Screenwriting for Dummies: Ron Kennell
article by Trevor Greene, photos by Ann Baggley
I ran into Ron Kennell a few months ago in Toronto (on the subway). It was a fortuitous meeting, and I was pleased to see a fellow “Stratfordian.” I invited the 42-year old actor to join me for a drink, but he graciously declined. It was late, and he had to rise early the next morning to scout out locations for a short film he’s directing. It all sounded slightly glamorous.
So, instead, I arranged to visit him in his Stratford home. He lives in a charming brick townhouse with his partner, stage-manager Michael Hart. Everything is extremely tidy, and the living room is filled with exotic-looking plants (I feel like I’m in a conservatory). Ron and Michael appear to be a very happy, relaxed couple – they finish one another’s sentences with great ease.
Ron has a lot on his plate right now, and he likes it that way. His career is on an upward sweep, and he’s now writing for film and television. For
the past ten years his “labour of love” has been a screenplay entitled
Dr. Cabbie. He has taken risks, and weathered a lot of setbacks, including financial uncertainty, trying to find a producer, etc. But his perseverance and diligence has paid off. Indeed, he seems unstoppable.
Dr. Cabbie is the story of an immigrant doctor who becomes a taxi driver when he moves to Canada. He is seen as a local hero when he transforms his cab into an ambulance. It’s a very charming, slightly whacky story. I don’t want to give the entire plot away (what’s the fun in that?), but I can say it’s a love letter to Toronto, where Ron lived for many years.
Dr. Cabbie is in production as I write this article: filming in India has taken place, and the Toronto scenes are underway. Ron visits the set regularly. The film is generating a lot of buzz – and it’s not unwarranted. There are hefty names involved: the venerable Jean-Francois Poulliot is directing, and the title role is played by Vinay Virmani (known for his performance in Breakaway). It’s being co-produced by the Bollywood movie star Salman Khan.
But Ron’s success as a screenwriter must not eclipse his accomplishments as an actor. He has a reputation for giving fearless, intelligent performances. A graduate of the George Brown Theatre School, he has acted on stages across Canada (and even Iran!). He has been nominated for a Dora Award for Best Actor for playing Picasso. He has had seven seasons at the Stratford Festival — having performed in over 20 Shakespeare productions — although when I talk to others, it’s his role as Smerdyakov which he originated in The Brother’s Karamzov that they most remember. Most recently, he “strutted the boards” in Jean Genet’s The Maids opposite Diane D’Aquila at Buddies and Bad Times in Toronto.
He is also trying his hand as a director. He has just finished shooting a short film, Reveille. He wrote the screenplay, and the BravoFACT website (yes, Bravo is backing the film) gives a brief synopsis: “A young man struggles to make every moment of the morning routine meaningful as his soldier partner prepares for imminent deployment.”
Some might attribute his success as a screenwriter “as mere luck”. But the sobering truth is luck has nothing to do with it. He has worked hard. Ron has channeled his creative energy, and right now he seems like the golden girl.
In fact, I have to stop writing this article now, because I am so damn jealous of him. And I suspect I’m not the only one.