Could you introduce yourself to the reader?
My name is Elliott Hasler, I just turned 17 in July and when I was 16 I completed my first feature film, Charlie’s Letters.
Tell us about Charlie’s Letters?
Charlie’s Letters is based on the wartime experiences of my great grandfather, Charlie Standing. The film depicts his battle for survival whilst on the run from a POW camp, in war-torn Italy. The narrative flits between Charlie’s escapades aboard and his wife Tup’s ordeals on the Home Front in Brighton.
Given the complexities of doing a feature length film, why did you opt to do one?
I’d heard about my great grandparents’ experiences during the war from stories passed down by my grandfather, so it had always been something that interested me. Then when I was 10 I developed a love of film-making after a school project in which I made a version of The Lion The With and The Wardrobe. Over the next few years my film-making skills evolved and when I turned 14 I decided to make Charlie’s Letters, and because of the scale and breadth of the story, I just felt it could only be done as a feature, because a 20 minute short just wouldn’t do it justice.
Making films tend to be expensive. Was that the case with Charlie’s Letters?
I was quite lucky with Charlie’s Letters, mainly because of my age, which allowed for me to pull a lot of favours with regards to financing the production and people were generally willing to help. So all in all the film would probably have cost around £3000.
What were some of the complexities in filming Charlie’s Letters?
The main challenges were probably the military battle scenes, as without a big budgets the logistics of filming with big explosions and load of troops and vehicles make it almost impossible. But through clever camera angles and simple tricks we able to pull them off.
What was your favourite moment during production?
My favourite moment of the production was probably the shoot that we did at Pippingford Park in Sussex, which is where parts of Band of Brothers was also filmed. For me that was the best moment, as we had about 30 people on set, a WW2 truck and a German half-track and for me that just felt lik
e as close to a big production as I’d come.
The film premiered at Brighton Fringe this year. What was that experience like?
The reception the film received at the Brighton Fringe was fantastic, we had to add another 4 shows due to popular demand and eventually sold out 6 of the 7 screenings.
You also got to take the film up to Edinburgh Festival Fringe. How did that come to happen, and what was it like having your film showing at the largest arts festival in the world?
The Pleasance director Anthony Anderson, ultimately arranged for Charlie’s Letters to be a part of the Fringe, following the success in Brighton. Having my film show there was both an honour and a pleasure, as after toiling for 3 making the film, I couldn’t really have asked for more than to have it selected for the largest arts festival in the world.
You’ve been invite by the Camden Roundhouse to show another of your films at the And Now What? Festival. Can you tell us about it?
While making Charlie’s Letters, I also directed a short film about the plight of a Syrian refugee, which follows his journey from Raqqa to England via the Calais Jungle, highlighting the hardships and prejudice that refugees face. I decided to make it after speaking with the Syrian community in Brighton and hearing about their ordeals. It is available to watch on my website www.relsahproductions.co.uk and will also be shown at the Camden Roundhouse’s ‘And What Happens Next?’ Festival.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to go out and make a film?
The advice I would give to someone wanting to make films, is to just go out there and do it. Making films has become so accessible now, with quality camera inside smartphones, so there’s really nothing holding you back.
What is one thing you would do differently if you had the chance to film Charlie’s Lettersagain?
A lot of people have asked me this question and I never know what to say, because I think for me the only way I would know for sure what I would change, would be if I went back and started it all again from scratch. Then no doubt certain things would change as my ideas would be different a second-time around and I would be able to take on the advice I’ve received after the film premiered, particularly that of New York critic Graham Fuller in his review for Culture Trip.
What’s next for you?
Well because of A-Levels next year, I just won’t have time to start another feature, so instead I’m going to make some shorts. I already have some ideas; one about gangsters in 1930s America and another about an Italian spy in WW2. Then once A-Levels are over I’ll begin another feature, perhaps something about English Highwaymen in the 18th Century.
Where can people watch Charlie’s Letters?
If people want to watch Charlie’s Letters, they can order DVDs on my website www.relsahproductions.co.uk