Martin Carr chats with Anthem of a Teenage Prophet director Robin Hays…
In conversation director Robin Hays is considered, focused and passionate. Whether opening up about her reasons for taking on Anthem of a Teenage Prophet or the subsequent creative choices made, her connection to the ideas are undeniable. This film is gritty, deeply personal and unflinching in many respects which is why it was a real pleasure speaking to the director, who has created in Anthem something truly unique.
What first attracted you to the project?
RH: Just the fact of how it dealt with both life and death in a really unique way. When the project was brought to me I was actually going through a challenging time myself, so especially at that time it resonated with me because it had a lot of humanity and especially the line in both the book and film ‘yes we all die, but first we get to live’. I thought that was beautiful and not to be missed. So I thought for anybody else going through a difficult time, to be able to make a movie that potentially could speak to them the same way, made it an opportunity I needed to take.
Did you have any specific influences regarding tone in Anthem as it treads a very fine line dramatically?
RH: Definitely. That is something we went back and forth on a lot. Because dealing with some of the subject matter addressed in the Nineties setting, was challenging because opinions have changed in some parts of the world while in others it’s like they are going backwards. So at one point there was a version of this script that we had which was present day. Probably one of the biggest reasons why we have it set in 1997 is just because we felt that was more relevant to the subject matter. That was something which was happening and much more common back then. So that is probably the biggest reason.
How do you think your choice of soundtrack shaped the film?
RH: I think the soundtrack was very important because I am a product of the Nineties so music, mix tapes and walk mans and what you listened to was such a huge part of your identity. So the music back then was really cool and really fun and really important to all of us. To have songs that are nostalgic for some people but also able to influence kids from today who might not be familiar with them was important. I was really grateful that the Farside were able to come on board.
How did you nurture the dynamic between the four leads when you were filming?
RH: I feel very very fortunate that everybody was able to come on board and for the cast that we do have. Everyone was very passionate about the project and brought the characters to life in ways that were better than I had imagined. We shot just outside of Vancouver in a small town so it was almost like camp because we were able to be remote and be removed from the city, so in that sense everybody came together and it was very much like a family. So I was very grateful everybody was on board from day one and it was a lovely dynamic that we all set.
So what do you think these actors brought to Anthem which another group might not have done?
RH: That’s an interesting question, because it’s hard for me to imagine that now obviously, because during the casting process you are speaking to different people and your imagining different people in those roles. What it always comes down to for me is a person’s level of interest and passion in the project. What they can bring to the page or whether they can elevate what I thought and especially with Cameron, because he is in almost every scene of the film. So it was important that the person had a vision of Luke and was passionate which Cameron was and I think he did a fantastic job in elevating the character and bringing Luke to life.
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