Stories in sync - Dale Elliot's real-life story comes to life with on-screen role
When director Storm Saulter came up with the storyline for Sprinter, he had no idea fate would align the stars in his universe so that the actor he chose to bring the story's main character to life would fit seamlessly into his vision.
It is every director's dream that an actor will embody the character they are playing, so much so that it becomes difficult for them to separate their roles from real life. Fate made the latter possible for Saulter, as the story of his main character, Akeem Sharp, coincided beautifully with the real-life story of his lead actor, Dale Elliot.
Sprinter chronicles the story of a teenage Rastafarian high-school track and field student, who sees the sport as not only his ticket to a better life, but as an opportunity for him to finally meet his mother, who was living in the United States. The story highlights all the issues that come with Akeem not having his mother around and tackles various issues, including the importance of family. As it turns out, Sharpe's life is identical to that of Elliot's as he has also had to deal with the issues that arose from not having his parents in his life. In fact, it was during the filming of Sprinter that Elliot met his father for the first time since he was a toddler.
"Sprinter is a very close film to me because the story was so relatable - I can run and I am a living example of a 'barrel pickney'. I got a call one day and the persons said, 'Hello, this is Storm Saulter' ,and I was like, 'OK'. He said, 'I want you to come and audition for a movie' and I said, 'Yea, what time?'. I went there, and he was like, 'Tell me about yourself'. This time I knew nothing about the movie or what it was about. I introduced myself and said, 'I'm Dale Elliot. I did track and field in high school, I went to Kingston College, my mother lives in England, my father lives in America. "He said, 'Stop there. You know this is what the movie is about, right? I was like, wow," Elliot recalled.
"I felt like I was doing a documentary. I remember reading a scene with Auntie Natalie (Natalie Thompson) where I'm on a Skype call with my mother and she's telling me that she's going to come (to Jamaica) and then she didn't come. I started to have memories because me start feel like me a talk to me actual mother, and she put my hopes up and shatter it at the last moment."
Speaking on the fated connection between Elliot and his character, Saulter said he couldn't have asked for things to work out any better than they had. "All of it was very surreal, to say the least. So I'm in this apartment in Norway staying with a Jamaican woman and a Norwegian man and she's laughing her head off, looking at her phone. I'm like, 'What's so funny and she say, 'Storm, yuh must know this yute man'. So I go over and it's this guy (points at Elliot) playing his grandmother beating him. It was funny and I said, 'OK, this is interesting'."
For Saulter, Elliot was the perfect fit. "It can be challenging working with non-actors or first time actors because there's a certain amount of training that you have to go through to help you access your emotions, etc. But I said, this yute is so talented, he has the energy and his life is just so similar to our character that there has to be some truth that he can bring into this that maybe someone playing that wouldn't necessarily bring in the same way. Is Jah works, really, how the whole thing came together."