David Lynch and Woody Allen, meet your low-bud­get Mon­treal match

Montreal Gazette - - Arts - BILL BROWN­STEIN


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.”

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