For much of life, we have had a dream job. Some may include being a CEO of Big Business or an NHL All-Star; for Shaun Rose, it is an aspiring filmmaker. If you check his YouTube channel, he has made an effort to make his dreams a reality. He started making waves back in 2018 with his award winning film, Upstate Story, and he continues to pursue this passion today with the sequel Toga. But as Toga shows, there are mundane aspects of filmmaking that everyone must address, if they want to make a dream real. You can find Toga free to watch on his YouTube channel.
It has been several years since the events of Upstate Story. Now Ellis lives a relatively normal life with his 2 kids as a freelance videographer/editor. After dropping his kids off at his parents for a while, Ellis accepts a job scouting locations back in his hometown of Saratoga for a filmmaker. Which causes him to recollect on his memories of the town, whilst figuring out how to bring that spark back into life.
I gotta give Mr.Rose some credit as he does a great job of making a film, especially when the film has close to $0 in budget. He really got creative with how to tell the story and that is pretty cool. Such as telling the story in nearly complete black and white, almost as if our main character, Ellis, is just going through the motions without giving a single enjoyment to life itself. Ellis feels like someone who wants to feel the joy life can offer but is also sort of lazy in putting the work in, that is until an epiphany happens at the tail end that puts everything into perspective. What makes it more interesting is that most of the color leaves the film as Ellis drops his kids off at his parents house, acting as his source of liveliness leaving for a nihilist outlook.
My biggest complaint about the film is that the dialogue is very stilted at times, but I will say it is not the worst dialogue I have ever heard (looking at you Tom Cruise’s The Mummy). In fact, most of the dialogue is in voiceover and acts as an invoice of Ellis’s inner monologue. It also makes for some entertaining sentences, as it feels like a constant stream of relatable invasive thoughts popping into his head. It made me chuckle a few times, and while that isn’t hard to do, it elevates the enjoyment the film can have. The dialogue may not be perfect, but it isn’t bad by any means.
The purpose of the film feels like a message for allowing yourself to follow your dreams in a way. But Toga also doesn’t shy away from the fact that there are probably some mundane and boring aspects of the job that not everyone is keen on appreciating, such as location scouting and film editing. These two jobs of the film industry are definitely not the most sought after or make the most money, but they are just as important as the actors and directors. It would be wise to remember that going forward for anyone who wants to give filmmaking a shot.
I really have to give Shaun Rose credit, he made a feature film off a roughly $0 budget and did a better job than some big studio productions can do. I laughed, related and understood (at least I hope so) the character and the journey he was on. Although the dialogue is not perfect, it is quite hilarious at times with its relatability. Toga works as a healthy reminder to anyone with aspirations for filmmaking; there are times in filmmaking that feel tedious and time consuming, however, those elements are just as important as directing and acting. Sometimes, all it takes is a man with a camera and creative determination to make a movie.