Closing Time : What happens when you take your friend out for a night on the town after he just got out of a long-term relationship and now must learn the new rules of the game? The reluctant Ben Savage (Boy Meets World) is pushed to successfully re-enter the dating scene with the guidance of friends Ryan Rottman and former Johns Hopkins star, Michael Doneger.
Michael Doneger has taken his crease skills at Homewood to new heights – Hollywood. Doneger has always been an avid writer and it didn’t take long to jump on to the scene. His first trailer for Closing Time is a result of that said talent. As the writer, executive producer and supporting role, Doneger not only talks to LPG about what it’s like to be in the film business, but also lacrosse and how he is getting accustomed to living on the west coast.
So Michael, what is your inspiration behind this script?
Well Swingers is one of my favorite movies but I felt it was a bit outdated in regards to some of the “wisdom” that Vince Vaughn spits at Jon Favreau with. For instance, Vaughn tells Favreau “to wait two days to call a girl”. Well that may have been true…in 1996 when the movie was released. But now, with text messaging, facebook, twitter, etc. the rules have all changed. I’ve been meaning to write something about the rules of “text messaging” for a while now, and I was able to come up with a Swingers-esque story to surround the “rules” around.
It appears you wear a lot of hats. How/when did you get involved with acting and writing?
At Hopkins, I started out as a Political Science major just like everyone else I knew. Then I took a few creative writing classes and enjoyed those. I then switched my major to Writing Seminars and took a bunch of screenwriting classes. I had always enjoyed to write when I was younger but never did I actually believe that becoming a Hollywood writer would be in the cards. Then once I began taking these screenwriting classes in college I discovered that I wasn’t half bad and that I perhaps I should give it a try to make a career out of writing.
It is clear to LPG that it is more than a hobby, it is a passion. Correct?
Yes, at this point writing is more of a passion.
Have you ever been in the situation that Ben Savage’s character is in?
Yes, I’ve definitely been in those situations before. I feel like most guys have at some point and if they haven’t then they’re kidding themselves. But Ben played the part perfectly and we were very fortunate to get him on board.
What’s the goal of the trailer? Are you trying to get picked up by a studio? Have there already been moves made to take it to the next step? Festivals, etc…
The trailer was just something we wanted to put out to everyone who had heard about the making of the short film. We’re submitting the film into festivals so we’re not allowed to put it on the internet right now. But we thought putting a trailer out there would be good for everyone to see what we’ve been up to.
How did it all come into fruition? Getting the script into someone’s hands, finding capital, putting it into production…
I had this idea of an “updated version of Swingers”. I wrote the initial script, which was supposed to be a web series. So we were going to film the series all at once and then divide it into three or four episodes. I sent it to a buddy of mine, Brett Gursky and asked him if he’d like to direct. Brett seems to know every young Hollywood actor in this town and we were fortunate to get a great cast assembled. We got fantastic young actors/actresses on board. All of these actors have been in either network television series or major motion pictures. And Brett had all of these connections and made it happen. Our producer, Jake Avnet, is also very talented and basically ran the show. He coordinated everything. I think he had the toughest job on set, which was to make sure we had everything in order and moved at a good pace. Shooting 22 pages in 3 days is insane! But that was our time limit and Jake really made it happen.
As for the producing, my production company, Cloverhill Pictures (cloverhillpictures.com) is who produced it. Cloverhill is actually the name of the road that I lived on in college with a bunch of Hopkins guys ( Stephen Peyser, Matt Bocklett, Garrett Stanwick, Paul Rabil).
Very cool. In speaking of Hopkins days…which is harder, playing for Petro or surviving the industry in Hollywood?
Playing for Coach Petro was one of the best experiences of my life. I constantly reflect back to tough days at Hopkins. We had a ton of adversity to overcome during my time there. We lost a bunch of regular season games my junior and senior year, which was something Hopkins wasn’t accustomed to. But we eventually prevailed in those seasons, making it to two national championships and winning one. I think everyone on those two teams learned that you cannot ever quit and to keep fighting. If you continue to work hard and do all the right things, eventually, you’ll catch your break. And I think about that every day and will continue to think about it as long as I’m working in this business. This business is tough and I’ve got a long way to go before I’ve “made” it. I haven’t even scratched the surface of “making it.” But I know if I continue to do what I’m doing and keep surrounding myself with smart people in this industry, then it will eventually fall my way. And if it never does, then I’ll at least know that and I’ll be happy that I took a shot and went after it and discovered for myself, rather than wondering “what if?”.
Moving from the East out to L.A. must be a culture shock especially in terms of lacrosse. How does the lax culture differ from back East?
The lax culture here is brotastic. The kids have such a great opportunity in southern California because it’s sunny and 75 all year long. So they have a tremendous amount of time to work on their game. But at the end of the day, it’s all about coaching and providing these young kids with lacrosse mentors who actually know what they’re talking about. And each year a new crop of recently graduated college lacrosse players make the move and get involved with coaching. This is how the game will continue to really grow in SoCal.
What should we expect from you next? Anymore films in development?
I just finished shooting another short film which I wrote and directed. Brett Tiejen (youtube sensation “My New Haircut“) is my costar in it. It’s a bromance comedy. We’re really excited about it. Other than that, I’ve just got a few screenplays I’m working on.
For more information on Michael Doneger visit his imdb page.
For previous LPG interviews with lacrosse players turned actors click here.