Dan Abramovici and Mars Horodyski cleaned out their bank accounts to make ultra low-budget romantic comedy Ben’s At Home.
And while nobody was paid, or has made a dime since — aside from canine
star Schnitzel, who got all the kibble she could handle — that hasn’t
stopped them from aiming higher for their next movie.
“We love the Duplass brothers and Lynn Shelton
and if only we could have a little team of people here in Toronto that
could help each other out and make stuff together it would be
unbelievable,” said Abramovici, who co-wrote and stars in Ben’s At Home, now playing at the Carlton and Kingsway theatres.
Ben is the first feature for Abramovici
and co-writer and director Horodyski, who have made several shorts
together. Their goal is to keep making movies and “figure out a way to
tell these stories that are comedic, that have a lot of heart to them,”
Ben was shot in August 2013 for
$20,000, half coming from Abramovici and Horodyski and half raised
through crowdfunder Indiegogo. They entered it in a dozen film festivals
from Puerto Rico to Rhode Island, where the 70-minute movie won several
prizes, including Best Feature at the Canadian Film Fest in March.
That caught the eye of distributor Vancouver-based Pacific Northwest Pictures, which put Ben into two Toronto theatres, taking it to Regina and Calgary ahead of its June 16 VOD release.
Their next project is brother-sister road trip comedy … You Have Feet In Your Shoes, which Abramovici says will have a $700,000-to $1 million budget, although “we don’t know how to raise that money.”
Landing a “name” actress — they are hoping for Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany or Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls) to co-star with Abramovici — would certainly help.
“This movie is made with pieces of tape and a lot of heart,” said Abramovici, 33, of Ben’s At Home, where he plays a guy who becomes a recluse to avoid risking heartbreak.
Abramovici, who has been an actor for 10
years, is a familiar face, having made more than 30 TV commercials for
everything from fast food to cough medicine. “I love doing commercials.
They pay so great and it’s a lot of fun but that’s not why I got into
acting,” he said.
He and Horodyski, 34, called in favours to
assemble cast and crew. Luckily, they have talented friends, including
Jessica Embro, who plays love interest, Jess. She and Abramovici met on
an audition for a coffee chain and made a comedy short for website Funny
or Die before Ben’s At Home.
Toronto indie band Freedom or Death contributed original music without charge.
Horodyski figured if they couldn’t pay
anybody, at least they could serve a good meal to cast and crew once a
day so “people would feel nourished on a lot of levels,” and they built
that into the budget.
“We wanted to make this movie and we got this
window of time and the stars aligned,” Abramovici explained. It was shot
primarily in his west-end home, his pinball machine, foosball table and
pup all put to good use.
They “kind of winged it” as they went along,
he said, unsure how much the movie would cost and realizing they needed
most of the cash to pay for post-production and editing.
Horodyski shot in chronological order so the
script could change as needed, grateful so much of the cast was made up
of quick-thinking improv comedy veterans (including four from Second
City) like Jim Annan and Rob Baker, as well as Craig Brown and Gemini
winner Inessa Frantowski.
“We do have a great indie filmmaking
community,” Horodyski said. “People came out every day and these
wonderful comedians brought a lot with them.”
A breakdown of the numbers behind making the Toronto-shot, low-budget indie Ben’s At Home.
$2,240 mostly in Thai food and Portuguese chicken
Kibble for dog star Schnitzel
Second City alumni in cast
Film festivals attended with film