A director who was halfway through shooting his second feature film when coronavirus hit has not let the lockdown dampen his spirits.

At 19, Elliot Hasler from Brighton is the youngest film director in the UK.

Before filming was put on hold, he had been busy shooting his most ambitious feature yet at sites around Sussex and out at sea.

He said: “It’s still in production but obviously we’re not shooting at the moment.

“It’s not been too bad though as it’s actually given us a rare chance to reflect on what we’ve done.

“We’ve just had to completely postpone what we’re doing and have done the post-production stuff out of sequence.”

Vindication Swim tells the story of Mercedes Gleitze, the first woman to swim the English Channel, and her battles against patriarchal society in 1920s England as well as the swim itself.

Elliot discovered Mercedes’ history by chance online and decided to make a biopic.

He said: “It’s just such an inspirational story. More people have climbed Everest than have swum the channel.”

Elliot, who started making his first film, Charlie’s Letters, at the age of 14, cited director David Lean as his greatest inspiration and said Vindication Swim has a “Lawrence of Arabia feel” to it.

He said: “It’s a proper Sussex-based film.

“We’ve been shooting out at sea a lot which has been a real challenge, but also really rewarding.”

The film stars former football player and Brighton and Hove Albion Football Club assistant manager Billy Reid, who plays a barman in scenes shot at The Cricketers pub in Black Lion Street in Brighton.

Brighton-born actress Kirsten Callaghan stars in the leading role, and Elliot said she gives a “stand-out performance”.

The 28-year-old actress had never heard of Mercedes Gleitze before getting involved with the film and the lockdown has allowed her some breathing space to review her performance so far.

She said: “It’s so important when you’re making a biopic as you want to honour the person and make it believable.

“Especially in film production it is always go, go, go and you normally have a very strict

schedule, so this has given us some time to breathe.

“The film itself covers Mercedes’ journey over a few years so in a way it feels quite realistic having this break.

“She completed her swim in 1927, which is the year she quit her job to concentrate on training, but the weather was very unsettled and she was waiting all summer to do it.

“It wasn’t until October that she managed to get out there and do the successful swim, so it feels like a weird parody that we are in a similar position now.”

Kirsten said Mercedes always yearned to swim, so much so that she would get in the Thames river when she was living in London as a typist, even though she had bronchitis.

Her parents had moved back to Germany after the First World War broke out, but in 1918 Mercedes missed England so much she decided to try and swim back.

A diary entry from the book In The Wake Of Mercedes Gleitze written by her daughter Doloranda Pember, describes how Mercedes battled extreme currents and narrowly survived her attempt to make it back to England, ending up on the German island of Wangerooge.

Kirsten said: “It was in her blood to swim – she just loved being in the water. She said the sea moved her ‘like nothing else’.”

Kirsten, who also sings on the soundtrack to Vindication Swim, said she has loved playing a real character who was “so ahead of her time”.

She said: “It’s just been such a wonderful project to be a part of.

“Swimming the Channel for women was almost unheard of in those days – only ten other women attempted it in 1927.

“Elliot is so beyond his years I forget how young he is.”

Elliot said: “We’ve got another water sequence coming up so we’re really hoping to start again this summer.

“I’m just dying to get back out there again to start filming.”