When I heard that actor and writer Emily Lawrence was producing a short film based on Genetics, I knew I had to learn more. I can’t help it – I absolutely love when science and the entertainment industry intersect. After reading what can only be described as a heartbreaking premise, I had the great privilege of chatting with Emily about her ambitious new project:
Can you tell me a bit about the short film you’re working on? How did you come up with the concept?
Lilith in the Garden is about a scientist who, driven by grief, clones his late wife. Living in the shadow of a woman who is her, but isn’t, Valerie wonders if it’s possible to live her own life. The film explores questions about identity, nature vs. nurture, fate, what makes us who we are and how much choice we have in the matter.
I got the idea a long time ago. I honestly can’t remember what inspired it. I just know that after holding onto it for over a year, I finally had to write it down. It wasn’t until after I wrote it that I realized how important it was to me. Valerie’s story is about discovering who she is while struggling with the fact that she was meant to be someone else. She’s trying to carve out her own place in the world, even though everything about her existence has been dictated to her by the past. These are issues that I’ve been dealing with in my own life, and I believe they’re things that, at some level, we all struggle with. We’re not clones, but we all inherit our genetics and attitudes about life from our parents. These are things that are dictated to us; we had no choice in the matter. We weren’t specifically designed to serve a specific function, yet at some point in all of our lives, we need to make a choice about who we are and the person we want to be. Valerie’s story is an exaggerated version of what each and every one of us faces. What I love about this story, is that even though it’s completely fictional and a situation that is scientifically impossible (or at least very far away), it still feels so truthful to me.
How did you get connected with Leslie, and why did you decide to hire a female director?
I actually met Leslie totally randomly. A couple friends had a film at Dances with Films, so I went to the festival. Leslie also had a friend in the film. We chatted afterwards and just really clicked. I wanted to work with Leslie because I think she’s a talented filmmaker. Someone’s talent and skill is more important than their gender, but I do think it’s important for women to support each other in the film industry. Women have a unique perspective that needs to be more frequently expressed. The lead character in this film is a woman on a journey to discover herself. While I think anyone can relate to that, I feel like it makes sense for films with female protagonists to also have female directors. Who can better frame the female experience than another woman?
Your story centers on a Clone. What are the similarities and differences between the clone and the individual she is based on?
In the story, Valerie is exactly the same as the late-Valerie she was copied from. She’s genetically her clone, but she also has all of her memories and remembers everything that happened to her. The only major difference is that she looks like a younger version of herself. Valerie died in her early 40s from an illness. Her husband, the geneticist that clones her, doesn’t want to risk that her illness might affect the clone’s cells as well, so he uses older samples from when she was younger. Ultimately, the fact that she appears younger makes it difficult for both Valerie and Theo to accept the new state of their lives. It’s a constant reminder that the real Valerie is no longer with them.
What are your plans for this project? Do you have a feature or larger project based on this concept that you’re hoping to spearhead?
I’d love to make the best short film I can and submit it to festivals. I also wrote a pilot script inspired by the short film which my agent has sent to a few places and has been getting positive feedback. It’s different, with different characters, but inspired by the same theme of a clone coming to terms with their new life. I also have ideas for turning either Lilith in the Garden or the pilot into a feature film, but one thing at a time!
I know you’re currently in the middle of your Kickstarter – where can folks learn more about this project?
We are crowdfunding our budget for the film. If anyone is intrigued or inspired by anything I’ve said, please check out our Kickstarter. We’d love your support to make this happen. Even small donations can make a big difference.
Women in film, science, and a journey of self-discovery – sounds like an incredible project! Best of luck to Emily, and I can’t wait to see how it turns out!
PS: If you’re looking for women to work behind the camera on your next project, be sure to check out our Hire a Ms database!