As London’s Met Film School celebrates its 10th anniversary, Jonny Persey tells Michael Rosser about its international expansion plans.
Met Film School has come a long way since founders Thomas Hoegh and Luke Montagu first opened its doors 10 years ago.
What began with a series of short courses in a room in Clapham in June 2003 has grown to encompass a wide range of courses stretching to MA, BA and HE level, and covering all aspects of film-making.
The school, now based at the legendary Ealing Studios, has grown to take in 250 full time students – split nearly equally between UK and international – while more than 600 others sign up annually to part-time and short courses.
What sets the organisation apart is the inclusion of in-house production company Met Film Production, which makes non-student films with talent such as head of documentary Al Morrow, and post-production facility Met Film Post, available to both students and third-parties.
Screen is summoned to speak with Persey at Ealing in what feels like a trip to the headmaster’s office, but his infectious enthusiasm and affable approach to all we encounter in the school’s bustling corridors is reassuring.
“I don’t think there’s any way to learn to make films except by making films,” says Persey who joined the outfit in 2007, bringing in production company APT (Deep Water, Solomon & Gaenor) in 2008 to create Met Film Production.
“While some other schools are about finding the next Tarantino, we’re about finding the workers of tomorrow – tenacious workers who will succeed in the film industry across a variety of roles.”
That success is clear to see. More than 80% of full time graduates go on to secure freelance and permanent roles within the creative industries.
Met Film Production has produced nine films in five years. Recent successes include documentaries Town of Runners by Jerry Rothwell and Village at the End of the World by Sarah Gavron. Forthcoming titles include Jeanie Finlay’s SXSW selection The Great Hip Hop Hoax and Sarah McCarthy’s The Dark Matter of Love, about science helping adoptive families
“A common strand through all our films is a particular attitude, very strong critical response and increasing commercial success,” explains Persey, who anticipates going into production onto a feature and two further documentaries in the coming year.
The commercial success to which Persey refers was demonstrated by Josh Appignanesi’s The Infidel, particularly internationally.
He draws a parallel between the school and Jerry Rothwell’s Town of Runners, co-produced by Met Film Production and released last year.
The documentary centres on the small Ethiopian town of Bekoji, which has produced some of the world’s greatest long-distance runners.
“Like Bekoji, we have the right environment, situated at the birthplace of British cinema,” says Persey.
“We have the best coaches, industry professionals who are passionate about nurturing students and offer inspiration at the right times.
“Then there are the role models. We are a young school but have produced graduates that are making feature films and our students see this as something they too can achieve.”
Having established a strong foundation in the UK, the Met chief is now eyeing expansion overseas.
Met Film School Berlin is the result of that ambition, based at the Havel Film Studios that was used by Wim Wenders for features such as Wings of Desire.
“The UK Border Authority has tightened up restrictions on students entering the country so we wanted to provide an alternative option outside of the UK,” says Persey.
“Berlin is the perfect place for us as it’s very creative artistically and is a city that moreorless speaks English.”
Starting in October 2012, it enrolled 14 students – each from a different country – and will double its intake this year.
“We will expand into other places,” adds Persey. “We want to be the leading brand of film education throughout the world.”
At the beginning of June, around 200 film-makers gathered at BAFTA to celebrate a decade of Met Film School.
Surrounded by testimonials from graduates who have gone on to work in every corner of the industry, Persey said: “When I started at Met Film seven years ago, the kit room was a cupboard. It now has over 50 fully functioning kits in it.
“During the last year we have also opened in Berlin, and we have a new MA programme attracting a large amount of interest. I imagine it’s something of the realisation of the dream Thomas Hoegh and Luke Montagu had when they started this adventure ten years ago.”