Letters from London

Letters from London

Former Jersey College for Girls student Xanthe Hamilton moved to London in 2005 to pursue her love of filmmaking. I caught up with Xanthe and talked about her role as creative director of Jersey?s very first Branchage Film Festival taking place at the end of September.

How did you get into filmmaking?
I fell into documentary making, and quickly developed a passion ? it?s consumed my life now, but I would not have it any other way. Organising the Branchage Jersey International Film Festival has taken me in a slightly different direction, but it?s very exciting to be creating a brand new event, that?s got heaps of potential to grow.

Why the move to London?
It was not really part of my plan. I knew I wanted to make independent documentaries, so I knew I had to be in the UK to submerge myself in the scene, getting experience and making contacts. After university in Bath I?d planned to move to Bristol, but this changed when I started going out with a fellow Islander; he wanted to move his band to London. So off we went to follow our dreams, with our entire lives in the back of my Volvo. We spent the first month crashing with a magician called Gee Whiz in Clapham, it was all very romantic. Then the reality kicked in: months of working for nothing to get experience and temping on the side. After a couple of years I was starting to make ground, and eventually managed to set up a small production company, getting commissions to make films for charities, while making my own stuff on the side.

Tell me more about your production company MIX TV?
MIX TV evolved out of doing lot of freelance filmmaking work for charities. I pulled together a small team of people that could deliver films on a very small budget, and I soon noticed a high demand for this. I set MIX up last year and we have done a broad range of work in Africa, India and closer to home, we also did a national campaign for a children?s charity that raised them £160,000. Though budgets are always tight, it?s a very rewarding and challenging area to work in, getting to meet a rich tapestry of people and situations. However, MIX is only running on a couple of cylinders at the moment, as most of my time over the last four or five months has been spent on setting up the film festival.

Branchage film festival – what?s it all about and what?s your involvement?
I was approached at the end of last year by John Davey, a local stockbroker who has a keen interest in film and wants to see this develop in Jersey. He asked me to run a film competition in the Island, but I thought we could do more. Before I knew it I was building an International Film Festival. I was working on it on my own for a few months, but I?ve gradually managed to pull onboard some very experienced film festival organisers who have all worked hard to source a strong programme and raise the profile of the festival nationally. We have done a couple of launch events, one at the Edinburgh Film Festival and the Curzon Cinema in London. The festival is already getting positive feedback, as people are excited about going to a festival in Jersey, especially by the fact we are using such great venues, including Mont Orgueil and the War Tunnels as well as the more traditional Forum Cinema.  We will be showcasing around 40 films over four days, in eight different venues. There?ll be a great selection of parties and special events to attend as well. Many filmmakers will be visiting, so it?s a great chance to meet these people and learn more about the industry. We hope this is going to be a unique event that local people will really get in to and support. With such good transport connections to London, and a beautiful Island to boot, fingers crossed Branchage will grow into an internationally recognised festival on the calendar.

What are you looking forward to most at the very first Branchage Jersey interntional film festival?
I can?t wait to get in the Spiegeltent, it?s such a magnificent venue, and I?m sure the parties will be fantastic, both the Warp and the Burlesque parties are pretty unmissable. I also think there will be a great vibe down there and all are welcome to come and hang out during the day, grab a coffee and see what?s going on. Films showing that I totally adore include ?Man On Wire? (it?s opening the festival and is one of the best films I?ve seen this year and the Opera House will be such a great venue to watch it in), ?Gimme Shelter? (a classic documentary featuring the Rolling Stones), and ?A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (a hilarious film and Chris the star and director will be there to answer questions after the screening). Other favourites include ?The Man Who Eats Badgers? and Shane Meadows latest film ?Somers Town?. Also the free short film screenings that will be running in the Old Magistrate?s Court. There?s also a strong presence of live music throughout the festival, and the events at Mont Orgueil and the War Tunnels both have musicians creating a live soundtrack to the films. It?s a jam-packed four days and we are pretty sure there is something for everyone.

Branchage Jersey International Film Festival takes place on the Island from 25th to 28th September 2008.
To see the full programme please check:

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