‘Echoes’ from before ‘Eden’ get Vanessa Gazy to the next level

Vanessa Gazy (Image: Lisa Tomasetti)

Anyone watching new Netflix mystery/thriller Echoes believing it to be creator Vanessa Gazy’s follow-up to Stan Original Eden might be surprised to learn the idea for the series came well before that of last year’s coastal drama.

The premiere of the US-set project this week is the culmination of a nearly decade-long journey for the writer/director, who hatched the idea during Bundanon Trust Artist-In-Residence Program while still at film school in 2014.

She told IF the project’s development and production had been a “many-phased wild ride”.

“It’s been beautiful at times and slightly harrowing at others,” she said.

“But now the show is a massive global Netflix title, so at this point, I can really only be proud and watch what happens when it goes out into the world.”

Produced by That Kid Ed, Echoes stars Michelle Monaghan as Leni and Gina, identical twins that have swapped lives since they were children.

Now adults, the pair switch lives every year on their birthday, sharing custody of Gina’s L.A. therapist husband, Charlie (Daniel Sunjata); Leni’s Virginia rancher husband, Jack (Matt Bomer); and daughter, Mattie (Gable Swanlund). However, their choreographed world is thrown into disarray when one of the sisters goes missing.

Michelle Monaghan as Leni McCleary in episode 103 of ‘Echoes’ (Image: Jackson Lee Davis/Netflix © 2022)

Formerly Id, the story began as a one-page outline that Gazy submitted to Screen Australia and Endemol Shine Australia’s Smart like a Girl: ROAR writing initiative in 2017, through which she was given the opportunity to workshop the idea alongside producer Imogen Banks and screenwriter Alice Bell.

Banks would take the pilot script to LA and pitch it to Netflix, who expressed an interest in developing it further.

Gazy soon began receiving notes from multiple executives at the streamer, some of whom changed over as the series progressed, giving her a first-hand look at how “the Netflix machine runs”.

“It started as a much more domestic show set in Tasmania with references to Top of the Lake and True Detective,” she said.

“That’s not to say that some of those references are still not there, but over time, Netflix really wanted to expand the idea and make it more universal because they really saw the potential for international appeal.”

Filming for the series ended up taking place across North Carolina and California with Gazy taking the opportunity to visit the US set.

The streamer’s influence extended to the appointment of Quinton Peeples and Brian Yorkey as co-showrunners on the production in 2020, with the pair joining Banks, Gazy, and Endemol Shine Banks as executive producers.

According to the AFTRS graduate, this was when her project “took on a whole different life”, leading to a writer’s room that served as a baptism of fire.

“Suddenly I was in this big American room sticking up for my show and sticking up for my ideas while working with the showrunner and writing team to get the show to the place it is now,” she said.

“It comes with a huge amount of joy but also heartbreak because you’re watching ideas you deeply love be binned and you’re trying to fight for them, but often there’s very little you can do.”

“But I’m really grateful for what I learned and what I experienced because it has set me up so well to take the lead on my next projects.”

She was offered an insight into the differences between the US and Australian production processes after being approached by the producers of what would go on to be Eden.

Christopher James Baker in ‘Eden’.

On the strength of her pilot for Echoes, Gazy was entrusted with establishing another mysterious world of characters for the Every Cloud Productions/Balloon Entertainment production, this time focusing on how the disappearance of a young woman triggers a chain of devastating events within an idyllic coastal town.

Filming took place in Northern Rivers during 2020 — the same time as Echoes was being taken forward by Netflix — providing the Canberra native with another early career test.

“The set of circumstances in which I came into Netflix was as a first-time creator, but at the same time I was making Eden as a first-time creator, so I was a first-time creator in two countries on two shows,” she said.

“It’s always nice to be able to say you’ve worked on something before, which would have been the case if things were a little more staggered.

“But now that it’s all done, I feel satisfied and excited about the future.”

Gazy is set to continue her career momentum with a development deal for a new original she has created with US network FX.

She is also working on a passion project; a feature that she hoped to write and direct.

“My roots in the industry are writing and directing, and there hasn’t really been time for that in the past few years,” she said.

“I deeply, deeply miss it and love it, so I’m dying to get back on set because that is my favourite place.”

Echoes is available to watch on Netflix.