Stars of ‘Camping Trip’ on creating a pandemic thriller

Courtesy of Strike Media Ltd
Courtesy of Strike Media Ltd

We got to chat with three of the stars of Camping Trip: Hannah Forest Briand, Alex Gravenstein and Jonathan Vanderzon.

Leonardo and Demian Fuica bring us all back to the height of the COVID-19 pandemic with their thriller. Camping Trip also marks their English language feature-length debuts. Leonardo wrote the film while co-directing with Demian.

In the summer of 2020, two couples decide to go on a COVID era camping trip after months of being in lockdown. The freedom of nature and the company of their best friends offer the group a rare sense of normality, but though secluded, they’re not alone. Nearby, during a botched drop off, two goons decide to go rogue; inadvertently, implicating the campers. What started as a fun-filled vacation quickly turns into a test of loyalty and survival. Suddenly the pandemic is the least of their worries

Camping Trip also stars Leo Zola (Leonardo Fuica) and Caitlin Cameron along with Ben Pelletier and Michael D’Amico.

Check out our interview with Alex, Hannah and Jonathan!

Leonardo Fuica, Alex Gravenstein and Hannah Forest Briand in CAMPING TRIP. Courtesy of Strike Media Ltd
So this film was shot in 2020. What kind of drew you to keep the pandemic going and star in a COVID movie? 

Alex: Well, for one thing, the limitations that COVID put on filmmaking, made it so that there was a lot less filming going on, which meant that whenever I saw a project that was happening, I was that much more willing to keep it going to keep the field alive. And I’m just grateful that we were able to be part of a feature film shot that summer.

Hannah: And also for me, I think I enjoy marrying whatever, like is in the real world, happening around us. And that kind of drew me to it, where I was like, ‘Oh, we’re actually showing kind of, real life.’ I mean, there’s a lot happening that’s not so real, but in general, we’re showing what might happen to you and that drew me to it.

Jonathan: I don’t really have anything to add, actually, I think that covers it.

What was your first reaction to reading the script?

Alex: I thought it was really fun. And I’ve never done any sort of script like this before because there’s all sorts of stuff in there. There’s thriller, action, there’s even comedy and romance, like all these different things. I really liked the energy of the script. At least I was really happy to dive into that, especially one that’s like just taking place outdoors. I just really love the outdoors. So all of those components were really nice.

Jonathan: And it did seem cool that it’s almost an ensemble cast. That element is really fun for the leads. I just like seeing a script where it’s not too focused on one character and that was one of the qualities in the script that I enjoyed.

Hannah: Yeah, all of the above!

So this film really highlights how humans can kind of be the monster. How do you think that specifically relates to your character? 

Alex: That’s absolutely true. And I think that’s pretty much the main villain, I guess, in the whole movie, like what’s going on inside of people more so than anything else? It’s greed. It’s jealousy. It’s, I guess, we can just label it as fear. So yeah, I think that’s what really helped it turn to the thriller component of it at the same time.

Hannah: And I think there’s also distrust. For my character, there’s a lot of like, she doesn’t know who to trust anymore and that drives her kind of like into the mayhem. When you don’t know where to put your foot, you kind of panic.

Jonathan: I was straight up playing the villain. I know it’s shocking, right? My character’s nature was pretty messed up. So yeah, definitely. When they say in the synopsis that the pandemic isn’t the main concern, yeah, the biggest danger is one or another but also the goons they bump into in the woods.

Jonathan Vanderzon as Billy in CAMPING TRIP. Courtesy of Strike Media Ltd
Did you film this entire movie on location?

All: Yes. 

Hannah: Two different locations. There’s the campground, so when we’re in the forested areas and also in front of the house in the beginning. 

Alex: Just one scene was not shot in the campground area.

Hannah: Yeah, all the rest was all in the forest.

Because this was 2020 and still during COVID, did you have to isolate in that forest?

Alex: Well, so all the protocols were still being figured out. But, at least the way that we understood it, every single thing that was even remotely a possibility of a protocol we followed. So before the cast was even allowed to be close to each other, we all went through at least a full week of isolation and then, only then would we be able to start getting close to each other and start actually doing readings together and everything. And then when it came to being on set, it was the same thing, we were wearing masks whenever we could, and social distancing. Yeah, it was tricky but the way the production was organized, I guess it was kind of a necessity. At the same time there was minimum cast and minimum crew, so that made a lot of things easier in terms of COVID protocols, but it made a lot of things harder in terms of actually producing a film.

