Lavender has wrapped. My first feature length script is becoming a film. It’s a tremendous feeling. Humbling to see so many people investing time and money to bring a story I created to the big screen. It feels surreal. I’m immensely grateful. And it was a quite journey get to this point.
As a kid I loved scary stories. I would get them from the Picton Public Library children’s section. But those stories weren’t scary enough. I got a book of ghost stories from the adult section in the library, once, but couldn’t read it so I asked my older brother to read a story to me. He and I didn’t get along but I really wanted to hear the story and I think my parents and sister were worried about it giving me nightmares, which I’m sure it did.
At home in Cressy, a hamlet in Prince Edward County, where I grew up, there were oldAlfred Hitchcock Presents magazines lying about. As I got older I read many of them. I also enjoyed the Alfred Hitchcock Presents (Hitchcock has always been one of my favourites) television shows, as well as Twilight Zone and Amazing Stories.
Then came VHS. I recall watching Poltergeist at a friend’s birthday party. For my twelfth birthday I was allowed to rent American Werewolf in London. My friends came over and we watched it with all the lights out. That is until the family dog, Duke, howled and frightened us all half out of our wits, then the lights came on for the remainder of the movie. Everyone got a thrill out of being scared, or wouldn’t admit otherwise.
We kept renting scary films and would try to make them scarier by doing things like walking through the corn after Children of the Corn, or we’d hop on our bicycles after watching ghosts, werewolves, witches, demons or vampires, and we’d cycle a couple of miles in the dark to sleep in the middle of the woods in an old bus that was converted into a camper.
We’d tell ghosts stories around a campfire fire. Most of those stories were local stories, about things that had happened to people we knew, or things we, ourselves, had seen and experienced. There was no shortage of ghosts in Cressy; real or imagined, it all depends on your point of view.
So when I decided to write a feature script it had to be a thriller. The idea developed over time. I re-watched all the films that had frightened me, and rented others that were well-known but I had neglected to see. The Haunting (1963 version), The Innocents, The Exorcist, The Shinning, The Thing, Something Wicked this Way Comes; the first Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street and Halloween, the list goes on.
One of the common factors in all the films that I enjoyed, and by enjoyed I mean that frightened me the most and that stuck with me, was that there were children involved. That was a starting point. The ideas formed and I decided to research certain psychological conditions. I spent a lot of time in the Toronto Reference Library—still one of my favourite places in the world.
All of this was done when I was taking film at Humber College and working at Roy Thomson Hall. But I never actually put pen to paper until I was in Belfast.
I had just finished my first job in film working as a trainee assistant director on the film Divorcing Jack, written by Colin Bateman, directed by David Caffrey, starring David Thewlis and Rachel Griffiths. After that film wrapped I sat at the end of my bed, in front of an electric fire place, and started making notes. The real writing wouldn’t be done until I returned to Canada and to the farm in Cressy. The rewriting wouldn’t be done until I was back in Toronto and back at Roy Thomson Hall. That was in 1999.