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Artist of the Month: Patrick Donnelly

Join us in celebrating the remarkable talent of Patrick Donnelly, our Artist of the Month here at FCA.

From his early days honing his craft at San Francisco State University to his current role as a multifaceted Writer/Producer/Director, Patrick's journey in the film industry is nothing short of inspiring.

With a resume that reads like a roadmap of success, he's lent his expertise to projects that have left a lasting impact on both audiences and critics alike. Whether it's his contributions to Sundance Film Festival's Best Picture winner "GirlFight" or his Academy Award-winning work on "A-Alike," Patrick's creativity knows no bounds.

But it's not just about the accolades—he's brought his unique vision to a variety of projects, from independent features like "Divergence," now streaming on Netflix, to unforgettable commercial campaigns for MTV and Geico. His recent Telly Award win for the mesmerizing "James Arthur, Say You Won't Let Go" commercial for the VMA's is just the latest testament to his talent.

Most recently, Donnelly's pilot "Cause Celebre" won Best TV Pilot at Top Shorts.

Let's take a closer look at the captivating career of Patrick Donnelly, a true luminary in the world of filmmaking.

Prepping the scene

Patrick, your career in the film industry spans a wide range of roles, from Key Grip to

Director/DP. Can you share some pivotal moments or projects that have shaped your

journey and contributed to your success as a filmmaker?

I had the opportunity to work with a wide range of renowned Cinematographers through the

years as a Key Grip and Gaffer. This was very helpful in learning how to shoot and light in a

vast array of scenarios. Feature films, commercials, music videos, and live performance

shoots all have different forms and technique’s that can take years to master. I learned

what it takes to get the shot economically within the timeframe needed to make the day and

still accomplish beautiful imagery.

With notable achievements such as winning Best Picture at the Sundance Film Festival

and an Academy Award for Best Student Short, "A-Alike," could you elaborate on the

lessons you've learned from these experiences and how they've influenced your approach

to filmmaking?

I was lucky to work with DP Patrick Cady on Karyn Kusama’s first film “Girlfight” as 2nd Unit

DP and camera operator. It was a great learning experience for my first foray into feature

films, and I was very happy when it won Sundance. I then decided to start shooting short

films to work on building up my reel. The first one I collaborated on was for Columbia grad

student Randall Dottin’s “A-Alike”. It was a daunting task working with the student crew,

and I found myself feeling like a teacher. It was also an enjoyable experience and the film

went on to win the Academy Award for Best Student short. With these experiences I gained

confidence to move into shooting commercials and then decided to dive in as both a

Director and DP. From there I wrote, directed and shot my first feature “Divergence”, which

won Best picture in 5 film festivals and a great review in ”Variety”.

How has your multifaceted experience influenced your approach to filmmaking, especially

in directing "Cause Célèbre”?

I was interested in crossing over to episodic work. David Williams, the publisher of American

Cinematographer Magazine, is also a longtime friend from film school. He had an

interesting script and was looking for a collaboration. We both thought that "Cause

Célèbre” could be a great idea for an interconnected anthology series about the different

aspects of celebrity and its ups and downs. In my career I have shot hundreds of celebrities

and have seen the good, and the bad, and how they really are before going on camera.

Best Web/TV Pilot at Top Shorts, April 2024

"Cause Célèbre" explores the complexities of fame and reinvention, particularly through

Lindsay Lawson's character. What drew you to this project, and how did you approach

capturing the drama and comedy elements in the pilot episode, "Double Trouble”?

Gaining celebrity in our culture is the goal for most people in all forms of the entertainment

industry. The Lindsay Lawson character is someone who is famous for her role in a run of

the mill teen comedy show that has given her riches and reasonable fame, but has trapped

her from moving beyond it. She tries to reinvent herself by approaching the photographer

known for more sexy adult images, to show that she in not a teen star and can do more

adult roles. I tried to capture the elements of her confusion and trepidation as she manipulates the photographer to gain her and her Agent’s goals to further her career. I was

drawn to the project for its different levels of drama and comedy, without being too broad.

Can you share some insights into working with Piper Lyric Verbrick and Jacob Ware, who

portray Lindsay Lawson and Richard Hemmings, respectively? How did their performances

contribute to bringing the characters to life on screen?

As a Director/DP I have always relied heavily on casting the right people for the project who

I can rely upon and trust their own instincts in bringing the roles to life. Since I am the

Director and Cinematographer at the same time, I like to cast and rehearse the project

extensively before we begin shooting. Piper and Jacob understood the characters and took

my suggestions in rehearsals, but also brought so much more than what was in the script.

When we started shooting I was able to focus on the cinematography, and only chime in

when something wasn’t working, which was rare with their instincts on the shoot.

On set

As the director of Cinema Five Films, you've been involved in numerous award-winning

projects. How does "Cause Célèbre" stand out among your body of work, and what unique

challenges did you face in bringing this pilot episode to fruition?

I have worked on features, shorts, commercials and performance pieces throughout my

career and was interested in exploring the world of episodic content. The challenges first

and foremost were finding the cast to make it work. We also amended the first draft of the

script to utilize my studio space as a location to make the shoot more economical.

Narrowing down the company moves to other locations saved us time and money and it

allowed us to focus more on the performances.

Do you have any upcoming projects or plans that you are excited about sharing with your


I continue working on commercials and performance projects that helped me fund the

“Cause Celebre” project. We are working on fleshing out the episodic scripts to create the

full body of this story as an Anthology, but with interconnected characters that will travel

through the entire series.

Cause Celebre Trailer

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