By Tom Charity
There’s something a bit quirky about Calgary-based Jason Filiatrault, who’s possibly best known for a parody Twitter account. But quirk is obviously working for him.
His first original, full-length screenplay Entanglement, starring Thomas Middleditch (Silicon Valley), was snapped up by Vancouver’s Thunderbird last year and bowed at the Seattle International Film Festival in May to solid reviews. It’s a whimsical romantic comedy about a suicidal man who falls in love with a woman who may be his half-sister (Jess Weixler from The Good Wife), which is when things get really strange…
Then there’s Three to Get Ready, a comedy about a recently engaged couple who agree to try a threesome to reconcile their very different sexual experiences, which is in development with Toronto-based Darius Films (Defendor); and Bad Seeds, which Filiatrault is working on with Entanglement director Jason James. It’s a heist movie with a difference: “A young widow breaks into a sperm bank with five women she meets in a grief support group to get her hands on her late husband’s sperm.”
Filiatrault is also working on a new draft of feature comedy Newly Weds (though star Tyler Labine’s busy schedule has bought him some time). And while a couple of recent TV pilots were knocked back by eOne and CBC, he’s optimistic about the next one, “a surreal comedy” called Tracy and Unicorn. Though there was no prodco attached at press time, the pilot, which tells the story of an unhappy woman who summons a wish-granting unicorn, was selected from more than 200 screenplays at the 2017 Just for Laugh Festival in Montreal for a staged reading directed by Goon‘s Jay Baruchel.
And there is the not-insignificant prospect of Rover, based on Filiatrault’s massively popular @SarcasticRover Twitter handle. “When the Mars Rover landed in 2012, I put these lonely robot jokes on Twitter. The next day I woke up to 7,000 followers. Wolf Blitzer talked about it on CNN, it was featured in Time magazine and I was invited down to NASA.”
Better yet, it brought him to the attention of Mila Kunis, whose L.A.-based company Orchard Farm Productions initially developed Rover for an animated series. Now Orchard is working with Shadow Machine (Robot Chicken; Bojack Horseman) to retool the project as a potential feature.
After attending Calgary’s Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, Filiatrault was invited to participate in the CFC Comedy Exchange in 2011 on the strength of a script he wrote for director Grant Harvey. “That introduced me to producers and executives in Toronto and L.A. It’s how I met [screenwriter] Kirsten Smith who has been incredibly helpful to me – and who introduced me to Jason James – and it’s how I met my agent, [New York-based] Scott Yoselow, [of Gersh Production].”
Filiatrault is equally enthusiastic about the NSI Script to Screen program, key to getting Entanglement made in less than two years, with the support of Telefilm, Movie Central and the Harold Greenberg Fund.
It didn’t hurt that the first actor they approached, Middleditch, leapt at the script.
“It’s such a weird and personal story about very esoteric questions. So much of writing is just trying to find connection with readers or performers or producers, and maybe the appeal lies in giving everyone something to connect to, writing the things I believe in and finding people who believe in them as much as I do,” says Filiatrault.
Like the 492,000 @SarcasticRover followers, who signed on over the last five years for gems like: “It’s the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend!!! Who knows, maybe you’ll all get lucky and one will hit.”
To read more about this year’s Five to Watch, click here.