Writer-Director Donna McRae Talks ‘Lost Gully Road’

December 20, 2019

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of HorrorFuel.com. She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email: horrorfuelinfo@gmail.com

Indie filmmaker Donna McRae’s new indie film Lost Gully Road has just been released. I had the pleasure of talking with McRae about the film and other projects.

The dark minimalistic film starring Adele Perovic as a woman waiting at a remote cabin for her sister, not knowing that she is not alone there in the forest.




Horror Fuel: “Will you tell us about your journey becoming a filmmaker?”


Donna McRae: “After drama school, I was an actress doing short films and advertisements, but I met up with a young director in film school and I was playing the leading role in his film and I started writing. When I left drama school, after about two years, all the roles that I wanted didn’t happen and so I just started writing screenplays to pass the time. I felt like I liked that better. I like creating story worlds and I was basically trying to write things for myself to be in. One thing led to another and that’s how it happened really for the actor’s process to directing. I feel like I had a good way in.”


Horror Fuel: “It’s great that you’ve had that experience and when you are writing or directing you can truly understand the actor’s side of things and can put yourself in their position. I am always interested in hearing about people’s journeys, how they get where they are.

Your film Lost Gully Road was released earlier this month. Will you tell us about it?”


Donna McRae: “It’s my second feature, my other was a film called Johnny Ghost. I was developing a bigger project and I had taken that project to Frontiers, called Cape Kelly, it’s a ghost western. I’m trying to develop that, but I had done Johnny Ghost about four years ago and wanted to do something more current. My co-writer, partner, and husband Michael Vale, said let’s do it. We made it pretty quickly and here we are.

I wanted to talk about something, it was not just a calling card for my bigger project. At the time in Melbourne where I lived, there was a lot of violence towards women and women were not feeling safe when walking home at night. I thought that would be something to examine because we were feeling terrible about the violence happening to young women while they were all alone. The whole film revolves around women not feeling safe. Then we decided to put it in the horror genre.

We filmed in the rainforest in Australia – I don’t think we see much of the rainforest in films, they are generally set in the outback. There aren’t many filled in the rainforest, especially with ghosts, so I thought it would be good to set it there. ”


Horror Fuel: “I can see the connection between the violence against women and that sense of fear in the film. As for the setting in the rainforest, you are right, I can’t recall a horror movie ever being set there. It’s great to see someone make a film in a rarely seen location. And I think the setting makes the film more intense.”


Donna McRae: “Also, it’s cinematically beautiful and all that green. We shot in winter and it was really quite cold up there. It got dark really early. It has its own magic and its own kind of creepy vibe already, so we didn’t have to really do too much to it. The little house got really dark. Remember when she stands out on that little balcony? There are really thick, tall trees. It was just amazing when the sun went down even the little birds stopped chirping. It really had its own magic at night. We really didn’t have to do much for the movie at all to get the atmosphere going.”


Horror Fuel: “It sounds a lot like the woods/forests we have here. They get spooky quick at night. Being surrounded by trees, in the dark, with a feeling of something watching is a very intense sensation.”


Donna McRae: “For sure. There was no cellphone reception. We were reenacting our own nightmare scenario [laughter].”


Horror Fuel: “It sounds like it [laughter]. I love that the villain of the film is hidden. It’s not right out front, like a lot of killers are. It’s left more up to the viewer’s imagination.”


Donna McRae: “Well, I guess we wanted to cloak him and play with black so that the audience can create their own monster. I wanted to play with the fact that you don’t really know if it is all in her head. Is she going crazy or is there really something there? There is one scene there near the end, one-shot that we show him in the corner. It’s there. If you want to see him he’s there. I really pushed to build this monster out of black. It’s like if you look into the black on a screen you can sort of make out shapes. I wanted to make sure that was happening in the film for the audience. I kind of find that interesting. I’m always looking at the corners of the screen to see what’s in there.”


Horror Fuel: “Sometimes, I prefer to create my own monster. Nothing is more disturbing than your own mind. Most of the villains in horror movies these days are right there in front, you see them before you ever watch the movie. They’re in trailers, on posters, etc… I love it when I find movies like yours that do something different.

