AUTHOR INTERVIEW 43

Danial Donai

Queensland, Australia

Age 51


Writer Director Producer
 
… ‘Come on Rob, you can be my nemesis!’ I shouted, as my older brother and I played amongst the dirt piles of the old gold fields. ‘Ok, go hide.  Then when I find you, I’ll destroy you with my Kryptonite!’ he replied.   I climbed a tree and hid as he searched around the piles of dirt with his green painted stick and when he was beneath me, I jumped from the high branch.  With the element of surprise, I tackled him to the ground and tossed the Kryptonite into a mineshaft. ‘Okay Superman, you win this time but be assured this isn’t over,’ he said as he walked away defeated…
 
As a country boy in Australia, like most kids I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up so I would pretend I was a cowboy or a super hero.  You see, back then I didn’t have a TV or a computer, only comics and books, so I would have to use my imagination a lot and it was so much fun playing different characters out there in the bush.  While attending high school I played most sports and had great athletic ability and one day while searching for books in the school’s library I found a book on bodybuilding and on the cover was this real life super hero.  His name was Arnold Schwarzenegger, he was young back then and looked more incredible than did Hercules.  I was mesmerized by his physique and I knew right then and there that I wanted to be like him!  I idolized him and I wanted to build a super hero body and be someone different but I still didn’t know who I wanted to be or what I wanted to do.  I knew it would be something exciting and special and if I kept on the right road and didn’t deviate down another, then one day my dreams would happen.  I started training with weights and after a lot of hard work and discipline I built my body and strengthened my mind.  I continued the training after I left high school when I moved to Sydney, where I took a job as a laborer.  I loved the job because it was physical and challenging.  I took weekend work as a personal trainer but I was still unsure of which way I would go with my career and in life. The one thing I did know was that if I kept believing in myself, working hard and staying focused then everything would become crystal clear and my career and life would change forever.
 
AUTHOR’S CREDITS
 
Back in the early eighties, the first feature film I worked on in Australia as a stuntman was Rebel, staring Matt Dillon, then shortly after, I was cast in Mel Gibson’s Trilogy, Mad Max Beyond Thunder Dome.  I continued to work over the next five years on Australian TV shows like Sons & Daughters, The Lost World and Jekyll & Hyde.
 
Then in 1988 I flew to Los Angeles, California and got my first big break when I was cast in the Hollywood blockbuster film Die Hard 2 with Bruce Willis.  After this film was completed I worked as a stuntman on the Conan and Miami Stunt Shows at Universal Studios Hollywood, where I worked off and on for five years. 
 
The next big break for me in Hollywood during the nineties, was being cast to work for Arnold on some of his blockbuster films such as Eraser, Jingle All The Way and Batman & Robin. I would go on to working in other blockbuster films such as Swordfish, Gone In Sixty Seconds, Men In Black and Ultra Violet, just to name a few.
 
After eighteen years of success working in Hollywood, I decided to move back to Australia where I continued to work on more feature films like Mission Impossible 2, Peter Pan, Matrix Revolutions and Collision Course with my good friend and our beloved Steve Erwin.
 
I retired as a stuntman in 2001, and then took on a new career as a writer, director and producer.  Over the last twelve years I have written fifteen feature films to date, one of which is “Bat Outta Hell.”  This is now a feature film and about to be released worldwide. 
 
I continue to write and direct music videos, documentaries and feature films here in Australia.

 

My name is Danial Donai and I’ve worked on dozens of blockbuster movies as a Hollywood stuntman, spanning twenty years and I have been fortunate to have made many celebrity friends along the way.  During this time in Hollywood, I saw many celebrities make terrible decisions in their lives, many of whom were very close to me.  These decisions sometimes took a turn for the worst causing sadness, depression, loss of work and even their lives.  So I decided to write this small book about these high profile people in Hollywood, on how they took a wrong turn in their lives and in the hope that it may help you make better decisions than they did.  I called it, the “Fork In The Road.”  In case, if you didn’t know, your generation is known as Generation Z and you are around the ages of thirteen to twenty years old.  This book was written specifically for you, as you are the youth of today.
 
There have never been more opportunities available for any generation than there are available to you.  With every opportunity there comes choice, and even though you will have many choices, so that you can get full use of this book, we will make it simple and call the choices – the fork in the road.  This is an old expression that implies your road branches off in two directions.  It is a great moment for you to stop and think about which road you will take. The first thing I would like you to consider when you come to any forks in your road, is to take a step back and think of your options.  Usually it’s the choice of a quick and easy road or the slow and steady road.  Sometimes one road is not exciting, requires a lot of hard work and feels like it’s going to drag on forever but the rewards are solid and guaranteed.  The other road is quick with easy shortcuts but offers no guarantees.
 
