Leigh Doran

She is the Executive Producer of David Jester‘s One for the Road Dollar Baby film.

SKSM: May you introduce yourself to our readers?

Leigh Doran: My name is Leigh Doran, and I’m a native New Englander with roots in Vermont, but I grew up in different places around the world including Guam, Texas, Hawaii, California, Australia, and North Carolina (the most common question I get after that introduction is: “were your parents in the military?”, to which I wish there was a more compelling response than, “No, we were just homeschooled!”)

Since 2008, I have called the coast of Maine home, where I am a wife, mother to two sweet little boys, and since 2010, a career wedding photographer. Over the last 14 years, I have photographed over 300 wedding events from the mountains to the coast, from Maine to Rhode Island, and it’s never lost on me what a tremendous honor it is to witness such personal private events, if not but for the camera that is in my hand. In that way, the camera to me has always felt like a passport, granting me access to people and places I would otherwise never get to see.

But in 2020, the pandemic brought the wedding industry and indeed the entire world to a halt, and that pause opened up an opportunity to learn a new skill, and I began working behind the camera in documentary and short films, filming a documentary about a Maine based father and son artist duo, “In The Blood” (2021), Scottish American painter William Irvine in “Behind The Canvas” (2023), as well being the lead camera woman behind the short film “Cinema Absentia” for the Maine 72 Hour Film Festival (2022), and the short horror flick “Shanti Shanti Sayonara” for the Damnationland Film Festival in Portland, ME (2022). Most recently, I served as lead producer and 2nd Assistant Camera for the Stephen King dollar baby production of “One For the Road“, which we filmed in Ellsworth, Maine in early 2023, and somehow when I wasn’t producer-ing or running slate, I managed to be provide the BTS photography for the shoot.

SKSM: When did you know you wanted to become a producer?

Leigh Doran: If it isn’t already apparent, I stumbled into the producer role. Turns out, being a career wedding photographer is a great training ground to become a producer! You have to be able to work with different personalities, and manage personalities which sometimes have differing motives and values, think through sometimes complicated logistics, problem solve in the moment when things don’t go according to plan, all in a high emotion, high pressure, no chance for a re-do situation, but most importantly, doing it all with a smile on your face, while being accommodating, not losing your cool, keeping people happy, and oh yeah, don’t forget to be creative and make something amazing that’ll knock their socks off, while you’re at it! But seriously, the success of all of my wedding shoots is directly correlated to how well the logistics have been planned in advance. It’s in the pre-work and the pre-planning, that the success comes. If you wait until the day of to start thinking about the logistics, you’re already too late and you’re going to lose precious time.

SKSM: How did you become involved in One for the Road Dollar Baby film?

Leigh Doran: David Jester and I were already working on two documentaries together, (“In The Blood” and “Behind The Canvas”), and it was David who brought this story and the Stephen King Dollar Baby program, to my attention. I read the original story in “Nightshift”, I read David’s script, and they both spoke to me. I could see it, I could feel it. I knew I was in. Then we saw that director Julia Marchese was coming to Maine to fulfill her Dollar Baby dream of adapting “I Know What You Need,” so I reached out to her and basically begged her to let us come on as BTS photographers and I am forever grateful that she didn’t dismiss me as a crazy person and agreed to let us come on set! We made so many connections and friendships from that experience, and drew inspiration for own project.

SKSM: Can you tell us about your work in the film?

Leigh Doran: Since David and I had already spent a few years working together in documentary, it was a natural transition to shift to this film, our first narrative experience. We were already in the routine of divvying up tasks and responsibilities, based on our strengths and weaknesses. I saw my primary role as laying down the ground work and paving a smooth way ahead, so that David could do what he does best and function in his primary role as the director. The more obstacles and logistics I could anticipate on set and work through in advance, whether it was co-ordinating equipment rentals, getting cast and crew to and fro, having sides and call sheets prepared for the next day, offloading and backing up media, or taking care of crafty, became one less thing for the director to have to deal with —  they’ve got enough going on leading the entire production, while trying to achieve and maintain the integrity of their vision.

SKSM: What were the key stages or days of producing a film like One for the Road?

