SPOTLIGHT ON FRANK VELLA

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Date of Birth: 17th December, 1956

Location: Mosta

Status: Married

Star Sign: Sagittarius

Media-related occupation: Actor

Originally from Ħamrun, Frank Vella has been married for 35 years, has two children and is a grandfather of three. Frank’s had a crave for the arts ever since he was a child, but the dream came true after he settled in Mosta. He’s also very much interested in local history.

How did you first discover drama and how do you nurture your acting skills?

In Ħamrun, we used to live close to Joe Zammit Cordina, so whenever a film came to shoot in Malta, Joe would call my parents up to be extras on set and my dad would often take me with him. The camera started to fascinate me. When the MTADA was set up, I was one of the first intakes of the academy, but it was only after I moved to Mosta that opportunities started coming up. Joe Quattromani was directing a play at the Mosta Oratory at the time. I met him by chance and he asked me to start theatre again and so I joined him for his forthcoming production. Then Frank Tanti came along, with whom I was involved in the preparation of several projects. I was also involved with Salvu Mallia and again Frank Tanti on Knight Spectacular, for which I was heavily involved in the preparation of props. Something else I enjoyed doing were the musicals of Ray Mangion, including Sound of Music, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita.

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I’m also handling the MTA re-enactment group. We perform the In Guardia Parade at Fort St Elmo almost every Sunday. A few years back, I was assistant to Charles Stroud when he was directing the TV series F’Baħar Wieħed and Ingroppi. Other directors who come to mind include Ino Bonello, Lino Farrugia, Joe Friggieri, Marcelle Theuma and Albert Marshall. Despite not being an actor for several of these projects, I was still observing and learning. I then recently received a phone call from Miriam Zarb asking me to join the cast of Strada Stretta. This is my first experience with such a lengthy role, and as if this isn’t enough, it also happens that when most foreign films come to shoot in Malta, our company usually handles their freight requirements, which is no small task.

How would you describe the local drama scene?

I believe that the Maltese are a very capable people who give their all and are incredibly hard working. We have wonderful actors who’ve managed to penetrate the international scene and are making headway. But alas, bureaucracy isn’t helping new prospective actors to start taking part in productions so that one day they’ll be able to establish themselves. We know how to stage beautiful productions but budgets only allow for two weekends of performances at best. We’ve improved a lot with TV series, but these have to finance themselves. We work long hours with tight evening schedules after a day’s work on shows which cannot be exported overseas and can only depend on the local market.

Also, how can we encourage people to go to the theatre if all our main theatres are located in Valletta, where parking is extremely difficult?

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What’s your favourite genre of film?

Whenever I have the time for a movie, I go for action films and obviously make it a point to watch those for which we handled their freight. Once I get back home, I end up watching ‘the making of’ for the film I’ve just seen. I’ve also started following foreign TV series such as Game of Thrones and The Blacklist.

What type of gadgets do you love?

My mobile phone.