Luis Gerard‘s THE WAKE shares the story of a young deaf boy Martin (played by Zander Colbeck-Bhola) who looks up to his older brother and follows him, even at times when he shouldn’t. Zander Colbeck-Bhola comes from a large deaf family. All the cast learnt sign language for this film.
This is truly an amazing film. What was the inspiration behind this timely short?
I wrote the film in 2017. Back then, I read about the number of mass shootings in the US, so I thought of writing a film that revolved around the subject, but I wanted to do it from a different angle, a simpler one. I didn’t want to write or film things I had seen before, like school shootings. I was interested in something a bit less black and white, and my leads and their story provided that, especially since they’re not precisely angels. Even though they don’t believe they are hurting anyone, what they do is not correct.
I was interested in something a bit less black and white, and my leads and their story provided that, especially since they’re not precisely angels
What was it like working with a deaf actor?
I can’t deny that it had its challenges, but in the end, the result was quite rewarding. The most challenging thing was not being able to speak directly to the actor. Everything was done through translators, and it wasn’t only one translator on set. We always needed two because they would get tired after a few minutes of translating and would need to switch constantly. I also had a sign language speaker on set next to me, who was deaf as well, making sure that the signing of the rest of the cast was perfect. This person (Brendan Kenopic) was involved from the early stages of the pre-production, teaching the rest of the cast their lines in sign language, or ASL. I didn’t want someone from the deaf community to watch the film and find that the signing was incorrect. I wanted it to feel authentic, so Brendan was always by my side, ensuring that the cast didn’t make a mistake. He would let me know when they did, and we would fix it. So, all of these things were part of the process; they made things a bit slower, but again, it also made it more rewarding.
I can’t deny that it had its challenges, but in the end, the result was quite rewarding. The most challenging thing was not being able to speak directly to the actor
Was it a challenge to learn sign language for the film?
I guess that’s more of a question for the cast, but I’m very pleased with their work. Each took their part seriously, studied their lines in ASL, and always came prepared to set. Isaac Kragten, the lead, was a blessing. His role was particularly demanding, both physically and emotionally. On top of that, most of his lines were in sign language, so he had to study and do a lot of work on his own to prepare for the role. He was 100% committed and always gave his 1,000%. He’s highly talented, and in my view, he has a bright career ahead of him if he decides to chase a path in acting.
What were the challenges you faced whilst filming?
I could probably write a book on that, but I won’t bore you with the details. I must admit that this project is the most challenging thing that I’ve ever done. I was the writer, director, and producer of the film, and wearing that many hats on set on an independent project is not fun. The Wake was shot in winter, which was a challenge of its own. The process of working with minors and in sign language was another challenge, but I don’t regret those.
I was the writer, director, and producer of the film, and wearing that many hats on set on an independent project is not fun. The Wake was shot in winter, which was a challenge of its own. The process of working with minors and in sign language was another challenge, but I don’t regret those
The young actor Zander Colbeck-Bhola is very talented, was he someone you had worked with before? What was the dynamic like between the two of you?
Zander had never done any acting before The Wake. It took me about four months to find him. He was nine when I cast him and turned ten just a few days before we started filming. It was a very tricky casting, done by Shasta Lutz in Toronto. The boys needed to look like brothers. They needed to have chemistry on-screen; they also required the ability to act even though I was not looking for professional actors, at least not for the kids’ roles. The bond between the brothers was a big theme of the film, so building that on-screen chemistry was essential for the movie. Isaac was 15 when we shot; Zander was ten, and kids don’t hang out together at those ages. On top of that, we had challenges in communication between them, so I had to come up with ways of enhancing that connection in the most organic way possible. We had them go out and have little excursions like going out to escape rooms on their own time; I wanted them to have fun together and build a rapport off set, which eventually came through on the screen, or so I hope.
The bond between the brothers was a big theme of the film, so building that on-screen chemistry was essential for the movie
What can we expect next from you?
I’m working on several projects now. Two of those scripts are already written, and there’s potential interest in getting them produced. One is A BLIND EYE, a thriller dealing with illegal immigration, mainly how poor people risk their lives on the open seas in search of a better life; it is a dark blend of Polanski’s REPULSION and Bergman’s PERSONA.
The other is called WHERE ONLY THE DEVIL DARES, another thriller with elements of drama and even horror that takes place in Juarez, Mexico, and El Paso, Texas. As THE WAKE, both are thrillers with elements of social commentary but wrapped in genre rather than being straight historical dramas.
Finally, I am working on the feature version of THE WAKE. That’s a script I am very excited about, and it’s in development right now.