Posted by Donnie Hobbie
Jason Mirch Jason Mirch

Good morning Stage 32 Creative Crew! We're kicking off the week with another awesome Stage 32 success story. It has already been a huge year for many of our writers and professionals who have connected through the site. Next week we will be recapping the biggest success stories of the first quarter. There are some incredible successes to celebrate.

If you're like many members in our community, you can see and feel the power of Stage 32 resonating throughout the industry. Our members continue to experience successes across all areas of the platform. And frankly, many creatives are their moving careers forward and finding success through Stage 32, when before they were hitting walls elsewhere. More on that in a second from member Donnie Hobbie, the latest filmmaker to have his project optioned as a result of a connection made through Stage 32. 

As Donnie says, writing, developing, and finding success takes time and perseverance. But ultimately is hard work paid off. Donnie recently connected with Will Raynor, the Creative Executive at Mandalay Pictures, during a script read and consultation call. In case you are not familiar with Mandalay, they have been a force in the entertainment industry for over thirty years. Films CEO of Mandalay personally produced or executive produced, include RAIN MAN, BATMAN, THE COLOR PURPLE, MIDNIGHT EXPRESS, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK, MISSING and FLASHDANCE, which have earned over three billion dollars worldwide and garnered more than 50 Academy Award nominations.

Will has contributed to the development of critical and commercially successful feature films, including Sundance darling NINE DAYS with Sony Pictures Classics, UNCORKED and OTHERHOOD for Netflix starring Angela Bassett, Patricia Arquette, and Felicity Huffman, and Emmy-nominated THE TALE for HBO. 

Take it from here Donnie!

My background as a writer is very simple. I started writing because I wanted to direct. More by necessity than choice. At some point I realized something. For me, writing has been the only way that I’ve found the ability to express myself. But a screenplay can’t fully express the ideas within it. It’s in the translation to screen where the material is given life. That’s where the magic happens for me.

Like many others, I started out writing and directing short films. It’s an invaluable experience to go through the process from script to screen and see what works, and just as important, what doesn’t. And trust me, there was plenty that did not work in those early days. But, I’m a firm believer that you learn more from your failures than you do from your successes. I continued writing and making shorts. Eventually, a few of them did quite well. So, after a few relative successes, it was time to write a feature.

I spent eight months writing the first few drafts of 99 DREAMS NEON. I felt confident in the screenplay and started sending it to the Blacklist to see what I could stir up. The reviews were good. Some were very good. It started getting downloads. Then more downloads. Then more. And more! I thought that was it. I was on my way.

Then I waited. And waited. I made revision, after revision, after revision, based on often conflicting notes from people I’d never met and don’t know the backgrounds of. I tried everything I could think of without compromising the integrity of the story. I had one company that wanted to option the script but weren’t willing to discuss attaching me as a director. And that was that. Nothing.

So, during quarantine I continued fine tuning the script. But I still didn’t have anyone who wanted to make the movie.

In the fall, a film caught my eye that came out of Sundance last year called NINE DAYS. I was really impressed with the visuals and the story. Similar scope, scale and tone to my script. About the same time I received an email from Stage 32 announcing that Will Raynor of Mandalay Pictures was reading scripts. Will was one of the producers of NINE DAYS. I decided to send my script to Will through Stage 32 for a consultation. My hope was that he would appreciate some of the same cinematic qualities present in my script, to that of NINE DAYS and who knows, maybe he’d want to produce my movie too.

After a few weeks the day came for the consultation call. I remember being nervous. I really needed a win. Will was very personable and down to earth. We started with the pleasantries and then, he told me. He loved the script.


Caroline from Donnie Hobbie on Vimeo.

Then he went even further, he said he was interested in the project.

This was a big moment for me and I didn’t want to kill the momentum, but I decided to roll the dice anyhow. I told him I was hoping to direct. And, dramatic pause... He loved that too. He told me the script felt like a writer/director had written it. Usually that is not a compliment as some of you know. But, if you want to direct your movie, it should probably feel that way in the script. Will is someone who appreciates this.

He gave me notes and asked if he could see my short films. He also asked if he could show the script to his colleagues. I sent him links to my shorts and told him to share the script with whomever he needed to.

And after a few months of back and forth we made it official. Mandalay is taking on the project.

So now we’re working on the look book and figuring out next steps. It’s an exciting time. And while there’s still a long ways to go and a great deal of hard work to come, it’s hard work I’m confident that I’m ready for.


Sammy 2-17 from Donnie Hobbie on Vimeo.


And that’s the best advice I can give anyone like me. You have to put the work in. Writing a good screenplay is hard work. It’s not supposed to be easy. For me, it’s hours and hours of torture broken up by a few moments of precious reward. And you know that moment. When you get that shiver up your spine. You enjoy that moment, then you get back to work.

Everyone has ideas. An idea is worth very little. I believe any idea can make a great move, or a bad movie. The magic is in the execution. Finding the essence of, and molding your idea into something great. That takes time and hard work. There’s no secret formula, just two important ingredients. Resilience and work hard. 


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