Agnes Peel-McGregor: Catching the Big Fish

July 13, 2019
The Sydney-based filmmaker is taking her mentorship with David Lynch to the next level.

“I remember asking him what to do when you think you’ve caught ‘a big fish’ – what David calls an idea – but the water is murky, and he gave me the following advice:

“Ok, I’m gonna tell you what to do, you sit comfortably in a chair and you close your eyes and you start thinking about this fish, this idea and you’ve got a pencil and paper or a pen and paper and you start writing words down that come to you when you think about this fish and you get to know the fish by just writing these things down that come, describe what you already know really, but you need to write them down to seed them, you spend a lot of time with your eyes closed and open them to write so you can see that you’ve written something that’s legible, and then little by little by little, the fish will reveal itself, the idea will reveal itself.

That’s filmmaker Agnes Peel-McGregor, talking about David Lynch.

“David Lynch is not just a film director, he is a one-of-a-kind auteur, a person of many talents, whose artistry and wisdom are unparalleled,” she continues. “I am so very happy that he will receive an honorary Oscar this year!

“He is an enigma – a bit like his films that speak in riddles. I first met him via Skype, when he congratulated me on my short film Milkmaid. It was a very surreal experience – to be chosen and to hear praise about your work from such a renowned film director. His validation infused me with confidence and allowed for some doors to open – I will be forever thankful to David for his belief in me and I am so very grateful that our paths crossed.”

‘Haunted’ – film excerpt ‘Milkmaid’ from Agnes Peel-McGregor on Vimeo.

Agnes’s brush with David Lynch happened after her stylish and imaginative 2014 short film Milkmaid won a competition, which resulted in her subsequently studying the David Lynch Master of Fine Arts in Film in the US with a full scholarship.

A graduate of NIDA’s (National Institute of Dramatic Arts) Screen Directors Studio and UCLA’s (University of California School of Theatre, Film and Television) Professional Programs in Screenwriting, the David Lynch mentorship allowed Agnes to develop her next short film, 2017’s 30 minute Last Tree Standing, which expanded on Milkmaid’s themes, and premiered at the prestigious Spanish genre film festival, Sitges.

“While Milkmaid was based around an old Slavic folk tale about a forest witch called Baba Yaga, set in contemporary times, Last Tree Standing is based around Milkmaid’s descendant – a male woodland spirit, set in a dystopian future.

“Both films explore the interconnectedness between people and trees and the archetypal conflict between man’s hunger for resources and the fragility of nature.

“Nature is my sanctuary,” Agnes tells us about her work’s recurring theme. “A place I always turn to, to seek comfort and inspiration. As for nature as a theme through my work, I like to say that the theme has chosen me rather than the other way around. While I was visiting Poland, back in 2013, I immediately fell in love with the magical landscape of the wintery forest. So, one could say that nature itself inspired the story of Milkmaid and I was simply just a medium, a messenger. I wanted it to be something other than a documentary about saving the planet, so I decided to make a supernatural thriller, where the forest would become the main character of the film.”

So, what’s next? “I currently have a few things on the boil,” Agnes tells us. “I have been approached to direct a feature length animation in the United States as well as a mystery web series here in Australia. Both of them sound like wonderful opportunities, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet. Most recently, I got signed up by a new Sydney based production company Who’s Elliott Media Productions and I am looking forward to expanding my directorial reel with some commercial work.

“On another note, I have just completed a first draft of my screenplay which is a female driven speculative fiction. I am very lucky to have someone as esteemed as Linda Seger to work by my side as a script consultant [Dr. Linda Seger has authored nine books on script writing and she has worked with such filmmakers as Peter Jackson]. I already have some producers interested in reading it.”

For more on Agnes Peel-McGregor, head to her website.

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