Tom Brumpton is a man of many talents: actor, former frontman of Akarusa Yami, founder of the renowned Polymath PR and a talented director and producer. I recently caught up with him for Vulturehound to discuss The Guiding Light, a new film created by himself with long-time partner and friend Adam Luff.
What came first for you in life – acting or music?
Acting. I started acting when I was about 13. There was a local theatre group, of which there were maybe three boys, including me. I went on to study musical theatre at college for two years, after which I graduated and did a music course for a further two years, where I learned the basics of music business and joined a band.
As a frontman, did you find that you would embody a persona when performing onstage with Akarusa Yami, much in the same way you would when taking to the stage in role?
I remember thinking of the role as being a stand-up comedian. I would try and be my best self and spent the whole set praying to God the crowd were with me *laughs*! I often thought of performing as a massive expulsion of energy and a chance to lose yourself. My favourite shows are those where everything is a bit hazy because I was lost in the moment. When that happens, it’s a beautiful thing.
After you left the band, did you find it easy to segue back into acting and film?
I did, but mainly because I was making a film, The Samaritan, the same year I decided to call it a day. I officially quit in April 2015, but agreed to stay on, play the shows, handle the press, and whatnot. While we were doing that, I was working on the edit for The Samaritan with Adam Luff, our screen writer. Once it was done, we started talking about new projects and leaving the band gave me time to focus on film as a career.
What attracted you to stepping from in front of the camera to behind it as a director and producer?
With The Samaritan, Adam and I did everything. We directed, wrote, produced, edited, graded, acted in it; everything outside of manning the sound and camera equipment. It was terrifying but the more we talked the more comfortable I got with the role, and when we started making The Guiding Light I said I wanted to direct solo, but with him involved. I’ve said it before, but The Guiding Light wouldn’t be possible were he not involved.
How did you and Adam Luff meet and begin working in the first place?
Adam and I have been friends since we were three. We go back nearly 30 years and we’ve played a massive role in each other’s lives and careers. I’d always been an actor, and Adam over time decided he wanted to become a writer. He went on to study a Masters in San Francisco back in 2011 before coming back to the UK in 2013. He started freelancing and as I came to the end of my tenure with Akarusa Yami we decided to start making films together.
The inspiration for The Guiding Light came from the deaths of your aunts, Pat and Kath. There was around 14 months between their passings; were you already considering writing about something in between as a memory to Pat, or did the whole thing begin after Kath died as well?
It was eerie. Adam and I had decided to work on the film together in May 2017, so about thirteen months after Pat passed away. I came to Lincoln in late June for my Dad’s birthday. Adam and I had gotten together earlier in the day to work on the script for the first time. As I was heading home that evening, Kath passed away. In truth, while we’ve worked on this film I’ve lost a few people; friends, family, people I looked up to. It’s been very difficult. I had to do bereavement counselling as a means of coming to terms with all of it.
One would imagine that Adam had been a true rock in the process of this as you came to terms with the loss of two people very close to you?
He’s amazing. I love the guy. We’re very different, but he’s been there for me through all manner of things over the years. I can’t imagine being my best friend is easy, but he’s done a great job and maintained his sanity through it all *laughs*!
Can you give us an insight into who you’ve cast in the lead roles of Barbara and Angela, and how you came about them?
Absolutely! Barbara will be played by Jessica Messenger, a brilliant actress and dancer from Derby. She’s done a number of great horror films, including Rats with Lawrence Harvey (Human Centipede 2) and Nicolas Vince (Hellraiser). Angela is played by Martina Lopez, a London based actress who blew us away. We saw her showreel and felt she was perfect for the role. We also have a ton of other talented actors and actresses doing voiceover work for us.
You’ve said that you and Adam want to push your boundaries as film makers on The Guiding Light – so far, do you think you’ve achieved that?
I think so, yes. The two big sections that will pose a challenge are the body horror sequence and the dance sequence. We’ve split our filming schedule into three, so we can tackle each carefully. We’re working with a great visual effects artist named Jayne Hyman and an awesome choreographer named Graeme Pickering, who took part in the opening sequence for the 2012 Olympics. I feel like we’re in safe hands.
You’ve set up a crowdfunder to help with the making of the film; what attracted you to the idea of using one in the first place?
I’ve had a few friends run successful crowdfunders and come out with all their hair, so I thought “OK, lets give this a go!” *laughs* I also saw it as a great way to promote the film. It’s a nice way of seeing who’s interested in the film, what kind of audience it appeals to, etc. For me, its been a learning curve. I’ve learned a lot running our Indiegogo campaign, and its taught me a lot about marketing directly to audiences and how to approach financing a film. Whatever happens, I’m glad I’ve done it.
Recently, you’ve recorded vocals with former bandmate Tom Clarke for a new project of his. Do you think you’ll ever take a musical route in life again or is the film industry fully for you now?
Its funny, while I’ve been doing press on The Guiding Light I’ve gone back over the old Akarusa Yami records. It’s been nice hearing them again. Once the film is done, I’ve considered making a record afterwards. I’ve a few ideas I’d like to try out, but I’m not sure I’d do a band again. At least not at the moment.
Alongside all of this, you’re also the founder and head of Polymath PR. How do you manage to keep all your plates spinning?
Caffeine. Buckets of it. *laughs* If I’m honest, I found the best way of keeping things in order is to have a good home life. I bought a small dog in March and that forced me to stop for a few hours each day and just be in the moment with her. It was a little difficult at first as I am very used to going a million miles an hour at all times, but it forced me to stop and be in the moment more which helps. That, and a solid support network. I’d have fallen apart these last few years if it weren’t for the incredible group of people I’m surrounded by.
What would be the ultimate dream outcome for The Guiding Light?
The dream would be for the film to screen at a big film festival either here in the UK or abroad. We’ve been looking into that side of things extensively since we first went into pre-production, so we knew what we were looking at. On that note, I’d like to finish up by giving a big thank you to Elliot Grove and his team at the Raindance Film Festival for supporting the film on social media.
Fore more information and to back The Guiding Light, visit their crowfunding page here.