This book does not tell you which road to take, that’s for you to decide.  This book is all about the one-step back that everyone should take before they choose their path.  I truly hope ‘Fork In The Road’ will help you and the young adults who are headed into the real world, achieve all the great joys that life has to offer.  If this small book helps just one-person head in the right direction, whether it be in happiness, wealth, success or improve their life in some way, then writing this has all been worth it.
 
Allow this book be the key that turns on the engine in your life and kick start your career so you can steer your vehicle in the right direction.

Romelia:   WHEN DID YOU FIRST REALIZE YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?

Danial Donai:   It all started growing up very poor in the outback of Australia. Our old thunder-box; it was a make-shift outdoors toilet for those readers not familiar with crapping outside downunder. Called the shitter or crapper by most outback folks, this toilet was also the most feared abode of relief for me as a kid; it had an un-sturdily structure made of a bare wooden frame covered with rusty corrugated tin sheeting, the same as our shed only this place stunk to high heaven.

The toilet itself consisted of a splintery wooden seat attached to the top of a small makeshift drum which sat over a deep hole in the earth below, one I prayed I’d never fall into. I was so afraid to enter our crapper, as its interior housed dozens of poisonous spiders that waited their next victims from their sticky webbed lairs. I would only enter this foreboding place of nightmares by the forces of nature. I had to think of something fast to keep these creeping arachnids at bay whilst I attended to my business at hand, then it came to me like a flash of lightening – tell them a STORY and this will keep these eight-legged fanged assassins intrigued, I thought. It worked! They never advanced toward me while I was in that vulnerable position, the only problem was, I couldn’t tell them the same story twice or I thought they would no longer be intrigued with it and I would surely receive a deadly strike. So, with that in mind I would make up a new story every time I entered that thunder box and let me tell you, that’s a lot of stories and by the time we moved into town, my creative mind for storytelling was well imbedded into my DNA – A WRITER WAS BORN…

Romelia:   HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE YOU TO WRITE A BOOK?

Danial Donai:   My time writing time varies greatly depending what story and format I’m working on. When I have an idea in mind and I’ve decided to start on that inception, I will work constant twelve hours a day 5 to 6 days a week on the project at hand until the first draft is complete. Then there are always 3 or 4 drafts to follow;

For instance, a feature film screenplay for a 100 minutes of screen-time will take me around 6 to 8 weeks to write the first draft.

A 300 to 400 page novella will generally take me around 12 solid weeks.

When I am in creative writing mode I will always stock my pantry with enough tucker to last 6 days. My phone will be switched onto silent, I will only leave my office to eat, sleep and use the bathroom. On the 7th day is my Sabbath and I’ll hit the market and rest the mind. That process is continues until the writing is complete.

Romelia:   WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR INFORMATION OR IDEAS FOR YOUR BOOKS?

Danial Donai:   I used to have a company called ‘Foreseen Films.’ The reason I called it this was because nearly everything I’ve ever written I had foreseen the story in a dream in full detail. I would be seated alone in a large movie theatre and I’d intently watch the complete story on the big screen. So, I always had a pen and paper on a night-stand next to me when I slept. Usually I’d awake around 3 or 4am with a vivid story still fresh in my mind and I’d quickly write the jest of it then return to my slumber. The next morning, I would awake and proceed to block out the new story on my computer.

Romelia:   WHAT LITERARY PILGRIMAGES HAVE YOU GONE ON?

Danial Donai:   I have been on many storytelling pilgrimages and always on my own. For example; I’ve been into jungles and deserts to meet and live with different indigenous tribes to help me understand their ways of life, all for a scene or story. I’ve spent many days and nights on old square-rigger sailing ships and deserted islands to tell a story of the past.

Romelia:   WHAT IS THE FIRST BOOK THAT MADE YOU CRY?

Danial Donai:   I have read many books that made me shed a tear or two but the one book that really made me weep every time I read it was, The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks.

Romelia:   WHAT IS THE MOST UNETHICAL PRACTICE IN THE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY?

Danial Donai:   One of the main unethical practices in the publishing industry to me in my early days of writing and would be plagiarism. My work has been plagiarized on a few occasions over the years. The other would be the lack of honesty and genuine people in this industry.

Romelia:   DOES WRITING ENERGIZE OR EXHAUST YOU?

Danial Donai:   I would say it does both. I’m am full of energy and enthusiasm throughout the storytelling process, then by the completion I’m mentally spent for a day or two.

Romelia:   WHAT ARE COMMON TRAPS FOR ASPIRING WRITERS?

Danial Donai:   I think some of the traps would be;

Not totally dedicated to your craft of storytelling. You must write almost every day of every week, year after year, maybe even for the rest of your life. I personally write around two thousand words a day and have done for most of my storytelling life.