Earlier, you mentioned that Lost Gully Road is a microbudget film. May I ask what the budget was?”


Donna McRae: “It would be about $60,000 or $70,000 in the U.S., so it was really tiny.

It took about sixteen days and we didn’t have any rehearsals. We just went in and trusted the actors. They were confident they could do it. Adele Perovic, who played the main character came down from Sydney, she didn’t even live in the same area, came down and completely trusted us. We had a lot of fun talking about the character, we really did. She came down the weekend beforehand and we had a wardrobe fitting and talked about the character. My process is, I get to write the character and let the actor embody them. I guess that has something to do with me having been an actor. Knowing the freedom to create a character, you can just go for it, you know? She had to go from being this Millenial girl to being more and more freaked out by the situation and unraveling what’s happening. All of that she had to create was in the moment. It was quite exhilarating to see it all take shape and how nuanced that performance was.”


Horror Fuel: “Perovic did a great job with her role. Are there any positive sides to making a microbudget film?”


Donna McRae: “She was really authentic.

One of the benefits of a microbudget film is you do have the freedom to take those roads when you just have a small crew. You don’t have the money to be able to afford those other things that could slow you down. We wanted the film to be minimal. I like to create images over dialogue. She had to say it all with the way she was moving or not moving.”


Horror Fuel: “She really does tell a story with her movements.

I couldn’t help but feel like you were giving a nod to the story of Little Red Riding Hood in at least one of the scenes, the one where she’s walking down the hill from the forest.”



Donna McRae: “When we went up to the location with all this green foliage, my production designer, who is also a painter, Michael Vale, straight away said that we had to put a red jacket on her. It’s Red Riding Hood in the woods. Yeah, that was an intentional thing. That shot was really great. That’s the image we use on the poster. We were shooting and it started raining. If fact, it’s the last shot of the last scene we filmed. She looks brilliant. It was really an uncomfortable shoot. From her point of view, we were looking out at the vastness of the forest and it looked there was no way out. Yeah, the shot was fantastic.”


Horror Fuel: “The fact that it was the last shot of the last scene filmed makes the poster even better.

You also have a new documentary. What is about?”


Donna: “It’s called Cobby: The Other Side of Cute. As a child, I would watch reruns of an American TV show with a chimp in it called “Cobby, Cobby” and it had one of these really great 1960s theme songs. I used to always look for the show and I could never find it on YouTube or anywhere. One night, I remember I was sitting there thinking that I had to find Cobby, Cobby. I finally found this really old internet forum and I found a post saying “We’ve got a chimp called Cobby and he made this show.” It happened to be the same Cobby in the San Francisco Zoo. It’s this amazing story. So we started making that and along the way, I found out what happened to chimps in entertainment. It’s awful stuff. I brand myself as more a fiction film director, but I’m also a huge animal rights person. I felt compelled to make this.”


Horror Fuel: “I’m a big animal lover and I’m a member of several animal rights groups. It breaks my heart what they go through and how they are treated. Chimps belong in the wild.”


Donna McRae: “I was very moved by it, Cobby’s journey. Him being born in the wild and being taken from his mom. The animal trainers took him from where he grew up and when he became grown,  they couldn’t handle him anymore because of aggression. He’s been at the San Fransico zoo from the time he was eight or nine. He’s sixty-one now. I think. He’s had a better life at the zoo. He looks great. I’ve visited him a few times now. A lot of people don’t know what they go through. They don’t know that the babies are taken away from their mothers. Sometimes to get them away from their mothers they have to kill the whole troop. Chimpanzees are really strong and they can kill you. No one handles an adult chimp, they’re just too strong. All of these things people don’t know. It’s still happening.”


Horror Fuel: “That’s heartbreaking. I’m glad that filmmakers like you are willing to educate the public. It’s such a terrible thing to do that to a living creature.


Be sure to follow Donna McRae on Twitter to stay up to date on her projects and more. Check out Lost Gully Road, out now and let us know what you think.


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