July 22, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Caitlin Cronenberg’s Scintillating Debut Film Humane Is A Deadly Comedy of Terrors

Director Caitlin Cronenberg and Star Emily Hampshire Discuss Making of the Film

By Dolores Quintana

The new film Humane, the feature film debut of Caitlin Cronenberg, yes, part of the famous family of filmmakers, opens on Friday in select theatres. You can buy tickets here. I spoke with the film’s director, Caitlin Cronenberg, and star, Emily Hampshire, about making the film, casting by text message, creative violence, and why every day is the first day for artists. 

Caitlin Cronenberg’s first feature film is a deadly comedy of terrors, with “just the right amount of blood.”

Humane takes place over a single day, mere months after a global ecological collapse has forced world leaders to take extreme measures to reduce the earth’s population. In a wealthy enclave, a recently retired newsman has invited his four grown children to dinner to announce his intentions to enlist in the nation’s new euthanasia program. But when the father’s plan goes horribly awry, tensions flare, and chaos erupts among his children.

The film stars Jay Baruchel (Blackberry) as Jared, Emily Hampshire (Schitt’s Creek) as Rachel, Peter Gallagher (Grace and Frankie) as Charles, Alanna Bale (The Horror of Dolores Roach), Sirena Gulamgaus (Chaplewaite) as Mia, Sebastian Chacon (Daisy Jones & the Six) as Noah, Uni Park (American Gods) as Dawn, and Enrico Colantoni (Veronica Mars, Station Eleven) as Bob, the sinister yet oddly genteel leader of in charge of a D.O.C.S. (The Department of Citizen Strategy), mobile euthanasia unit. 

You can watch the trailer here:

Dolores Quintana: How did you decide that this was the particular story you wanted to tackle?

Caitlin Cronenberg: I honestly had read so many scripts that I knew were not the stories I wanted to tackle. When I read Humane for the first time, it just stuck in my head; I kept thinking about it and going over and over it. I could visualize it as I was reading it. I thought this felt like something I could spend the next five years of my life being excited about. 

Michael, who wrote it, was someone I knew that I would have a good experience as a collaborator. Then it just sort of went from there. I’m glad that I trusted my gut because I had a wonderful experience, and now we’re here.

Dolores Quintana: Great. The film presents a situation that is not exactly what the world is dealing with right now, but it is realistic as a possible future. The cast worked so well together, and as they played their characters, they had such a calm reaction to such a monstrous situation. It really offsets the insanity of what’s going on in the film. I was just wondering, how did you select those particular actors? I think they’re very well chosen. 

Caitlin Cronenberg: I think a lot of the calmness probably just comes from the fact that the characters in the story are people who thought that this kind of bad stuff could never happen to them, as a general tone. But the actors, they are the stars. That’s the reason that they are the actors. Emily was the first actor cast. I texted her and said, “I’m making a movie, and you’ve got to be in it.” She said, “Okay, what’s the movie?”

Dolores Quintana: That’s wonderful. 

Emily Hampshire: Thank God, when I read it, it was amazing and even better than I could have imagined, because I’d already said yes.

Caitlin Cronenberg: I was going to hold her to that no matter what. Then, together, she and I approached Jay (Baruchel) separately, but both with the same intention. Emily and Jay have worked together before.

Emily Hampshire: We’ve worked together a bunch and have known each other for years. When I read the script, he was the only person I could picture. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t yet played siblings because that is what we were meant to do in life. First, I asked about the budget. Caitlin said, “He’s on our list. On the top of the list.” I just texted him and said, “You have to do this, or we won’t be friends anymore.”

Dolores Quintana: What can you say to that?

Emily Hampshire: Yeah. I encouraged him to read it, but it’s that thing; the minute you read it, you think, “Oh, yeah.” It’s so rare that you get the chance to check all the boxes on a project, you can have a director you want to work with, or it’s a great script, but the rest, you don’t know. This had everything: a great script, great characters, and a great first-time director that we are all excited to work with. 

