‘Gigi & Nate’ Filmmakers Discuss the Hope and Heroism in New Family Drama

‘Gigi & Nate’ Filmmakers Discuss the Hope and Heroism in New Family Drama August 30, 2022

In the new family drama “Gigi & Nate,” Charlie Rowe plays Nate Gibson, a young man who suffers a terrible accident that leaves him paralyzed, depressed, and even suicidal. When a service animal, a capuchin monkey named Gigi, enters his home, his and his family’s lives are transformed, bringing joy and a new reason for living.

Gigi & Nate image courtesy of Roadside Attractions.

Filmmakers Nick Hamm (director) and David Hudgins (screenwriter) say the story is about “hope” and even visibility and compassion to the disabled community. In this interview with Reel Faith, the two discuss the real-life inspiration behind the story, the challenges of working with animals, and how the world is made a better place when people help each other.

 

David, can you share your journey with this film? And how much did you draw inspiration from the real-life Ned Sullivan when you were writing the screenplay?

David Hudgins:  Sure. When Nick came to me with this project, I was immediately intrigued because it was so different. It was so fresh. You know, there have been plenty of movies about animals, but I’d never seen anything like this before, a disabled person and his relationship with a service animal. It so happened that he brought me this project right after I’d gone through a very trying time with my own son who had gotten meningitis and been in a coma. We didn’t know if he was going to survive. And we didn’t know if he survived if he was going to be paralyzed. So, it was a terrible experience that fortunately worked out fine. He’s okay, thanks to the amazing doctors at Vanderbilt. But this story coming to me on the heels of that, I did adjust the accident, sort of the inciting incident, if you will. But it’s really the same thing in the sense that somebody’s taken to the lowest point they can possibly be taken to in their lives to the point where they’re ready to kill themselves as needed test in the movie. And then the story from there is how he gets back from that. And he learns to essentially love life again, and the way he does it is through this hilarious monkey. So you have this great relationship between him and the monkey. It’s a family film where the family members are all involved. So that was how I got into it. I thought it was just a fantastic story. And a very timely story. Right now, we need to we need some hope.

 

Yes, and I think the main point is releasing hope into the world. Nick, everybody always warns about working with animals and children. And I know, you probably got this question 100 times, but how was it working with Allie, who plays Gigi?

Nick Hamm: There’s no question about it, it’s very different. And it’s very difficult. And to a certain extent, it can give any director PTSD. There’s nothing that you can plan, ever. “That is exactly what’s going to happen.” So I want you to imagine you’ve rehearsed your actors, everybody’s in character, they know what they’re doing, you roughly block the scene. And then you put in the middle of that scene an animal who essentially is not rehearsed in the same way as an actor, does not follow examples in the same way as an actor does. The actor stays in character, even though the monkey might be doing different things than they are expected to do. What’s fascinating about that is you get something very original, completely new, whereas you can’t plan it. And you can only capture it in a moment. As a filmmaker, it becomes a fascinating event, and what also becomes interesting is the sheer brilliance of the actual monkey, Allie herself. She became in the course of that seven to eight-week period, an actual actor in the movie. In other words, she understood that this was the moment when the cameras rolls, this was the moment when if she did this, right, she got her peanut butter, that this was the emotion of this particular scene. And this was the emotion of that scene. And I watched an animal, watch actors, and then become an actor herself. And I’ve never seen that in any piece of cinema, ever. So this movie is utterly unique, in that you will watch a performance by an animal that is genuinely original and completely new.

 

Nick, I want to ask you, to piggyback on what David said about hope, was that your goal for releasing the story?

Nick Hamm: Our job as filmmakers and writers is to make stories that move people and that take them into another world. That’s our job. That’s why we do what we do. And we enjoy doing it. When you get given the opportunity to celebrate a community, like the disabled community, the opportunity to celebrate the absolute triumph of the human spirit over adversity, as David says, then you have to, as a filmmaker, take that chance, and offer that up to the general public. And I hope that in the near future, the near few weeks that people will see a movie offers an incredibly optimistic view of the human soul. And that that because I believe that the majority of people are basically good and that they that acts of heroism are very basic and very domestic. They’re not to do with whether or not you can make somebody invisible, or you can lift a building with your finger. They are to do with the fact that you help someone else in a way, which is the fundamental nature of the way we build our society. And this movie celebrates it.

David Hudgins: Sorry, I just want to tag on that, because that is such a good point. There’s a moment in the movie where Jim Belushi is at the rental car counter, and he can’t get a car, and the guy behind him offers one up. And I think I put a line in the script, “Nick, angels come in many forms.” I believe there are moments of grace like that, that happened in life—and by the way that really happened. And so that’s just an example of a small moment in this film that is grounded and real. In and that’s all I wanted to say.

Nick Hamm: That’s good. That’s exactly right.

 

“Gigi & Nate,” also starring Marcia Gay Harden, Jim Belushi, Diane Ladd, and Josephine Langford will release in theaters on Friday, Sept. 2 from Roadside Attractions.

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