A pair of new, young filmmakers will be screening their first feature film at Toronto’s Regent Theatre on May 9.
A Dog in Paris, written, directed and produced by Sam Berns, 25, and Aaron Alter, 24, both of Thornhill, Ont., reflects the coming of age experience within their own lives. A comedy, it adapts the satirical commentary and sometimes slapstick tendencies of Woody Allen, while transfixing them to modern-day themes of success, chasing dreams, and affirmation.
“It’s a world where anything can happen and usually does – from breaking into musical song to diving into fears of anti-Semitism – but coloured with a brush of levity,” said Alter.
Berns plays a young, Jewish, neurotic, aspiring filmmaker, living at home with his family. He wants people to like his work and feels he needs to reach success at a young age in life or else he won’t be admired or loved by the masses, so he gets transported to the online world.
“We take the Sam character and by physically representing the Internet he pops open his laptop, presses enter, and there you see him in an online world which we show as a foresty country club environment where everybody is nice and everybody is over the top – sort of like Facebook – everyone’s liking everything. At first, Sam doesn’t buy into it, but the more people start to give him the affirmation that he’s been seeking, the more he sort of loses track of his real life,” explained Berns.
A Dog in Paris was filmed for $10,000, which they self-funded, over 25 days in Toronto and Honeywood (outside Collingwood) and three days in Paris, France.
The best friends have known each other for 10 years and have been collaborating on short films for the same amount of time.
“Throughout high school, we would do parody music videos, and little short films. We probably produced about 80 different sketch videos,” Alter says.
Berns remembers the exact date and time he came up with the idea for A Dog in Paris.
“It was February of 2016 at 3:30 a.m. when I sent Aaron some furiously fast messages on Facebook about an idea for a concept for us to work on. He loved it! We started writing. We talked about the story and the themes and what we wanted to get out of it. At the end of the day, we just want people to have some laughs and enjoy it,” said Berns.
“I think Sam has such a knack for dialogue and comedy. He would usually write drafts of the script and send them over to me and I would look at everything through a structural lens. It’s how we have always written our scripts together,” said Alter.
“If I’m the yin, Aaron is the yang,” laughed Berns.
Despite the title, there is no dog in the movie. “The dog is actually Sam in a dog costume because we could not afford real dogs,” said Alter.
The film boasts three original songs and their fathers play a pivotal role.
“Both of our dads are musicians at heart. It seemed like the perfect gift to have them write original songs for the movie. I met Naomi Matlow, who is an up-and-coming musical theatre playwright and talented songwriter, on a Jewish production of Rent, and asked her to write our third song,” said Berns.
The cast and crew were made up of some 80 volunteers from the Jewish community.
“The cast features my real-life girlfriend Rachel Kreuter, and many friends and colleagues. We reached out to our network to help make the project a reality in terms of artistic talent and manpower,” said Berns.
“At the end of the day, we are still these kids trying to make things for us and our friends and loved ones – that in itself is a triumph,” Alter. said.
For tickets go to eventbrite