Spend a few minutes talking to Justin Donnelly and it’s hard to imagine the 24-year-old screenwriter/actor/director/producer ever feels pressed himself, though it sounds like he knows his way around a high-pressure story.
After a baseball injury ended aims for a pitching career, taking the scholarship money from the University of Hawaii with it, Donnelly managed to turn his first vocation as a child actor into a Hollywood success story—and all in our own backyard.
Shooting in just 15 days, Pressed, starring Luke Gross, with appearances from Michael Eklund, Tyler Johnson and Jeffrey Ballard, is a story about a couple of kids who make a really bad call and wind up running from a drug deal gone awry.
The tale screams action, drama, and above all else stress, but the Vancouverite-turned-Kelowna boy who brought his ingenious idea to the Interior to film, said he purposely tried to make life on his Okanagan sets simple.
“I wanted to make this film a really good experience. I didn’t want this to be one of those sets where everybody is screaming and yelling,” he said.
Donnelly grew up in the entertainment industry and started acting with the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts in Vancouver at just eight years of age.
The program was for 12-year-olds, so he finessed the instructors a little, winning a spot with an audition which must have been full of the charisma that got this film made.
Pressed started with an idea to build a story around a real life news item. Donnelly had heard about some kids unearthing a cache of money in an East Vancouver park.
Several incarnations later, with a few more story-lines layered in, Donnelly had a script to sell.
And this is likely where he differs from most of the other early twenty-somethings out there.
Where many might go no further than a brilliant creative streak, Donnelly kept pestering and asking questions until he found what he needed—a formula to sell movies.
“I set it up as a low-budget film with the idea of making my money back on international sales alone,” he explained.
The investors got it. All domestic activity would be gravy and, if current sales are any indication, there should be plenty of it.
Pressed has already sold in the Middle East, Spain and Germany to name but a few, and has yet to hit the United States.
The premier for the movie in Canada will be held here in the Okanagan as a way of giving back to the place that gave him a stage for his big break.
Donnelly meanwhile is said to be in talks with Rachel McAdams, Evangeline Lilly, Ryan Reynolds and Casey Affleck for his next film, which will be shot in Alaska next fall.
Pressed premiers Thursday, July 21, at the Paramount Theatre on Bernard Avenue. Tickets are $10 available in advance through the Paramount box office.
The red carpet festivities kick off at 6:30 p.m. with Michael and Jeffrey Ballard in attendance; Luke Gross has yet to be confirmed.