An independent Nanaimo film production company is crowd-funding for a pilot series that features a ‘devil on your shoulder’ character in a dragon onesie.
Producer, writer and director for Toxic Mascotlinity, Matt Haley said that if the project gets the desired financial backing, he sees it as an episodic sitcom that relatably addresses mental health issues.
“We really want to talk about current social issues and world topics. And using an interesting brand of comedy to bring light to it as well,” he said. “But walking that fine line of what is appropriate and what is funny – we don’t want to overstep or insult anyone.”
He envisions that the first season, if green-lit, will follow the main character Bree as she navigates the world with Kevin, her “foul-mouthed, vape-smoking, croc-wearing, toxic imaginary dragon.”
“Kevin is like her broken psyche. He’s there to help her with her loneliness and some other … issues,” Haley said. “Your first instincts aren’t always your best instincts … and Kevin is that guy that’s always got something to say.”
From a director’s standpoint, Haley said the series will be interesting to shoot since Kevin, played by Jonee Janolino, will provide a near constant narrative, while only Bree can see or hear his antics.
Haley speculated his own experiences dealing with drug and alcohol recovery played a heavy hand in the story concept.
“When I got sober, I really wanted to tell stories that helped people … And as ex-military, I had some mental-health issues myself,” he said. “And I’ve always had that idea of the angel and the devil on your shoulder, to guide you through your decision-making.”
He said he expects a lot of people can sympathize with the experience of having a “toxic sidekick looming over their shoulder” while they’re trying to live their best life.
The story of Toxic Mascotlinity first started as a short film script approximately half a year ago. However, after reaching out to several production companies and agents, Haley said he was met with mostly requests for multi-hour episodic material. He then reworked the 12-page short film into a 21-page pilot episode after numerous rewrites.
“Originally there was going to be a big, baseball-type mascot. And we weren’t going to show its face. But we decided that bringing in a working actor … and showing his face and having him in a dragon onesie would be much funnier,” Haley said.
If successfully backed, the project will require hiring four additional actors, two potentially as recurring characters – Bree’s brother and her therapist.
Kaliandra Capri, who plays Bree, said she intends on “bringing a bit of herself” to the main character.
“I see a lot myself in this character because we’re really focusing on the mental-health aspect, and also sexism…” she said, adding that she’s experienced her fair share of toxic masculinity, especially while working in different male-dominated industries.
Capri also said she eagerly jumped at the opportunity to work alongside Janolino again, having appeared in several Haley House Productions films with him before, including The Settler and 12 Step Strangler.
Although the characters and story were created by Haley, he said Capri and Janolino played a significant role in the project as they helped him workshop story ideas and character development.
“It’s my story, but it’s their characters … It’s really important to me that these guys have a voice.”
With a hopefully successful Kickstarter campaign, Haley intends to submit the ‘proof-of-concept’ pilot to streaming service providers and distributors in early 2023. They aim to start filming, with potential locations in Nanaimo, Nanoose, Victoria and the Comox Valley, for five days in late October followed by approximately six weeks of editing.
As it currently stands, the campaign has achieved roughly 25 per cent of its $11,200 goal. The majority of the money raised will go to cast and crew, and the remainder will cover incidentals such as insurance, securing locations, travel, lodging and post-production.