Passions alum Donn Swaby tells all about his new film and the inspirations behind the story. Read more here --->
I got the opportunity to speak with the wonderful Donn Swaby (ex-Chad Harris, Passions) about his new film in the works, Orpheus Star. Donn tells all about the many inspirations behind the story and why this is the most important project of his career. I had such a lovely time listening to the insight that Donn had not only for his story but within life in general. And I think you all will enjoy it as well.
Orpheus Star is the story of Douglas Privett. A young, black and gay musician who is struggling with a life-long battle of depression. Douglas has planned to end his life, but a twist of fate finds him back in his hometown of Holden, Missouri to care for his ailing grandmother. The same Baptist pastor grandmother who raised him without any love and who as he comes to discover has demons of her own. "These two people who are estranged find a way to forgive each other and themselves. And find a way to be themselves and thus love each other."
Every story begins with a name. And the title Orpheus Star derives from the Greek Myth of Orpheus, a magically talented musician who tragically lost the love of his life, Eurydice. In the film, part of Douglas' journey comparatively parallels Orpheus' story as he seeks out a lost and unrequited love from his past.
Perhaps the most important inspiration for this story comes from a rather unlikely source. A rock band. The band King's X was a progressive 80s rock band that drew influence from gospel and blues sounds. The trio had a reputation within the music world as being the musician's musicians. Major and more well-known bands would often cite them as their inspiration. The group themselves would never reach mainstream status, but that didn't stop their music from influencing others including Donn.
Growing up Donn often felt misunderstood among his peers and through his love of rock music he discovered and connected with King X's music. The spiritual feel and the human emotions that the group sang about were what stood out to him. Their song "Over My Head" and a performance of that song at the Woodstock '94 festival left a monumental mark on him. The lead singer and bass player of King's X, Doug Pinnick, penned the song based on his own life. And during their performance of the song at the festival, he told the story of his great-grandmother who was a very religious woman who never showed him any love. Donn was intrigued by the account and the idea behind what could make a person not show love to a child. Thus began the story of Orpheus Star.
Swaby started the first draft of his script all the way back in 2004. "Out of all the screenplays I've written, it's probably the most dear to my heart." He has worked and reworked the script for years never feeling like it was the right time. Until now. After seeing the film Moonlight he thought about the similarities between the films and how today's world needed a message of love. From then on he decided to make it his mission to share this story with the world.
Over the last 15 years, the script, thanks in part to the late, great Ruby Dee has evolved, but Donn himself has also evolved. "The older I've gotten I have been able to do some of my own healing." Orpheus Star teaches forgiveness, redemption, and the power of love. "Love is what heals." And Donn has used his own experiences as well as the inspirations of Doug Pinnick and one of his heroes, Fred Rogers to produce a film that he hopes will facilitate healing, perspective changes and maybe even save lives. "I saw my film as a way to help offer much-needed healing in our society."
The first step in sharing his story is to make a proof-of-concept short film. This short will not only bring this beautiful concept to light, but it will also serve as a way to pitch the film to potential investors and companies. Donn has started a campaign to raise funds for the film that will star his fellow Passions alum Chrystee Pharris (ex-Simone Russell) and Starletta DuPois. He has many amazing actors on his dream cast list for the film as well. He would love to see actors like Gabrielle Union, Marla Gibbs, Margaret Avery, Patricia Belcher, and Lily Tomlin play the pivotal characters in the film. "I want this to be big because I think it's that important."
Using art as a vehicle to produce important messages is a beautiful thing, and Donn Swaby has written a script that I cannot wait to see come to fruition. The world always needs a positive story....and some amazing music!
Thank you to Donn for such an amazing interview and we wish him continued success!