Budding stars from Glenwood
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Go ahead and say it: “We knew them when …”
It’s a cliche as old as showbiz, but if you’re a Glenwood resident who knows local kids Clare and Max Donovan, you might find yourself uttering those words sooner than you think.
Not long ago they were just students at St. Stephen’s School, skiing at Sunlight and swimming in the hot springs pool on weekends, living the lives of normal mountain-town children. About a year and a half ago, however, things began to change.
“Max and I did the Movie Star Camp at Theatre Aspen and got to work with the producer Steve Anderson from Popcorn Media,” Clare, 14, said during an interview via video chat from the Donovan family’s new residence in California. “He said he thought I should try going to audition in L.A.”
Graham Northrup of Theatre Aspen and Angela Cunniffe of Aspen Model Team also encouraged her to go. With so much hometown support, the Donovans — including mom Erin and dad Brent — headed west for a week in August 2014 and returned home to Colorado having scored a manager to work with both Clare and Max. From there, the siblings were hooked. They returned to Los Angeles in January 2015 to audition during what is known in the entertainment industry as pilot season, a time each year when hopefuls flock to Hollywood for a shot at being cast in new commercials, TV shows and films.
Soon the kids ended up with agents and a string of sudden opportunities — so the family stayed.
“Our lives had always been in Glenwood Springs,” Erin Donovan said, adding that their family has been in the valley for generations. “But the kids started doing so well that we wanted to take a risk — after all, you only live once.”
The Donovans moved into a rental at the famous Oakwood Apartments, a mecca for youngsters hoping to break into the business. Located in Toluca Lake, not far from the Hollywood sign and major studios such as Warner Brothers, Universal and Disney, Oakwood is a miniature community unto itself filled with many other families just like the Donovans. Well-known as a soft landing place for parents and kids who have come to audition, the complex even offers its own in-house child-actor program designed to help families navigate the world of entertainment.
“It’s cool meeting other kids who are doing the same thing that we are — you get to hear about their experiences,” Max, 10, explained. “Through the program we get to do activities, and there are other child actors to play with. It helps you to kind of figure out the system.”
It seems as though Clare and Max have been figuring out the system just fine. In only a year, the siblings have already landed an assortment of roles. Clare’s resume includes a slew of commercials, music videos and student films, plus a featured appearance on Disney’s new show “Bunk’d.” Max also appeared on “Bunk’d” and has acted in several short films and Funny or Die videos. Plus, Clare and Max recently teamed up to play onscreen siblings in the new short film “Poor George,” a dark fantasy/thriller about a man attempting to escape the realities of his mundane life.
“Doing ‘Poor George’ was definitely our favorite experience on set,” Clare said of the three-day shoot. “We had our own dressing room, and there were costume designers and makeup artists. It felt like we were doing a real movie then.”
“And don’t forget the food, Clare,” Max said to his sister during the interview. “They had everything. We loved the food.” Exchanges like these underscored the siblings’ natural, humorous bond: that je ne sais quoi that the film’s casting director picked up on.
“We audition together if the roles are for a brother and sister like in ‘Poor George,’” Clare said. “If you’re actually brother-sister, you’ll have better chemistry. When we auditioned for it, they didn’t even do any callbacks — we were selected immediately.”
“Poor George” has been chosen for screening at several prominent film festivals, including the New York City International Film Festival and the Beverly Hills Film Festival, considered one of the most exclusive in the world.
STILL GLENWOOD KIDS
With all of the recent excitement surrounding the kids’ budding careers, Erin Donovan hopes to maintain a sense of remaining grounded in their lives.
“My goal is to make sure they have balance,” she said. Erin and Brent Donovan both work remotely and have been able to continue their own careers while living in L.A.
“My husband and I of course want to celebrate what they’re doing, but help them continue to be Glenwood Springs kids just having this neat, balanced experience doing something they’re thrilled about,” Erin said.
Clare and Max are now approaching the end of the 2016 pilot season, and are looking forward to new projects. Max will appear in two feature films debuting later this year (“Good Kids” with Ashley Judd and “War Dogs” with Jonah Hill), and Clare is preparing to star in a yet-untitled Web series about a small-town girl who tackles the crazy world of child actors at Oakwood Apartments — a plot not unlike the course her own life has taken. The series is slated to film partially in the Glenwood area this summer.
“We feel really lucky to have a chance to do this kind of thing,” Max said.
“This has been my passion for forever,” Clare added. “I’m in it for the long haul. It’s a dream come true.”
Tenants at the city’s oldest deed-restricted housing complex, Centennial Apartments, faced rent hikes as high as 30% in January that sent city, county, and APCHA officials into closed-door meetings with the relatively new landlord, Birge & Held.