By: Saga Elmotaseb
Edited By: Colleen Page
“KELLY’S HOLLYWOOD” by Director/Actor/DJ: Brian Donovan and brother of Kelly is a brother’s quest to fulfill his disabled sister’s dream of becoming a Hollywood diva which takes an unexpected turn when it starts to threaten his engagement. The film illustrates both the cost and rewards of unconditional love. The Art Of Monteque Had a chance to sit down with Director Brian Donovan To chat about “KELLY’S HOLLYWOOD” which will screen at the 2016 Dances with Films Festival on Monday June 6. https://danceswithfilms.com/kellys-hollywood/
The Art of Monteque: Please share your process of how you this movie came to be and about your sister, Kelly the start of the film?
Brian Donovan (Writer/Producer/Actor): We started shooting little moments in 1998. I used a consumer camera and Kelly was a natural! She was very entertaining and exciting. Shooting her was fun!!! She LOVED the camera and made for a great subject/protagonist. Then in 2003 a voice in my head got stronger and louder and I realized that I had a very intimate POV to someone so intriguing and yet complex. So I began shooting videos of my sister. But it wasn’t until 2006 when someone suggested I shoot a real movie, is when I realized that I could take an audience into our lives and make Kelly’s dream of being an actor on live stage, come true. That’s when I realized I had something special. As a film marker, I got desperate to make something that everyone could enjoy but there were challenges like her health deteriorating. Her special needs from down syndrome were not the focus just a mere fact that she lived with. Sadly she did not see the final film that was hard. But she would stay with me for a couple months a year where we went thru tons of footage. We sat down during her last year and watch over 100 hours of footage. She made for a great audience and for the most part, she reacted incredibly well, not as I expected but mostly well. There were no surprises. At times, she was interested in her acting, no different than any other actors.
TAOM: What did family and friends say about the movie and Kelly’s acting, especially since she didn’t get to see the final product? How long did the whole process take?
BD: “We’re more the same than different”. That’s a common saying in special needs community. Given a chance to pursue dreams, we all get frustrated. Sometimes we have to give them up. They were very real for Kelly. We all feel alone at times. She did. She didn’t see it finished all the way thru which broke my heart but I wanted the movie to remain true. It’s honest and deals with challenges that we all face. I shelved the movie for 3 years after she died. I was a mess emotionally and I was trying to figure life out without Kelly. My family and I held on to each other in that time. They were and still are very supportive. I pieced the film back up and the voice started coming back again! I had to finish the journey. From start to finish, it took 7 years to make this movie. When you’re in it, it can feel like decades and decades. I would have Loved for her to celebrate the red carpet with me. I’m sure she’s dirty dancing right now.
TAOM: Was there a backlash or fear of negative reactions from the audience? What reactions did you receive?
BD: For those that didn’t know Kelly, I feel like for the most part, people reacted similarly to me. The intimacy, tenderness, authenticities are sometimes missing in docs, but that’s what I wanted to capture and keep. I wasn’t looking to objectify or manipulate or make my sister more than what she wasn’t. I had a story consultant come in 4-5 times and she applauded the efforts for allowing the audience to know my sister like I knew her, as a person with dreams, who transcends with special needs. That’s been the greatest reaction. The special needs community has been very supportive as well. One of the highlights for me was when we showed the movie in Ohio. 2 boys with DS came out and said, “MOM DAD, SHE LOOKS JUST LIKE ME!!!” Another reaction from an 11 year old who said, “I just wanna say, THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE I’VE EVEN SEEN. IT MADE ME FEEL SO MUCH!!”
I’m sure Kelly would have appreciated those responses.
TAOM: What challenges did Kelly have when she auditioned for roles? How did she deal with the sometimes negative energy?
BD: One of the biggest challenges was parents of very young DS kids because it’s very confronting for them to see. Kelly lived in a different time. Most parents have beautiful high hopes for their kids and seeing how alone Kelly was most of the time, is challenging. A lot of professionals are strict about boundaries when it comes to special needs people.
TAOM: How can your movie help make the world a better place to live in?
BD: Ultimately, I wanted the audience to know that love always wins. It may sound lofty but it’s the truth. Look what happens when we’re lifted up? It doesn’t matter who you are. I feel I accomplished that message and for those with special needs who have dreams that were not believed in for whatever the reason, I want the audience to know that we all have dreams and they all need to be respected. Every self-help book will tell you that. Even people with special needs have them too and I wanted people to see that. Hopefully that idea can shift people into being more compassionate and open minded about all humans.
TAOM: If there was a message to be taken away after seeing your movie, what message would that be?
BD: The message is having and believing in dreams. I feel it’s best described in this quote. “We’re not who we are when we’re born, but we are who we are when we live! Anything can be.” You can listen to all the haters, naysayers, but as life flows away, and especially with people with special needs, we need to believe that anything can happen. Live with passion, purpose, and love!
TAOM: Tell us about the logistics of making “Kelly’s Hollywood? What did you edit on? What was your budget?
BD: Well the budget for the movie was $70K. W spent $6K per piece of music which my friend wrote a check for in the amount of $14K to help finish the movie. Big Oil helped make this!!! I edited on FCP 7 (Final Cut Pro-Apple editing software) on my own and learned how to edit on this movie. I went to the Beverly Center and got schooled on FCP 7 with this guy Rom Alejandro who helped me out a lot. It took a year to secure rights and paperwork on the songs. I have NO regrets. I needed it. Music was big part of Kelly’s life. It kept her alive and celebrating the spirit of life.
TAOM: What are you working on now?
BD: I’m currently working as an actor, doing voice over and DJ’ing. Balance is the key word. I’m a performer first and foremost. I finished writing a pilot and shot the teaser. I would LOVE to continue making human interest stories with a very intimate POV where the focus is on “Real People”, highlighting every day heroes who are trying to make the work a better place.
TAOM: Any funny tid-bits you can share with us?
BD: Well, I almost called the film “Counting Colin Firths” because of Kelly’s love for the acclaimed actor. It came pretty close to winning the title of the film too! Making this movie meant a lot to Kelly and me. I believe goodness and love rises. Things can get cloudy and you’ve got to laugh at life and enjoy it to the fullest. [TAOM]