One on One with Donovan Cerminara

by Patricia Cullen on November 3, 2008

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Originally published in the Vancouver Actor’s Guide March 2008 newsletter.

Life is truly what you make it. So if your career isn’t what you want it to be, you’ve got to make it what you’d like it to be. That’s exactly what Donovan Cerminara has done. A Vancouver actor of 7 years, Donovan wasn’t getting the opportunities he wanted. So he wrote himself a role in his first full-length screenplay Operation:Sunrise, which just completed post-production last month.

What attracted you to the industry?
My mom was a drama high school teacher. She did the “Christmas Carol” and needed a little boy to play Tiny Tim and that was it. I was 6. I wasn’t really interested in the Film/TV aspect of the industry at first. Acting as a profession didn’t start until I came to Vancouver in 2001.

How did you first get your start?
I came out of film school with 20-plus roles (in short films and the like) and got my first agent after auditioning while eating an apple. They sent me for 1 commercial audition and that was it. That was the fall of 2001 when the economy was in a slump. But when my agent didn’t come to see me in a local theatre version of Mamet’s ‘American Buffalo‘, I took it as a sign and ended up being recruited by my castmate’s agent. That agent got me out there but was I really ready to be auditioning? Was I ready to put myself out there without leaving my ego at the door? No, I don’t think so. So I wasn’t booking.

What training have you done?
There are three names in this city I would recommend as an Acting Instructor, in no particular order, Shea Hampton, Andrew Mcllroy, and Mathew Harrison. For Directing, I did a 2-week Directors course in Europe by Mark Travis. The theory was solid.

The truth is this… there is no finer training than actually doing. I learned how to direct primarily by observing the choices and priorities of the independent directors I worked with as an actor, and this helped me identify what was important about directing as a whole.

What is Operation:Sunrise?
Operation: Sunrise is the story of a fictitious Poland in 1991. The premise is that when the Soviets withdrew from Poland occupation, they left behind a biological weapon as revenge. Those infected with this bioweapon find themselves sporting symptoms shared by those of mythological vampires and zombies, yet they are neither. To investigate the incident, NATO decides to send in a squad of undesirable soldiers, criminals and otherwise. Operation: Sunrise is the story of one of those squads, and the village/community they find in the midst of ruin.

What were your roles in the project?
Majority funding, producer, editor, original story, co-writer, director, picture editor, Vancouver casting director, lead actor.

How long have you been working on this project?
I wrote the first draft of the story May 2002. Secured and then lost funding to shoot the feature later in 2002. Shot a short film based on the script, Twilight, in 2003. Shot a preview from the existing script on a more substantial budget in October of 2005. Then finally made it to Poland to shoot April 22.07 to May 11.07. And I’ve just now finished post-production.

What was the biggest lesson, or realization that you gained from Operation:Sunrise?
I can do anything! I played the lead, directing in full costume! This was such a statement of will.

What projects are on the horizon for you?
I’m currently writing the “Desperado” to my “El Mariachi” and preparing to submit my Operation:Sunrise to the film festivals this year. I’m looking forward to capitalizing on 2007 which was the most successful year of my career, so far.

What would be the realization of a dream for you?
The dream for me would be to continue telling stories from both sides of the camera.

What has been the most challenging moment for you so far in your career?
When my ego lost me the best agent for my career at the time.

What wisdom would you share with your fellow actors?
The dangers of being headstrong. Be humble. Be aggressive. And be patient.

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Thanks to Donovan for sharing his insight and story with us. For more information on him, you can visit his website at www.donovancerminara.com

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