“Meet the Makers” is a series of interviews to introduce the filmmakers of the 2016 Willson Oakville Film Festival. Answers are edited for clarity and space.
ABOUT THE FILMMAKER: JESSE HARLEY, Director
Jesse Harley is an award-winning director from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. His works include the short films, “Like Father”, “Ticonderoga”, and “Wing Man”. With the psychological thriller, “Lure”, Harley is moving from shorts to feature films.
ABOUT THE FILM: “Lure” is about post-graduate student Rebecca Markowitz who is dispatched to a prison to interview internet predator, Eric Daltry. As she delves into the man’s twisted psyche, Rebecca’s personal life starts to crumble and she finds herself getting in deeper than she ever intended. “Lure” is based on the play, “CU2morrow” inspired by the case of convicted ‘suicide nurse’ Melchert-Dinkle, a male nurse who posed as a woman in online suicide chat rooms where he encouraged vulnerable women to take their own lives.
Q: How did you get involved with “Lure”?
Jesse: I saw and liked the play, “CU2Morrow” by The Doppler Effect. When my producer, Chris Turner saw the play, he optioned it and turned it into a screenplay. Chris and I have worked together for 6 years, so when he asked me to direct, I read the script and liked it and I liked the people who were involved. It was a no-brainer.
Q: You mentioned that “Lure” was adapted from the play, “CU2morrow”. What was your own take on the story?
Jesse: It was an organic process. A number of people had input into the script. Glen Matthews, who plays Eric Daltry, had input into his character’s motivations and there were discussions to make the story more cinematic than the play. As a director, my job is to get everyone excited so they don’t want to ‘fix’ the film; they want to enhance it. That’s when magic happens. Film is a collaboration – from writing to production. I like it when everyone – the cast and crew can speak up because they might have a great idea that will make the film better. It’s my job to spot that. I call it symphonic filmmaking. Film is a top artform. Like a symphony of instruments, many pieces must fit together in the right way to make it work. If one thing – one note – is out of place, it ruins the whole thing. As the director I have to make sure everything works together. That’s my version of “the director’s vision”. It’s not a single vision – it’s the vision of seeing how everything works together.
Q: What are the themes in “Lure”?
Jesse: On the outside “Lure” seems to be about suicide but if you look deeper it’s really about control – control over our own lives and over each others’ lives. It’s also about trust. When we find ourselves trusting people, our trust gives them power over us. Rebecca (Andrea Norwood) and Eric (Glen Matthews) form an unexpected trust. At first it seems that Eric is manipulating Rebecca in the same way he’s manipulated other people for kicks. But by the end, he’s emotionally conflicted. At the same time, Rebecca finds herself trusting this man who she first sees as a black & white criminal. Everyone is on a journey that suddenly surprises them with an emotional whiplash. From an acting and directing standpoint this is a tough thing to pull off. The actors had to do this emotional turn-around. Everyone did a splendid job.
Q: Rebecca is a complex character. Help us understand her.
Jesse: She’s young – early to mid-20’s – at an age when she’s still grasping with who she is in the world. When she’s thrown in with Eric Daltry, a man who’s older than her, more experienced, and has a background of manipulating people – how does she deal with him? She’s forced to deal with moral questions like, ‘Should people be encouraged to kill themselves to end their own suffering?’ Is she equipped to answer this? Is anyone? She has her own demons but these are left unanswered in the movie. We learn that she had her own suicide attempt but we don’t know why. What’s important is that this affects her view of Eric. This brings us back to the question of control. How much control does she have over her own life and how much does she let Eric control her? Rebecca is not as fragile as she first appears to be. As we get to know her we see another side to her.
Q: Eric is a complicated villain. What can you tell us about him?
Jesse: Yes. His character is so juicy and deviant. He lives in a morally grey area that torments him. He believes that he’s helping people but he struggles with the morality of how he helps. By day he helps people live and by night he helps them die. ‘Help’ is the key word.
Q: Who was “Lure” made for?
Jesse: I don’t really make a movie with a particular audience in mind. I believe that your audience finds you. I try to focus on making the movie.
Q: When audiences see “Lure” what do you want them to take away from it?
Jesse: After seeing “Lure” – if they can discuss it or have a debate on this topic of morals, the motivation behind suicide and how it affects people – I think that’s what I want. We don’t talk about it enough. I wanted to show this topic – not in a horrific way – not by being graphic or hard to watch – but in a way that benefits people by starting a discussion.
Q: Any final thoughts about “Lure”?
Jesse: I think “Lure” deals with important subject matter – mental health. We shouldn’t shy away from it. Mental illness is so often swept under the rug and treated with shame. Anything I can create to bring this to the forefront is worthwhile for me.
Interview by Cathleen MacDonald
Cathleen MacDonald is a writer and filmmaker.