“She’s Allergic to Cats” is the debut movie by writer and director Michael Reich. A semi-autobiographical experimental comedy, the movie was inspired by Michael’s experiences working as a dog groomer while also being an active member of the punk rock music scene where he directed videos for My Chemical Romance, The Shins, Bad Religion and Ryan Adams, and more (he was even the body-double for the gold robot in Daft Punk).
The movie features actor Mike Pinkney starring in the role of an artist struggling to make a living in Hollywood when he meets his dream girl. This leads him to journey down a surreal rabbit hole of abstract detours and melancholic absurdity. A Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival winner of Best Film, the movie has traveled the festival circuit and will be available on VOD as of Spring of 2020.
Michael recently discussed this film and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you decide to enter the music industry and why did making music videos for the punk rock scene so appeal to you?
Michael Reich (MR): When I was starting my career, music videos were kind of the best entrance point to the film industry. Or so I thought. Seeing some of my favorite directors like Michel Ghondry and Spike Jonze make the successful transition from music videos to movies was inspiring and I thought that was the way in. It’s not an automatic transition though. And there is no guarantee. So, I found myself just stuck in the music video world as their budgets were continuously shrinking.
MM: Of all the music videos you made, which were your favorites and why?
MR: Two come to mind right away. Yuck “Rubber” This one actually wound up being the basis for the short film version of “She’s Allergic To Cats” and I actually used a few shots from this video in the feature too. The video was about dog grooming and it went kind of viral in 2010 because it was weird and had nudity in it and that was a magic recipe back then. It started a long collaboration with Daniel (the singer) and led to about 10 more music videos and film projects together. The other one is Crystal Antlers “Licorice Pizza”. These guys were real good buddies of mine since we had toured together for a few years. We just had so much fun shooting it and fucking around all day. And it was the first video where I really got to experiment with the “video art” techniques I used in the feature. It’s a punk as fuck song and I really love how it came out. Still makes me laugh today.
MM: How did you get involved with dog grooming and what about it most appealed to you?
MR: I started in the dog industry by working at a doggie day care indoor dog park. I had only been in Los Angeles for a little bit and working at a dog park seemed like a fun way to make some extra cash while I tried to start my music video career. It was a crazy place to work. A giant indoor dog park in the middle of Hollywood. All these celebrity dogs would come in. Not the celebrities, just their dogs. But the dogs would get special treatment. Like if Jake Gylenhaal’s German Shepard was at the dog park he would get a lot more attention from the employees than just a random poodle. I became really tight with George Carlin’s cocker spaniel though. He was a funny dog.
MM: How did you come up with the idea for the film and why did you include surreal elements?
MR: A friend who has two cats and loves them very much was really excited about going on a date with a girl. The next day I asked him how it went. He said that it was a perfect date except for one thing…she’s allergic to cats. I thought it was a funny name for a movie. Then I worked backwards from there.
MM: How long did it take to film and how did you manage to secure the cast and locations?
MR: We shot most of the movie over twelve days. Then I edited and did random pickups for the next three years. The location was mostly my house so that was pretty easy to secure. My roommates were not too happy about it though.
MM: How did you find a production company to work with?
MR: I run a production company with one of my best friends called Normal. We do music videos and a bunch of commercials. We have produced a few movies too. None as weird as “She’s Allergic To Cats” though.
MM: What’s your favorite part of the movie and why?
MR: I think my favorite part of the movie is the duckling monologue. Sonja’s performance is just so intense in that moment. And the music is so cool there too. I also like any shot with a dog in it. Dogs always light up the screen.
MM: What’s the most memorable behind-the-scenes story you have?
MR: I almost burned down the house during the burning cat carrier scene. It was a pickup that we did months later around Halloween and I shot it in the front yard with my roommate. He had a Tinder date coming over but agreed to help me before the girl showed up. We used model cement to light the cat carrier on fire and it was working pretty well. The plastic started melting and the flames were picking up a little too much so I went to put the fire out. But apparently you don’t put out chemical fires with water? So, when the hose water hit the flames it just exploded into a huge fireball and set the trees on fire in my front yard. It all happened so fast. Then my roommate’s Tinder date showed up and he wanted to leave but the roof started catching fire and I thought the whole house was going to burn down. I really didn’t know what to do and I kind of froze up. There was a Halloween party going on across the street and a bunch of partygoers saw the flames and came over. They were dressed like wizards and bumble bees and they all helped me put out the fire by throwing dirt on the flames. The shot turned out amazing though so I guess it was all worth it.
MM: What are your ultimate career goals?
MR: I’d love to direct a Marvel movie. Either that or a movie adaptation of a Richard Brautigan novel.
MM: What projects are coming up for you soon and is there anything else that you would like to talk about?
MR: I have been writing a Christmas horror movie and a Bar Mitzvah horror movie. So, one of those two things.
* * * * *