Helier Bissell-Thomas made the film, Kaufman’s Game, at university on a budget of £60,000, which he said he ‘financed by credit cards’ and a loan to cover the post-production costs.
Now, Mr Bissell-Thomas’s movie is to be screened in selected Odeon and Savoy cinemas during November and December.
‘I didn’t feel nervous about taking out the loan, which may sound mad as I was in college,’ Mr Bissell-Thomas, from Bel Royal, said. ‘I can see why it might sound crazy to some but you just need to have unwavering belief in what you’re working on, which I did.’
Mr Bissell-Thomas was only 20 when he directed the film as part of his course – Steven Spielberg was 21 when he directed his first feature film.
The film – which follows Stanley, an unemployed young man with a passion for boxing who becomes a pawn in a world populated by wealthy and powerful criminals – has won a gold award at the LA Neo Noir Film Festival.
Mr Bissell-Thomas (25) studied arts and creative technologies at post-graduate level at Staffordshire University, which at the time was the only university in Britain that offered feature-film production as a Masters Degree thesis project.
Unable to attract well-known stars he contacted agencies that represented West End actors and, as a result, met the first actor he would cast for the film, Jye Frasca, who has had leading roles in the hit shows Jersey Boys and Wicked.
‘After I got Jye on board, it became easier to attract other strong actors. I knew once I got someone like her that other actors would take more of an interest in the film,’ said Mr Bissel-Thomas, whose great-grandmother was novelist Joy Bissell-Thomas, while his great-uncle, Peter Gibaut, helped to set up the Maritime Museum.
Before shooting Mr Bissell-Thomas attended a seminar by Dov Simens – a film teacher whom Quentin Tarantino credits for launching his career.
‘It was there where I learnt the most about the business side of movie producing – things that you don’t learn by working for other people on a film set.
‘He instilled in us an urban guerilla filmmaker mentality to break into this game on a low-to-micro budget, rather than the big bucks.’
Mr Bissell-Thomas, who attended Brockwood Park Boarding School in Hampshire before going to university, said that he struggled at school and was diagnosed with dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.
He added that his family roots run deep in Jersey, explaining that his ancestors hid the future Charles II in the family home when the prince was in hiding from Oliver Cromwell.