The Movie Waffler Interview - LOST GULLY ROAD Director Donna McRae | The Movie Waffler

Interview - LOST GULLY ROAD Director Donna McRae

donna mcrae interview
Australian filmmaker Donna McRae says her new film Lost Gully Road was essentially a hobby she had while working for a university.

Lost Gully Road tells the story of Lucy, a directionless young woman who travels to a secluded cottage in the forest to wait for her sister. With no television and little communication to the outside world she spends her days alone and drinking to pass the time. That is, until her unexpected host decides to keep her company…

lost gully road poster

How did you get into filmmaking, Donna?

I started as an actor, doing a three year course. After graduating, I had some interesting little roles – short films and some TV – but then it dried up. So I started writing with a director of one of those short films and we had a few projects. I found that I enjoyed writing a lot better, so really concentrated on that. I did a residency and the mentors there suggested I direct my own work. It took a couple of years but I thought about it and then enrolled at film school. And I was away!

When and where did it all start for you?

I’d always loved films. My Mum used to work as an usher in a cinema in a small country town and was into films as well. Both my parents worked on the 1952 US film Kangaroo, which was made in this town and the stories were legendary. And then we had Friday night horror films on TV with a character called Deadly Earnest who presented films like Val Lewton's Cat People, which I loved.

And did you learn the tools of the trade at university?

I learnt on the job to start – acting in short films and seeing how it was done, but it wasn’t until film school that I really looked at how a film was put together. And then, after film school, which really is the best film school, I made films; shorts, video installations, music videos etc.

And how far back did you know you wanted to make movies?

It wasn’t until that mentor at that residency suggested it to me, that I started to think about it. It hadn’t occurred to me to actually direct them, although they assured me that I was on a classic path!

And were those movies always horror movies?

Yes, I was always interested in ghost films. The first little short I made at film school was a ghost film. I also like long takes and arthouse, so I experimented with that as well, and now they have all melded together in my work.

Though one wouldn’t describe this film as a straight-up horror film. How did you pitch your investors?

My investors were myself, the university that I work for, and finally Film Victoria that came on board with some post production/marketing funding.  So, strangely, I didn’t really have to pitch it. I worked with my usual collaborators, we had some interns on the shoot from the Film and TV course I teach in, and then, once it was finished the funding body saw a fine cut.

It’s clear from the tone that you’re obviously more a fan of the serious, darker horror films – with real world issues – as opposed to the hammier, Chucky-Freddy type stuff?

Although I do enjoy those films in the cinema (I am your buddy …) I think that there is opportunity to step into debates about social issues in filmmaking. The great thing about genre films is that you can examine social issues but also entertain the audience. Then the film operates on many levels. You can feel tense or anxious and enjoy that experience while watching, but then the ideas can resonate for days after. Filmmaking has this amazing reach – it’s such a great platform for voicing modern concerns, whether personal or political, and it’s exciting to see what filmmakers are doing with this now.

Most of the team here, were they people you’d worked with before?

I have worked with my husband and visual artist Michael Vale the co-writer and Production Designer before on many projects and have a good working relationship. Laszlo Baranyai has shot everything that I have made. Musicians Dave Graney and Clare Moore have scored both feature films and we have made three music videos for them. They are the core of my team. Makeup artist Meg Guthrie completes the team. Producer Liz Baulch is a colleague at work and was a willing collaborator. It is fun to have a shorthand with these core people, and I enjoy it very much – they get what I’m doing without having to explain it anymore. 

Did they have suggestions that you incorporated into either the story or a character? Were you open to that?

Yes, they always do. Michael insists on creating the look of the film and Laszlo has plenty of input on this as well. I am very open to listening to others, I try to surround myself with more talented people than myself so they make me look good !

Is filmmaking something you’re now able to do full time?

I still work at the university where I look after the F&TV Honours students.  So, I definitely spend all my waking days thinking about filmmaking. I try to do as much as possible, whether it is being in the writers' room with the students, or taking acting/directing workshops etc to practice. I would love to make more films but they take so long, so I try to make a music video or a video installation in between the writing. I have two other projects in development of which one is quite down the track. So fingers crossed!

Would you like to take a crack at Hollywood next?

I have been coming over a bit and have friends there. I would love to work there but I would need an agent I suppose (if anyone is reading this, get in touch).

If you could remake or reboot one classic horror film, what would it be?

I love this question. It would be The Ghost and Mrs Muir, the 1945 masterpiece, which doesn’t need a remake but I could reboot it. I have been thinking about this for a while now. So, Jason Blum, if you are reading, what do you reckon?

Lost Gully Road is now available from Wild Eye Releasing.