From Student Film… to Cannes Debut: London Film School Graduate Reveals All
London Film School has for the past 60 years offered students from across the UK and around the world the best hands-on training in filmmaking, in an environment specially designed to unleash their creativity and individual voices.
The longest-running film school in the UK, and ranked in the top 5 of the UK's best places to learn filmmaking, it’s trained over 4,500 students in filmmaking and screenwriting since it opened its doors in 1957.
The successes come thick and fast: in recent years London Film School graduates have won almost every major film award going, and each year has around 200 entries at international film festivals.
This year, 2010 graduate Christos Massalas joined the exclusive roll call of directors showing their work at Cannes for the first time. His short film 'Copa-Loca' was in the official selection for the Directors’ Fortnight. I met Christos in Cannes to find out how he did it, and how London Film School helped him on his filmmaking journey.
An idyllic day at this year’s Cannes Film Festival: glorious sunshine, beautiful calm seas, and the soundtrack to our conversation, the bustle of industry meetings and the waves lapping against the sides of glamorous yachts moored in the port.
I meet Christos Massalas at the Greek pavilion, where we sip chilled drinks and reflect on a rollercoaster journey he began some 7 years ago in London.
'I actually first came to Cannes at the end of my first term at London Film School', Christos tells me. 'I had just completed my first term’s exercise, and I thought it was great, so I thought I’d take it to Cannes – that’s the way the film industry worked, right? I came away so disappointed: no-one wanted to buy my first student exercise!' he laughs. But this confidence speaks volumes about the ambition and tenacity of London Film School students. The first term exercise is exactly that: within days of starting at the school, students are immersed in making their own projects – the learning is hands-on and practical, and students develop their craft by making a different film every term. It’s an intensive learning experience, but it’s highly unlikely that any graduate turns out a first exercise that’s ready for the world’s most exacting film connoisseurs.
But it’s the intense, immersive training environment of London Film School, where every aspect of the craft is taught to students through hands-on learning, which guarantees that by the end of the 2-year Master's course graduates are more than ready to take on the industry and win.
'I went back from my first time at Cannes vowing that the next time I came here it would be because I had a real reason to be here – that my film would be in the festival. And the crazy thing is, I came up with the idea of this film just 3 months ago. I didn’t have a film, a concept, a crew in place, nothing.'
Christos graduated from London Film School in 2010. He returned to Greece two years after graduation, in his words, ‘at the height of Greece’s economic meltdown’. It seemed to me to be an unusual time to choose to return to his home country, in the midst of social turmoil, but Christos saw opportunity in the chaos. 'I had a feeling that the chaos would mean that I could be free to make the kind of films I wanted to make, with the minimum of red tape and fuss: there’d be no-one watching too closely to stop me!'. And he was right: his first film after graduating was selected for the Locarno Film Festival, and his short film debut 'Flowers and Bottoms' saw him being named one of the world’s 15 most promising young directors.
Christos acknowledged the training and discipline of London Film School not just helped him develop his creative voice, but it also gave him a wealth of talent to call on, from his fellow students and graduates. 'I work often with other LFS graduates: we all keep in touch and help each other however we can: we know we had a special moment in an amazing school, and it’s an experience I will always draw on as a filmmaker'.
Christos Massala’s film ‘Copa-Loca’ debuted at Cannes on Friday 26th March
About London Film School
Founded in 1956, LFS is one of the world's longest established graduate filmmaking schools. The school is one of three Creative Skillset Film Academies and produces over 180 films a year via its Master's programme. The LFS alumni are established in film and television production in more than 80 countries, ranging from world-renowned filmmakers such as Mike Leigh, Michael Mann, Ann Hui and Duncan Jones to writers David Thomson and Iain Sinclair and emerging talents like Gonzalo Maza who won the prestigious Silver Bear, and Rafael Kapelinski, who took a Crystal Bear for best film at the 67th Berlinale.
London Film School. We Make the Talent.