Caitlin Cronenberg: We anchored the cast with Jay and Emily as the two older siblings, and everything else fell into place around them. Not only were they the right people for the roles, but they’re both people I am friends with and have known for many, many years. For me, coming on to set as a first-time director and having my two incredible leads be these two people who I know and trust to guide me through. It just gave me this extra confidence coming on to set on day one and knowing I would be okay. 

But the other siblings fell into place in the dynamic. Obviously, having Peter Gallagher as their father? Are you kidding me? Come on. Then Enrico Colantoni as Bob, who is the loveliest human being in the entire world, coming in to play this sinister, confusing character who you want to root for, want to kill, and want to hug. I honestly couldn’t have asked for a better cast. There is not one person in the cast that I wish we got another actor. Everyone I wanted was there. It came together in a way that was even more beautiful and spectacular than I could have dreamed.

Emily Hampshire: I was basically trying to make it easy for myself. I was trying to make it so I wouldn’t have to work as hard because Sirena Gulamgaus, who plays my daughter Mia in the movie. I had just worked with her in a show called Chaplewaite as my stepdaughter. She was amazing. But then, I didn’t have to create that mother-daughter relationship between us because that already existed. 

Caitlin Cronenberg: As a joke, we’ve said that Emily has a casting credit on this film because Sirena Gulamgaus plays your daughter, and Sirena was everything, right? She gave a mind-blowing performance. She was able to hang in with these seasoned actors and just feel so comfortable and confident with everybody. 

Emily Hampshire: And to be so funny and be so emotional. 

Caitlin Cronenberg: Everything. So emotional. Incredible. 

Dolores Quintana: How was that first day for you, gearing up for your first feature film? What was it like for you? Because I know a lot of first-time directors are making first features these days that are great. Honestly, I would say that Humane is another great first feature. It’s so well done. I mean, everything, the cast, the script, the look of the film, everything’s just great. I think that there are some people who don’t think first-time directors can achieve that, so I was wondering how you felt about making your first film.

Caitlin Cronenberg: It’s certainly nerve-wracking. I think that all you can do is prepare as much as you possibly can. Speaking to the actors, having an incredible crew, with knowledgeable people in every role, supportive and knowledgeable, all working towards the goal of making a great film. 

Doug Koch, our DP, was someone who I spoke to for weeks, at length, about the look and feel of the film. I come from a photography background. So, I had very specific desires for what the film should look like, how the lighting should be, and what story it should tell. Doug was so into working on that with me, and that was before we started officially on prep; Doug and I, were there we were scouting the house and spending the time. Michael, who is the writer but also the producer, would spend time with Doug and our first AD. Every night after we finished filming, we would stay in the house, go over the next day, prepare, and plan. 

We would do blocking. We would take videos on Doug’s little camera of what would make sense for the choreography of the blocking of these characters. In the morning, I could present those videos to the actors, and I knew that it would work. The other part of that is putting trust in your actors and saying, “I have these tools. Now you take them, and you do what you do so well.” Part of that is also how incredible the cast is, knowing that I can put my absolute and complete trust in them to do their thing. On day one, the first shot was Emily looking down and then looking up. I was totally nervous, and it was just Emily. But I thought, “Okay, this is my friend Emily, who’s an amazing actor. She’s done this a million times, and I’ve done this zero times.” So I said, “We got it. We’re moving on.” But then I thought, wait a minute, we should do it again this way, and we went back and did it again. 

Emily Hampshire: But every first day, even if it’s your 50th movie or whatever, I’m always shocked. Every first day, first shot, there’s so much anxiety, and I’m thinking, “It’s like I’ve never done this before.” I think, “Why do I do this? Why do I put myself through this?” Then you realize by lunch, everything’s easy. So it doesn’t matter if it’s your first movie or your 50th, at least to me, and that’s why I like a first day being something like that shot. It just put those nerves out of the way. But it’s also like going to a new school every time. Because they’re all new people, even if you’re friends with them from before. This is a new world, and you just have to create these instant relationships with people. So yeah, it doesn’t get easier. Caitlin? 

