December 3, 2013

Doonby - Every Nobody is Somebody

by Angela Castillo
We had the amazing opportuinty to sit down with Peter Mackenzie, Director of "Doonby," at his home in Bastrop, Texas, and here's what he had to say...

Once upon a time in England, a chocolate salesman came up with an idea for a story. A story set thousands of miles to the south, about an extraordinary man.

"The story hasn’t changed much since that moment," says Peter Mackenzie, the local Independent filmmaker who wrote and directed the movie Doonby.

Mackenzie went on to work his way up the chain, from selling chocolates to marketing, from filming commercials on up to directing films.

Peter Mackenzie

Fast forward to a few years ago, when the script for Doonby, Mackenzie’s fourth film was written and ready. 'No studio was going to pick this film up, when you see it’s controversial... studios weren’t in favor of the film. I write my own stuff; therefore I direct it."

"I was trying to put together three or four other films and they all collapsed. Not even the eleventh hour, but the thirteenth hour." Mackenzie said.

Then something strange happened that brought him back full circle, to Doonby, the story in his heart. "I was in Ukraine and this camera man said, 'You know you have to make this film. You won’t have any luck at all until you have made it, because you’ve promised yourself you were going to do it. You’ve gotta make Doonby."

"We were very lucky to get (financial) backing, here in Texas," Mackenzie said. "I am very blessed. Everything was ready in four months. Thank God for Texas!"

Peter Field (Director of Photography) and Peter Mackenzie, on the set of Doonby

Alan Ray (Assistant Director) and Peter Mackenzie, on the set of Doonby

Doonby, filmed on location in Smithville and McDade, has been described (by L.M. Kit Carson) as a cross between It’s a Wonderful Life and The Twilight Zone. It’s the story of a mysterious stranger who walks into a small town and takes a job as a bartender. People are drawn to Sam Doonby, played by John Schnieder. Strange events begin to unfold, near-catastrophes where he always seems to step in and save the day. The movie ends with a twist guaranteed to make you think.

"I am concerned about the youth of today," said Mackenzie. "They are never exposed to anything challenging or uplifting or thought-provoking. (With most movies) by the time you get to the car park you have forgotten it."

Mackenzie is quick to say this is not a religious film, though it did receive four stars from the Dove organization and was approved for ages children 12 and up. "There are adult themes in the movie. I’m trying to reach a mainstream audience. Preaching to the choir is nice, but it doesn’t make any difference. (In this movie) you are not going to be preached at. It’s about normal life, people leading their lives in the best way they can. It’s not a faith film, but it has a strong faith-based message. However," he adds hastily, "I do want the choir to come, and bring your non-choir friends!"

Other cast members include Ernie Hudson, of Ghostbusters fame, Jenn Gotzon as Laura Reaper, (Doonby’s love interest), Robert Davi as Sheriff Woodley, and a stand-out performance from Alpha’s Erin Way as Lucy Mae. Several local actors and actresses are featured in Doonby, including Brandi Blevins from New Braunfels who plays Joleen and Pierre Kennel from Austin as Duane. There's even a cameo appearance by Norma McCorvey as Nancy Thirber!

Jenn Gotzen and John Schneider, on the set of Doonby
Norma McCorvey as Nancy Thirber, on the set of Doonby

"I was very fortunate to get John on board," said Mackenzie. "What you see with John Schneider is what you get. Once I got John I got Ernie... once they saw the script and the message they were all willing to be a part. I was very blessed they agreed to work for quite a bit less than they normally get."

John Schneider and Ernie Hudson, on the set of Doonby

Many locals participated in the movie, including some who endured long hours and stifling heat without complaint.

Much of the movie’s events revolve around a blues bar. "I’m very affected by music," Mackenzie explained. "Everyone in the U.K. is inspired by the south. We devoured Blues." This love for music is evident throughout the film and includes music by Terri Lipman, Scotti Hill and Friends, BJ Thomas, and more.

John Schneider, on the set of Doonby

When discussing future projects, Mackenzie stated he plans to film another movie, a thriller set in present-day New Orleans, but filmed mostly here in Bastrop. "This one will be spooky," he said. "We would also like to plan a Doonby TV show, sort of a mix between Twin Peaks and Highway to Heaven."

Facebook has been a prime marketing tool. "When people ask for Doonby to come to a town, if you can fill the seats, we will bring it to town," says Mackenzie. So far the movie has played in several Texas towns including Austin, Waco, New Braunfels, and Abilene, as well as towns in California, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and more, to sold-out crowds in many cases.

You will get a chance to watch Doonby here in Bastrop! The movie will be running for 1 week at Schulman Theatres Lost Pines 8 from Saturday, Dec 7th to Friday, Dec 13th. The movie will be playing with and without Spanish subtitles.

Doonby is also available on a variety of video on-demand platforms, including iTunes, AT&T U-verse, the DISH Network, and Amazon. Want to see Doonby in YOUR theater? You can "Tugg" it to your town by promoting a screening and arranging the pre-booking of between 80 and 100 seats.

Visit for more info.

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