Bringing Out the “Prophet”: An Interview with Director Robin Hays

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Robin Hays got her start doing many commercials. The Canadian-based filmmaker has made her feature film debut with Anthem of a Teenage Prophet, coming to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on January 11 from SP Releasing.

World Film Geek had the opportunity to speak with Hays about her feature film debut.

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Thank you so much Robin for talking about Anthem of a Teenage Prophet. This is one of those films that from the plot alone, sounds like it could have been a horror film. However, the fact that this is a drama about life and death just made it more the better and I really enjoyed seeing it in this manner.
Thank you very much for the kind words. I really appreciate that. I’m glad you enjoyed the film.

What attracted you to direct the film?
Kim and Tina, the producers of the film, brought me this script. They had read it and once I read it, it really resonated with it. I saw myself in the character and it was very relatable to me. At the time, I was going through a very challenging time and difficult period in my life and there were things in the film that I needed to hear so I thought it would be a great idea to bring this project to life.

The film is based on the novel Anthem of a Reluctant Prophet by Joanne Proulx. Did you read the original novel?
I did read the novel. The film is quite different but Joanne Proulx did an incredible job of creating the characters. I resonated from that because you felt for these characters and the novel does hold to that. There are major differences between the film and novel. Throughout the process of the script, we were trying to figure out the best way to bring the story to life the best way possible. I wanted to make it as relatable to other people as possible.

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Cameron Monaghan as Luke, the titular “Teenage Prophet”.

Cameron Monaghan, who plays Luke, will probably be forever known as the Joker on Gotham. However, here, he shows a very different performance in the titular role. What was it like working with him?
Cameron is amazing! I am glad you were able to relate to the film. I think the film is meant for people, including high schoolers, who are going through a challenging time in their lives. That is my hope. If there is anybody going through a rough period, they will learn that it will not last forever and things will eventually get better.

But, working with Cameron was awesome. He is such a talent and to see him in this role was really great because it was a departure from his role as the Joker. It’s more relatable. He’s in almost every scene of the film, so it was important to have him play a relatable character and he was very passionate about it. I think he did a great job with the role of Luke.

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Cameron Monaghan and Robin discussing the film on-set.

Cameron had amazing chemistry with Peyton List and Grayson Gabriel that looked so natural, it reminded me of my days in high school. Did you allow free reign for these three to bring out their performances?
Yeah for sure. They are all professionals and they know what they’re doing so I didn’t want to step on their toes too much. We just had initial conversations about the film and what I wanted so we just went from there. One thing that Cameron and I did do before shooting is that before the day would begin, we would look at the script and make sure we made it as authentic and real as possible. That was one thing we did together. But as for the film being real and honest, that was a decision I made early on in the process because given what happens to Luke, it could easily have gone into a different direction and bring out more of that supernatural element, stretching it out. But for me, reading the script, it was something more I can relate to. So I made the decision that I wanted what happens to Luke actually plausible but also keep it rooted in reality as well.  That way, people can relate to it and it wouldn’t be too fake and make it more real.

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Juliette Lewis (left) with Robin on-set of the film.

I’ve been a fan of Juliette Lewis since National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and she has grown to be a great actress. Here, she plays Mary, Luke’s nurturing mother. It must have been a wonder working with her.
It was amazing! She’s someone I’ve always admired and watch her unfold as an actress. As a 90’s kid, she is iconic so she was on my wishlist when it came time for the role. She read the script and I was thrilled when she decided to help me make my feature film debut. It’s a highlight.

My favorite moments of the film involve both Mary and Luke. They have this easy bond and such great chemistry. It was a joy to watch! The film is set in the 90’s and it was generally like what I dealt with in my life. We wanted to make sure Mary would be the light to the darkness in Luke. Mary would be light, love, representing the good as well as Peyton’s character of Faith. At home, Mary makes it welcoming for Luke as well.

How long did shooting take and were there any difficulties you had to face during production?
We shot the film in 18 days but I was there with Todd Duyn for almost a month prior to shooting, doing pre-production. With any indie low budget film, there will be a lot of challenges. However, I started out directing commercials. We prep a lot and make sure we have everything ready to do. Having that background was definitely an asset. I planned as much as possible, so even though it feels like everything is off the coffin and planned, Todd and I actually went to all the locations prior to shooting.

A lot of the film was picture boarded so that if we ran into anything, one that I learned is that nothing is always going to go as planned. We had a rough idea of what we are going to go through, we roll with the punches and get through. We didn’t have a lot of time or money. One example is the possibility exterior night shooting being done in the day. The day where they get picked up by the truck, Todd and I drove around and where we could find good lighting. There was actually zero lighting in that shot.

Also the scene where they go to the concert, we shot that at a casino and that was all exterior lights. So it’s normal low budget things we run into, but trying to prep and plan it out beforehand really helped.

This was your feature film debut and it was a great one. Are there any more feature films in the works that you can talk about?
I have a few things cooking in features and TV world, but I am developing my first animated feature film as well as have some live-action things in the works.

Anthem of a Teenage Prophet comes to theaters, VOD, and Digital HD on January 11. This is a film anyone who dealt with stuff in high school could totally relate to and there are just great performances from the cast and this is one excellent film debut for Robin. Thank you again for talking about the film.
Thank you so much!

A Special Thank You goes out to EMR Media and Robin Hays for making this interview possible.

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