Hollywood director’s sadness as curtain closes on “life-changing” Colchester Film Festival

The 2014 Colchester Film Festival

The 2014 Colchester Film Festival - Credit: Archant

A Hollywood director who began his film-making journey at Colchester Film Festival has expressed his “true sadness” in the wake of its closure.

Rob McLellan, who entered the event’s 48-hour film challenge with sci-fi short Abe in 2013, has paid tribute to the festival.

Rob, who was hired as a director by MGM for a feature length version of Abe just months later, said: “It’s really very upsetting – the Colchester Film Festival is the one I always talk about as the festival that made me who I am today.

“If I hadn’t have entered the 48 hour film challenge back in 2012 with Abe I wouldn’t be where I am in my career now.

“My sadness isn’t just personal – it’s a real shame for the young, local film-makers that gave the festival its unique identity.”

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Rob had only just finished Abe when he got talent spotted. The ten minute film, which tells the story of a robot and his misplaced love, is now being turned into a feature-length Hollywood blockbuster with Rob at the reigns.

“Abe got spotted online – I got a phone call shortly after it was uploaded. It was from a Hollywood director – it changed my life,” he said.

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“I hadn’t had much of a career path, if I’m honest, before I entered the festival and from there I’ve been given so many opportunities.

Now he is doing his dream job – writing scripts for hotshot directors across the pond.

“I’m currently working on another Hollywood film alongside Abe – it’s a brilliant career and I have the festival to thank for it.”

Colchester Film Festival shocked fans after announcing it would not be held in 2016 in a Facebook post earlier this month.

Joint directors Tristan Syrett and Steven Dorrington decided to stop the festival, which has been running for four years, to focus on their own careers behind the camera.

In a statement, they said: “We’d like to thank everyone who has supported, attended and submitted films to the festival. A special thanks goes to the team who worked for free to bring the festival to Colchester – it would not have been possible without your help.

“The festival has grown to be one of the largest film festivals in the UK. And the 60-hour film challenge is one of the largest film-making contests worldwide, so we hope it will return in the near future.”

Colchester Film Festival produced BAFTA award winning directors, including Daisy Jacobs with film The Bigger Picture, and showcased the work of several East Anglian film-makers.

Colchester councillor Tim Young, portfolio holder for community safety, licensing and culture, said:

“It’s very disappointing to hear the festival is going to close. It produced talent year on year.

“Saying that, I can fully understand why Steven and Tristan decided to stop – they work so hard but they’re not making any money.

“I really hope somebody else will take it on – it was a great part of Colchester’s blossoming cultural reputation, so it’s a great shame if it has to stop for good.”

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