Meeting the Portsmouth film makers about to relase their first feature

THE CREW Riyadh Haque, left, Ben Mitchell, Chris Haill

THE CREW Riyadh Haque, left, Ben Mitchell, Chris Haill

Ben Fogle

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You suspect these three young men mean business when they each order a pint of tap water.

Mitchell-Haque-Haill does not quite have the same ring about it as Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Yet.

But one day, if they keep watching the budget by opting for the water and improving and perfecting their film-making and business skills they might, just might, make it big.

In truth it’s Mitchell-Haque-Haill ... and McGinty. Fourth musketeer John McGinty can’t join us because he’s got a full-time job this summer during the university break.

The money he earns will be ploughed into the fledgling film company he and Bensalem Mitchell, Chris Haill and Riyadh Haque have set up, Slam Screen Media.

The other three, full-time students too, also have jobs to finance the company which is starting to impress a variety of clients with its corporate films.

The cash they earn from these is paying for the production of their first full-length feature film – a 90-minute work largely shot in Portsmouth called The Accidental Existence of Me. If all goes well in the editing suite it should be released by the end of the year or in early 2012.

These are not enthusiastic students with term-time dreams of becoming the next Spielberg, dreams which are quietly forgotten when holidays loom.

Bensalem, Chris and Riyadh, all 22, and John, 20, are deadly serious about their art and their business.

Their collaboration started as a result of a short, two-part psychological thriller made in Portsmouth called Special Delivery directed by Bensalem. If you want a taster go to slamscreen.com.

Bensalem (his full name, but he’s Ben to the others) is studying pharmacology at the University of Portsmouth. It’s largely his creative energy behind the films.

He went to Solent Junior School, Drayton, Portsmouth, and then St John’s College, Southsea, where he met Chris, of Highfield Road, Waterlooville. The pair then moved to Havant College.

Chris is now studying finance at Birmingham University and according to Ben is ‘the financial and business brain behind us’.

Riyadh, of Kingston Road, North End, went to Miltoncross School, Milton, Portsmouth, before transferring to South Downs College. He’s now at Southampton University studying film. John, also studying film at Southampton, is from Hersham, Surrey, and was brought into the fold by Riyadh.

Ben said: ‘I’ve always had a love of the arts but when I was at St John’s College I preferred drawing and I was a big fan of comic books.

‘At one point I was making a comic strip flyer. It was a sheet of A4 which I drew each week and passed round

the school. I loved the flash, bang pop art of comics.’

Chris chips in: ‘I remember that. It went round the whole school and was very good.’

Ben, of Itchen Road, Havant, added: ‘I gradually developed more of a love for film. I did film studies A-level and at that time my dad bought me a little Samsung camera because I kept borrowing his expensive Sony one. I made a few little short films with that.’

He admits he is a bit of a dreamer, but those dreams fire his film-making. ‘I go with my imagination a lot. I’m always dreaming and sometimes I know I don’t discipline myself enough to do my coursework.

‘But I love translating my imagination onto the screen so people can see it in moving images. For me that’s the joy of film-making.

‘When I was a kid it was big Hollywood films like Jurassic Park which accessed my imagination. It was incredible to see something I only thought I could see in my head and there it was on the screen.

‘But as I grew older I matured and have broadened my mind to other films, especially foreign films and those in the independent sector.’

The four have just returned from London where they have been making a film to promote a club, work which came from jobs they’ve done for the Portsmouth night spot Liquid and Envy in Stanhope Road, Landport. There have also been assignments for the Birmingham Entrepreneurs Club.

Riyadh is spending most of his spare time this summer in the editing suite putting together the feature film.

‘I started off as actor at Miltoncross and South Downs and appeared in shows at the Kings Theatre and New Theatre Royal.

‘But my love of film came from appearing in them. A film contact I’d met at college gave me the opportunity to start making them and from that moment I really wanted to hold a camera and discover how they were made. Now all I want to do is learn the tricks of the trade. I visualise what we’re going to make before I even touch a camera.

‘Ben was making films way before I was. I was content with just watching them. Now all I want to do is make them.

‘I’ve bought my own editing suite and worked nine until five to pay for the equipment. It put me in good stead because now I think I’m a valued commodity within the team.’

But surely there must be tensions between the four of them?

Chris said: ‘We’re lucky in that everyone is very honest with everybody else.

‘We’re not afraid of saying something to each other that needs to be said. There’s no place for individual egos.’

Ben said: ‘I like to think of Slam Screen as a table. Each of us is a leg. Take away one leg and we could fall apart. We’re all equally important.’

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