Interview with Claire Edmondson (Director of EXIT)

Hi Claire, thank you for agreeing to speak to me. Firstly, as the film deals with such a sensitive topic was it important to ensure that it was treated delicately as well as realistically?

Thanks for the great questions! Yes. My goal was to stay true to the process, but capture it in a cinematic way, edging on surreal.

Where did the idea for the film come from?

I read about the EXIT guides in a new story years ago, it always stuck with me. Besides having empathy for anyone in this position, I imagined it could be shot in a very powerful way. When it came to write my first short film, I felt like I could tell an interesting story with them in a short amount of time.

The film has a very distinct style to it – were you influenced by any other directors in particular when making this film?

I wanted EXIT to have a haunting feel to it while also juxtaposing the darkness with beauty. There is something very poetic about dying in nature, which breathes life. Someone summed up my work as “David Lynch meets Sofia Coppola” and I think it’s the best compliment I’ve ever received!

What was the casting process for the film like?

Surprisingly easy. Maria Bello was always my number one actor for the role. I’ve been a huge fan of her ever since I saw her in David Cronenberg’s, “A History Of Violence,” but I thought actually casting her was a pipe dream. But my producer was able to get the script to her agent at UTA and they thought she’d be into it. Once she read the script she met with my producer and I and it all happened quickly from there. Casting director, Amey Rene, put together a list of up and coming actresses to play the daughter role and as soon as we investigated Natasha Bassett, she became the obvious choice. Then my producer realized his good friend knew her, so we got the script to her and as soon as she read it she said yes.

They are both two amazing women, amazing actors and I feel so lucky to have been able to work with them. They brought so much to the project.

What do you hope audiences will take away from this film?

I’ve had people tell me they find themselves thinking about the film days after they’ve seen it. That it stays with them. That means so much to me. I feel like the viewer will take what they will or what they need. As a director as long as they are still thinking about it, I’ve done my job. That said, if it shifts people’s views on the right to die movement or even gets them thinking about it for the first time, I’d really love that too.

Why do you think that films covering the subject of assisted suicide are few and far between?

Assisted Suicide is not a young person’s problem. No one really thinks about it until faced with disease and illness at an older age. I spoke to several people who work within the right to die movement while researching the film and they say the people active the community, pushing for change are predominantly 55 and older. I do believe it will become a big human rights issue in our lifetime though. I hope so at least.

What do you hope will change in the future regarding assisted suicide?

The laws are slowly changing around the world. But the US is slow to catch on. I think it comes down to compassion — we are all going to die, there is no need to prolong the last few weeks, months if you are in pain and don’t want to exist that way. It’s a very personal decision, I don’t think the government should have a right to say what we do with our bodies.

What has the reception to the film been like?

Thankfully, very good. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and it is now on a festival run. I’ve picked up a “Most Promising Director” award along the way. It’s currently playing at the Palm Springs International Shortfest. The amazing Natasha Lyonne just put it on a “Short Films To Watch” playlist. It’s got me into an amazing director program that I’m not allowed to announce yet! The reviews have been very positive. I’m very grateful.

How does this film compare to other films you’ve worked on?

Up until now, I’ve made music video and commercials which have taught me so much about directing, but this is my first proper narrative piece. I’m a storyteller at heart so it was very satisfying to tell a complete story with top notch actors. I’m hungry to do more!

What future projects have you got planned?

I just finished writing my first feature screenplay. So, I’m hoping to get that financed and made. I’m also working on turning EXIT into a feature; however, it will be very different from the short. And always directing commercials.

With thanks to Claire Edmondson

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