Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Canadian Film Fest: Ben's At Home Director, Mars Horodyski

UPDATE: MARCH 27-Pacific Northwest Pictures announced today that they have acquired all Canadian rights to BEN'S AT HOME, the hilarious new relationship comedy from Canadian writer/director Mars Horodyski and writer/actor Dan Abramovici. PNP’s Emily Alden, Vice President, said, “We’re excited to be sharing this hilarious and heart-warming film with Canadian audiences. BEN'S AT HOME is the perfect film for lovers, best friends and comedy fans to enjoy together.”  The film will be released in theatres across Canada in May 2015 and on Video On Demand (VOD) platforms including iTunes, Shaw, Rogers and Bell in July 2015.
Source: PNP press release.

I first met Mars Horodyski  years ago through her involvement with First Weekend Club. The Canadian Film Centre alumnus has kept busy directing short films, documentaries, and series television. Her first feature film, "Ben's At Home", already the recipient of several awards, is screening at this year's Canadian Film Fest. The film stars, Dan Abramovici as Ben, a 30 year-old, recently single (okay, dumped) guy who has decided to give up on external social activities, and just stay home. I recently had a chance to interview Mars about directing the film, and the development of the script which she co-wrote with Abramovici.

donna g: I know you shot in Dan Abramovici's actual apartment. What were some of the benefits and challenges of shooting multi-camera in his apartment?

Mars Horodyski, Director, Ben’s At Home, Toronto, 2014
Mars Horodyski: Dan’s apartment is tiny so it was a challenge finding the best angles to shoot from and keeping the space interesting for the duration of the film. Shooting multi-cam made this even more challenging. I worked closely with our amazing DP Walter Pacifico on creating subtle lighting themes to reflect the character’s journey and add interest to each scene. One benefit of shooting on location was that Dan’s existing space worked perfectly for the character. We tried to work with what was there as much as possible with minor tweaks for colour and composition.

(L-R) Craig (Craig Brown) and Ben (Dan Abramovici) 
Ben’s At Home
Awkward Silence Productions & Cinemars, 
Toronto, 2014
donna g: Thirty is by no means old, but there is a distance in experience from being in your early twenties. Who gets writing credit for the hilarious but humiliating bar scene where Ben  is talking to those three barely-out-of-their teens young women--you or Dan?

Mars Horodyski: We both brought a bit to this scene having had experienced moments of uncertainty about turning thirty and feeling disconnected from the very plugged-in, social media-savvy millennial generation. Dan also drew from experiences of a recent break up and feeling pressure to start dating again.

donna g: Please tell me that "Foosball Girl", as I like to call her, is not based (even loosely) on a past dating situation that either you or Dan has had!

Mars Horodyski: This scene is actually based on combination of two real online dates that Dan went on. After we wrote the script we felt like there was a story beat missing where things didn’t go well for Ben. Dan ended up writing this scene and it’s one of my favourites. Inessa Frantowski (who plays Foosball Girl) is amazing.

donna g: Did you workshop the script first because the "guy" dialogue is bang on?

Mars Horodyski: Since we wrote the script in about a month we didn’t have time to workshop any of the scenes. When writing we were really influenced by indie mumblecore films (Duplass Brothers, Lynn Shelton) and wanted the dialogue to have a very natural feel. Dan, being an actor, also has a great sense of real sounding dialogue so that contributed.

donna g: The film is very funny but there is a sad and lonely undercurrent in the fact of how easy it is to socially engage without leaving the house. Ben works at home, has meals delivered, and even dates online. As he says in the film, people come to him. Was it difficult balancing the comedic and realistic tones of the film?

Mars Horodyski: It was important to us that all of the humor felt grounded and came from a real place. While we were writing we were always questioning how the comedy fit tonally and making sure it was never too broad for the type of film we were making.

donna g:  Congratulations on Ben's At Home being optioned as a web-series. When do you start working on this new venture?

Mars Horodyski: We have partnered up with Back Alley Film Productions/Muse Entertainment ("Durham County", "Bomb Girls") and are currently applying for IPF funding. We are hoping to go into production this summer and are excited to explore the possibilities of the Ben’s at Home concept further. To see what’s in store check out our hilarious web series teaser here:

We also have a new feature film in development. “…You Have Feet in Your Shoes” was recently selected as a Top Ten Finalist at the Cinequest Screenwriting Competition and we are planning on shooting it this year.

Ben's At Home screens
Saturday, March 28, 3:45 pm.
The Royal, 608 College Street

2015 Canadian Film Fest
March 25 - 28

More About Ben's At Home/Mars/Dan
Ben's at Home website:
Ben's at Home trailer :

Mars Horodyski

Dan Abramovici: @dan_abramovici

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