The pivotal scene in feature film Dear Lemon Lima was almost complete. The set was torn down, the actors were filmed and the crew had packed up and left.
Then the unthinkable happened. The film development process went awry, and the scene was completely unusable. Producer Jonako Donley ’01 needed to plan how to re-book the location, re-build the set and reconvene the actors, all before even telling the director what had gone wrong.
“It was one of those moments… something that was completely unexpected,” Donley said.
“It was an awful thing that happened, but we had to clean up the mess and put the pieces back together.”
“Putting the pieces together” may be just the phrase to describe Donley’s job. As a producer, she’s responsible for organizing the financial and administrative aspects of a film, which can mean everything from reading potential scripts to coordinating actors’ work schedules to managing the budget.
Dear Lemon Lima, a movie about a girl who tries to reclaim her true love’s heart by winning their school’s Snowstorm Survival Competition, is Donley’s first feature-length film, although she had previously produced a few film shorts and webisodes, or short comedies for the web.
Donley said that producing a feature-length film for the first time posed some challenges, such as having the stamina to shoot for 30 days straight. However, she said the main difficulty was confronting unexpected and unfamiliar issues.
“The most challenging part was just that it was my first time doing it. It’s like anything else. As you practice something, you get better at it,” Donley said.
Donley, whose father wrote for television, said that her passion for film developed at a young age.
“I had always loved movies and the idea of storytelling. Even as a kid I would make a story in my head, and I always found that really fascinating,” Donley said.
Donley first started pursuing her interest in high school when she took English instructor Susan Cope’s film class and interned at the USC School of Cinematic Arts.
Cope, who saw Dear Lemon Lima when it premiered at the LA Film Festival in 2009, said that the movie was “delightful” and that she remembers Donley as “confident and quietly competent.”
Cope also noted the amount of effort necessary to produce a feature film.
“So much work is involved in getting a feature film made and distributed; she’s been tireless,” Cope said.
Although Donley was interested in film early on, she started college at Columbia planning to major in something “practical.” Donley said she thought that majoring in something like economics would give her “tangible and useful skills.” However, she soon had a change of heart.
“I literally took like one economics class and barely passed and realized this is not my path,” she said. “There’s something to be said about being practical, but that’s not necessarily the life for everyone. If there’s something you really like doing and stick with it and be patient, you can work it out.”
Anjoum ’12, co-president of the Film Club at Marlborough, said that hearing about alumnae who are doing well in the film industry is inspiring.
“The fact that an alumna is pursuing film and is very successful is motivating,” Anjoum said.
Dear Lemon Lima is available on iTunes and Video on Demand and will be available on DVD on Jul. 26.