A HANDWRITTEN letter to a world famous author has given student Rob Watson the chance to make an ambitious science fiction film.
The budding producer has begun filming for one of the biggest student projects ever undertaken at Beaconsfield's National Film and Television School.
With a budget of £12,000 and dozens of volunteers, Rob and his director, Siri Rodnes, have built an enormous set – complete with props and costumes which have previously been used in films such as Sunshine and Thunderbirds.
They have also got former Eastenders actor Raji James, who played Ash Ferreira, to star in the 20 minute graduation film, which is called The Field of Vision.
The script is based on a short story by sci-fi writer Ursula Le Guin – to whom the pair wrote to in April to ask permission for the rights.
Rob, 27, from West Wycombe, said: “She doesn't usually give away the rights to her material but she let us have it for free – it was amazing when we got the reply.”
The ex-John Hampden Grammar School pupil added: “Most student films are shot on location but we're doing pretty much all of this on specially-built sets. There's even professionally-made spacesuits being used.”
Siri, 27, who lives in Kilburn, said: “It's taken us six weeks to build this whole thing - it's been all hands on deck.”
The plot involves a group of astronauts embarking on a mission to Mars, which then goes wrong and some are left psychologically affected.
A psychiatrist, played by Raji James, is brought in to analyse what's happened to them.
Raji, 40, lives in High Wycombe and also teaches at Buckinghamshire New University. He said: “I keep saying to Rob and Siri that I've worked on quite a few high budget productions that don't have facilities as good as they have. I've been really impressed with how it's been set up.”
Rob and Siri, along with co-producer Cat Boselli, have also persuaded various members of the Beaconsfield Film and Opera Societies to be extras in one of the scenes.
Sanjay Saada, 44, a film society member from Beaconsfield, will be playing a military official in a key moment.
He said: “We were going into a screening one day and Rob just came up to me and said 'do you want to be in a movie'. It's a fantastic opportunity to see the inner working of a movie and I'm looking forward to it.”
The film will premiered at the BFI Southbank in February. The budget for the film comes predominantly from students' fees to the school, whose graduates are among the most sought-after creative and technical personnel in film and television in the world.