It does not happen that often when a filmmaker chooses a challenging subject for his first full-length film. But when he succeeds at what he planned, then it certainly can be considered as a big victory. Andrew Cividino is a bright and promising Canadian filmmaker whose “Sleeping Giant” got big recognition at TIFF’s Canada Top Ten Film Festival, as well as during the Canadian Screen Awards where Cividino’s film received 3 nominations.
Cividino’s film studies well the lifestyle of teenage boys, whose fearless actions or the adrenaline that rages in their blood makes them take unthinkable and risky steps. It makes its heroes analyze their own lives and future, that may not be very promising for some of them. It also a story about impressive friendship that began so quickly. But the important lesson that this film delivers is, of course, knowing when to stop before it’s too late.
Prior to the opening of the film, which has already begun its journey across Canada, I got a few minutes with Andrew Cividino over the phone to discuss “Sleeping Giant”.
MOVIEMOVESME: What is the real story behind the Sleeping Giant and what is it really about?
Andrew Cividino: The title kind of has two meanings; the first is that there’s actually a landmass north of Lake Superior called the Giant and that is the backdrop where the film takes place. The second meaning is about Adam, the character in the film. He’s a very passive character and things happen to him but he internalizes the all. He doesn’t really react until it reaches above the boiling point for him. He then may not fully understand the consequences of his actions and so he’s the sleeping giant.
MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk more about the location, which seemed like it had its own story to tell?
Andrew Cividino: It’s called the “Sleeping Giant” because it looks like man laying on its back with his arms crossed on his chest. When you see the profile of this rock, it looks strikingly lot like a person. There is something about the imagery that I find really fascinating and wanted to visit time and again during the film.
MOVIEMOVESME: How challenging was it to develop this kind of a story with such unique characters?
Andrew Cividino: To me it is really important for there to be excitement, kind of a thriller, pushing boundaries but also to not shy away from the ugliness and cruelty that can come at that age as well and the pain. So that was the challenge to not be either too foreign or too nostalgia. I think what was also important was that the movie was about these three boys, not just a protagonist, it was a movie about all of them. Even if a character seemed like the antagonist, we need to understand where they’re coming from because we care about all three of them.
MOVIEMOVESME: What was the process of shooting and how did it end up being what it is?
Andrew Cividino: For us the process was really about to be seen as agile as possible because we had a very specific story we needed to tell in the way we wanted to. Also, allow the actors to bring their own voices to it, to be able to be kind of spontaneous and if they were to do things, we could capture that. So it was really being as agile and adaptable as possible.
MOVIEMOVESME: Can you talk about the casting process and how they adapted to their characters?
Andrew Cividino: For me the credit for the performances go to each of those young men. For me it was about casting actors that were as close to the characters as much as possible. The reason was that so they can really bring themselves to the screen and to not try to pretend to be something that’s outside their range of experience. I think it was building trust with them and creating a creative space for them to put on the mask of these characters and bring a part of themselves and really push them outside of their comfort zones to bring performances that feel electrically charged.
MOVIEMOVESME: What was the idea behind the story revolving around cliff jumping?
Andrew Cividino: I’d grown up in the area and cliff jumping was something that we absolutely did on a regular. Looking back, I am amazed that no one was seriously worried where we were and I think at that age you push yourself. I think in these situations we have almost a sense of invincibility that most of us are quite lucky to get everything we do. I think I wanted to capture that culture that was very specifically real to me and I also thought it as a metaphor for where they are in their lives and they are about to leap into adult life and take a step to the unknown in that way.