Another trap, would be to not write from your heart and to not read as much as you write.

Romelia:   DOES A BIG EGO HELP OR HURT WRITERS?

Danial Donai:   To be honest, I really think most egos can be mistaken for creative passion. You need to fall in love with your next idea, so madly that you squirrel time away, waste hours dreaming of the possibilities, be willing to forgive your project having tantrums and not do what it’s told and still be willing to give your creation time and sleepless nights. That passion, that self-belief, that almost desperate love has to be there to truly go through all the internal and external resistances that always come up to really make your thought a thing. Making ‘thoughts into things’ is a concept that you either have to get very good at, or source people who are willing to help you along the way. No piece of art, be it a film, a play, a TV series or an exhibition gets made and out into the wider world without a real sense of belief that this idea is brilliant, unusual and worth exploring. Ego is often misunderstood in the creative world. We all have seen those writers who boast about their next great project, which gives them some sort of gravitas and position, or worse an excuse to behave badly.

Romelia:   WHAT IS YOUR WRITING KRYPTONITE?

Danial Donai:   That would have to be a woman’s interruption, hu,hu.

Romelia:   HAVE YOU EVER GOTTEN READER’S BLOCK?

Danial Donai:   No, but I do find it easier to concentrate while writing then reading.

Romelia:   DID YOU EVER CONSIDER WRITING UNDER A PSEUDONYM?

Danial Donai:   No I never have.

Romelia:   DO YOU TRY MORE TO BE ORIGINAL OR TO DELIVER TO READERS WHAT THEY WANT?

Danial Donai:   I always, always try to be original. I write only with my heart, my imagination and my subconscious mind.

Romelia:   DO YOU THINK SOMEONE COULD BE A WRITER IF THEY DON’T FEEL EMOTIONS STRONGLY?

Danial Donai:   I can only say from my experience, that being a very emotional person myself helps me tremendously when writing about character and their interactions.  I believe someone who feels no emotion has a disorder called ‘Schizoid personality disorder’ This one of many personality disorders. It can cause individuals to seem distant and emotionless, rarely engaging in social situations or pursuing relationships with other people. I think these people may find it hard to write the portrayal of character’s feelings unless they can experience these emotions first hand.

Romelia:   WHAT OTHER AUTHORS ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH, AND HOW DO THEY HELP YOU BECOME A BETTER WRITER?

Danial Donai:   I really don’t know any other Authors other than myself. I have never taken a writing class and basically keep to myself in this realm.

Romelia:   DO YOU WANT EACH BOOK TO STAND ON ITS OWN, OR ARE YOU TRYING TO BUILD A BODY OF WORK WITH CONNECTIONS BETWEEN EACH BOOK?

Danial Donai:   Most of my work has an open ending to the story. I get attached to a lot of my characters in a book or screenplay and enjoy bringing some of them back in the sequels.

Romelia:   IF YOU COULD TELL YOUR YOUNGER WRITING SELF-ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Danial Donai:   Dare to dream and never stop reaching for the stars…

Romelia:   HOW DID PUBLISHING YOUR FIRST BOOK CHANGE YOUR PROCESS OF WRITING?

Danial Donai:   It hasn’t changed my writing process.

Romelia:   WHAT WAS THE BEST MONEY YOU EVER SPENT AS A WRITER?

Danial Donai:   Buying a computer and a writing program.

Romelia:   WHAT AUTHORS DID YOU DISLIKE AT FIRST BUT GREW INTO?

Danial Donai:   Steven King.

Romelia:   WHAT DID YOU DO WITH YOUR FIRST ADVANCE?

Danial Donai:   NA

Romelia:   WHAT WAS AN EARLY EXPERIENCE WHERE YOU LEARNED THAT LANGUAGE HAD POWER?

Danial Donai:   NA

Romelia:   WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT MAGAZINES FOR WRITERS TO SUBSCRIBE TO?

Danial Donai:   I haven’t subscribed to any magazines for writers in the past. Maybe I should take a look at a few?

Romelia:   FROM WHERE YOU GET INSPIRED WITH YOUR FIRST BOOK?

Danial Donai:   My first book ‘The Night Flyers’ was based on a true story that was told to me from a good friend.

Romelia:   DESCRIBE YOURSELF IN A FEW SENTENCES. TELL US SOMETHING WE DO NOT KNOW ABOUT YOU AND SOMETHING YOU HATE ABOUT THE WORLD.

Danial Donai:   * I believe strongly in Jesus and our heavenly father and what we can learn from the Holy Bible. This in itself has made me the honest, caring and loving person I am today.

* I once was a Hollywood stuntman for 25 years and worked closely with many of the stars.

*One of the things I don’t like about our world is the Tyranny within it.

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