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Hotseat - Peter Sagnia

805_hotseatPeter Sagnia has been involved in the creative arts for more than 20 years. Originally from London, he attended Anna Scher Acting School where he took various courses in acting and theatre arts. A man of many facets, he now can call himself a film maker, director, composer of music, stage plays and screenwriter. For the past years, he has been working on innovative ways to give voice to the tremendous wealth of talent found in the Caribbean. His previous productions include Antillean Green Card, Sour Grapes, Lalit and Deepak and Mixed Blessings. He recently finished his newest feature film completely produced in St. Maarten with the help of local crew and actors. The film is called Consumed and by the look of the trailer, it promises to be a great film. Check it out at www.consumedfilm.com

Where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in Bethnal Green, which is a small town in the East end of London, England. My father is from Gambia, West Africa, and my mother is from Trinidad. I had a pretty good childhood; my parents did a great job of raising me, and making sure I got a decent education.

How did you get involved in the creative arts?

I got involved in creative arts from primary school. I was a tree in the school play. Don't laugh; I was actually the lead oak tree. I didn't have any lines but, hey, we all had to start out somewhere. I grew up in church and they would ask a gentleman named Cuthbert to do the weekly announcements; well, he wanted to do something different and started doing the announcements in drama and sketch form. He asked me to come and help. The audience loved it, and that kind of sparked my interest in getting into acting. I did a short stint as a stand-up comedian – wasn't very good at it...got booed a number of times at the Hackney Empire (laughs). After that, I did a video course, then took an acting course; but mostly, it was just learning as I go along.

Why did you start focusing your art in the Caribbean?

I moved to St. Maarten officially in 2003. When I got here, I missed certain things I used to do in London, like going to see plays in the theatre. I met my good friend and mentor Felix Fleming and starred in one of his plays "When the cat's away." It was fun and exciting. We worked together on several plays and then in 2009, I started writing my own plays for Kingdom Expressions which is the arts subsidiary of my church on St. Maarten. After a few successful plays, I said to myself with all the hard work that goes into putting on a stage play for a few weekends, we may as well tape the stage shows; so we recorded the stage play "Sour Grapes" and started filming from that point on.

Tell us something about your previous work.

After filming Sour Grapes, I moved into the motion picture area. I did a short film called "Lalit and Deepak", which can be seen on YouTube. After the good response I got from that, I did a couple of other short films, just to practice and learn some cinematography skills. I'm still in the process of learning, but it gets a little better each step.

What is your latest project?

My latest project is "Consumed" – a film co-written by Anderson Percival and myself. It stars a multi-talented cast of local actors including King Vers, Gee Money, Fabian Badejo and Victoria Regales. Consumed tells the story of Johnny Richards, a prisoner who is about to get an early release due to political changes in St. Maarten. Richards has fallen on hard times in trying to support his family. He takes it upon himself to rob a jewellery store, which goes terribly wrong. Maria played by Victoria Regales, goes out of her way to stop the potential release from taking place.

How was it working with crew and cast from St. Maarten?

This was one of the most rewarding experiences. Mostly everybody volunteered his or her talents and abilities, and the professionalism was second to none. Everybody did their job without complaining. The actors were always on time and gave 100%. I am very pleased with their work.

What do you think about the local film industry?

The film industry in general is a very tough industry, especially if you are an independent filmmaker. It gets even more difficult when you come to the Caribbean. It is so unfortunate that when people think of Caribbean films, they automatically think of something substandard. There are some very talented filmmakers in the islands that produce excellent work. Locally in St. Maarten, there are some people that produce excellent work. We have to bear in mind that making a film of any kind even the short films is very difficult to do.

What are your future plans?

I have just completed the script for a mini-series, which I am hoping to produce in 2015. It's about a psychiatrist who deals with several patients in the course of his weekly routine. I'm excited about this project, as it will get to delve into the lives of some of his patients. I'm sure the audience will love the characters. The patients' lives will be an open book and the audience will get to sit in on the counselling sessions. I'm hoping this project gets picked up by some interested TV stations in the U.S. and abroad as well as the Caribbean as a whole.

Where can we see your upcoming film?

The film Consumed will have its premiere screening at Philipsburg Cultural Centre on Saturday, August 23, and Sunday, August 24, at 7:30pm

If you could invite three people (dead or alive) for dinner, who would they be, what would be the one question you would ask and what would you serve them to eat?

1) King David in the Bible: "How did you overcome the fear and anguish of being constantly chased by Saul?" I would serve him a spinach stew with palm oil.

2) Sidney Poitier: "What was it like to be the first African American to get an Oscar and what was the struggle like?" I would serve him a salmon salad.

3) Idris Elba: "How come I never met you and we grew up in the same area?" I would take him to a local Turkish kebab shop and eat a good old fashioned Doner kebab.