In 1989, Christopher McDonell, nicknamed “Cleetche” by his high school classmates, successfully pitched his first film project, SOLOSHYE, to a local TV station in his hometown of Orillia, Ontario. Only 17-years-old, he would go on to write, direct, shoot and star in nine 44-minute episodes of the comedy sketch-series… laying the groundwork for a career in independent filmmaking.
In 1991, Cleetche migrated to Vancouver where he studied Theatre and Fine Arts at UBC before enrolling into the prestigious Vancouver Film School. He graduated from the Class of 28, and after moonlighting as an “extra” in the city’s burgeoning film industry, landed what would become a 2-year crew gig as a production assistant on the highly-acclaimed “X-Files”. All the while, he continued to hone his craft as writer and director, and in 1995, found himself in West Africa shooting a 60-minute documentary about the plight of the Liberian refugees. Titled IN NEXT MAN COUNTRY, the doc played at schools, churches, Vancouver’s Manifest Arts Festival, and even to a packed ‘video club’ in the Ivory Coast where much of it was filmed.
That same year, Cleetche’s original screenplay for TRIBE OF JOSEPH, a story about a boy abducted into a survivalist doomsday cult (which he first penned at 15), won a national competition with the Praxis Centre For Screenwriters. In 1996, Cleetche produced and directed a 10-minute promotional trailer for the film with the help of over 150 volunteers on a self-raised budget of $45,000. In 2001, at the age of 29, he was living his dream, directing his first feature-film in the forests of Squamish on a budget of $1.5 million. TRIBE OF JOSEPH, starring Shaun Johnston and Steven Grayhm, was produced in part by his company, Soloshye Pictures, financed by Telefilm Canada, and broadcast nationwide by The Movie Network, Movie Central and Showcase.
Raising funds for his next feature screenplay, BEACH_FLY, proved difficult. Now married, Cleetche went back to working as a location scout, racking up credits on movies like JUNO, NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM and the ABC Miniseries WHEN WE RISE. He is now ready for a comeback with BEACH HAWKERS, a documovie that is 10-years in the making, shot on location in Goa, India.
Projects in development include the feature-length screenplays for BEACH_FLY and NINEVEH.