To say Tony Papa has lived a life is, by any account, an understatement. His accomplishments include winning a Much Music Video Award, making a video for Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits, one of the great guitarists of the last century, and eventually starting Powell River Digital Film School after moving to Powell River in 1986. Papa has toured Canada, hung out with music greats in New York and worked on creature films in Los Angeles.
How did you start your career?
I started playing in a small band called The Actions when I was about 16. We broke up, got back together and called it The Reactions. I had a hit song called “Fun Time in the Summer” and the name of that band was Tony and the Frogs. The height of our existence, really, was when we were on tour across the country as Tony Papa and the Theory.
Where did you go from there?
I was in New York City in 1982 and did my first music video, “In My Skin,” with my own band. This guy named Mark Knopfler, frontman for Dire Straits, saw it. I finally got in touch with him. We would just hang and he’d show me some songs he was working on. He had one called “Private Dancer.” By the time I came back to him with some ideas for a video, he’d changed it to “Private Investigations.” He sold “Private Dancer” to Tina Turner and I did the video for “Private Investigations.”
Where did you go after New York?
Eventually I went to Los Angeles and worked on some creature movies out there and did a cross between a documentary and music video called “Beauty and the Beast: Ocean Falls” and it won a video of the year award from Much Music.
What do you get out of Powell River Digital Film School?
It is really my passion these days. I look forward to February every year, to get a feel for what these students come up with and just try to gently lead them. I learn from them. They learn from me. It has been a good journey from music to video and now teaching.
You worked on a feature film shot here this summer, called Kayaking for Beginners. Is this the beginning of something?
That is my goal still. I am trying and have been trying for a few years to bring more feature films into town. That was a success. If we can get more features coming here we can show the outside world that we have a viable place to film. That was a beautiful film.