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Jan Kellett

"I hadn't wanted to be the next Scorsese or even the next Tarantino but I had quite fancied myself as the next Vittorio de Sica. De Sica, the maker of Ladri di Biciclette, Miracolo a Milano, Umberto D. I imagined myself to return from self-imposed exile to my hometown of Carrickfergus, Country Antrim at the head of a new Brit-Irish wave of neo-realist film. Perhaps Ladri di Biclette could be set in West Belfast in the mid 1970s.

It didn't quite work out like that however as Media Arts helped send me down a different road. I began thinking of the image and of only the image but that all changed. I started to realise there was more to Media Arts than pointing a camera at something and pressing the button, arranging the images, final presentation. I discovered there was a responsibility inherent in the act of making film. The degree helped me develop my own fundamentals about film, the core values that were part my own, part learnt, that responsible film is about challenge, about the challenge of decision-making, the conscious and unconscious, of why we choose one thing and not another. No doubt it seems rather rudimentary but it became important to me. I started to think more about why we put an image up on the screen rather than how. What about aesthetics, psychoanalysis, postmodernism, ideology, especially the latter. Ideology, the 'science of ideas' when the word was first used. Through the three years of degree the moving image had changed for me; it was now a political arena, a battle of ideas.

A second year scholarship to Canada helped solidify these thoughts. When I returned to Royal Holloway for the third year I worked (with special dispensation from the department) almost only on theory; the practical, save for script-writing itself, had been left behind. After the degree I was lost for a while. There was a Masters, some temp work for BBC Radio, learning German in Germany and applying and eventually turning down a job with GCHQ.

In 1999 the Kosovo war brought global events to the doorstep of Europe like perhaps even Bosnia had not. The media coverage was everywhere. I volunteered with a small non-government organisation and was soon teaching teenagers, Albanian and Roma, the very basics of film.

It was in Kosovo that I started to work for the United Nations, a project manager for municipal development. I had no idea what that meant - it just seemed to fit though to this day I don't know why. Eight years have now passed; I have worked in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Sudan, almost always just after conflict, working with media development, governance, local infrastructure, strategic planning, needs assessments, populations in crisis. Despite the unpleasantness and sometimes frightening situations, I’ve been, for want of a better word “lucky” to have found a practical outlet for my own particular battle of ideas.

Of course I have to say that I still love film, I still write film, so if anyone happens to have a hundred million dollars for my ‘Ladri di Byclette di Shanklin Road’ please let me know."


  Jan Kellett 

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