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Whistler Film Festival 2015 Interview: The team from THE COLOSSAL FAILURE OF THE MODERN RELATIONSHIP

by Jason Whyte

"THE COLOSSAL FAILURE OF THE MODERN RELATIONSHIP" is the story of one couple's relationship disaster set against the luscious, romantic backdrop of wine country in the "Honeymoon capital of the world." Director Sergio Navarretta on his new film which screens at the 2015 edition of the Whistler Film Festival. Writer Alessandra Piccione also joins us on this interview for

I am excited to have you both as part of the 15th Anniversary at Whistler Film Festival! I take it this is your first movie here? Are you attending the festival?

Alessandra Piccione: This is our first Whistler Film Festival and we are super excited to attending the screening and experience the festival. I used to live in Victoria, BC, so I have visited Whistler, although never in winter. It is one of the most beautiful places I have been to, and I'm really looking forward to the sea-to-sky drive, and being nestled amongst the rockies in December! Hopefully there will be snow!

Sergio: This is my first time in Whistler. I am extremely excited to be screening the film at the festival. It looks beautiful and I have heard nothing but positive things about it.

Great to meet a fellow person from my home city of Victoria. Talk to me a bit about how you both got your start and your previous movies.

Alessandra: This is my second produced feature film as screenwriter. My first was a film called LOOKING FOR ANGELINA which told the very tragic true story of an immigrant woman who killed her abusive husband. COLOSSAL is a real departure from that; it is light and humorous and exactly what I needed as a follow up.

I got my start back in 2000 after completing my MA in English at the University of Victoria. I had just finished writing a play for a local theatre society and got the "bug", so to speak, so I was excited at an opportunity to work with Sergio on his first short film "Over a Small Cup of Coffee". That film went on to screen in Los Angeles and won an award. After that, we made several shorts, a couple of documentaries and some commercial spots for TV before moving on to features.

Sergio: I actually started in music and was on stage first at the age of five. The idea of entertaining and moving people emotionally was something that I have always been interested in, whether it was through singing, performing magic shows as a kid or, eventually, through moving pictures.

In the mid 1990's I had the good fortune of meeting a director who made an independent film with money he raised himself. This was my first foray into an industry that I had only dreamt about prior. Then one day, through a series of circumstances, I met James Cameron who shared some wise advice with me that changed my life.

For both of you, how did this collaboration come together to make the movie?

Alessandra: We had a number of projects in development hell that required producing partners and bigger budgets, so one day we just decided to make a simple film with a wonderful Canadian cast that wouldn't take years to produce. We had been spending a lot of time in wine country, and found it shocking that nobody really shoots films that highlight the beauty of these regions. Also, Sergio really wanted to make a movie that contemplates the nature of relationships; we are big fans of Italian neo-realism and Woody Allen, both of which were big influences in making this movie. We came up with the idea for the story and pitched it to Enrico Colantoni (FLASHPOINT, VERONICA MARS, JUST SHOOT ME) who immediately came on board. This got the ball rolling.

Sergio: I wanted to make a film with a simple narrative that examined the modern relationship, using the backdrop of the sensually beautiful and lush Ontario wine country. After an inspiring conversation with Ed Burns' producer, Mike, we launched forward without a penny locked in, equipment in place, talent or locations. Sometimes you just have to pull the trigger and the world somehow conspires to make it happen.

What keeps you both going while making a movie? What drives you?

Alessandra: I actually quit coffee, although I do drink decaf, which still has a little kick to it. But honestly what drives me is the enjoyment I get out of creating characters and getting into their world. The biggest thrill for me is seeing actors, especially seasoned and talented actors like the ones in COLOSSAL, speaking the words I have written. I would say that's the high that keeps me going.

Sergio: In making this movie, what drove me was the bold and complicated wine I consumed while working on the story AND shooting the film. I'm partially kidding! What really drives me is a wonderful script and working with a talented cast and an enthusiastic crew.

All projects are challenging in many ways, some more than others. What was your biggest challenge with making this movie, and the moment where you knew you had something?

