The body-switch genre gets a novel twist in The Heckler, an Australian comedy from first-time feature director Ben Plazzer and writer Steve Mitchell.
Now in post, the privately-funded film stars Simon Mallory as Steve, a fame-hungry, self-absorbed stand-up comedian. Steve is on the brink of cracking the big league when he accidentally kills Mike (CJ Fortuna), a heckler and jealous wannabe comic.
Mike’s spirit somehow jumps into Steve’s body and sets out to ruin his reputation by performing disastrous, unfunny stand-up routines. Thus Steve must try to repossess his body before Mike destroys his relationships, his finances and his one shot at fame, the Ultimate Funniest Comedian contest.
Kate Jenkinson plays Steve’s girlfriend, Emily Taheny is his ex and Dave Lawson is a rival comedian.
Odin’s Eye Entertainment’s Michael Favelle has boarded the project and is pitching it to local and international distributors. “Australian comedy can be a challenging genre for international sales but I think The Heckler’s broad, accessible nature and body switch angle will appeal to buyers,” said Favelle, who will show a sales teaser at this month’s Toronto market.
A 2007 Victorian College of the Arts graduate in film and television, Plazzer has directed numerous short films. He met Mitchell at the VCA, playfully describing him as the “weird guy down the front.”
Mitchell got the idea for the film after having an out-of-body experience, a phenomenon his director does not believe in, and he and Plazzer served as the producers.
To "road test" the gags in the script, Mitchell did some stand-up gigs as a comedian, which he says was "pretty scary for an introverted writer."
“We started out on a small budget and as we were shooting people heard about what we were doing and said they’d like to invest,” Plazzer said.
He described putting the film together essentially as a 2-man operation as an "enormous project" and a learning experience.