J. and Moose is the cornerstone of Snack Shack, a relationship that Sherry admitted was further developed off camera by how coring Nebraska City was:

"As characters, we built the dynamic when--there was nothing really to do in Nebraska City. What you see in the movies is what we would do on our days off. We were a five-minute walk from the pool from our hotel. And yeah, I think that really helped. I feel like the town was a big character in this movie if not the biggest character, and grounds the entire kind of, you know, movie as a whole, but also all of our characters because it's, we all had a place that we knew outside of work, because it's all we had there to kind of hang out."

Some audiences may recognize LaBelle from his time on Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans, an experience that "gave [him] confidence" the actor feels he "needed to play Moose:"

"I think it definitely gave me confidence that I think I needed to play Moose. I learned a lot about how to manage your energy when you're working that much. How to prioritize sleep, and make sure that you just don't break down and to actually like, decompress on the weekends and not exert a lot of energy prepping for the next week, so that you're just burned out. Just taking as much of what did or didn't work for me. I think those were the main things."

Snack Shack hits theaters nationwide on March 15.

- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.