Salsa drama is a Crime of Passion
Like the best love stories, Teresa Whitter's started on the dance floor.
It's where she met Laith Sami, a UK film-maker who offered her a leading role in his version of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Called Crime of Passion, the feature-length movie — billed as a “salsa dance drama” — stars Mr Sami as Daniel, a poor dancer who falls in love with the “beautiful and wealthy Candice”.
“It's a mash-up of Romeo and Juliet and West Side Story,” said Ms Whitter, who was offered the role despite having no acting experience. “It's shot in black and white and quite dark. There's lots of drama involved. The two main characters fall in love and everyone is against the relationship. It's all told through dance, so there are a few different kinds of Latin dances and, because it's in black and white, there's definitely a different look to it.”
Ms Whitter left Bermuda in 2015 for London, where she works for a software company and teaches mambo and salsa classes with Caramelo Latin Dance.
“I left to take advantage of all the opportunities here — for training, travel and performing all over Europe,” she said. “In the evenings I teach, dance and perform. I love it and that's how this all started. Sunday is dedicated to all the acting, a full day. All other days of the week are for dancing.”
She met Mr Sami, a choreographer, writer, producer, director and actor, while out with friends a year ago.
“The last time I acted I was about nine or ten when I was in Snow White at Purvis [Primary School],” the 39-year-old said. “He just saw something in me and said, ‘You're going to be great.' I said, ‘Are you sure?' And he said, ‘Yes, yes!'
“I'd never considered doing any film work at all. I was used to being onstage, but it's different before a live audience than when you're doing it over and over again for cameras. He says I'm doing really well and he's a director so he knows and understands how people develop along as actors.”
As Mr Sami describes on the crowdfunding page Indiegogo, Crime of Passion plays out through “a series of sexy and surreal dance scenes” that begin with Daniel, whose life is consumed by his love of salsa until he meets Candice and the two fall deeply in love.
“Daniel's relationships with his best friend Adam and ex Lilliana become increasingly strained as the star-crossed lovers' feelings evolve and grow,” wrote Mr Sami, whose 18 films have screened in festivals around the world over the past 12 years. “Enter Candice's power-hungry brother Anton. He will stop at nothing to ensure their family's wealth and status, even if that means breaking his sister's heart.
“The film concludes with a juicy and provocative ending; it's one that fans of the genre are sure to love and want to see time and again.”
Fifteen people have been cast, with a view to filming Crime of Passion in August and holding the premiere on Valentine's Day.
“It will be shot entirely in London, in various cafés and bars and scenes outdoors,” Ms Whitter said.
“The aim is to definitely enter it into film festivals even, hopefully, [the Bermuda International Film Festival]. It would be great to see it there. Laith has [shown his movies] all over world — in New York, in Los Angeles, in Cannes — and has got connections, so I'm sure it will screen in cinemas and smaller movie houses as well. At the moment, we're in the middle of crowdfunding, to pay for pre-production stuff.”
Although dance remains her first love, the experience has opened Ms Whitter up to the possibility of acting, despite her relatively late start.
“I don't want to close the door before it opens,” she said. “I'm definitely in a position to continue if I want. Our make-up artist worked on Bohemian Rhapsody, on Harry Potter — the connections are definitely there if I wanted to take advantage.
“I think there's room for everyone of all ages. Most people don't think I am as old as I am. As long as I have my health, I'll keep doing everything.”
•Learn more about Crime of Passion at https://bit.ly/2HJPCtJ. Look for @crimeofpassionfilm on Facebook and Instagram