Canadian indie romantic comedies opening in Toronto theatres

TORONTO -- While cinemas are currently flooded with buzzy Oscar-nominated titles, a few Canadian indie filmmakers are hoping movie-goers will show their romantic comedies some love heading into Valentine's Day.

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This month, several Canadian rom-coms are hitting theatres in the Toronto-area, including two by real-life Canuck couples.

"A Date With Miss Fortune" -- opening Feb. 5 in Cineplex Cinemas in Toronto, Oakville and Vaughan -- was written and produced by married actors Ryan K. Scott and Jeannette Sousa. The Toronto/Los Angeles-based duo also star in the film as a couple facing cultural differences.

Meanwhile, "What An Idiot" -- opening Feb. 5 at Kingsway Theatre in Toronto -- was written by fellow married actors Peter and Julia Benson of Vancouver. They also star in it as office colleagues who become close when he lies about his sexual orientation.

And "Portrait of a Serial Monogamist" -- hitting Toronto's Carlton Cinema on Feb. 12 -- was written and directed by Christina Zeidler and John Mitchell. Diane Flacks stars in the Toronto-shot film as the "serial monogamist."

"I think at the heart of it, audiences do love this type of film and actors and filmmakers love making them," said Peter Benson, "and I think with the digital revolution in filmmaking, it is so much cheaper to make a film.

"So I think people on the creative end are saying, 'Let's take a chance and try and put a funny comedy out there and try and find an audience for it."'

Scott and Sousa, who've been married for 12 years and have a three-year-old daughter, say their film was loosely inspired by the culture clash in their own relationship. (He's Canadian and she's of Portuguese descent.)

"We just kept joking around saying, 'We should write a movie about that one day,"' said Sousa, who met Scott at an audition.

They started writing it four years ago, also taking inspiration from their friends' cross-cultural relationships. They got their funding privately, largely through the Portuguese community, and recruited singer Nelly Furtado and TV personality George Stroumboulopoulos to make cameos.

They filmed in Toronto with what Scott called "a very commercial sensibility." Many of Sousa's family members appear onscreen.

They now hope to make more such films together to fill what Scott called a rom-com "void" in an industry filled with superhero and action films. They've already written a couple of scripts.

"We would definitely like to keep this going and have this be the first of many," said Scott, noting they likely wouldn't star in the other films.

In "What An Idiot," Peter Benson's character pretends to be gay in order to get close to his boss, played by his wife. It's already won trophies at the Canadian Comedy Awards and at the L.A. Comedy Festival.

The parents of two young children, who met doing voiceover work and got married in 2009, had already collaborated on a couple of projects before "What An Idiot."

But they'd been "aching" to make a comedy, a genre that isn't filmed much in Vancouver, where sci-fi and movies of the week dominate.

They also wanted to create a project with a strong female character as well as a "fresh and honest tone."

"We've really been inspired by the kind of Judd Apatow, Seth Rogen crew of filmmaking," said Peter Benson, who directed the film.

Like Scott and Sousa, the Bensons cast family members in the film.

And they hope to make more comedies together.

"It's a hard road, it's a long road," said Julia Benson, the film's producer.

"So I think what we've found is if one of us is down or something like that, the other one can pick the other one up and you kind of trade off.

"So we can always have one of us always being the cheerleader to keep going."

"A Date With Miss Fortune" comes out on VOD and home video on May 9.

"What An Idiot" hits VOD and iTunes on March 9.

More cities and dates for "Portrait of a Serial Monogamist" are to be announced.


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