Logline: When two teenage girls find themselves in a peculiar circumstance, they face the enchantment and danger of the isolated canyon they call home.
Length: 13 minutes
Director: Annabel Graham
Writer: Annabel Graham
Producer: Rachel Gray
Key Cast: Annabel Graham, Augie Duke, Cliff Potts, Nathan Keyes
About the writer/director and producer: Annabel Graham is a writer, photographer, filmmaker and artist living in Los Angeles. The Ravine marks her directorial debut. Visit her personal website at www.annabel-graham.com
Rachel Gray is a photographer and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. The Ravine marks her first sole producer credit. Visit her personal website atwww.rachelgraymedia.com
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): All of the above!
Funders: Ronald Rasak (executive producer) and many generous IndieGogo contributors.
Made in association with: Alerion Productions, Flying Wells Productions
Release date: June 2, 2016.
The film had its first official screening on May 19, 2016 at the Cannes Film Festival as part of the Short Film Corner, and had its official world premiere on June 2, 2016 at the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills, CA as part of the Independent Filmmakers Showcase (IFS) Festival. At IFS, it won “Best Mystery Short Film,” Annabel Graham won “Best Actress in a Short Film,” and the film was nominated for an Audience Award.
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
Our film is based on a short story I wrote which was published in a Montreal-based literary journal called Cosmonauts Avenue in January 2015. The story of "The Ravine" is inspired by true events.
When I was about seventeen, my childhood best friend and I came upon a strange and somewhat chilling occurrence while driving home through Las Flores Canyon, where we grew up. Seven years later, I still felt haunted by the eerie imagery and sensations we had experienced, and I knew I had to write about that night.
Soon after the short story was published, I met my producer, Rachel Gray. A family friend, the author Joyce Maynard, put us in touch since we had so much in common. We were both pursuing careers in the film industry. We were both passionate about photography. We had both grown up in Malibu.
We were both recent college graduates, both living at home for the time being after losing members of our immediate family who had both been filmmakers (I had lost my father, William A. Graham, after his six-year struggle with a traumatic brain injury, and Rachel had lost her older brother, Scott Wells, to cancer).
During our very first meeting, I mentioned my short story to Rachel, and told her about an idea I’d had—to make it into a short film. She asked if she could read it, so I sent it to her that night. After reading it, she said, "Great, let's do this. I'll produce it." And so we did.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I believe that our film will have a cathartic effect on those who have lost loved ones. Losing my father broke my heart. Making this film helped me begin the process of healing it. I hope that I can help others heal through my work, even if only in some small way. My whole heart went into this film, and I think viewers will be able to feel that when they watch it.
If our film moves its viewers—brings them back to the strange and mythic wonderment of growing up, makes them remember someone they’ve lost—if it transports them into the beautiful, volatile and dangerous landscape of Las Flores Canyon and makes them think and feel—then I think I’ve achieved my goal.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Our film tells the story of a young woman grappling with change in every sense of the word. It’s a story of innocence, budding sexuality, loss and nostalgia-- of the unshakable bond between two childhood friends, the unpredictable forces of nature, and the relationship between a larger-than-life father and the daughter who idolized him.
The film is an homage to the volatile landscape of Malibu's stunning Las Flores Canyon, where I grew up, and a tribute to my late father, film and TV director William A. Graham.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
I think the short story I wrote had a much more ominous and uncanny feeling to it, whereas the film has more of a nostalgic mood. It’s interesting how something can translate so differently visually than it does on the page. I learned so much during the process of adapting my story into a film—certain things just didn’t read visually the way they did in the story, so I had to make changes.
Other things didn’t end up looking as wonderful as I’d thought they would. I ended up cutting a whole scene because I realized it didn’t serve the story, and a shot that took us hours to get because it implied something I didn’t intend. It’s all a learning process!
It was a pretty intense four-day shoot—we had a burning car, an underwater shot, several instances of reckless driving in a treacherous canyon, a minor in a car, we had to close down a major highway, and most of the film took place at nighttime or during magic hour.
In hindsight, I think that being a brand-new filmmaker (and thus not realizing how difficult certain things might be) gave me the guts to write all of these things into my script. Once I did realize what a challenging script I’d written, I briefly considered reworking some of the more difficult scenes, but my producer Rachel urged me never to change my vision just to lessen the production challenges. And she was right. I’m really proud (and still sometimes a little in disbelief!) of what we pulled off together.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
So far, we’ve received some really great feedback. The overarching comment I’ve heard is that the film moved people deeply and left them slightly unsettled or curious (which was my intent). Several people have told me that they wanted more of the story. Viewers have been especially complimentary of the cinematography, the acting, and the score, which makes me happy. I was so lucky to work with such a talented cast, crew and post-production team.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
Definitely. There have been a handful of people who felt that they didn’t fully understand the story, or the ending. The film is a bit more poetic or subtle than your standard narrative, and I think it leaves viewers with lingering unanswered questions.
The ending is intentionally open to the viewer’s interpretation. I wanted to evoke the sensations of loss, of nostalgia, of growing up, of budding sexuality—and I do think we achieved that. My favorite films are ones that make you think, that stay with you for days, that aren’t tied up in a neat bow at the end.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
First and foremost, to share our story with a wider audience—but also to expand our community and connect with people around the world who are passionate about filmmaking and storytelling.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
At this point, we’re looking for sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors and journalists. I’d love to screen the film at a few more festivals in different cities, and to have it picked up and made available for viewing online.
We recently had an article about the film in The Malibu Times, but I’m also looking for more journalists to spread the word, and I’m of course interested in connecting with producers and investors to collaborate with on future projects (I’m currently writing the script for a feature). http://m.malibutimes.com/malibu_life/article_076df770-283b-11e6-bae3-038d1dac8ed7.html?mode=jqm
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
For me, there are few experiences greater than coming into contact with a piece of art that strikes a chord deep within your soul, that sends shivers down your spine, that gets beneath your skin and stays there, that makes you feel understood in some way or gives you the sense that you are not alone. I would like to give that back—to make people feel, think and wonder.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Life as we know it can, and does, change in a split second. Natural disasters happen; fathers and husbands fall off their bicycles and crack their skulls on the cold pavement. How do we cope with loss, with sudden change?
Would you like to add anything else?
I want to empower other emerging female filmmakers; to encourage them to follow their dreams and not to give up. Making a film takes a lot out of you, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or become discouraged, especially when things don’t work out exactly as you’d planned (spoiler alert: they won’t!), when you don’t see results or experience success right away. I feel it’s important to fail—it makes you stronger. It’s just as important to get right back up, dust yourself off and keep going.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
Annabel Graham is currently at work on a collection of short stories. She will be attending the 2016 Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop, where she will workshop her manuscript with New York Times bestselling author Jess Walter. She is also developing the screenplay for her first feature film.
Rachel Gray currently works as a studio production coordinator for Universal Television at NBC Universal. She also runs her own freelance photography business, Rachel Gray Media.
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