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Filmmaker Powell: Bermuda has been on our radar

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Nik Powell is probably known somewhere, as the man with the golden touch.

He founded Virgin Records with Richard Branson while they were both in their early 20s. Within a decade it had become a multibillion dollar business.

He turned his hand to filmmaking in his native Britain and produced a series of award winners including ‘Mona Lisa’, ‘The Crying Game’ and ‘Little Voice’.

Most recently, he has turned his attention to Bermuda.

Mr Powell is on the Island to help jury the Bermuda International Film Festival, now running at the Liberty Theatre.

“BIFF has a reputation,” said Mr Powell, who is director of the National Film and Television School in the United Kingdom, vice chairman of the European Film Academy and a member of the British Academy of Film and Television Arts board. “I know about it because it is an Oscar-qualifying festival [and] at the National Film and Television school we are in the business of making short films. So Bermuda has been on our radar.”

Mr Powell will serve as a juror for the Bermuda Shorts section of BIFF.

He said he was familiar with many of the short films on offer, such as ‘In A Better World’, ‘The Illusionist’ and ‘Another Year’. He called these films beautiful and fantastic.

He and Sir Richard started a magazine and a mail-order company at the age of 17. They founded Virgin Records five years later.

“Every entrepreneur starting out imagines his business will be that successful,” Mr Powell said. “You imagine it, but you don’t necessarily believe it. It is an adventure. One never dreamed it would grow to the huge major entrepreneurial power house that it became. You sometimes have a hard time believing that. We started out with a magazine for students, mail order and then a little shop chain and then a record chain. That was really exciting and we were really young, a similar age to a lot of these internet billionaires today.”

He said when they started out, some people were “dead impressed” while others were sceptical.

“It was the 1960s, and we just got on and did it,” he said. “There is a very nice piece of advice I heard from John Hurt the actor who played Joseph Merrick in ‘The Elephant Man’. When he was a young man he met actor Noel Coward and asked him if he would sign a book Noel had written. He said to Noel, ‘Can you give me some advice?’. Noel said ‘Young man, just press on’. That is the best piece of advice I have heard in a long time. It was Noel Coward’s equivalent of ‘do your own thing’. Just get on and press hard enough and you will be successful.”

Currently, Mr Powell is focused on the National Film & Television School in Buckinghamshire, England where he is the director. Since he took over from producer Stephen Bayly in 2003, he has been working on expanding the curriculum, and has introduced new diplomas in producing and directing television entertainment.

“I am working toward my ambition for the National Film and Television School to be the number one film school without question,” he said. “I have some major competition. If I am doing that I cannot really spend time producing films. My plan is to return to producing films when I have done what I can do here.”

This was Mr Powell’s first visit to Bermuda. He was invited by BIFF programming coordinator Andrew Stoneham.

“Andrew asked me if I would be interested to come and do something with them,” said Mr Powell. “So I said, yeah sure, as long as I am able to be there at that time.”

BIFF runs through Thursday.

Useful website: www.biff.bm.

BIFF juror Nik Powell
Nik Powell

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Published March 19, 2012 at 2:00 am (Updated March 19, 2012 at 9:40 am)

Filmmaker Powell: Bermuda has been on our radar

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