Sleepless in Winnipeg — Chernick mined his childhood for inspiration when writing Lucid

By Peter Vesuwalla
Uptown Magazine — March 16, 2006

"Can I call you back?" Jonas Chernick asks. "I'm having the most insane day of my life." An hour later, the actor rings from his home in L.A. and explains.

"I had an exciting day as far as L.A.-pilot-season drama and excitement," he says. "I got to meet Anna Paquin (the Winnipeg-born Academy Award-winning actress) today and was reading for a role in a film they're shooting in Winnipeg. It's an American indie film that Anna Paquin is the lead in, and it's a huge opportunity.

"It all came very quickly yesterday, and it's kind of this whirlwind day where I've been whisked off to the Warner Brothers studio lot and met with Anna and then had to whip to an audition for another project."

On top of all that, the 32-year-old former Winnipegger is still promoting Lucid, the made-in-Winnipeg feature he starred in and co-wrote with director Sean Garrity. The film, which premiered in Winnipeg on March 2 at the FilmExchange Canadian Film Festival, opens March 17 in Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

Chernick opted to stay for the rest of FilmExchange and missed Lucid's U.S. premiere in San Jose, Calif., where a critic rated the movie with the work of Guy Maddin and David Cronenberg as helping to define the new language of Canadian cinema.

That's a nice reward at the end of a process that began seven years ago, when Chernick began his script about an insomniac psychiatrist having trouble holding his life together.

"My father has always suffered from really horrifying insomnia," he says. "So I grew up in a house where my dad didn't sleep — ever — except for intermittent spurts on the couch during the day. In was only mildly aware of that as a kid, but there was something very unsettling about it.

"The research came much later. I'll credit Sean (Garrity) with all the research. All I used were personal experience my father had as an insomniac. Sean was really diligent with the research, which was good for me when it came time to put on the acting hat and play a psychologist. I didn't have to do any research because he handed all the material to me."

By that time, the project had already progressed further than Chernick had ever thought it would.

"When you get that deep into development on a script, you start to think that it's never going to be finished," he says. "So many projects get into development and never find their way to completion. That's just the nature of the business."

"To see (Lucid) at the festivals and now being released theatrically in Canada is so gratifying. It gives me a motivation to stick with the other projects. I've got a number of other scripts to develop as a writer."

Currently Chernick has two scripts that have been optioned by production companies — meaning that they have paid him for the rights to possibly make a film from the scripts. He's also received funding to develop a third project.

Between that and his acting career, Chernick's anticipating some more 'insane' days to come.

"It's actually right now killing me that I'm not gonna be in Canada for the opening weekend," he says. "It's just killing me, but I need to be here."

Hope he's not losing any sleep over it.

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