Instructor Profile: Michael Leo Donovan

2014-2015 Issue 1

mdonovan

As an instructor at the McGill Writing Centre, Michael Leo Donovan checks all the boxes: a graduate of the University of Southern California’s acclaimed Master of Professional Writing program, extensive experience as an author, scriptwriter, and story editor, and an obvious passion for teaching. But when the course you’re leading is Introduction to Scriptwriting for Television and Film, a little street cred doesn’t hurt, and Donovan has it in spades.

The Montreal native began his career with a single episode of Night Heat, the first Canadian television series to air on an American network. Since then, he’s worked on everything from animated television to live-action film and online video games. After 300 produced scripts and several awards to his name, he is now producer, creator, and host of Montreal Street Signs, a Bell Media web series exploring the history of the city’s thoroughfares. As a result, he has first-hand experience working with the industry’s latest technologies. “Access to the internet has changed the game forever,” says Donovan. “You can produce a film in your basement and get it in front of a worldwide audience instantly; no producers, networks, or contracts binding you to someone else’s vision. It’s instant intimacy between you and millions of new friends.”

But while the industry has changed, the role of the screenwriter has not. “Scriptwriting isn’t a magic trick. It’s the result of hard work, no different from many other worthwhile endeavors.” Donovan advises all of his students to “know your audience, and come at it hard. Embrace your demographic with every word in your script.”

“Michael is someone who really cares about his students’ success, and they adore him,” says Dr. Sue Laver, Director of the McGill Writing Centre. “He’s already very accomplished, and when they see him take on something like Montreal Street Signs, it opens them up to all sorts of new ideas and possibilities. He imparts his experience from every project he’s involved in, so students are learning first-hand from someone who is tremendously active in the field.”

As an instructor Donovan enjoys “exposing students to their best creative selves, then watching classmates celebrate each other. I strive to make the classroom a safe, happy place.”

Donovan notes that the web series has made him a better teacher, a better father (his two children, Kayleigh and Matthew, both make appearances), and has positively impacted his professional career. “Writing is a solitary profession, so suddenly finding myself in the public eye has been a shock,” says Donovan. “But it doesn’t hurt to have a professional presence that can be verified on the web, because it proves you can make it from here.”

Click here for information on ‘Introduction to Scriptwriting for Television and Film.’

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