Writer/director Jim Cliffe is an award winning artist, writer and filmmaker with a diverse background in illustration and animation, producing work for such companies as Kellogs, Fox and Anagram Pictures. His short film “Tomorrow’s Memoir,” released in 2004, received the Best Comics-Oriented Film Award at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con, while also being well reviewed in Film Threat, DC Comics, Moviehole.net and more. His first feature-film screenplay, “Donovan’s Echo,” which he co-wrote with his wife Melodie Krieger, was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Nicholl Screenwriting Competition as well as by the Page International Screenwriting Awards. “Donovan’s Echo,” starring Danny Glover and Bruce Greenwood, is now available on DVD as well as Video on Demand. To celebrate the release of the film Cliffe answered some questions for Media Mikes:
Mike Smith: Tell us a little bit about your film, “Donovan’s Echo”.
Jim Cliffe: ‘Donovan’s Echo’ is about a man (Danny Glover) with a tragic past, who returns home for the first time in years. He believes that history is repeating itself and that a little girl (played by Natasha Calis from “The Possession”) may be in danger. Bruce Greenwood plays Donovan’s old friend who questions his sanity. There’s mystery, drama, twists and suspense, but it’s also a movie about loss, regret and redemption. There’s a lot of heart to it.
MS:You have a very comics-accented background. Did you ever consider an animated project for your first feature film?
JC: Not really. I’ve made a living as a professional illustrator, and have done animated work, but it never occurred to me with this project. I think it would have been quite an undertaking as a first-time filmmaker.
MS: How did a first time feature writer/director attract such talent as Danny Glover and Bruce Greenwood?
JC: Miraculously. After our script (co-written with my wife, Melodie Krieger) had done well in some Hollywood screenwriting competitions, we gained a bit of interest, but it was challenging finding producers willing to take a chance on a first-time director, even though I had an award-winning short film (‘Tomorrow’s Memoir’), and a broad career as an artist. Trent Carlson was a producer I’d worked with before as an artist in Vancouver, and I brought the script to him to see if he may be interested. He responded to it, and we spent some time in development before bringing it to a casting agent in LA. She put some names together for possible Donovan’s, and Danny was one of them. He seemed really perfect for the role, but I thought it would be a long shot as we were such a small movie (around $3M). Two weeks later, Danny got back to us and said he wanted to do it. It was amazing. Apparently he felt he had a lot in common with the character. Like Donovan, Danny has a background in mathematics and is also dyslexic. From there, we brought it to Bruce who also wanted to get involved. He liked the story, and thought it’d be interesting to work with Danny. He also has a home in Vancouver, BC, where we were shooting. It was pretty incredible to have two guys like that on your first movie.
MS: You’ve been quoted as saying that Steven Spielberg is a huge influence of yours. Do you have a favorite film of his and if so why is it?
JC: I may not have been as keen to try and pursue this as a career if it weren’t for the films of Spielberg. Having a favourite would be hard to narrow down. It’s always an event when there’s a new one, and each one had an impact on me at specific periods in my life. I saw E.T. at just the right age and continue to think about life in the universe.
MS: What are you currently working on?
JC: Interesting segue – we just finished a new script with an extra-terrestrial theme. It’s inspired by the events of Roswell; a UFO crash that may or may not have happened, Project Blue Book stuff, etc. At its core, it’s a father and son story, their fractured relationship and the search for truth. There’s some twisty elements along the way and cool paradoxes. It’ll be fun, smart, eerie and occasionally funny.