A young director from Hove who made a film about his great-grandfather’s escape from a prisoner of war camp is having his movie screened on Brighton beach – and at Edinburgh Fringe.
Elliott Hasler, a pupil at Hertsmere Point College, was 16 when he finished writing and directing Charlie’s Letters. The feature-length film is based on the real-life adventures of his great-grandfather Charlie Standing, one of the first residents of Milner Flats in Brighton, who was captured in Tunisia during World War II.
After being freed from an Italian Prisoner of War camp as part of the Italian Armistice, Mr Standing spent 18 months trying to get home. The underground resistance helped him on his epic journey, while his wife and young son – Elliott’s grandfather – awaited news back in Brighton.
Charlie’s Letters premiered at this year’s Brighton Fringe, where it enjoyed a sell-out, extended run. The film proved so popular Elliott has been invited to show Charlie’s Letters at the Big Screen on Brighton beach on Fri 11 Aug.
Edinburgh Fringe is screening Charlie’s Letters on Mon 14 Aug, making him one of the youngest ever feature-film directors to show work there.
London is also calling for the aspiring director as Camden Roundhouse has invited Elliott to screen a short film at its And Now What? festival in October.
Elliott started making Charlie’s Letters when he was 13, taking advantage of family holidays in France and Italy to film certain scenes. Even a trip to Disney’s Epcot Centre proved an opportunity, as Elliott secretly shot footage in the Tunisia section. He also persuaded Pippingford Park, where Band of Brothers was filmed, to act as a location. “My granddad, mum and auntie told me bits of Charlie’s story as I grew up and I just thought it would make a brilliant film,” said Elliot, who is now 17. “It has been a huge challenge to make, and I had to take a break to focus on my GCSEs half way through. A lot of it is set around Brighton so I often filmed scenes in the evenings or on weekends. I’d also take my camera and a couple of costumes on various family holidays. I’d get my dad to pull over if we were driving somewhere and shoot some footage.
“It’s a big responsibility representing my relatives on screen – they are the main characters in the film. I wanted to make sure I did justice to their story and that it would do them proud. Unfortunately, Charlie died a year before I was born, but I hope he’d enjoy it. The reception to the film has been incredible so far, so I think we pulled it off.
“My great-granddad was a true hero, he gave so much so that we can live peaceful and happy lives, and stories like this need to be seen. It feels incredible to be showing Charlie’s Letters on Brighton beach and at Edinburgh Fringe. It really is the icing on the cake.”
Charlie’s Letters is being shown on Brighton’s Big Screen at 11am on Fri 11 Aug.