therapy dogs movie

Movie secretly filmed by students at Mississauga high school gets world premiere

The world premiere of a movie that was actually filmed secretly by students at a Mississauga high school will take place this month.

Therapy Dogs clinched a spot in the Narrative Features category of the 2022 lineup for this year's Slamdance Festival, taking place online from Jan. 27 to Feb. 6.

It was one of 10 films in the category selected out of 1,124 international submissions, and the director is the youngest in the category.

The movie was made secretly at Cawthra Park Secondary School in Mississauga during director Ethan Eng's senior year in 2019, Eng pretending he was making a yearbook video. Now age 20, Eng is the first in the festival to ever have made a feature in high school.

"Not only is it an authentic portrait of modern youth, but it's a time capsule of teenage freedom before the pandemic shut down schools," Eng tells blogTO.

Justin Morrice stars in and wrote the film with Eng, the pair starting work on it in 2017 when they were just 16. The group of friends involved in the movie were all part of the same grade.

"We wanted to make something that felt authentic to our own experiences in high school growing up in the GTA and hopefully share it with others that felt the same way," says Eng. "It wasn't something we could easily find in movies so we decided to make our own."

The mission was to capture an entire year and students as they really were with complete access to the school, "something that the movie studios could never pull off." They used everything from GoPros to cell phones to professional cinema cameras to shoot.

83-minute-long Therapy Dogs uses covert filming methods to play with the liminal space between reality and scripted scenes, mic'ing actors and conducting scenes in actual classrooms and at real school events.

The result is an unfiltered portrait of daily high school life, including parties, underage drinking, stunts, promposals, friendships and searching for your voice.

Matthew Miller and Matt Johnson executive produced, the same people behind Nirvanna The Band The Show, and The Dirties. Filmmaking collective and band shy kids produced, known for their TIFF award winning short film Noah.

The movie also has a soundtrack of indie artists that includes Sam Ray, Show Me the Body and Morgan Powers.

"I'm super excited about the premiere. Now that it's gone virtual, it means that I can invite everyone to see it. This was a movie made with community in mind and I'd love nothing more than to share it," says Eng.

"I hope I can keep making movies after this. I gambled away my college money on it."

Lead photo by

Therapy Dogs

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