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Screenwriter Spotlight: Finalist Questionnaire (Kevin Donner)

What’s your name? Where were you born? Where do you live? And what’s your hobby?

My name is Kevin Donner, and I am originally from Vancouver, Canada. After years of living in Seattle, Indiana, and Australia, I now live in Bellingham, Washington. I have a beautiful wife, 3 kids, and 2 cats. Also, one of my favorite hobbies is painting board game miniatures with my 11-year-old daughter, Lea.

Where did you come up with the concept that just placed as Finalist in the screenplay contest? How long did it take you to develop it into the screenplay it is now?

A Summer of Bitter Sweet Melon is about a teenage girl from India. She reluctantly spends her summers at camps learning about other cultures. Her father is unaware that his decision to send her away is creating the same resentment in his daughter that he had. Though it may seem completely unrelated, the idea for the screenplay structure came about after a dinner party I hosted. After carefully planning the guest list to contain a perfect mix of people, one family bailed at the last minute. It threatened to throw my delicate balance into complete disarray. I wanted everyone to feel included, that became the initial seed for the script outline.

From concept to finished draft, can you take us through your screenwriting process?

After deciding that the script is going to start in an apartment in the city of Jalandhar, I started writing. So, I write in a mostly linear fashion from Fade In to Fade Out. Keeping it as close as possible to how I want the audience to experience the story. Moreover, creating it without a plan allows me to sense the awe in myself that I want for the audience.

When did you realize that you wanted to become a screenwriter?

As a kid growing up in the ’80s, I spent a lot of time in comic book shops. One of the places sold film script formats. They were sold in plastic sleeves, so I really had no idea what to expect within their pages. I took a chance and bought the script for The Terminator. I had never seen a screenplay formatted before that, and as soon as I opened it up, I was hooked.

Who are your biggest filmmaking/screenwriting influences? What about their style do you like or borrow?

This was a difficult one, as my answer may change throughout the day depending upon my mood. I’ve always really had a soft spot for the films of Wong Kar-Wai. Since there’s a sense of loss and loneliness that permeates his films so I’ve always been attracted to it.

Have you ever been obsessed with a movie or TV show? If so, which one? Why?

Absolutely! When I was a kid. I repeatedly rented the documentary of the making of Michael Jackson’s Thriller from our local Beta Max video store. I was in awe of how all the people put together a 13-minute music video. This was my first glimpse into the collaborative world of filmmaking. All that had to go on behind the camera, before anything coherent could happen in front of it.

What’s your favorite moment in cinema history? Why?

That’s an easy one. I wrote the screenplay for a film called Proxy, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013. The feeling of sitting with an audience in a darkened theater, watching my script is the greatest moment for me. Besides, who doesn’t want their work on the big screen?

Who’s your favorite character in cinema history? Why?

Paikea from Whale Rider. Since I’m a father of two girls, it’s important for me to have great examples of female protagonists to show them. Moreover, the reason I love Paikea so much is that she is the perfect example for girls. She shows them to not be limited by other people’s expectations of who or what they should be.

If you could talk to anyone from any era, who would it be and what would you ask them?  

I don’t want to make this all heavy and depressing, but I’m going to cheat with my answer and pick four people. Sorry. I never knew my grandparents, as they all died relatively young. Both my maternal grandparents were dead by the time my mom was 17. None of them were likely destined for greatness, but I’m curious to know what they were like. It would be cool to meet them in their twenties over a beer, and not tell any of them that I’m their future grandkid. I’d love to ask them what their hobbies are and what their hopes are for the future. They didn’t end up having much of a future, but that didn’t mean that their dream