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Pittsburgh-Native Siblings' Indie Film Premieres Online

“Back for Good” is a film about a homecoming. But like many homecomings, it was a while in the making.

The independent comedic drama, made largely in Pittsburgh by the brother-and-sister team of Bailey Donovan and Molly Donovan, follows a young woman who leaves behind her acting career in New York City to reconnect with her high school sweetheart in Pittsburgh.

“It’s a story about kind of a quarter-life crisis where you’re in a stage where you’re re-evaluating some of your priorities, and you maybe hit a breaking point where you think, ‘Maybe there’s a different kind of life I could be pursuing,’” said Bailey Donovan, who co-directed with his sister from a script they co-wrote.

Molly heads a mostly Pittsburgh-based cast in the role of Max Kelly, with scenes shot in locations from Mount Washington to Brentwood, where Bailey and Molly grew up.

The film’s production was supported by everyone from small donors to Point Park University, where Bailey Donovan studied cinema and digital arts, and the nonprofit Steeltown Entertainment Project. It was also a family affair, with Bailey Donovan’s brother and business partner, Joel Micah Donovan, as lead executive producer; sister Hannah Donovan heading the make-up department; and the siblings’ mother, Bobbie Donovan, as production designer. Their father, Peter Donovan, plays Molly’s father in the film.

“Back for Good” debuts Friday on multiple streaming platforms. But it was shot way back in 2014, with post-production completed in time to enter in film festivals in 2017. “Back for Good” won multiple awards, including “Best Narrative Feature,” “Best Directors of a Feature,” and “Best Actress in a Feature,” all at that year’s Chain NYC Film Festival. It also earned “Best Drama Feature” and “Best Directors” at the Atlanta Underground Film Festival.

Getting to a wider audience was another challenge altogether. Even good-looking low-budget films – Bailey Donovan calls his debut feature “ultra-low-budget” – seldom get wide theatrical releases. Streaming services are a tough sell, too. So Bailey Donovan’s production company, DragonWake Films, signed on with a firm that works as a “film aggregator,” a sort of broker between filmmakers and streaming services.

“Back for Good” took a while to complete for a number of reasons, including the fact that Bailey Donovan’s role in the post-production process mostly happened after hours, when he was finished with his day job making music videos and web series. But he’s now glad he spent so much time polishing the feature: Acceptance by streaming services can turn on technical issues as minor as the audio balance in a single scene, or a dropped frame here or there.

Bailey Donovan and Molly Donovan screened their film at the LA Femme International Film Festival.
Courtesy of DragonWake Films
Bailey Donovan and Molly Donovan screened their film at the LA Femme International Film Festival.

“The idea of this being online for so many people to see is just really exciting and I just hope people connect with it the way we’ve seen other audiences connect,” he said.

The film’s story originated with Molly Donovan, who herself moved to New York to pursue acting. In Pittsburgh, she’d earned credits including multiple wins in Pittsburgh Public Theater’s Shakespeare Monologue & Scene Contest for students, and roles at Carnegie Mellon University, the Public, and Little Lake Theater. She also studied at New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and London’s Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Bailey Donovan said “Back for Good” was inspired by his sister’s experience in New York, but that the events in it are purely fictional.

While the film was shot well before the pandemic, he said he believes it might resonate in 2021.

“So many people are in positions they didn’t expect to be in,” he said, “and they’ve gone through such a complicated and at times traumatic year, that I think a lot of people are kind of reexamining their priorities and learning what they really appreciate in life.”

“Back for Good” premieres Fri., June 4, on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Google Play.

Bill is a long-time Pittsburgh-based journalist specializing in the arts and the environment. Previous to working at WESA, he spent 21 years at the weekly Pittsburgh City Paper, the last 14 as Arts & Entertainment editor. He is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism and in 30-plus years as a journalist has freelanced for publications including In Pittsburgh, The Nation, E: The Environmental Magazine, American Theatre, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Bill has earned numerous Golden Quill awards from the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania. He lives in the neighborhood of Manchester, and he once milked a goat. Email: