Experiencing Interruptions?

And Violet

AND VIOLET is a coming of age drama about the interwoven and unravelling lives of a daughter and her two mothers.
When Violet and her adoptive mum Cathy visit a small Scottish town one summer, they unexpectedly run into Violet's estranged birth-mum Zoe. The mothers clash, and Violet struggles to navigate this complicated relationship. Cathy struggles to help her, as Violet becomes increasingly confused and angry.
The meeting also triggers something in Zoe, and she decides to change the direction of her life, returning to Edinburgh. It’s the city where Violet lives, but it’s also a city that holds dark memories of a difficult past.
Violet and Zoe connect again and begin an illicit online communication, but Cathy finds out and brings all contact to an abrupt end. Violet rebels against her and as Zoe self-destructively spirals out of control, Cathy has to urgently try to find a way back in to Violet's life.

  • Paul Gray
  • Paul Gray
  • Paul Gray
  • Alkisti Terzi
  • Hana Mackenzie
    Key Cast
  • Kirsty Strain
    Key Cast
  • Shonagh Price
    Key Cast
  • Ian Dunn
    Key Cast
  • Dave Hook
    Key Cast
  • Liz Strange
    Key Cast
  • Matthew Zajac
    Key Cast
  • Patrick O'Brien
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 34 minutes 35 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    February 28, 2017
  • Production Budget:
    100,000 GBP
  • Country of Origin:
    United Kingdom
  • Country of Filming:
    United Kingdom
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital, RED
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • Arizona International Film Festival
    United States
    April 27, 2017
    Best Dramatic Feature Award, Special Jury Award for Best Performance
  • Orlando Film Festival
    Orlando, Florida
    United States
    October 21, 2017
  • Glendale International Film Festival
    Glendale, California
    United States
    October 13, 2017
Director Biography - Paul Gray

Paul Gray is a film maker based in Edinburgh, Scotland. Prior to filmmaking, he worked within visual arts, exhibiting photographic and video works, and curating exhibitions. He has exhibited in numerous exhibitions in the UK, Europe and further afield. In 2005 Paul completed an artist’s residency with a solo exhibition at Stills Gallery – Scotland’s Centre for Photography, which included a screening of his first short documentary film ‘Prediction’. This sparked a passion for film-making, resulting in a return to formal education with an MFA Advanced Film Practice at Screen Academy Scotland (2006). He previously studied photography at Edinburgh College of Art (1992) before completing an MA in Fine Art at Chelsea College of Art, London (1996).
Paul is currently Programme Leader for BA (Hons) Film at Edinburgh Napier University. He has directed a number of short films, including the two documentaries, Half Way Home (Make Dox, Macedonia, 2010; London Short Film Festival, 2009; broadcast on SBS Australia, 2008) and Skiens, both of which premiered at Edinburgh International Film Festival (2008) and were nominated for Best Scottish Documentary. His last short drama, Tree of Tule (2012) was nominated for Best British Short at EIFF and was highly commended at the Williamsburg International Film Festival.
AND VIOLET is Paul’s debut feature film.

