David Lynch and Woody Allen, meet your low-budget Montreal match
all starts innocently enough: A techno-dweeb leaves his home. He stumbles to the spot where his car is normally parked. His car has vanished – apparently stolen. The befuddled fellow then hops into the métro, where he is being stalked by a masked man who bears a disturbing resemblance to Jason of Friday the 13th fame. Shortly thereafter, our anti-hero is kidnapped by the masked man and brought to a creepy attic where he is left to languish and deal with his sins.
Apart from being a self-centred dork, the only sin he seems to have committed is inadvertent littering. But he will have lots of time to evaluate his sins, existence and failed relationships with friends and family.
Add a little mind-jostling, an overbearing mother and surreal plotting about parallel universes, and it just might sound like some twisted David Lynch affair, with a soupçon of cynical Woody Allen. But this ain’t no $100 million spectacle from Hollywood. This is a $10,000 black dramedy from Montreal, with production values, scripting and acting that belie its paltry budget. It is Take Me Back, a 10-part series that is the brainchild of two Montrealers, Joe Baron and Seth Mendelson, with very limited funds but highly fevered imaginations.
Take Me Back has an ardent base of fans who likely share the off-centre views of the filmmakers. So ardent, in fact, that they will be catching the final instalment of the series tonight at midnight on their trusty computers. Though plans are in the works for a TV and DVD release, the entire Take Me Back series, which runs 73 minutes, is only available – for free – on the web at www.tmbtheseries.com. The first nine episodes can be scoped now.
The boys have created a buzz around the continent. There is a link to Take Me Back on the Los Angeles Times website. Plus, Baron and Mendelson were recently selected by the culturalindustry mag Playback for its Top 25 list of rising Canadian stars as a result of the series.
While both of them created the series, Baron, 26, is behind the camera as director and cinematographer, while Mendelson, 25, appears most comfortable in the lead role of the beleaguered techno-dweeb.
The guys are graduates of Concordia’s esteemed film program, and both were winners of the Kodak Grand Prize for student film at the Montreal World Film Festival. Mendelson copped the award in 2000, while Baron took it the following year.
Since elementary school, Baron and Mendelson have aspired to make movies. Mendelson also aspired to become the world’s best fisherman, but when that dream was dashed – due mostly to his inability to catch any fish – he focused all his energies on writing and acting.
According to Baron, art somewhat resembles Mendelson’s life here. And we ain’t just talking Take Me Back’s humorously overbearing mom: There are other script details that appear to have been lifted straight from his life.
“The story as we understand it – and if we don’t understand it by now, we never will – is that this geek (Mendelson) meets a girl and it doesn’t work out well,” says Baron. “Then the geek comes into possession of a mysterious gizmo allowing him to travel in time. This sets up a situation where he goes back in time and two of him are created.”
Alrighty then. But just what kind of medication were the guys on while concocting this story? “We just had a lot of free time on our hands and came up with something our resources could handle,” Baron explains.
Those resources were pretty much scant. “Let’s see,” Baron ponders. “We couldn’t afford to hire a crew, because we had no money. We did all the costumes ourselves. The actors worked for nothing. We did the location scouting ourselves. We ended up shooting a lot in (Mendelson’s) father’s store. We couldn’t even afford coffee on the set. But we were very resourceful. Then we built the story around whatever resources we could muster as well as our own ravings.”
Rather than put their series on YouTube, the guys decided to build their own website to showcase it. “We wanted to build our own community from scratch,” Baron says. “It’s a tough market. They get half a million hits on YouTube for a kid falling off the balcony, but it’s tougher to get people to watch something with a storyline and solid production. Still, we’ve had great feedback.”
They’ve also both been signed by an L.A. talent agency, thanks to the series. “Before we had few ideas; now we’ve got way too many,” Baron says. Their fans will, however, be delighted to learn success won’t temper their twisted views. “Don’t think so,” Baron adds. “Our next project is an action comedy that may or may not be about the Rapture.”