When You Sleep

A teen couple faces a rodent infestation in their slum apartment.

Creative team

Writer/director: Ashley McKenzie
Co-producers: Nelson MacDonald, Martha Cooley

Filmmaker’s statement

“With When You Sleep, I wanted to capture the raw energy of a young couple who are trapped in a life with narrow options. The way they deal with a rodent infestation seemed to say things about their codependent relationship that they couldn’t communicate themselves.

The film is designed to be quite abrasive and troublesome but in the end it was the quiet desperation of these misfit characters that inspired me the most. I felt there was a lot of sadness and strength in seeing them struggle with adult responsibilities, while just being kids themselves.”

About Ashley McKenzie

Ashley McKenzie is an award-winning filmmaker from Cape Breton Island, Canada. Her directorial debut, Rhonda’s Party, was named one of Canada’s Top Ten Shorts by TIFF in 2011 and won CBC’s Short Film Face Off.

When You Sleep (developed through the NSI Drama Prize course) is her second short film. It premiered at TIFF and was one of 16 shorts worldwide in competition at the Stockholm International Film Festival.

The film was also showcased in Telefilm Canada’s Not Short on Talent program at Cannes and received best emerging director award at the Atlantic Film Festival.

Cape Breton is the setting for Ashley’s most recent short film, Stray, currently on the festival circuit, as well as the feature film she is developing, Train Whistle Does Not Blow.

Ashley is an alumnus of the TIFF Talent Lab and owner of the production company Grassfire Films.

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