Interview with Anthem of a Teenage Prophet director Robin Hays

Anthem of a Teenage Prophet (2018)

Director: Robin Hays

Writers:  Joshua Close, Andy Matic, Elisha Matic, Joanne Proulx (Novel)

Stars: Cameron Monaghan, Grayson Gabriel, Peyton List, Juliette Lewis, Aaron Pearl

Anthem tells the story of Luke (Cameron Monaghan) a teenager who foresees the death of his new best friend Stan (Alex MacNicoll), the most popular guy in school. When this premonition becomes reality, Luke must deal with the trials and tribulations of being dubbed “The Prophet of Death” and being titled a freak by the entire town. It doesn’t help that he’s fallen in love with Faith (Peyton List) who just happens to be Stan’s girl or that he’s on the outs with his childhood best friend Fang (Grayson Gabriel) or that the premonitions just keep coming – In a story that expertly navigates that often rocky, at times inspiring road to adulthood, Anthem authentically balances the teenage experience of confusion, anxiety and rage with those exceptional moments of clarity, self discovery and human connection. Hormonal, funny, exhilarating and wise, Anthem slyly explores the need to belong, the isolation of youth and the powerful brew of fear truth and noise that plays inside us all.

With the release of the brilliantly moving drama Anthem of a Teenage Prophet in theatres and on-demand from January 11 2019, I got a chance to ask director Robin Hays a few questions about working with such a talented cast and what we can expect from the film.

Q. How did you get into filmmaking originally? 

I went to film school right after high school. I’ve always loved movies and knew it was something that I wanted to do. 

Q. What attracted you to the script for Anthem of a Teenage Prophet and why did you decide to make this your first feature?

Tina and Kim, the producers, brought the script to me and I immediately responded to it. I related to the characters and could see it. The script came to me when I was going through a challenging time and there is a line that really resonated with me, “Ya we all die, but first we get to live and that’s big, that’s beautiful, that’s not be missed.” I needed to hear that and at that point knew I wanted to bring it to life. 

Q. For anyone who may be looking to watch Anthem of a Teenage Prophet, what can they expect from the film?

It’s an honest story that deals with love, loss, death and life. I hope that if there is anyone who is also going through a challenging time that this film reminds them, that this too shall pass, things will get better.

Q. What were your influences for the overall look and style of the film?

Early on I made the creative decision for everything to be firmly rooted in reality. I want the audience to relate, to see themselves in the characters. I felt that what happens to Luke is plausible and so that meant keeping everything very honest and real. I had a clear vision of the look and feel from the start and worked closely with the DP, Todd Duym.

Q. The film brings together an excellent cast including Cameron Monaghan, Peyton List, Grayson Gabriel and Juliette Lewis. Did you have anyone in mind when reading script and how difficult was it choosing the right people for the roles? 

I feel incredibly fortunate to have such a powerhouse cast come on board. Seeing them bring the characters to life was really special. One of my favourite parts of making my first feature was working with the actors. The relationships between Luke and both Mary and Faith are some of my favourite moments in the film. The actors really gave their all and it shows in their performances. I appreciate their commitment to the project. 

Q. One of the strengths of the film is how the camera captures the natural interactions of the characters. Did you do much rehearsing prior to filming to create the chemistry or did you allow the scenes to evolve more naturally during filming?

We didn’t rehearse with the talent although Todd Duym and I were in the town we shot in weeks in advance and really prepped. We photo boarded almost the whole film prior to the shoot so in that regard I had a pretty good idea of what to expect although things obviously always changed a bit once the actors came in and we blocked the scene out, etc. 

Q. Did you make any changes from the original script during filming?

Cameron and I worked pretty closely on each scene before we shot it to make sure that all the words that were being said felt honest. So ya, we changed that dialogue and he and I came up with the end scene after we went snowboarding one day and he told me his plans for his hair. It got me thinking…

Q. Did you experience any difficulties whilst making the film?

Well it’s an indie film. We didn’t have a lot of time or money, but we had a lot of heart and soul. Planning things out with Todd prior to the shoot was so instrumental. When you’re shooting and relying on natural light you don’t have a lot of time. There are a lot of locations in this film, and a lot of driving. We were moving and shaking to make our days. It was fun though and we did it. 

Q. What were your favourite moments during filming?

Oh, that’s a tough one. There were a lot of amazing moments. I think just the overall experience. We all stayed in a hotel in the small town we shot in, so it was kind of like camp. It was fun. 

Q. Do you have any other project which you are working on?

Yes! I have a few projects in development including an animated feature based on my short POST NO BILLS. Also, very excited about a new project Cameron and I have been working on.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to direct their own movie?

Do it! With technology today, there is no excuse not to. Write something and film it with your phone. Cast your friends and family, edit on iMovie and then share it to see what people think. Don’t be precious with your ideas, share them and get feedback. Filmmaking is a collaborative effort and you get better by making something, learning from your mistakes and trying again. Take an idea and see it through from script to posting online. Don’t be afraid, it’s fun!! 

Anthem of a Teenage Prophet will be in theatres and on-demand from January 11 2019.

You can see the trailer for the film in the link below:

Philip Rogers

Philip Rogers

Published in various websites, Philip is a reviewer who is best known for his interviews and media coverage of independent projects including; films, books, theatre and live events. Always on the lookout for something different to cover!