Photo courtesy of Bailey and Molly Donovan (📸: @backforgoodfilm)
"Back for Good" is an independent comedy drama that follows the story of Max Kelly, “an aspiring actor who confronts her quarter-life crisis by breaking up with New York City and returning home to reclaim the love she left behind,” according to a release.
The movie proudly uses Pittsburgh as the backdrop, and the cast and crew are mostly homegrown too. Many of Bailey’s classmates from Point Park University were a part of the production, and Chris Fafalios, the bass player for Pittsburgh-based band Punchine, made his acting debut as Max’s love interest.
In addition to the steel city talent, the siblings’ family were sewn into the fabric of the film. Brother Joel Micah Donovan was the lead executive producer, sister Hannah Donovan headed the make-up department, mother Bobbie Donovan took over production design, and father Peter Donovan got to play alongside Molly as Max’s father in the film.
The production was supported by Point Park University, where Bailey studied cinema and digital arts, and Nonprofit Steeltown Entertainment.
And good news — you can now stream the feature film on Apple TV and Google Play, and it will be available on Amazon Prime later this week.
We watched the film and caught up with Bailey and Molly before the release. Below is our Q-and-A, edited for clarity and length.
You were working with a pretty low budget with this film and shot it in just 21 days back in 2014. Where in the city did you film?
Bailey: We filmed in Brentwood at both of our parents’ houses and a neighbor's house. We also filmed on Mt. Washington, an exterior of a bar on the South Side, the interior of a bar in the South Hills, and at Twin Highways Drive-In. (Editor’s note: The drive-in has since been torn down and converted to Sheetz.)
This film was truly a Pittsburgh-powered project. How did your Pittsburgh team come together?
Bailey: It mostly came through contacts at Point Park. Many of my friends were looking for an ambitious project for the first step of our careers before we went separate ways. I knew they had great work ethics and we had great chemistry.
Molly: We got a lot of work done by people putting in a lot of care. We were really going out on a limb with our first feature. It was a lot of people's first feature. It’s amazing how many people stepped up. When we had to roll with unexpected things, when we thought things weren’t fixable, there was always somebody there who was like, “we can make this work.” That’s just the kind of people in Pittsburgh, and it just affirmed so many nice things about Pittsburgh and who the people are here.
What did it mean to you to do a feature film in Pittsburgh with a largely all-local crew?
Molly: It meant so much to be able to film in Pittsburgh alongside Pittsburgh natives. I’ll never forget the day all the department heads gathered together for the first time. It was so moving to look around the group and know that all these young, super talented people were ready to dive into this ambitious project with us. While we were filming in New York, we had background actors tell us that we were more organized and professional than some of the big sets they’ve worked on. Just more proof that Pittsburgh-grown talent is really something special.
Bailey: I think Pittsburgh is lucky to have so many big TV and movie productions come here to film — I know lots of local filmmakers who do awesome work on those projects. But often those productions bring a lot of their own cast and department heads from out of town, and they try to shoot Pittsburgh as New York or some other city. So I’m really grateful we had an opportunity to center our local talent in leading positions, and to portray Pittsburgh in a way that only locals really understand.
Do you have a favorite scene (without spoilers!)?
Molly: I don’t really have a favorite scene, but getting to film on Mount Washington was really a dream come true.
Bailey: No spoilers, but the last fifteen minutes of the movie get me every time — and mind you, I’ve seen this thing quite literally thousands of times. I think it’s just the height of the chemistry between Molly and the other leads — Julia, Peter, Ian. Their performances are so warm and so genuine. Every time I see them it feels like a new experience. Actors are amazing.
What do you hope people take away from the film?
Bailey: I hope people can take away this sort of self confidence and self love. People deserve the chance to reexamine their life, and when you move really quickly, it’s hard to do that. Some people settle because they think they deserve it. I hope this movie reminds people to create the life they want.
Molly: We are so humbled with the idea of success as an artist. Being in it can feel like the wrong thing, and if you’re not kind to yourself, you can get pulled away from reality... and sometimes it’s true that you just need to check in with the people that care about you. It’s good to check in with yourself. It’s about reevaluating, and it’s not a bad thing to do that.
I never did move back to Pittsburgh (editor’s note: like the character, Max). It was just a “what if'' scenario. It was written when I was not super sure of exactly what I was and what I was doing. The film explores something that rattles around in a lot of people's minds when they are in that transition.
To learn more about "Back for Good," what’s next for the Donovan siblings, and what they love to do/see/eat in the ‘Burgh, you can read our full Q-and-A here.