Caitlin Cronenberg: No. 

Dolores Quintana: Yes, with filmmaking and performance, you’re always stepping into something new. 

Emily Hampshire: Yeah, it’s always the first time. 

Caitlin Cronenberg: I think that is why artists make art because you don’t want to do the same thing every day. You want to do something new and exciting every day. There’s the stress of being a photographer; I have felt so many times. Everybody’s doing their job, they’re building sets, they’re picking wardrobe, they’re doing makeup, they’re acting, but if I don’t take the picture, it’s all for nothing. That’s the result that we’re looking for.

Every artistic endeavor like this is such a team sport; everybody has an important role, and everybody needs to do their role and do the job together. I’m a person who likes to be in control of the situation, but you can’t be. You have to put your trust in the other people that you’re working with. Give in to that trust and know that they are going to do their jobs as well. It’s so easy when you have people who are so talented and who you trust, and then all of a sudden, it becomes so much easier to let go and focus on your own role.

Dolores Quintana: What is your vision of the film? What do you want the audience to see?

Caitlin Cronenberg: I really wanted to focus on what happens to a family unit in times of great stress. In this case, it’s this overblown environmental collapse. It’s a global catastrophe. It’s quite an outrageous setting. But what’s really happening is a family drama taking place in their family home. I wanted to really focus on the relationships between the siblings and the parents. How that all looks. That’s really the story that we were trying to tell; it’s a family story. 

You know what’s going on in the world. But that isn’t the movie you are watching. It’s not about climate change. It just takes place in that world and it’s not that different from the world that we’re living in. I think that setting this world-building outside of the house is a great way to give the characters a backstory. It gives them a lot to have on their minds as they enter the family home and have this dynamic. But really, it’s a drama; it’s a family drama. 

Dolores Quintana: It really is, set up with these big stakes. Emily, what was either the hardest thing you had to do as an actress in the film or the thing that you had the most fun with? 

Emily Hampshire: It might be the same thing for both because I find it, especially as I’ve gotten older, lots of dialogue, I find it really difficult. When I was a kid, I could remember anything. My biggest fear is that I don’t ever want to be thinking of lines, but especially when it’s so well written, you want to honor every “and” and “but.”

But I felt it was the hardest to get the language to a place where I didn’t have to think about it. But it was also the most fun, once it’s there, to be able to just bounce off, especially Jay, who I have, like an old relationship with, and there’s no one I like working with more. Because it’s always new every time with him, it’s always truthful,  and it’s always funny. So, getting to banter with those words in that way was the most fun. I love a family drama where people regress to their (inner) kid. Kid instinct, to me, is always where I want to play.

Caitlin Cronenberg: It’s like the verbal version of your brother putting his hand on your forehead, and you do this (swing her arms like she is trying to hit something). 

Emily Hampshire: Totally, totally. Exactly.

Caitlin Cronenberg: But with dialogue. 

Dolores Quintana: I think that’s something we’re all doing in one way or another for our whole lives. Either were the ones who had their hand on the forehead or were the ones being held back. 

Emily Hampshire: We’re always going back to a family drama in whatever situation you’re in. You make these microcosm families at work, you make them in your friend groups, in school, and so even though there this movie has a big world behind it. It’s always reduced to the seed of family and your history of growing up together. These dynamics you have with your father and with your mother.

Dolores Quintana: It’s everything. I mean, we’re social animals, so we’re always going to unless we’re hermits living in a cave somewhere. It’s always going to be part of who we are and how we relate to the world.

Emily Hampshire: Yes, that’s why AI is not going to work. 

Dolores Quintana: Nope. It’s never gonna work.

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