Kenton Hall is a Canadian-born writer, actor, director and musician. A Jack of all trades, and a master of most, we must say. Kenton has appeared in films such as ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Muppets Most Wanted’ and ‘The Theory Of Everything’, but our focus today is his brainchild – the fantastic comedy for and about children – ‘A Dozen Summers’.
Q. They say you should never work with kids, yet you chose to work with a cast full of them for ‘A Dozen Summers’. First of all, are you crazy? And why did you choose to make this casting decision?
A. Well, first of all, I think that, at the heart of this warning not to work with children is the idea that it is somehow, more difficult. To which I can only reply: Yes, it is difficult. It requires an enormous amount of concentration, attention and care from everyone involved to ensure that you foster a creative environment that both caters to a young cast’s needs and gets the best possible version of the film in the can. But that’s as it should be. It’s supposed to be difficult. Nothing worth doing is ever easy. And the rewards – seeing young performers blossom, without the jaded attitude that, sadly, too many older actors seem to develop and, most of all, being reminded that it may be hard work, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be fun – more than make up for the difficulty. Besides, anyone else would have been too tall.
Q. You gave the lead roles to your daughters, Scarlet and Hero Hall. How did you find the experience of switching between dad and director?
A. One of the best things about writing the script had been talking to them about what I was trying to accomplish with the story, so when they screen-tested and I realised they understood the roles, it was a joy to continue working with them. Again, not without difficulty, but far more joy. I do think it will be interesting to see how different their performances are, when directed by someone else, as they move on to other projects. I suspect even better.
Q. You played the role of the girls’ dad in the film too. How close to the real Kenton Hall is the character of Henry McCormack?
A. I had a long talk with Sarah Warren, who plays Jacqueline, the girls’ mum in the film, during which I basically told her that the character of Jacqueline was actually closer to me than Henry. Wanting to do the right thing, trying their best, but not always sure where to start. She gets there, eventually, and I hope I have too. Henry is who I aspire to me; much more clued up, but still annoying.
Q. Colin Baker offers his vocal chords as the narrator for ‘A Dozen Summers’, how did the collaboration with the former Doctor Who star materialise?
A. I met Colin on another set – a short film by Rhys Davies called ‘Finding Richard’. Completely by coincidence, I was in the middle of casting for ‘A Dozen Summers’ and he was top of my list for The Narrator. As it happens, we met and struck up a conversation and I asked if he’d mind looking at a script if I sent it to his people. He agreed and, earning my eternal gratitude, signed up to do the film. Like a lot of legends, I think people forget how good he actually is, what enormous control of his voice he has and how funny he is. I love his audio work for ‘Big Finish’ in particular, which fans of ‘Doctor Who’ and, basically, fans of great storytelling and performance should seek out and purchase immediately.
Eight years previously, unbeknownst to him, he had also been very kind to Hero, who plays Daisy, and she’d kept a signed picture of the sixth Doctor by her bedside ever since, so it just felt right on every level.
Q. There are plenty of positive messages conveyed throughout the film. How important do you think it is for young viewers to hear and see these things?
A. I think it’s important to present positive messages in a manner that children don’t find patronising. We do that too often – “Hey kids, positive message coming up! Pay attention now! Don’t litter!” – as though they’re only children, they don’t know any better. Children are smart. They are instinctive. They take their own lives very seriously. The mistake we make is assuming that because we don’t have the same priorities as them, that somehow their concerns are of intrinsically lesser value. We need to guide children because they have less experience – that’s the true purpose of all education – to expand internal and external experience. But if we haven’t learned from our own experiences, they’ll cry hypocrite and quite rightly so. So, we tried to make a film that has positive messages about family, friendship and the colossal tapestry of human variance, but one of its most positive messages, I hope, is: “We’re listening.”
Q. What would you like viewers to take from the film?
A. A desire to buy the DVD? Sorry. Didn’t mean to say that out loud. A moth just crawled out of my wallet and I got distracted. First of all, I hope it provides 90 minutes of audiences – adults and children alike – laughing together. That’s not a small thing. I’d be so humbled by that. I know my best memories – as a child and as an adult – are of sharing laughter. I also hope that the children watching feel that someone knows that they’re not just their age going on some other age. They have to live in the moment, they have to be who they are in the moment. It’s a being-of-age movie. And I hope the adults try to remember that when they talk to their children too. That’s what I learned from writing it, and I’m still trying.
Q. Can you tell us anything about your future projects?
A. There are a couple of scripts in the pipeline. My heart is with ‘A Dozen Summers’ at the moment, but there are a couple of stories scratching at the door and mewling. Both comedies of varying hues. I shan’t say anymore. This is providing that anyone lets me make another one. There might be a petition against me once this one comes out. Not every film I make will be for younger audiences, but it’s certainly something I’d like to do again when I have another idea that feels as important to me.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you can offer aspiring filmmakers?
A. Never assume that you deserve success because you worked out which end of the camera to point at the actors. It’s the audience that deserves something – your best. Your best story, your best shot, your best performances. And also, some part of you in the story. Otherwise, there’s no connection and that’s neglecting the true magic of cinema. Wow, that got pretentious fast, my bad!
The delightful ‘A Dozen Summers’ is released in selected cinemas in the UK on 21st August 2015, so find it and watch it! You can read our review of this film here. Hunt down Kenton Hall on Twitter @KentonHall and whilst you’re at it, keep up with the film @ADozenSummers