Filmmaker, illustrator, photographer and graphic designer; there isn’t much that Leeds-born Danny Sangra can’t do. JLife’s Evangeline Spachis spoke to the artist about his creative calling.
When we caught up with Danny Sangra, the Leeds-born artist and filmmaker, he was travelling the world, having just landed in LA to attend a screening of his latest production. Danny, it seems, is a busy guy, having just vacated Sydney, Australia to visit friends before heading to the States for the premiere of his first feature film, ‘Goldbricks in Bloom’.
Hailing from Moortown, Danny has come far from his first heady experiences of film as a young boy: “I’ve been into film since I was a child. I was sat down to watch Akira Kurosawa [revered 20th century Japanese director] films from the age of three”. But as with most creative pursuits, the path to making it into a full-time career is rarely clear: “I didn’t understand the path into film so I focused on art and design. Once I was developed in that, I decided to move into film.”
Danny’s other talents in illustration, photography and design have also served him well. After studying graphic design at Central St Martins (University of the Arts London), he went on to have solo exhibitions in London, Europe, Tokyo and New York. Danny has worked and collaborated with clients such as Sony BMG, Samsung, BBC, Miu Miu, Louis Vuitton, Marc by Marc Jacobs, V Magazine and Elle. But how does Danny manage all these different art forms? “It’s all really just about ideas. I don’t know any other way. It’s healthy. It means I don’t get bored. I just constantly need ways to explore ideas without restricting myself.”
After many years of creating his own short films and commercial film projects for the likes of Florence and The Machine, Metallica and One Direction, as well as brands such as Diesel, Ray-Ban and Balenciaga, Danny has made the step up into feature filmmaking. Is it hard to fulfil a brief as well as sticking to your creative guns? “Most clients come to me to do what I do. It’s collaboration rather than being told what they want me to do. Sure, sometimes you have to compromise but I’m lucky that most of my clients trust me. The projects that I feel do not reflect me don’t get shown.”
His debut full-length film, then, is ‘Goldbricks in Bloom’, a social satire exploring what it means to be an artist today by interweaving the story of a self-obsessed group of disenchanted young creatives with the mythic rise and fall of a New York painter. Written and directed by Danny, it features actors who have worked with him previously, as well as a mix of new and established talent, including Zosia Mamet from TV’s ‘Girls’ and ‘Mad Men’ fame, and Jake Hoffman, Dustin Hoffman’s son.
Even though always being on the go, Danny’s directing style and creative approach remains a part of the relaxed and natural development of all his projects: “I work a lot and it does take a lot of organising but I do it in the least stressful way possible. I want people to want to be on my set or involved on my projects. I think everyone takes something away with them. I know what I want but I’m open to ways it can be done better. Film is a team process; painting is the opposite.” It has always been the plan to venture into feature films, and finally completing his first picture is definitely a commendable milestone: “I have to say that making my first feature film with a small budget and a bunch of friends in New York is my standout moment. And especially now that it is finally having a theatrical premiere.”
As someone who has ‘made it’, any tips for aspiring filmmakers and budding creative types? “Make things that are true to yourself,” says Danny. “Don’t worry about what anyone thinks. Work harder than everyone around you. Love what you do.”
Despite the jet setting lifestyle he still has close ties with the UK. His mother, Sharon Sangra, owns the hair salon Hair & Co in Meanwood and still resides at Queenshill estate in Moortown. While Danny doesn’t get back to Leeds as often as he’d like, he still enjoys the comforts of home: “Even though I’m technically based in London, I spend most my time out the country. However my mum still cuts my hair so if she can’t make it to wherever I am, I have to come back to Leeds to go to her shop!”