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Brighton film director scoops three awards after remortgaging house
An Oscar-nominated film director who had to remortgage his home to finance a movie is celebrating after it won three prestigious awards.
Sean Ellis, who grew up in Brighton, made Metro Manila – a story about the struggles of a poor Filipino family – on a tiny budget and a Canon 5D digital camera.
This week it was named British Independent Film of the Year in the British Independent Film Awards 2013.
It beat other nominees that included Philomena, The Selfish Giant and Le Week-End. Sean scooped the Best Director accolade and the film also picked up the Best Achievement in Production award at a ceremony at Old Billingsgate, London, hosted by the actor James Nesbitt.
Sean, who lived with his family at Fiveways until he was 22, said: “It was a great evening for the film. There wasn’t a great deal of interest in it when I wanted to make it but it was understandable in a way. After making two feature films, I wanted to make a foreign language film – in fact, I was passionate about it. But when you say to a major studio that you want to make a film in a language very few people speak, they back off. People were talking about setting it in England but that was not the sort of thing I wanted to do.”
Unable to raise finance, Sean remortgaged his home in London and shot the movie in the Philippines on a digital camera to avoid the costs of a large crew.
Metro Manila tells the story of a family escaping their poverty-stricken lives in the rice fields of the rural north by heading for the bright lights of the capital, Manila. But, naïve and lost in the metropolis, they fall prey to a criminal underworld.
Sean, a former Dorothy Stringer School and Varndean Sixth Form College student added: “There has been a new wave of films coming from the Philippines in the last couple of years.
“So I knewI had to make a film that was different to what I was used to.”
Sean worked as a photographer before making his first film in 2001 and was nominated for an Oscar for his 2004 film Cashback, which starred Emilia Fox and Sean Biggerstaffe.
It also featured Sean’s dog Kubrick, and in 2011 he published a photography book, Kubrick the Dog, in memory of his pet, who died from cancer. Sean’s 2008 horror movie, The Broken, starring Lena Headey, was nominated Best Film at the Catalonian International Film Festival.
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