Our directors, Shawn & Kathryn, recently did an interview with the Bloor West Villager newspaper.

Bloor West couple’s first feature film uses neighbourhood as backdrop 

By Lisa Rainford

Shawn Whitney and his wife Kathryn Palmateer are parents to four-year-old and three-month-old daughters, but they are eagerly anticipating the debut of their latest co-production, a feature-length film.

Palmateer, a photographer and Whitney a development consultant and writer, wanted to pool their resources and blend their talents to create a movie – but with a catch: It had to be made with little to no money.

“We both felt like all we were working on were projects for other people. We wanted to do something ourselves,” said Palmateer, sitting in the kitchen of the couple’s Bloor Street West and Dufferin Street-area home on a Friday morning. “We thought, ‘Let’s just do it.’”

Whitney says he was inspired by reading about advanced technological singularity and inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who wrote ‘The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology,’ a 2005 non-fiction book about artificial intelligence and the future of humanity.

“Then, he got this crazy idea,” said Palmateer with a laugh.

‘Brand New You,’ a science fiction story, centres around Santiago Morales, a 30-year-old widower. After the sudden death of his wife, Viviana, Morales decides he’s going to kill himself. Moving into a rooming house, Morales begins to work his way through his suicide to-do list.

“Then, he fails at killing himself,” said Whitney.

Instead of dying, Morales decides to seek the help of his landlord, a disgraced biologist, to clone his dead wife so they can be reunited. However, he’s got to convince his roommate to be the surrogate mother, not to mention transform household appliances and materials bought online into an advanced biology lab. Despite the unconventional story line, Whitney says the film is ultimately about relationships – and moving on.

“It’s actually pretty funny,” interjects Palmateer.

It doesn’t hurt either that one of the stars is a comedian; the other a clown, she added.

Actor Manuel Rodrigues, who plays Morales, welcomed the chance to play the starring role.

“He’s a very talented actor,” said Whitney. “He’s dark skinned – he tends to get type-cast as a drug dealer or dishwasher,” said Whitney.

What sets this film apart is that it was filmed for the most part at Whitney’s and Palmateer’s home. Other parts were filmed at Lula Lounge on Dundas Street West. All of it was filmed in their Dufferin Grove neighbourhood in June.

“Our bedroom was the make-up and wardrobe room,” said Whitney. “It was a 12-day shoot for 12 to 14 hours. We used all three floors of the house. Turns out a lot of the crew lives around here.”

The couple credits the “amazing” cast and crew. The film is currently being edited.

“We expect a rough cut soon. We’d like to get it into some festivals. We’ve had some discussions with some Canadian distributors. Once it’s done, we’ll send it out into the world,” said Whitney.

For Palmateer, it’s not just that they created this film, but the way it was made.

“We were excited to work together; that it was done on a low budget; we did it with union actors,” she said. “You don’t have to have a million dollars to make a film.”

The couple says they want to tell stories that haven’t been told.