ARTS June 4th, 2014

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Chris Di Staulo’s sleepless in Davisville

Director Chris Di Staulo’s insomnia has earned him a trip to the Cannes Film Festival.

The 23-year-old Davisville resident had his short film Somnolence screened at the famous French media gala May 14–25.

And he shared in a sitdown chat with the Town Crier just before leaving for the French Riviera that he was tickled by the opportunity to rub shoulders with other Canadian directors like David Cronenberg and Atom Egoyan.

“There’s the opportunity to go to those premieres, and say [to Cronenberg, Egoyan] hey, I’m also from Toronto, let’s grab a coffee when we get back,” he said.

Somnolence is a 13-minute film set “millions” of years in the future where humans no longer require sleep. Its protagonist, George, falls asleep and begins to dream.

Because of that anomaly, the outcast George, who is mediocre in a world of diligent workers, struggles with which world he should remain in.

“He’s sort of, not an anti-hero, but he’s misunderstood,” Di Staulo explains. “No one gets him, and he seems to be sad in a world of hyper-productive people.

“He’s really just trying to find his way. In an over-arching way it’s a film about loneliness, finding acceptance, and finding out who you are.”

The themes in Somnolence come from Di Staulo’s own battle against sleepless nights.

“After many sleepless nights you’re kind of sitting there [wondering] are other people having this problem?” the York University alum says. “What if everyone had this problem?

“And that’s what kind of fuelled the idea for me. What if we just didn’t need [sleep] anymore. What would the consequences be? Dreaming would be, and dreams are buried innately within us, and I was thinking, what would happen if we didn’t need that anymore.”

Thus the story was born, and he enlisted the help of writer Kyah Green to flesh it out.

Filming wrapped two years ago, but it wasn’t finished until January due to a lengthy post-production period, since the film was shot in front of green screen.

It is, after all, a fantastical tale, but Di Staulo is reticent to file it under the science fiction genre.

“I’ve thought about that. Every director thinks about their style. They want to create their own brand, their own flavour.”

Then, mentally seeking the right words to describe his inspiration, he says: “I grew up on a lot of weird videos on Betamax: Thomas Dolby music videos, The Lost Boys, The Monster Squad. They’re great films but as a 4-year-old child it might be a kind of strange choice. What I find interesting and entertaining might be a little tainted.

“I actually find sci-fi quite an alienating genre, because I feel that it’s so unusual that it’s really hard to buy into. My work is definitely influenced by science fiction elements. Somnolence, to me, is not a science fiction film. It’s a drama-fantasy that takes place in the future.”

Next on tap is adapting his full-length play, Sleepwalk, for a feature film starring Jeremy Ferdman, who has worked on TV shows
Rookie Blue and Warehouse 13, and Katie Strain, from Todd and the Book of Pure Evil and the remake of Stephen King’s Carrie.

Then perhaps coffee with Cronenberg or Egoyan.

One can only dream.