August 5, 2014 avander

The British Blacklist Meets ‘Sweetboy’ Director Anthony Vander

Anthony Vander is British actor, writer, producer and director who made his first television appearance aged seventeen on BBC’s Bitesize programme.  Hew went on to study Sociology and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London whilst attending The National Youth Theatre to hone his acting skills.

In 2006, Anthony was accepted into the prestigious Drama Centre London and in 2009 he graduated with a BA (Hons) in Acting. His first professional stage appearance was at the Southwark Playhouse.

As a writer, Anthony’s debut play Inhibitions was given a rehearsed reading at The Soho Theatre by The National Youth Theatre in September 2009. His second play Studio 66 was also performed to sell out audiences at the historic Roundhouse.
He has also acted in numerous films and short films including Ealing Studios’ Grandfather Paradox and also Fresh to Death which he also co-produced with his production company Distortion Entertainment.
In 2012, Anthony’s debut short film Hooligan which he wrote and directed was selected for The Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival. This year will see the release of his debut feature film Sweetboy, which he directed, produced and acted in. The film has also been selected for the 2014 American Black Film Festival.
We caught up with him to talk about his journey so far…

Hello Anthony, welcome to The British Blacklist. Could you start by telling us about your background in film?

My memory goes back as far my parents taking me to the cinema very often. My brother also being a film director has an encyclopaedia knowledge of film so he imparts wisdom and knowledge to me. I did a bit of directing in theatre after drama school but decided to make the transition to film as that was my passion. I acted in a couple short films before making my own short film Hooligan. That screened at the Cannes film festival in 2012 and gave me a platform and more confidence, and then I moved onto a feature film, Sweetboy.

What do you find most rewarding, acting, producing or directing?

Each of them are rewarding in their own way, but I would most probably have to go with directing. The creation process with actors, cinematographer, production team. All different personalities. It really is an ensemble journey for a shared vision. They say the cast find inspiration from the script and the director but I like to think of it as the other way round.

Please give us some insight about the themes and issues addressed in your latest project Sweet Boy…

There are many themes and issues at the heart of the film such as family, relationships, redemption and infidelity. The theme of infidelity is apparent in many thrillers which have gone onto mainstream success, films such as – Fatal Attraction (1987), Unfaithful (2202), Jungle Fever (1991). The way we have presented this theme in our film is with honesty and truth and in no way do we seek any type of moral judgement. It has mainly adult content but I think there are themes that young people can relate to. At the heart of it we have quite a universal film with a universal cast. Joe (writer of Sweetboy) has created Ryan’s character as an everyman, an anti-hero who is flawed but at the heart of it is trying to grow into a man. The word Sweetboy has many definitions but for me at the heart of it Ryan among his many characteristics can be sweet and he is in some sense still a boy as he refuses to grow up.


What are the challenges you face as a young filmmaker in the UK?

I found it pretty challenging to pitch my vision for Sweetboy to producers. You see when you’re making a first time feature I guess producers are more wary. Especially if you’re still in your twenties. I had producers which ranged from negative to just plain confusing. In the end I just thought just do it, so I went out and made the film with zero budget. It is the most challenging thing I have ever done but also the most rewarding.

Is your general assessment of the UK film industry a positive or negative one?

I consider myself a really positive guy but I struggle to understand when I hear household names like Sophie Okonedo and David Harewood get lack of work on our shores. I mean these guys are incredible actors with a incredible body of work. Personally they shouldn’t need to audition here. In America they get work regularly. There is huge unrepresentation of ethic minorities and also females (of all races) in the industry in the UK. We all know it and I’m glad the press are catching wind of this and also very thankful to the voices of guys like Lenny Henry who are trying to implement change.

Who would you most like to direct in future if the opportunity arose?

Chiwetel Ejiofor. The guy is just one of the great actors of our time. From Dirty Pretty things (2002) and Children of Men (2006) to Redbelt (2008) and 12 Years a Slave (2013);  Couple years back I queued from 4 am til mid day to get tickets for his Othello at the Donnar theatre. Just blew me away.

Can you name a few directors you draw inspiration from?

Ken Loach is a master. I love the performances he gets out of his actors. Mike Leigh, Scorcese, PT Anderson, Steve McQueen. Spike Lee was a huge inspiration for Sweetboy. I actually met Spike Lee last month at the American Black film festival and shook his hand. I haven’t washed my hands since.

What is your favourite film of all-time?

I refuse to give one film, haha. Among my favourites are Godfather Part 2 (1974), Citizen Kane (1941), Kes (1970), On the Waterfront (1954), Do The Right Thing (1989), Empire Strikes Back (1980), Pickpocket (1959)…

Do you have anything in the pipeline for the rest of the year?

Among the festival circuit for Sweetboy. we have two features in the pipeline we will be pitching to producers. A feature length script for my debut short Hooligan and also an untitled script about the day in a life of a primary school teaching assistant. It’s going to get made by any means necessary.

To read interview click here

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