Ed Gass-Donnelly is an editor, writer, and director He is known for The Last Exorcism Part II, Small Town Murder Songs and This Beautiful City. His latest film is Lavender, which is a thriller about a woman (Abbie Cornish) who after losing her memory as a child begins to see unexplainable occurrences after visiting the home she grew up in.
What is the purpose of Lavender for you, in terms of the message and themes behind it? I like to think of it as a meditation on the nature and fallibility of memory wrapped in a genre puzzle. I’ve always been fascinated with the idea that photographs are frozen moments of time, a 60th of a second trapped in celluloid (R.I.P. film). Back then, the whole process felt magical, processing and developed film by hand felt like tactile alchemy. Nowadays, with cameras on our phones, it feels like an afterthought, which is why Jane shoots on film. There’s an intentional sense of nostalgia to it. Similarly, I always loved the idea of ghosts as a metaphor for our memories, which can be just as haunting as any supernatural force.
Did you gain inspiration or influence from film, literary or other artistic mediums for Lavender? Can you give examples of these influences and how they helped to shape the vision you had for the film? Lavender spent such a long time in development that it’s hard to remember where one idea started and another began. That said, I can definitely say that one movie, in particular, inspired me to pursue the genre in the first place, and that was The Others. From the opening frame where Nicole Kidman’s head bursts into the frame, awaking from a nightmare to the amazing narrative reveal at the end, the movie had me hooked. It was so steeped in atmosphere and tone and the performances were so nuanced and rich. It was a perfect reminder of how authentic and terrifying a genre movie can be.
Would you be able to explain in detail the processes you undertake, with regards to writing and directing responsibilities? Not in a paragraph! As someone who wears many hats on most films I make, the lines between writer, director, producer, and editor are often blurred. I honestly see each role as an extension of the next, refining and re-sculpting the narrative through a process of trial and error until it finally falls into place.
Did this film help in developing a sense of how you would both like to approach any future projects? Yes and no. In many ways, it was about returning to a process I felt comfortable in, shepherding the projected from inception to completion (rather than being a hired gun). It is a constant challenge to create movies that are commercial yet meaningful, inventive yet accessible, and the more films I make, the more honest I become with myself about what kind of movies I want to make and what kinds I want to see. The Holy Grail is finding the perfect balance between art and commerce, great movies that find an audience and can be experienced in a theater because no one wants to make art that just hides in their closet!
Do you have any aspiration to experiment with a different genre of film in the future? Absolutely. While I’m about to make one more movie in the same genre this Spring, I think I’ll need to switch gears after that. I never saw myself making three genre movies in a row, simply because my tastes are so diverse. Next up will be science fiction, a small personal drama, and then (hopefully!) a rock gospel musical.
If you had infinite resources and budget, what is a fantasy project you would like to tackle? Ironic perhaps, but passion and limitless resources rarely go hand in hand. My dream project is one that is quite small but means the world to me. It’s a post-apocalyptic coming of age story about two sisters trying to get from Wisconsin to Kentucky before winter sets in. The challenge is simply that it’s not the most obviously commercial film and $3M is still a lot of money to risk losing based on the prospect of returns! But it will get made…just a question of when.
What is next for you? I’ll be directing a really cool high-concept genre movie this Spring, but I can’t say what it is yet as it hasn’t been announced.
Lavender is now available to watch in select cinemas, on VOD platforms and Digital HD from March 3rd, 2017.