Filmmaking with Purpose: ‘Lavender Boy’ Revives an Overlooked Piece of History

Filmmaking is one of the most powerful tools for getting tough conversations started, for spreading awareness and influence or for telling a compelling story. Filmmakers like 19-year-old Donavan Edwards set out to do all three.

Edwards’ first chapter in filmmaking began when he was just 14 — making short horror films with his sister. Watching her edit their movies on an iPod, he instantly became hooked with the craft. “There was nothing else in this world that intrigued me more than that moment,” says Edwards. “I instantly wanted to learn more.”

In 2016, Edwards saved his money to invest in his first camera, computer and editing software. Filmmaking remained Edwards’ biggest interest throughout high school, later leading him to take on a variety of freelance work, then joining Loose Films.

Today, Edwards is busy in preproduction for his upcoming film Lavender Boy — a short film set during the “Lavender Scare,” a period in American history where anti-homosexual propaganda and persecution thrived.

We sat down with Edwards to learn more about his film and what’s next. Read on below.

Donavan Edwards, Writer and Director of Lavender Boy

Marmoset: Your upcoming film, Lavender Boy, is centered around the Lavender Scare — one of many turbulent moments in LGBT history. What made you decide this should be your next movie topic?

Edwards: When I first heard about the Lavender Scare, I was on my way home from Phoenix, Arizona. There was a long layover so naturally I turned to YouTube for my boredom. As I sat in the airport, I started watching a video from Vox. They had made a video on the Lavender Scare and it caught my attention.

History was the only class in high school that I actually paid attention in. When I finished the video, I was shocked for a couple of reasons. One, how did the government get away with this. And two, why weren’t we taught about this in high school? A couple of months prior to that moment, I knew I wanted to start working on my next short film. I was just waiting for my next idea or story. So after watching the video, I instantly knew I wanted this story to be my next film.

Marmoset: Were there any challenges you faced when first setting out to create Lavender Boy?

Edwards: Being set in the 1950s was little bit of a challenge. Me being born in 2000, and not really knowing to much about the 1950s, I had to take the time to educate myself. Trying to figure what they had and didn’t have. What they said and didn’t say was important. But once I did the research and I placed myself in that world, everything else went smoothly.

One other challenge was making sure I knew the whole story inside and outside. There were a lot of people affected by the Lavender Scare, and I would be doing a huge disservice to them if I told an incomplete story. So I definitely spent a lot of time educating myself and making sure I didn’t miss anything. Every article, every podcast and every YouTube video about the Lavender Scare — I know about it.

Marmoset: Why is it important for you to share this story?

Edwards: I think history in general is a very important thing to share because our history is our future in a way. Our past has a way of repeating itself. And it may not be in that exact same way, but it always comes back around. I think it’s our job to know our past, no matter how dark it is and learn from it.

Film is so powerful. If you look at some of the most popular recent films such as Detroit, Selma and Hidden Figures — those movies made a huge impact. I think people soak in more information when it’s done in an entertaining way. That’s why those movies succeed.

Marmoset: We’re excited to partner with you on creating your film’s soundtrack — can you share your process for choosing music?

Edwards: Music is such a beautiful thing to me and it makes all the difference in a film, especially with the different tones and themes I’m trying to tell; so I start the music research process during the writing stage. Sometimes a certain song can help me write a scene. So I listen to movie soundtracks with similar storylines, themes or time periods as Lavender Boy. Movies such as The Green Book, Carol, and Detroit just to name a few.

I also googled some of the most popular artists during the 1950s in all genres. I found Lloyd Price — his music has influenced me a lot.

Filmmaker Donavan Edwards uses Marmoset for creating his music soundtrack for upcoming film

Marmoset: What’s something you hope audiences will apply to their own lives after seeing Lavender Boy?

Edwards: After people watch Lavender Boy, I just want people to feel inspired and motivated. I want people to question things and for people to think for themselves. Nothing bad can come from thinking for yourself. Also try and learn new things and educate yourself on the past.

I also want people to be themselves and stand up for what they believe in. Currently in America, in some states, you can still be fired if you are apart of the LGBTQ+ community. So people should go out and vote. It’s important.

Marmoset: How can people support the film?

Edwards: I launched a crowdfunding campaign. Often in the filmmaking industry, people don’t take you seriously if you aren’t a certain color or age. So with me being 19-years-old and black, I knew I had to have an extra level of professionalism to me, my set, and everything else that’s involved.

Our goal is $8,000 — which will go toward crew wages, location fees, wardrobe, props, gear insurance, gear rentals, food and more. If people want to help us out and support the film, you can support Lavender Boy here. We have all kinds of cool perks and incentives. We are also doing a giveaway on our Instagram later this month. So a lot of cool things to look forward to.

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