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Whistler Film Festival 2015 Interview: THE SABBATICAL director Brian Stockton

by Jason Whyte

"THE SABBATICAL is a mid-life comedy. It's about a photography professor who thinks he's going to have a relaxing sabbatical but is under pressure to replicate his past success with a new photography book. He's feeling old but starts feeling young again after hanging out with a young artist named Lucy." Director Brian Stockton on THE SABBATICAL which screens at the 2015 edition of the Whistler Film Festival.

It is great to have your film in Whistler Film Festival! Is this your first Whistler Film Festival experience?

This is my first time in Whistler, the town and the film festival. Myself and the key cast members will be at the screening and we're really looking forward to it!

Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and your previous movies.

I have been making films for a long time, mostly from my home province of Saskatchewan. We have a small but energetic film community here that never seems to get the recognition it deserves. This year there's two Saskatchewan features at Whistler so that makes it fun for me. Laura Abramsen is in both films and we are very excited for her. She's an amazing talent and we're all looking forward to seeing what she does next. Our whole cast is amazing and they are all from Saskatchewan.

My previous films include many shorts like SNAPSHOTS and THE SASKATCHEWAN TRILOGY, and the one-hour documentary MY DINNER WITH GENERATION X.


Myself and all my friends have reached middle-age so that was the basis for it. The mid-life crisis is a bit of cliche, but some things are a cliche for a reason. We all have doubts about ourselves and our lives, particularly when you realise you're past the halfway mark. So it's about getting older and feeling older, but it's a comedy so we are looking at that from a humorous angle.

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

Every time I make a film I think it might be my last. Making films is a really difficult thing to do, particularly the financing part of it. There's a lot of business in this art form and that can get discouraging, but by the time one film is wrapping up I'm usually dreaming of what the next one will be. It's a compulsion!

Were there any challenges with making THE SABBATICAL, and what was the moment where you knew you had something?

The biggest challenge here was the sustained drive. Features are a marathon, not a sprint, and ours maybe more than others. We shot over a year and a half and the whole production took about three years. So you've got to keep pressing even when you're tired and busy. But we knew almost from the beginning that we had something special. Every cast member that dropped into our project was more amazing than the last, so we always knew we had the performances and that's ninety percent of your movie right there.

Im about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie, and how the movie was photographed.

This was a very low budget film so we had to come up with a way to get a distinctive and consistent look with very little money. We did that by using DSLR cameras and taking advantage of what we had in terms of locations and landscapes. So the look of the film is very much created with the camera, the lenses, the compositions and then a little bit of lighting. We shot in my own house which I think I has a great look, and other places like the University of Regina, where I also work, which is an amazing location filled with wonderful mid-century modern buildings.

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

This is the world premiere so I'm just thrilled to finally be showing it to the public. It has been about three years since we started making it and I am looking forward to people finally seeing it and getting some reactions.

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

Up next is our local premiere in Regina and that will be amazing because we have so much local interest in the film. Beyond that we want to get some distribution and get as many people to see it as possible.

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

My favourite cinemas have all been torn down so I think I would choose the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. It feels like the home of cinema in Canada. It's great to have a dedicated building like that that is all about movies, and from a Canadian perspective.

What would you say or do to someone who was being disruptive at a screening you were attending?

I am the least confrontational person in the world, so the most I would do is go tell someone who is in charge!

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

Any creative industry is difficult, and film maybe more than others. So I think you have to assume it will be hard and you may never make any money at it. If you know that and you still want to do it, then I think you will be okay. As long as you still enjoy it, keep doing it.

And finally what is your all time favorite movie? Or film festival movie?

I have seen so many great films at festivals so that is a hard one to answer. I'm going to go with ZATOICHI (2003) by Takeshi Kitano that I saw at TIFF. It has the kind of joyous ending that I really love in a film.

Be sure to check out THE SABBATICAL at #wff15 on Thursday, December 3rd, 5:30pm at Village 8 Cinemas.

As well, watch on Wednesday as we will have an interview with THE SABBATICAL lead actor James Whittingham!

For more information on the film and its progress, check out!

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: 12/01/15 15:25:10
last updated: 12/01/15 15:31:14
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