“Lost Gully Road” is a new movie by Australian filmmaker Donna McRae who wanted to make a movie that not only scared audiences but had something to say about how women are feeling very unsafe these days. The result is “Lost Gully Road’’ which is an atmospheric, chilling and striking independent feature that has just been released on DVD and Digital.
Recently filmmaker Donna McRae discussed this movie and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): There’s some brilliant filmmakers down under, have any particularly inspired you?
Donna McRae (DM): I am inspired by Jennifer Kent – obviously “Monster” and “The Babadook,” but I think that “The Nightingale” is a masterpiece, she really knows how to tell a story in cinematic terms which work on many levels. Her uncompromising vision is second to none. I also admire Justin Kurzels work – bold, cinematic and his jumping between genres is really brilliant.
MM: Is it a close-knit circle, in that most of the genre filmmakers know each other?
DM: Actually, yes and no. I am part of a female genre filmmaking circle that stems from the “Stranger with my Face” film festival run by Briony Kidd, and those very talented women are my tribe. But further afield, we don’t get to hang out much. The filmmaker Heath Davis organised drinks one night with a whole heap of directors, and it was really the first time we had all met – which was fantastic.
MM: Is it hard to get a film made in Australia? How did you get yours up?
DM: The Australian Film Industry uses government funding to add to other income streams such as privately raised money and money from distributors, broadcasters etc. They usually fund about seven a year, and that is dwindling now as all their efforts are going into TV. The independent sector raise budgets as best as they can, and operate on the smell of an oily rag. “Lost Gully Road,” which was totally micro budget, was a mix of private money, in kind sponsorship and internships. Film Victoria came on board in post-production with some marketing money. It’s incredibly hard to make something here. We don’t have investors willing to take a chance, or non-profits that can do it.
MM: Is it as vital in Australia to have a couple of recognizable faces in the cast as it is in the US?
DM: It becomes more vital as the budget goes up. But having said that, I think that now you definitely need those recognisable faces no matter what. I was lucky with my cast, Adele Perovic had been acting on TV for a while, John Brumpton and Jane Clifton are two of Australia’s leading actors – you may have seen John in “The Loved Ones” – and Jane acts, sings, is on radio, and was in “Prisoner” (Cell Block 5) for years. Elise Mignon was on TV and does theatre as well. It really helps to sell the film – when the inevitable questions comes around – “What have they been in?” you can back your choices.
MM: And where did it shoot? Close to home?
DM: We shot it in Kalorama, in the Dandenong Ranges, which is on the fringes of Melbourne. It was about an hour and a half drive from our home, and quite secluded once we got to the location, but still part of the city.
MM: What inspired the particular story?
DM: I always want to make my work about something, and this was no different. At the time of writing the screenplay I was concerned about all the young women in our city that were walking home alone at night and were getting attacked. It was appalling and very upsetting. Many women in Melbourne were angry and there were rallies to try to shine a light on this terrible violence. So, I brought some of those themes into the film.
MM: What’s the message you’re relaying through the film?
DM: The strongest message is how women don’t feel safe alone. Danger is lurking everywhere. Also, a look at domestic violence – a partner that may lure you into a false sense of security and then destroy that bond with violence and the enablers that go along with that.
MM: Have you shown the film to a US audience yet?
DM: It has played in a few film festivals last year, winning Best Feature awards at La Femme in Los Angeles and Stuftx in Texas. It’s very exciting that it is now streaming and on DVD there. I have been getting very positive responses so far.
MM: What’s next for you?
DM: I am in development for a few projects. The one that is further down the track is a project about Kate Kelly, Ned Kelly’s sister. There have been many films about our most famous bushranger, but Kate remains a footnote in these stories, and she is great! I’m making a ghost/road movie/western about a couple of weeks in her life after Ned’s hanging. It was selected for Frontieres market at Fantasia, and it’s going to be fantastic – I can’t wait!