Fans of the YidLife Crisis comedy series can now watch its co-creator Eli Batalion in his first feature film Appiness, a send-up of the highly competitive world of young wannabe tech entrepreneurs.
Batalion co-stars as the introverted Jewish Eric Newman opposite the Indo-Canadian Raj Patel (Varun Saranga), an old high school buddy he by chance runs into years later when both are at a low point in their yet to launch careers.
Approaching 30, Newman has been laid off from his desk job plunging him into even more insecurity and despair than he had at the best of time.
The hyper, ever-optimistic Patel believes he has the next big idea for an app. He proposes that they team up and develop something that will rival Facebook and make them billionaires.
Newman, Patel suggests, has the brains and he has the business smarts.
What follows is a hapless (appless?) quest to find a venture capitalist who will listen to their pitch.
Appiness is a fast-paced 82 minutes of zany encounters that offer insight into what really happens behind the façade of creative collegiality among young tech aspirants.
Newman and Patel do find a congenial and more levelheaded collaborator in Jeanine Genet (Montreal’s Amber Goldfarb) in this movie, shot in Montreal with an all-Canadian crew.
Getting Appiness to public distribution has been a long slog for Batalion, who played the cerebral, uptight Leizer to Jamie Elman’s laidback, irreverent Chaimie in their original Yiddish-language hit web series launched in 2014.
The former Bialik High School pals have gone on to make lighthearted documentaries, typically focusing on food, including the most recent, Chewdaism: A Taste of Jewish Montreal, which continues to tour film festivals and made it to theatrical release.
Batalion, who is actually approaching 40, began writing Appiness more than seven years ago, inspired by his own stint in the startup world. He’s also the director, producer and co-composer of the film’s score.
Appiness was completed 1-1/2 years ago, and has been on the indie circuit and shown at one local festival, the mainly francophone Les Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma. It won the Debut Filmmaker Award at the Calcutta International Cult Film Festival.
Getting Appiness to the commercial market was tough, almost as hard as securing financing, says Batalion.
Finally, Appiness was picked up by California-based Gravitas Ventures, a video on-demand (VOD) company and, as of Jan. 28, will be available on several streaming services and cable VOD.
Of his own experience among techies, Batalion says, “It was an interesting environment, fast-paced, but a lot of pressure, there’s a lot of pretending and make-believe on the long journey to entrepreneurship. It’s about faking it until you make it. That’s the reality the outside world doesn’t see.”
While Batalion was used to being part of a comedic duo, playing opposite a character from a different background was a refreshing.
He discovered that he shared with Saranga, who has had roles in the television series Wynonna Earp and Schitt’s Creek, a family background that placed a high value on professional success.
Has he found ‘appiness yet? Batalion is just glad he never really wasted years pursuing a tech pipe dream.