Moonwalking: BAFTA-winning alumnus takes on Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson impersonators are the inspiration behind MOONWALKERS, a feature-length documentary film being developed by alumnus and BAFTA-winning producer and director, Tristan Anderson (PGCE Secondary 1999). Tristan spoke to us about his journey from the classroom to award-winning film-making and how crowdfunding is key to his film’s success.
Why did you come to study a PGCE at Greenwich?
I was born and raised in south-east London and after completing my undergraduate degree in Wales, I felt it was time to come back home and study.
So the PGCE at Greenwich was a perfect combination for me. My father trained as a teacher at Avery Hill College many moons ago, so it was nice to follow in his footsteps!
What was your time at Greenwich like?
The PGCE was a real challenge. It’s a huge amount of work to undertake in one year, as you are on teaching placements for most of the year, whilst also attending classes and working on assignments.
The only free time I had was spent in the Old Baths in Woolwich and the Students’ Union at the Avery Hill Campus, socialising with my fellow class mates to check up on how we were all doing!
Working in the film industry is quite different from teaching. What made you want to become a director/producer and how did you change your career path?
I always had an interest in film-making. I started my teaching career in inner city colleges teaching Media Studies and was making films in my spare time. Over the course of about five years I managed to reduce my teaching work and break into film-making full time. It was quite a challenge but it worked out well in the end.
I wouldn’t say there is much difference from being a teacher to a director/producer, as in both fields you have to be organised, prepared and in control of teams of people, and to be able to think on your feet. So the experience of teaching classes of young people actually became really helpful.
Could you tell us more about the story and the inspiration behind MOONWALKERS?
MOONWALKERS is a feature length documentary that follows the lives of three Michael Jackson impersonators as they search for fame and fortune in Hollywood. It also looks at the nature of the American dream and what it takes to achieve that.
Tom Goudsmit, the director and camera person, was working on another documentary film in San Francisco when he first saw our three impersonators dancing together. After watching and talking to them he was struck by their energy, enthusiasm and love for Michael Jackson and felt he had to make a film about them.
When he came back to London he showed me the footage and I instantly felt there was a bigger story that we could tell. As luck would have it, the three Michaels were planning to go to Hollywood to try and make it, which I felt was the perfect situation to film them in.
Tom and I have been self-funding the film during the whole production and are now crowd funding via Kickstarter to help us complete the filming. We have to reach our target to raise £28,000 otherwise the film will not get finished. It is a real ‘all or nothing’ situation, so I am currently working day and night to spread the word.
You directed a documentary for BBC Two called ‘Just a few drinks’ that earned you a BAFTA award. Could you tell us about it?
I had previously created, produced and directed a TV series called ‘What did I do last night?’ that looked at young people’s social lives and the effects of their drinking. When I found out about this directing job for BBC films, it seemed like a perfect fit. I was very fortunate to work with a great producer, editor and camera person called Tom Goudsmit, who now, four years later, I am working with again on MOONWALKERS.
I remember receiving a phone call from the producer saying we had been nominated. It was such a lovely feeling to know that all our hard work had been recognised. The company who I worked with were up for another BAFTA, which they won, so even before ours was announced I was sitting with three BAFTA statues around me. When our award came up it all happened very quickly and then suddenly we were up on stage! I remember thinking, don’t forget to thank mum and dad.
What skills gained while studying at Greenwich have helped you in your professional or personal development?
Communication is number one, no matter what situation you are in from teaching to producing. It is all about how you interact and put across your ideas and intentions. Deadlines and time keeping are always invaluable in both fields. I would also say trying to see the bigger picture and looking out for any issues that might come up in the future.
I still use the skills I learnt from my PGCE. I regularly give guest lectures in universities and deliver masterclasses in film making.