The Screening Room

By James Sanford

Sunday will be ’Hell’ at Michigan Brewing Co.

Michael McCallum has been a waiter “for a long time,” he says. “Longer than I want to admit.” He’s got dozens of stories about impatient, irrational, even borderline-insane customers. But he’s also a filmmaker and an actor, and in his “Waiter From Hell” trilogy, he gets his revenge — at least on screen.

His character is “the most obnoxious waiter imaginable,” writer-director-star McCallum explains. “He’s gonna come over to take your drink order and you’re gonna try to order something, he’ll just walk away.”

If you’re lucky. Otherwise, he’ll stick around long enough to serve you plenty of bad attitude.

“It’s not gross-out humor, but he says completely inappropriate things to people. I have had people asked me, ‘Have you ever treated customers like that in real life?’ Absolutely not.

"But since making these films, there are times when I can feel that character seeping out.”

On his night off from his job at Falsetta’s Casa Nova, McCallum is screening his “Waiter from Hell” shorts at 6 p.m. Sunday at Michigan Brewing Co. — viewers are advised to please tip their servers.

McCallum’s Rebel Pictures has been on a roll lately. “Shadowpuppet,” another of his shorts, was screened as part of the Thriller! Chiller! film festival in Grand Rapids and “Handlebar” won the best Michigan feature prize at the Ferndale Film Festival last month; it was also the only Michigan-made film included in the Philadelphia Film-A-Thon, which was held in October.

But McCallum hasn’t given up his day job/night job just yet.

“It’s a great learning opportunity,” McCallum says of the service industry. “Learning to be patient with people. I do think it’s a profession everyone should do, just to see what it’s like on the other side of the table.”

The caustic comedies sprang from dis cussions McCallum had with friend and fellow server John O’Meara, now the dining room manager at Mitchell’s Fish Market. “We were laughing and talking and we came up with things that aren’t necessarily used in the film, but which sparked my imagination,” McCallum says.

That informal atmosphere extended to the filming, which was “experimentally structured,” McCallum says. “We set up what each scene was going to be, but the dialogue was all ad-libbed.”

There’s also a degree of authenticity that’s not present in movies like the Ryan Reynolds farce “Waiting,” in which, according to McCallum, “you’re watching actors who’ve never waited tables playing waiters — and they don’t even know how to hold a tray properly.”

The films were shot between 2007 and 2009, between McCallum’s work on his other projects, such as the feature films “Fairview St.” (which was recently shown at the East Lansing Film Festival), “Handlebar” and “Lucky,” which premieres in March. The theme song of the “Hell” shorts, “Waiting For Me,” was composed and performed by local musician Wesley Tkaczyk, and the movies feature Jeffry Wilson, David M. Foster, Chad Hines and Christine Therrian.

For those who want to take home a piece of the experience, DVDs will be available for $10, featuring all three films, as well as commentaries from the filmmakers and actors.

‘Waiter From Hell’

6 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 5 Michigan Brewing Co., 402 S. Washington Ave., Lansing $5