'Anthem of a Teenage Prophet' deals with death in a way that really celebrates life, says director Robin Hays

Director Robin Hays and stars Cameron Monaghan and Peyton List reveal what makes the film 'Anthem of a Teenage Prophet' unique


                            'Anthem of a Teenage Prophet' deals with death in a way that really celebrates life, says director Robin Hays

Being a teenager is quite a difficult journey as it is, and while some of us are or have been lucky enough to have breezed through the process, others have a hard time coping and figuring things out — be it with their own selves or with other people and situations they are confronted with.

This is the theme of 'Anthem of a Teenage Prophet' starring Cameron Monaghan and Peyton List which has a unique mantra of 'celebrating life' through death. That's right, as unique as the motto of Robin Hays' film sounds, the new young adult venture is even more unique in how it represents death, loss, love, relationships, and life. 'Anthem of a Teenage Prophet' had its world premiere screening at the Vancouver Film Festival on Saturday, October 6.

Monaghan, known for his iconic work as the Joker in 'Gotham' and Ian in 'Shameless', plays the role of the protagonist Luke who randomly predicts the death of one of his own best friends. List plays the role of the said best friend's girlfriend, Faith, who develops a rather unusual bond with Luke as the two conntect over the mutual feelings of trying overcome loss.

Throughout the film, there's drama, emotions and crisis as these kids try to make a sense out of everything that's happening. They finally crack the code, as director Hays, Monaghan and List told us in a casual chat. Here are some excerpts of their conversation with MEAWW.

What was playing Luke like? Considering you've already played rather intense, heavy roles on screen — was adapting to this role an easy transition?
Cameron: It was a unique journey; I got involved with the film a year and a half before we ended up filming it. So I had a lot of time to come across this character, and he has a pretty heavy emotional journey. He loses his best friend and he has a lot of emotional weight that's kind of thrust upon him on top of the fact that he is a teenager and every teenager's going through stuff to try to figure themselves out, and that's very heavy in itself. So I just tried my best to put myself in that emotional state.

There are some actual, technical things that I had to do, like I had to learn how to skateboard. I had to spend a number of months learning how to do that but, more than anything, I was lucky enough to work with a cast and crew who were easy to work with and were the right environment to be emotionally honest and vulnerable. 

The cast of Anthem of a Teenage Prophet.
The cast of Anthem of a Teenage Prophet.

Is there a go-to method you adapt to when preparing for roles like Luke, or Ian from 'Shameless', or even the Joker from 'Gotham'?
Cameron: I don't believe in prescribing to one specific method; I think that the heart of most method is that you attach your own emotional stakes to a part that you are able to relate it to your own personal life or experiences that you had or people that you've met. I think that's what feels most honest and that's something that I always try to do. I try to find what relates me to it personally. But the process for every role tends to be completely different, and a lot of it is simply mechanical, of learning it and repeating it and reading it over and over and over again, so it becomes something that is kind of second nature. And from there I can learn to play and to experiment or change it. 

Where do you usually draw your biggest inspiration from?
Cameron: Peyton List. (laughs)

Is there a particular genre of shows or movies you would love to explore?
Cameron: I would love to do a crime noir film because I grew up watching that stuff a lot as a kid — which sounds weird but it's true. So, yeah, a film noir or a crime film would be very cool.  

Peyton List (R) and Cameron Monaghan (L)
Peyton List (R) and Cameron Monaghan (L)

Tell us a little bit about your character Faith. Was it difficult to portray her?
Peyton: A bit, because it's such a different role for me. But I really admire her, because even though she's dealing with the death of her boyfriend, she's such a likable, positive person and I really enjoyed playing her. 

Tell us a little bit about the dynamic of the relationship she develops with Luke. Is it different from what she had with Stan?
Peyton: They have a very odd relationship because Faith has lost her boyfriend, who's Luke's best friend, so they're both dealing with the loss but also, there's this tension between them so it's a difficult relationship and they're both kind of very cautious. Especially after losing Stan, she kind of relies on Luke, but he doesn't want to cross the line with his (dead) best friend's girlfriend. So it's sort of an awkward thing.

Director Robin Hays
Director Robin Hays

What drew you to this movie in particular?
Robin: What I loved about it was that it was a comedy. The script was passed along to me and I could just immediately see it and relate to it and I really fell in love with the project.

If you had to elaborate on what makes the film unique — how would you describe it?
Robin: 'Anthem...' is unique because it deals with death in a way a lot of films don't. And it's something like an uncomfortable topic and something we don't often like to talk about it. And it deals with death in a way that really celebrates life. So it shows both the light and darkness that we all go through and the good and bad days. The fact that it dealt with such a sensitive, urgent matter is what attracted me to it. 

Was it a lot of pressure to handle a rather sensitive story of a teenager afflicted with premonitions?
Robin: I don't think so. It was something that we were aware of in how we approached the film, we're trying to make it real and relatable for people viewing it.