Sometimes inspiration can come from the least likely of places, but once is hits you there's nothing that can stop you from pursuing it. For Donnell Henry, a 39 year old filmmaker from Brooklyn, NY, the inspiration for his film Vesuvius came from a conversation with his best friend, Dayne Dhanoolal, a soldier who passed away almost 6 years ago in Iraq.
Today Henry, along with a talented cast and crew, are working hard to bring Vesuvius to life, and through the funding site Kickstarter they are allowing the world to join the experience. Taking a page from one of his favorite filmmakers---Spike Lee--he was inspired to put it all on the line and use how Lee funded Da Sweet Blood of Jesus for his project.
I caught up with Henry recently to talk about his love of bringing stories to life, how his company Seal of the Gods is committed to fulfilling his best friend's wish and how you can help.
Donnell, thanks a lot for the time and congrats on what you and Seal of the Gods Film are doing. When did you first realize that film-making and storytelling on screen was something you wanted to do?
I would say as a child. I have always been very imaginative and creative when it came to storytelling; my friends and family would always ask me to tell them ghost stories, and I took pride in scaring the "be-Jesus" out of them :)
Would you mind sharing a little about the inspiration for the film Vesuvius?
Cyrus, the inspiration for this film came from my best friend, Dayne D. Dhanoolal who died in Iraq on March 31, 2008. When he was stationed overseas in 2007, I remember him calling me excited about the new video games and movies coming out at that time. We would also talk about movies we wished we could see in theaters. In one of those conversations, he had the idea of someone making a movie about a squad of soldiers that turned on their squad leader after being brainwashed. Years later I never would have imagined that someone would be me.
With a project like Vesuvius do you hope to not just entertain but make people think a bit about those who put themselves in harm's way for others?
Exactly! That is one of the things that i want the audience to leave with after watching Vesuvius. The lead Character in this film is loosely based on my best friend. He was very passionate about protecting the people he loved, so it was no surprise that a couple months after Sept 11th, he joined the army. We should always remember the sacrifice that these men and women have made for us, past and present.
What has it been like to find a cast that is just as invested in the project as you are?
Surprisingly Cyrus, it really wasn’t that difficult. My Casting director, Isabelle Pierre, was instrumental in helping me find people that were driven and open minded. I met with each of them personally and after speaking with them about the script and showing some visual effects I had in mind for Vesuvius, they were all very excited to be a part of this project. I am very lucky to have them on board, they are all an extremely talented bunch.
Donnell, I know the public has a chance to help bring this film to life. Can you tell me about the kickstarter campaign and the deadline you have for us to be a part of it?
Yes, our kickstarter campaign is imperative in helping to bring the visual ideas we have for this movie to life. With the support of the public we will be able to secure permits, rent space for some of our shoots, buy more wardrobe, pay traveling expenses, and rent much needed equipment. For example, a crane jib, dollys, and solid state drives to store footage for the shoot will be amongst the equipment purchased. In return we have some great incentives when you pledge on kickstarter. We are giving away our B-camera, a Canon 7D that comes with a 30mm lens, you get the mercenary gear used in the movie, tickets to the premier, dinner with the cast and crew, your name in the credits and dialogue of the film, a download of the movie and script, your very own Vesuvius movie poster with your image, plus many more great incentives.
How can we find out more information about Vesuvius and the campaign around it?
You can find more information about the Vesuvius movie and the Cast on Imdb.com. Simply type Vesuvius 2015 in the search box on Imdb. The kickstarter campaign can be found at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/sealofthegods/vesuvius.
Congrats again to you, Donnell. Last question I have for you is this: What would you say to anyone out there about the importance of not just having a dream but doing all you can to make that dream a reality?
Cyrus, I would say this, our dreams are just the beginning, the first part of our story. The work we put in to make those dreams a reality is the body of our story, it’s the most difficult and beautiful part. It is where we realize how truly powerful we are in anything we wish to accomplish. Without it, you can never know how great your story will end.
* Listen to my radio interview with filmmaker Donnell Henry here.