It seems impossible today to imagine how people made connections in a pre-internet age, but the new indie genre film Rent-A-Pal explores the darker side of the answer to this question. Set in 1990, the film follows David (Brian Landis Folkins), a lonely bachelor looking for an escape from caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). He finds a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal, hosted by the charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton). David finds virtual company and friendship in Andy, but quickly discovers the price of this friendship.
The conception of the film came from a Reddit post that writer-director Jon Stevenson discovered, showing a video of a real 90s tape called “Rent-A-Friend,” starring a mysterious host named Sam. The video inspired Stevenson to write the script, exploring the question of who would watch a tape like that and how it would affect their life. Instead of film actors, most of the main roles were cast with legendary theater performers from Stevenson’s hometown of Denver, Colorado. The project was also filmed in Denver and produced by local production company Pretty People Pictures. This film is Stevenson’s feature-length directorial debut.
Rent-A-Pal is set to release in select theaters and on-demand on September 11 through IFC Midnight.