August 2014 Issue

August 2014

Canada’s Call Sheet

By Judith Klassen

What Would Ingrid Do?

August 2014Indie screen queen, Ingrid Veninger (pUNK Films), has long been impervious to the artistic buzz kill of bureaucracy. Veninger, relies on the kindness of strangers and budget fumes to make films to her own funky beat, completely trusting her instincts, her actors, her musical and visual collaborators, and perhaps most of all — the universe.

For her latest film, The Animal Project, established actors were willing to embrace Veninger’s vision — even before she was entirely sure what that vision was. As always, her closest kin were involved and even a twitchy, velvet-furred family member collaborated.

August 2014Says Veninger, “It was four in the morning and our 12 year old rabbit knew to jump out of the cage just when we needed the shot.”

Although there are many poignant moments for several of the characters, the heart of the film is the relationship between Leo, an acting teacher played by Aaron Poole (King) and his disaffected teen-aged son, Sam played by Veninger’s own son, Jacob Switzer (Hemlock Grove). Leo’s tortured resolve to recapture the simplicity of the past via his troubled theatre students and the warm, fuzzy comfort of animal costumes is both hilarious and a slam to the gut. Cool performances by all the actors who took the leap of faith to find their inner animals: Hannah Cheesman, Jessica Greco, Joey Klein, Emmanuel Kabongo, Sarena Parmar and Johnathan Sousa.

You’re a Strange Animal

August 2014Perhaps it’s the talk of our species living in the sixth extinction that’s bringing out the feathers and fur in Canuck films. At the opening of Theodore Bezaire’s latest flick, The Birder, a giant owl (yes, the same owl costume that appears in The Animal Project) poses with the actors on the red carpet. While The Birder lacks a soaring narrative, it does have its moments due to its impressive cast. There are snappy cameos from Fred Willard (Anchorman) and Graham Greene (The Green Mile), and the film stars the deeply awesome Tom Cavanaugh (Scrubs). There’s also up and comer Mark Rendall (Algonquin), Jamie Spilchuk (Hard Rock Medical), Tommie- Amber Pirie (The Trotsky), and the film introduces the nicely naturalistic Cassidy Renee as Cavanaugh’s daughter. As Cavanaugh’s estranged wife, Toronto playwright / actor Allana Harkin rocks velour sweat suits and cocky cougar confidence. Says Harkin, “When they brought out my wardrobe I was so relieved to see sweats and pajamas, yep, I’m a mom!”

It’s always a treat to see Harkin stride onto set. A superstar mommy blogger famous for Eating Over the Sink with The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee, Harkin is getting ready to launch a new comedy developed for CTV and E1 called Good Behaviour. I trust there won’t be any.

Just Passing Through

Aside from having a good old dirty laugh, one of the best aspects of watching the whacked-out P.E.I. web series Just Passing Through (created by Jeremy Larter, Geoff Read and Jason Larter) is spotting the antecedents. The integration of classic Cancon like Going Down the Road and The King of Kensington gives cool context to those raw, raunchy, internet rascals, Terry and Parnell Gallant (Dennis Trainor and Robbie Moses).

The PEI cousins are “just passing through” Toronto on their way to Alberta when their car breaks down. Stuck in the stuck-up town the boys take selfies in front of Maple Leaf Gardens and pose with obliging hookers who are just so purdy the cousins can’t believe they’re real! They quickly inflict themselves on their Upper Canadian cousin, Owen (Tyler Seguin) who is struggling with his demeaning job at a hot yoga studio for dogs, Hot Doga, run by a surreal incarnation of co creator Jeremy Larter.

As the hapless PEI cousins Trainor and Moses are ribald, reckless and kind of adorable. Maybe it’s the Islander catch in the back of the throat or the oddly endearing way they vigorously admire all of the women who step into their sight lines, but word on Lady Street is that these “Dirty Birdies” can stick around Hog Town for as long as they like.

And the ladies of JPT have their own quirky genius, Alex (Bridget Tobin) and Vanessa (Sydney Dunitz) are definitely not just there to provide context for the boys. The writing leaves no one stranded, and Tobin’s chipper, upfront Alex could make a “Handyclam” blush.

Judith Klassen is a Toronto-based writer, comedian, filmmaker, and host of the celeb talk show Judecast.

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