New and unique films are our favorite things to talk about. Ed Gass-Donnelly is a director and writer that has worked on the film Lavender, a film with a lot of great underlying stories and motivations. We got the chance to talk with Gass-Donnelly about Lavender, working with the incredible cast and crew, and what else he has coming up. Check out everything he had to say.
LYDIA: Can you start us off by telling us how you got into the entertainment industry.
ED: My dad’s a prominent theatre director in Toronto, so I grew up in that world, directing and producing theater since I was a teenager. I always loved movies but they seemed too complicated until I got a job as an assistant on a movie-of-the-week and the technical process became demystified, like peeking behind a magician’s curtain. Not long after that I switched to movies and never looked back.
LYDIA: Let’s talk about your new project. Lavender is fictional, but was the storyline inspired by any true events, or stories?
ED: No, it’s 100% fictional but drawn from some experiences. Whether witnessing a relative struggle through dementia or a close friend remembering childhood abuse they hadn’t known existed, memory has always been a powerful force, and one we have the least control over. We are always at its mercy.
LYDIA: What was your intention with the freeze-frame style of filming; was it meant to outline the horror, without making it too forcible?
ED: I always loved the idea that a photograph was a memory frozen in time. In Lavender, our protagonist (who’s a photographer) becomes haunted by memories she didn’t know existed, so I wanted to take the audience on a visual journey, as if stepping into those memories, yet powerless to change them.
LYDIA: Why did you choose the year 1984 for the time frame of the events which set the tone for the film?
ED: I think there is a certain amount of nostalgia in the film, both in terms of the style and the fact that the photographer shoots on film with very old school gear (we really wanted to shoot the movie on film but, alas, we couldn’t afford it). I grew up in the 80’s so that era just felt right for me as the filmmaker.
LYDIA: What is the significance of the title, Lavender?
ED: Narratively it refers to the song Lavender Blue that plays on the music box from Jane’s childhood. Thematically, it sets the tone of the film: darkness hiding behind a beautiful façade.
LYDIA: The characters spend a lot of time in pale blue hues and pastels, was that also symbolic?
ED: It’s really an extension of the above question. We wanted to play against certain conventions, such as tall yellow cornfields and creepy sequences at night. We embraced the lush beauty and imbued it with a sense of impending dread. It looks beautiful but there is a constant threat that the darkness will surface at any moment.
LYDIA: There’s a lot of foreshadowing, and symbolism in the film, are these meant to show how memories won’t be suppressed?
ED: I don’t think you can erase memory, you can just bury it, and when we’re ready to process old traumas they can reveal themselves in unique ways. I often see characters as a puzzle and this became a visual means of exploring Jane’s past while her memories slowly bubble to the surface
LYDIA: Were the hallucinations meant to show the instability of Jane’s mind beginning to collide with her reality?
ED: Much like photographs, I also love the idea that ghosts are memories frozen in time. We can be haunted by both just as horrifically. One really becomes a metaphor for the other.
LYDIA: Was casting a difficult process, and what led to the cast as found in the film?
ED: It’s really about trying to find the right dynamics. I like to cast people against type and defy or bend audience expectations. Most notably would be the choice to cast Justin Long, simply because he is best known for his comedic work but he delivers a wonderfully rich dramatic turn in Lavender. I wouldn’t call it difficult, but its like a recipe and you’re trying to find the perfect balance of ingredients.
LYDIA: As a Director, you seem to lean towards darker stories about the vagaries of how human minds handle traumatic experiences. Is this a theme that is specifically compelling to you?
ED: I’m fascinated by the possibilities of human behavior, of how two people raised the same way can end up at such different places. My favorites movies are always character driven, it’s the human equation that makes horror interesting to me, not the monsters. It’s how people handle extreme circumstances. Ultimately, I want find to beauty in the world but to do so requires you to acknowledge and confront the darkness.
LYDIA: What is your favorite sort of film, and is there a specific film which made you want to become a director yourself?
ED: If there’s a great story and great characters, then I can love a film in any genre, though crime thrillers and sci-fi have a particular soft spot in my heart. I’ve loved movies as long as I can remember…so there’s was no clear watershed moment that I can remember.
LYDIA: In your opinion, why would the Uncle let Jane come back, knowing that she was the sole survivor, and the only one who knew what had truly happened?
ED: I have no idea how to answer that without serious spoilers to your readers!
LYDIA: How was working with Colin Frizzell on the script?
ED: It took quite a few years. Colin brought me a script that I optioned and we developed, on and off, for probably 4 or 5 years. It was one of those projects that gets put in a drawer for a year then resurrected until we could figure out exactly what we wanted to do with it. Some scripts come quickly, others need to marinade.
LYDIA: Aside from Lavender, do you have other projects we should also be on the lookout for?
ED: I’m directing a new movie this Spring but I can’t say what it is yet as it hasn’t been officially announced. I will say it’s a really cool high concept horror thriller that feels like an early Amblin movie and will get a wide release…and more will be announced in a few weeks!
LYDIA: Where can we keep up with you and the film online?
ED: I am infrequently on Twitter @realedgd but I’m trying to get better about the film.
Make sure to follow Ed Gass-Donnelly on his above listed social media account and check out Lavender on demand or in theaters, VOD, and Digital HD!