By Lauren Miele
It started with eight dollars and ended with a film festival nomination.
Ryerson grads, and Cohen brother wannabes, Mike and Dan Palermo’s short film Being Human was one of only 79 films chosen to compete in this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
This is a huge honour for the brothers, who filmed their seven-minute movie in about four hours and on an eight-dollar budget. It is now one of only six Canadians films in the festival, and the only one from a Canadian student.
The festival started in 2002 by Robert De Niro and producer Jane Rosenthal. This year the festival had as many as 2500 entries from all over the world.
“Getting into a festival of this size is very awesome,” Mike, 25, said.
The Palermo brothers’ film will be directly competing with films featuring established industry players like Oscar- winning writer Guillermo Arriaga, writer of Babel and 21 Grams.
“The people that we’re competing directly with spent, like, 50 grand, at least, for some of these short movies and that’s a shit ton of money. And their credits list has a ton of people – real actors and stuff,” Mike said.
“I just think that it’s very encouraging that ours, which doesn’t have any of that, is being compared to those. It’s only a positive for us at this point.”
Dan, 22, is also more excited than worried about competing with more seasoned pros.
“It’s kind of funny, but it’s kind of like I don’t think we’re even at that stage where we can be intimidated,” he said. “We’re not that big. We got nothing to lose.”
The Collingwood natives humbly started their movie making in 2000 when their father purchased the family’s first camcorder. Dan loved being behind the camera and used it all the time, and Mike enjoyed helping too.
The Palermo’s early goal was to simply be entertaining. One of their first movies was “Dunktown,” which they describe as a montage of Mike dunking a basketball, with no plot or storyline. “It just sounds so ass. It was funny. We watch it now and it’s still hilarious,” Mike said.
The brothers’ work dynamic hasn’t changed much since their first project together; Mike focusses on acting and directing, while Dan runs the camera. Needless to say, their latest project is slightly different.
Being Human is about two brothers who must decide how to handle a medical miracle. It explores how even the greatest of gifts can have devastating consequences.
“It started with me asking, ‘How can we force people watching this to make a choice along with the protagonist?'” Mike said about their approach to creating the film. “That’s, like, huge—really dramatic.”
“It’s one of those things where it’s like you watch it, and just at face value it’s fun. It’s entertaining to watch.”
Mike, a graduate of Ryerson’s information technology program, wrote and directed the film. He says, similar to his early days of filmmaking, his goal with Being Human is to entertain.
“The extraordinary thing isn’t the movie – it isn’t that the movie is amazing or bad or either extreme – it’s that it is taken seriously,” Mike said.
Dan, a fourth-year image arts film production student at Ryerson, worked as the editor and cinematographer for Being Human. But that hasn’t changed how he sees himself.
“Right now if somebody asked me what I do, I certainly wouldn’t say I’m a filmmaker. But it feels like after being accepted to Tribeca, I’m almost allowed,” Dan said.
Along with the Tribeca Film Festival nomination, the brothers also have their own independent filmmaking company, D/Vision Entertainment, which they founded in 2002.
The Trouble With Goons, another one of their short films, was entered in an Air Canada film competition, and later screened on all Air Canada flights for an entire month last October.