Alessandra: Considering we didn't have a big budget, this movie had relatively few challenges. There was an amazing sense of camaraderie on set amongst all the cast and crew; it was all for one and one for all. We also had great support from Niagara College and from our location partners in the film. We did have an issue with one of our funders after we had shot, but Telefilm came in with finishing funds soon after which was great.

Sergio: Making any movie is miracle to begin with. I think the challenge is always balancing the time you have allotted with the budget you have to realize your vision. Sometimes that vision changes or evolves based on these challenges.

I am about to get technical but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie and how it was lensed with your cinematographer, Peter Benison.

Alessandra: We had worked with Peter Benison before. He is a master cinematographer and a master of light. We had originally thought the film would have more of a gritty indie look because of the budget, but when Peter agreed to come on board we knew it would he would take it to the next level.

Sergio: I think the look comes out of the lush landscapes and great locations we were blessed to have. Also, working closely with my DOP was extremely important. Peter has the ability to be flexible given our budgetary restrictions and to think quickly on his feet. Because we have also worked together in the past, he knows I don't believe in compromising the look based on budget. Low budget does not have to mean low quality look.

What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie in Whistler?

Alessandra: I personally love to get the audience's reaction, whether and where they laugh or cry. Watching the movie with a large audience is, in my opinion, the only way to get a feel for what works and what can be improved next time. I also really enjoy the Q&A period; it's interesting to hear people's individual perspectives on the film and what they personally bring to the experience.

Sergio: I hear Whistler is a great place for audience reaction and a great festival to screen at.

After the film screens in Whistler, where is the film going to show next? Anywhere you would like it to show?

Alessandra: We are hoping to have a theatrical release in Canada in the spring of next year. Beyond regular theatres, we would love for COLOSSAL to go on tour and screen at special events like dinners, wine-tasting and so forth. Since the movie makes you want to have a glass of wine we see no reason why audiences should not indulge and engage all the senses while watching the film.

Sergio: I would love to screen it in the US or in Europe.

If you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose?

Alessandra: COLOSSAL already had a sneak peek screening through the ICFF festival in Toronto at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. I mean, that is an incredible theatre and definitely one of my favourites, technically speaking. It was a great experience to screen there.

Sergio: I would love to screen it in either Napa Valley or in Italian or French wine regions.

Now, what would you both say or do to someone who was being disruptive at a screening you were attending? Talking, texting and all of that?

Alessandra: Funny you ask! We had a screening, the same one I mentioned at the TIFF Bell Lightbox, that was oversold and a bit chaotic at times when guests arrived late and couldn't find seats. I was too polite to really say anything, beyond "shhh". It all worked out in the end.

Sergio: I would not say anything. Growing up Italian, I was used to people speaking out loud and even shouting at the screen. It is a communal experience so if someone is being disruptive, it's all part of the charm.

What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business as a piece of advice?

Alessandra: Just do it.

Sergio: No one can stop you from being creative. Technology now allows almost anyone to make a movie so just do it!

And finally, for both of you, what is your all time favorite movie?

Alessandra: My favourite movies list is quite long. I wouldn't know where to begin!

Sergio: For lack of sounding cliche, I would rather not say....although THE GODFATHER is a film I can watch over and over again!

Be sure to catch THE COLOSSAL FAILURE OF THE MODERN RELATIONSHIP on Thursday, December 3rd, 3:00pm at Rainbow Theatre.

To follow more about the film, future festival screenings and the like, be sure to check out the films' offical website and be sure to follow on Facebook, Instagram and on Twitter at @ColossalMovie!

This is one of the many films playing at the 2015 Whistler Film Festival. For show information, tickets and for other general information on films and events, point your browser to the official website at!

Be sure to follow instant happenings of Whistler Film Festival on my Twitter account @jasonwhyte, including mini-reviews of films, comments on festival action and even a photo or two. You can also follow the festival on my Instagram at jason.whyte!

Jason Whyte,

link directly to this feature at
originally posted: 11/30/15 16:24:19
last updated: 11/30/15 16:29:56
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