Gonorrhea rom-com

That Burning Feeling is the feel-good STI comedy we never knew we needed

As actor Aria DeMaris says Vancouver’s film production industry — where many X-Files episodes were shot — is ruled by science fiction crime and fantasy titles. And that’s precisely what attracted her to the production of That Burning Feeling . “There aren’t a lot of comedies being made” she says. “And it’s about a topic no one wants to talk about. Because it’s an awkward situation. The ironic thing is that it’s a romantic comedy about the least romantic thing.”

In case you haven’t clued in the Jason James-directed That Burning Feeling is about… yes that burning feeling. When you pee. So we ask DeMaris — a Calgary-raised New York-trained actor who came to the field from Vancouver’s animation industry — how exactly do you turn STIs into something romantic? (The comedic part after all takes care of itself.)

“It’s about this guy Adam ( Road Trip ’s Paolo Costanzo). He’s this hotshot bachelor who is careless about his love life and the women in it” she says. “Well he loses it all after he finds out a certain uh truth about himself. He’s forced to change his life and reconsider the women in his past.”

The truth DeMaris is talking about naturally is gonorrhea. Adam is a young successful fellow in real estate who treats women like a series of conquests. His feisty Latina co-worker Fabiana (DeMaris who actually grew up speaking Spanish) is one of them. But when Adam discovers that he’s been a little too irresponsible he’s forced into a vulnerable position and must confront the consequences of his one-night stands.

Naturally once he’s properly able to empathize with an ex-flame he might just fall for one. Okay the betting money is that he definitely will. That Burning Feeling is a rom-com after all.

“See it’s not really about gonorrhea” says DeMaris laughing. “It’s about Adam’s character and his ability to see a new perspective on the people around him. I mean no one wants to be in his situation. But sometimes bad things have to happen in order for you to change. The situation could’ve been handled in an even more dramatic way — but we decided to make it a comedy.”

Good thing too because along with DeMaris and Costanzo the film enlists a host of recognizable faces: John Cho of Harold and Kumar fame lands a supporting act as another co-worker of Adam’s; Can-comedy favourite Tyler Labine who starred in previous Calgary Underground Film Festival favourite Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and was Ryan Gosling’s sidekick on Breaker High plays a supporting role as Adam’s supporting pal; heck even Jay Brazeau — who’s downright hilarious in Sex After Kids screening at this year’s fest — makes an appearance as a whip-smart doctor. (In the film’s teaser he drops the line “If gonorrhea were on Facebook it’d have 450 million friends.”)

And evidently rookie director James understood the talent he had at his disposal. “[All the actors] were really casual guys. And Jason was one of the best directors I’ve ever had” DeMaris recalls. “He gave us all this room to improvise and have fun — I got to ad lib quite a bit. It was his directorial debut and I’m sure he was nervous but he was open to good ideas and improvising. And that makes scenes even better because it adds that ‘Wow that’s so real’ factor that can’t be scripted.”

And that’s important. After all there’s nothing scripted about gonorrhea.