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Director Statement

And Violet was inspired by imagining what it must be like to be in a crowd, and to not know whether any of the strangers around you, have a significance to your life. I was thinking specifically in relation to the circumstance that exists for many adopted people, who can have limited or no knowledge about their past. Without knowing it, they could be in the company of a relative - of a parent, a brother or a sister. At the same time, I was wondering about the alternative view of a birth parent, who, having had no contact with their child since being adopted, scans faces in crowds in the hope that one day it might be their child looking back. But then also for the adoptive parent, for whom it is not uncommon to have an underlying, perhaps irrational fear, that a birth parent might appear and take the adopted child away. These thoughts gave shape to the beginning of the story of And Violet.
It originally started as an idea for a short film, about a chance encounter on a family day out between a teenage daughter (Violet), who along with her adoptive mum, meet her estranged birth mum. But it quickly became apparent that it was the potential for what happens next, that offered a greater depth to the story and characters. I therefore continued developing the screenplay, to explore the specific points of view of the three women - the two mothers and their daughter - as their lives and relationships unravel while simultaneously becoming increasingly entangled.
Adoptive parents and birth parents are sometimes labeled in very simple binary terms, of good parent versus bad parent. Further to this, there can be a tendency to over simplify the representation of an adopted person, merely as a victim of her circumstance, but things are never quite so straightforward. This is a story about a normal young person, who because she is adopted and had a tough start to life, faces a very particular crisis. Her loyalties are caught between two conflicting parts of her identity, between nature and nurture as represented by her Birth Mum and Adoptive Mum.
While we follow Violet as she increasingly disengages and isolates herself, we are allowed an insight in to what is going on in her life through her use of video diaries, where she shares her private thoughts directly to camera, and we experience some of her vulnerabilities and strengths behind her mask.
We also follow birth mum Zoe through a more erratic world, where we find out about her life through the fragments of information that are revealed during discussions with others. It is important to give the context of why Violet was taken in to care and to see how Zoe attempts to reconcile her past.
Equally important is how adoptive mum Cathy always tries, perhaps too hard, to do the right thing but despite this, Violet blames her for everything. This strains Cathy’s relationship with her husband, who can do little wrong in Violet’s eyes, and this is a feeling that he reciprocates.
My family is formed by adoption. I have two adopted children and we attend the cinema regularly. Most of the characters that they see on screen who are adopted, will normally have the added bonus of super-powers. Whether they are super-heroes, super-villains, wizards or talking animals, adoption is sometimes used as shorthand to create mystery, to suggest dark secrets or misunderstood flaws, all helping to drive the characters motivation, and this can be equally true of some films for an adult audience. This is not necessarily a criticism because it makes for good talking points that can affirm and make normal the notion that difference is good, and that not everyone is able to take for granted, a knowledge of the details that make up who you are and where you come from. These simplified representations were certainly at the back of my mind when developing the story and shaping the kind of film I wanted to make, although I am more inspired by the cinema and stories of film-makers such as Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Andrea Arnold, Mike Leigh or Thomas Vinterberg.
I have previously made a number of short films, both drama and documentary, and I find the research process immensely important. In support of the screenplay for And Violet, I worked with an adoption charity, Scottish Adoption, to help develop the detail of the story and ground it in current adoption practices. I created the characters and suggested potential storylines, and the practitioners at Scottish Adoption helped inform the accuracy of these scenarios. They also facilitated meetings with adoptive parents, birth parents and a group of adopted teenagers. These insights were invaluable and the teenager group influenced a lot of the detail of Violet’s character and parameters of her story, such as placing events around Violet’s 16th birthday, as she becomes an adult.
I cast Hana McKenzie in the role of Violet about six months prior to shooting and this offered us the time to explore Violet’s character in depth. We would discuss particular themes and Hana would improvise video diaries based on the discussions. These felt very natural and a lot of the ideas from these rough recordings found their way in to the final film. When we returned to meet with the teenager group, to screen some of the test video diaries, the response was extremely positive and discussions further refined things.
Alongside the scenes that are straight from the screenplay, there were also many occasions where improvisation on set played a large part in the creative process. This was always the intention for the opening sequence, which we shot against the backdrop of a live event (Langholm Common riding), but there were also moments where the actors just ran with the ideas behind the scenes and we went where that creative energy took us.
Independent film-making is an intense and creative experience, and this film came about because of the belief of a small passionate core of film-makers. We used our limited resources to get the maximum out of locations that offered alternative views of our city of Edinburgh. We refined the script and prepared meticulously for a planned 19 days of filming, which was scheduled in three blocks during a Scottish summer, and we were fortunate to not be hindered too much by the notoriously changeable Scottish weather.
We believe this film is a thought provoking drama that celebrates the small but important stuff that matters in family life. We tell a simple story that touches the lives of many, that is at times tense and at others humorous, but we hope, always generous in spirit.