Hannah: And it was one of the first productions, you know, that started after COVID. It was a lot of one step at a time because the authorities, let’s call them authorities, were still figuring out the rules and how to make it work. So, it was very one step at a time. But it was very, very severe. And we didn’t know anything about COVID at that point.

Jonathan: Actually, it’s interesting because earlier you brought up how you liked how the story mirrored a lot of what was going on, but in having to be isolated together for two weeks, we ended up becoming quite close. And then we got to act with one another in such a way that we would have prior to the pandemic, at least on camera. And so it was really cool that the first time we got to take off our COVID masks and interact with people that we didn’t know prior to the pandemic, that people weren’t in a bubble, it was under those circumstances, which yeah, that made it even more real.

Hannah Forest Briand as coco in CAMPING TRIP. Courtesy of Strike Media Ltd
So, Jonathan, with your character, was it hard to act as the bad guy after bonding during isolation?

Jonathan: At the end of the day, I felt that our being close facilitated it because there was a certain level of trust. They know I’m not a bad guy, so I actually think that our closeness ended up making it easier. We would check in with one or another and we made sure we felt safe.

Hannah: We trusted each other that it was the game. 

Jonathan: Exactly. And had we not had that trust, it’s actually harder when you don’t know the other actors. So to answer your question, I actually thought it was helpful.

What was it like working with Leonardo as your costar, your director, stunt coordinator, etc…?

Jonathan: Alex touched on this earlier, because we had a smaller cast and a smaller crew, yeah, Leo was wearing so many hats. But then we also wore some hats. We had some input with regards to how certain lines of dialogue would be said. So because Leo was wearing so many hats, I felt that we all had to help in different ways. 

Alex: He’s got a lot of energy and I think only someone like Leo could handle that many hats at the same time. But I think one of the things that made it a little bit harder is because he’s also one of the leads. We got to have a lot of time together. All the other cast got to have a lot of time together, like talking through things, doing extra rehearsals, but because he had to be location manager, producer and all those other things at the same time. We didn’t get to see him that much because he was always like, out late and then up early every single time just getting things done. Hannah: First one up, last one down. 

Alex: Yeah, he’d just appear briefly like, ‘hey, you guys need anything? Okay, I’m gonna be gone, if you need anything, just text me.’

If you found a million dollars, what would you do? Would you be more like Enzo or more like Ace?

Hannah: Well, there’s too many factors. I would have just called the police.

Alex: You can call the police and be like, ‘hey, look, I found $500?’  (all laugh)

Hannah: Yeah, $500!

Jonathan: You know what? Originally I would have been like, ‘call the cops, but that is a good idea. No wonder you’re playing Ace… I don’t think they’re gonna check with the criminals about how much money was there. 

Alex Gravenstein as Ace in CAMPING TRIP. Courtesy of Strike Media Ltd
What’s next for all of you?

Alex: Well, I mean, actually, like a lot of us also wear a lot of hats, in a manner of speaking. So, Jonathan is actually a pretty talented writer as well. And something that I’m hoping to do is also create my own stuff, too. So, I guess like being a producer. I’m not really a writer, I’m more of an editor and things like that.

Hannah: And Caitlin, the other female lead, is also a great writer. I don’t really write. (laughs)

Alex: If I’m not currently being cast in things, I still want to be doing storytelling. So, if I can’t be part of someone else’s production, I’ll just make my own, which is essentially the goal.

Jonathan: And we’re definitely gonna be wanting to work with one another in different capacities. We already have plans! So definitely, I think that, like you [Alex] were saying, we make our own work when we don’t have work given to us. And because we’ve met, now we’re part of each other’s network. So, what’s next? Well, you’ll be seeing more of us. 

Hannah: For me, I’ll be doing a bit of theater, coming up in Toronto.

Jonathan: I’m working with the independent film scene in Montreal. I am one of the organizers for the Raindance branch here. Raindance being the International Film Festival in the UK. And we’re bringing back monthly booze and schmoozes, you know, this sounds like a plug. Hey, if anyone’s in the greater Montreal area, we’re gonna be having those events and we’re trying to connect actors with filmmakers.

Alex Gravenstein, Caitlin Cameron, Hannah Forest Briand and Leonardo Fuica in CAMPING TRIP. Courtesy of Strike Media Ltd
Camping Trip is now available on Digital Download