My name is Elliott Hasler, I’m an 18 year old film director and writer. I’m writing this blog post sitting beside the pool in a beach-side villa at the Maldives’ no.1 resort, Soneva Jani. Last night my most recent film, ‘To Hunt a Tiger’, had its world premiere at Cinema Paradiso, the Maldives’ only overwater cinema.
Rewind two years and aged 16, I’m sneaking into a room above a pub in Brighton for the premiere of my debut feature, ‘Charlie’s Letters’, which I’m not legally allowed to attend due to underage drinking laws.
Despite ‘Charlie’s Letters’, a feature-length depiction of my great-grandfather’s WW2 experiences, receiving critical acclaim upon release, with myself being hailed “the next Spielberg” by Culture Trip magazine, I’d never have thought that in two short years I would be partying in Cannes, then be flown out to the Maldives on an all expenses paid trip to host the world premiere of my film ‘To Hunt a Tiger’ at the luxury Soneva Jani resort (at which my accommodation would normally cost a staggering $15,000 per night!).
‘To Hunt a Tiger’, which has been submitted to this year’s Raindance Film Festival, is a period short film about a troubled British hunter who travels to India during the Raj-era with the intention of hunting one of the magnificent and elusive creatures.
I shot it a year prior to the Maldives trip, on a micro budget in both nearby Sri Lanka and England, pulling in favours here, there and everywhere. Recruiting world-class talent in the form of John Locke (Darkest Hour, The Favourite) and Charlotte Peters (Pound of Flesh, Interlude in Prague), with Emmy Award winner Daniel Clive McCallum writing an original score.
It was undertaken with every intention of creating a realistic, sumptuous and wholly atmospheric drama akin to the works of legendary filmmaker, Sir David Lean (indeed the opening scene of the film was shot on the same location as Lean’s 1957 classic, ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’).
This for me is how independent filmmakers must work; by replicating Hollywood on-screen. An eight minute film set in an apartment with two characters sitting out a zombie apocalypse is not only boring and an example of lazy, unimaginative filmmaking, it’s pure white noise.
‘To Hunt a Tiger’, and indeed ‘Charlie’s Letters’, replicated big-budget Hollywood pictures on next to nothing. T.H.a.T cost around £800 and Charlie’s cost approximately £3,000 – all of which went into what you see onscreen. Too many independent filmmakers are interested in replicating Hollywood on-set professionalism behind the camera but fail to realise that such Hollywood-esque tropes are not being replicated in-front of said camera and are thus amiss to the audience.
It’s my belief that films and dreams are one and the same, dreams have no limits, therefore why should films? I was told all too often that a feature length film before my 17th birthday was impossible and I should try the ‘Whiplash’ trick of making a short first – I say why bother with the short?
Because the fact is I’m now a month shy from beginning shooting my second feature, ‘Vindication Swim’, a true story about the first English woman to swim the Channel. I’m working on it with an Emmy Award winning composer, a production designer of the same stature, world class actors from films ranging from The Favourite to Darkest Hour to Pirates of the Caribbean, and with, I might add, a substantially larger budget.
Thus my advice for wanna-be movie makers is don’t give up your day jobs, and my advice for gonna-be movie makers is don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger.