Filmmaker Danny Page sees career takes off

Danny Page. Picture: contributed
Danny Page. Picture: contributed
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SHOULD the good folks behind the Oscars ever decide to hand out a golden gong for sheer passion, determination, refreshing youthful exuberance and services to name-dropping, Danny Page will be right up there with the best.

In fact, the 21-year-old may already have his acceptance speech tucked up his sleeve, ready to roll as soon as the American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences gives him the nod.

He’s certainly got one eye on taking the short film he’s just made to places – Cannes for one, Robert Redford’s ­Sundance Film Festival for ­another – which just a handful of years ago were merely the stuff of a movie mad Stewart’s Melville schoolboy’s wildest dreams.

And give him his due, he’s already rubbed shoulders with Hollywood royalty: a bit part in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street ­starring ­Leonardo DiCaprio is not a bad starting point for any ­aspiring young actor.

Today he’s home in Edinburgh, fresh from his new life that kicked off in New York four years ago and later took him to Los Angeles where, with what seems to be remarkable ease, he’s casually slotted himself into one of the most fickle and challenging ­industries around.

To misquote slightly, ­remember his name, because Daniel Christopher Page, actor and filmmaker, is clearly a young man on a mission to make his dreams come true.

“Dustin,” he nods, casually dropping another A-list name into a conversation about the short film he’s just made, “Dustin says he’s really ­interested in seeing it.

“And Martin Scorsese will see it too, because the guy who is second assistant ­director on it, well his gran is ­Thelma Schoonmaker, and she’s worked on films like Raging Bull and The Wolf on Wall Street...”

He continues in a similar vein, a well-placed name here and a Hollywood connection there, all of which could make it easy to dismiss this as an over-enthusiastic young man’s wishful thinking. Except the proof has been captured on film in Eleven, an intense 22 minute-long drama which he wrote, produced, co-directed, acted in and which does appear to be attracting major interest. First up, in a scoop of impressive proportions, his leading lady is Lindsey McKeon, whose acting credits include the role of Taylor James in television’s One Tree Hill. To cap that, the project was picked up by Guy J Louthan, Executive Producer on recent Halle Berry film The Call, while the music is being worked on now by Emmy Award nominee Richard Blair Oliphant, a veteran of 40 movie, documentary and television projects.

Pretty impressive ­considering Danny arrived in New York just four years ago fresh from Stewart’s Melville College to study acting, knowing not a soul there and with just stars in his eyes to keep his dream alive.

“Being alone in New York at 18 was daunting but it made me grow up so much faster with no-one around to pick me up,” he reflects, slipping into a soft mid-Transatlantic drawl. “I was living by myself in student accommodation on the same street as the Empire State Building. That alone was amazing.”

It was 2010 and Danny had a scholarship to study theatre and film at the acclaimed American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Manhattan, where the alumni include names such as Lauren Bacall, Kim Cattrall, Anne Hathaway, ­Robert Redford, Kirk Douglas and Danny Devito.

For our own Danny, whose previous acting experience involved a school role in The Tempest and running a lunchtime drama club for the younger students, the New York “Fame” school was a unique chance to work with seasoned professionals. He concluded his Academy course with an appearance at the ­Actors’ Playhouse, a theatre specialising in showcasing new talent. There film scouts scouring for extras spotted his potential.

“I got a phone call asking if I was free,” he recalls. “They said it was for a film called The Wolf of Wall Street. Back then that didn’t mean anything, so I googled and saw Leonardo ­DiCaprio’s name.”

Soon after Danny was clean -shaven, hair slicked back and wearing the uniform of a New York City stockbroker, feet away from his movie heroes DiCaprio and film director Martin Scorsese.

“It was surreal,” he laughs.

“I watched Martin Scorsese go up to (DiCaprio) and whisper something in his ear. And I thought I want to be the actor being whispered directions by Martin Scorsese, I want to be up there doing it with the best.” Fired with enthusiasm, he quit New York and headed to LA, only for the plans he had made for meetings to fall through at the last minute. Instead of kicking his heels wondering what to do next, he turned his hand to writing. The result is his powerful short film, Eleven, in which he plays the role of a young man tormented by awful sexual abuse that he ­suffered at 11pm each night as a child at the hands of his now dying stepfather. As he wrestles with the flashbacks, he realises his partner, played by Lindsey McKeon, is pregnant – opening up a whole new emotional trauma with drastic and disturbing implications.

Made with a tiny $25,000 (£14,700) budget, the film could easily have been added to the pile of many other short films made every year that go straight to the internet. Instead it’s attracted high-profile support, convincing Danny it could eventually become a full-scale feature movie. “We are going to hit as many film festivals as we can with it,” he nods. “It’s too late for Cannes so we’re looking at Sundance next year. I want it to be able to qualify for the Academy Awards short film section.

“I’ve had strong feedback, Dustin Hoffman has seen a clip and I’m sending him the finished product. And Martin Scorsese will see it.

“It’s all kind of unbelievable to me,” he grins. Danny, who has a brother, Matthew, 23 and sister Bethany, 18, ­admits there are no guarantees that this impressive start to his movie career will continue at such an impressive pace.

“Ninety five per cent of ­actors have a second job and I’m no different,” he nods, adding that since being home he’s filmed a bank commercial to help fund his career. “I’ll do what I have to do to keep the money coming in . . . but I’m going to attack this 150 per cent.”