Leigh Doran: Oh man, it felt like we were in pre-production on this one for a long time, and the reality is, we were! We were initially slated to begin production in 2022, but with Covid on the rise, that became near impossible. Fortunately, we were able to get an extension on the contract and push production to 2023. But I’d say one of the key stages for us was auditioning actors — we knew this would be a small production, and we knew it would be the quality of the actors that would carry this performance and “sell” (ugh, I dislike that word!), this story. Consequently, going through audition tapes took many months because it was paramount from the beginning, that we brought on actors who could take on these characters and make them their own. In the end, they exceeded even our wildest expectations. Another key thing for us was location. Not only is this a winter story and it had to be filmed with snow to honor the script, but it’s also a Maine story, and David always said from the beginning that location was a character in this film, so it was important to us to keep this story in Maine and capture that world that Stephen King writes about so eloquently. And finally, it was important to bring on a designer with the skill and the vision to bring the set and bring the world we were trying to create, to life, and make it believable, and we lucked out again when my talented friend, and avid reader and movie buff herself, Coco Martin, agreed to come on this project. Using a combination of her own materials and donated props that came from the attics and closets of our families, Coco brought the world of “One For The Road” off the script and put it in front of our very eyes.

SKSM: How do you remember the moments before and after shooting One for the Road?

Leigh Doran: Well, personally, it was a very difficult time for me as my Mom unexpectedly went into hospice care in January, and we were initially scheduled to film this in the middle of January. I was going to just take myself off the project at the last minute, but David called me and said he wanted to attempt to move the production back a couple weeks into February to give me time to be with my Mom, but still allow me to be on the project. I had my doubts that all the cast and crew, with everyone’s full schedules, would even be able to do that, but David made all the calls and sent all the emails, and somehow by good fortune, everyone was able to move the dates by a couple of weeks, including the Air Bnb where we had planned to put up everyone. So, I was grateful to able to be with my Mom on her final day, and still not miss out on this project which I’d already spent two years of work on, but it was bittersweet, for sure.

SKSM: What was it like to work with David Jester on this film?

Leigh Doran: David is a visionary, and a natural leader. He always kept the set calm and cool, which I appreciate so much, because cast and crew and everybody around you can pick up on your vibes, and if you’re stressed out, or letting the inevitable hiccups that are going to appear get under your skin, it has a trickle down effect, and everybody around you feels that and then they reflect that stress. On the contrary, David never showed signs of being irritated or upset, even at times when I was feeling myself getting worked up, his calming attitude about the situation would make me calm down. We had a conversation right before we started filming on Day 1, and he reminded me that this film was not a life or death situation, that we were here to make a damn good film, and no matter what came our way, we would handle it like professionals, and above all we’d create a set that was fun and upbeat for our cast and crew because at the end of the day, it was about the love of film and making movies together. I’m happy to say, we achieved that!

SKSM: What kind of promotion will be done for the film?

Leigh Doran: Well, we have won some awards already as we make our way through the film festival circuit, and there will be opportunities to catch some future screenings but I don’t want to jump the gun on that so I would just say, stay tuned!

SKSM: Was there any funny things that happened while filming (Bloopers, etc)?

Leigh Doran: Oh gosh, probably one of the funniest memories is the unexpected bro-romance that emerged between Jules and Ethan, who played Booth and Tookey, especially once the two got into wardrobe and were fully in character. They had an instant connection, and if one didn’t know better, you’d think they’d been best friends for 30 years. They had us endlessly cracking up. They’re both brilliant actors and to see the two of them in their element together was really something special. We are all waiting for the spin-off serious “The Booth & Tookey Show”!

SKSM: Are you a fan of Stephen King’s work?

Leigh Doran: I feel like I am supposed to say here that I’ve read all of his published works, and I could recite every film adaptation by heart since the age of 12, but the reality is I’ve had a casual exposure to Stephen King’s works and my knowledge is mostly through movies I grew up on like “Stand By Me”, “Misery”, and of course, “The Shawshank Redemption” has always been a long time favorite. As an adult I’ve discovered more of his written works like “Nightshift” and “Salem’s Lot”, but I’d have to say one of my favorite books is “On Writing” — it’s a book you can go back to over and over again and still get something else out of it. So, yes, a fan definitely, but could I win a Stephen King quiz show? Probably not.

SKSM: What are you working on nowadays?

Leigh Doran: In the last couple years, the wedding industry has bounced back since Covid and I’m back to my staple career in wedding photography, but the one difference is that I maintain a foot in the film and video world and continue to take on work as it comes my way, which lately has been a combination of legal, commercial, and wedding. I love the new world of film making that I’ve discovered since the pandemic, and I’m keeping up my camera skills and continuing to work at learning cinematography and the editing piece in Premiere Pro. Yeah, the editing piece. I’m always down for hanging out on set as a PA, BTS photographer, camera crew, and maybe one day, DP!

SKSM: Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. Something you’d like to tell our readers?

Leigh Doran: If you want to catch a screening of our take on “One For The Road” follow us on Instagram and Facebook at “One For The Road Movie” where we’ll post updates on where you can watch! Thanks for following along!

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