Venice hails banker who gave it all up for his love of cinema

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The Independent Online

With a degree from Oxford University and a promising career striking multimillion-pound deals for an international finance house ahead of him, Martin Stitt was looking forward to a high-flying future. But the allure of a lifetime of business class travel and financial security began to fade and he finally gave it all up to pursue a childhood dream of making movies.

And tomorrow, after seven years living "hand to mouth" and being forced to put his house up for sale, his brave gamble will pay dividends when Mr Stitt travels to Italy to attend the world premier of his latest film at the Venice Film Festival.

Working on a "micro-budget" of just £7,000, he has spent more than a year and half writing and directing What Does Your Daddy Do?, a short film which explores the way an investigation devastates a married policeman and his family.

After receiving a helping hand from Kevin Spacey, artistic director of the Old Vic, the 14-minute piece was chosen from hundreds of entries from leading film-makers around the world, to compete for the prestigious Corto Cortissimo competition section of the festival.

Mr Stitt, 38, from Balham, south London, who cites his favourite films as Alejandro Inarritu's 21 grams and Paul Anderson's Magnolia, recalls the day, while still working for HSBC in Hong Kong, when he broke the news of his change of direction.

"My family and friends were shocked when I told them I was going to make films, they thought I was as mad as a hatter. I had a really good international package and a guaranteed pension of between £1m and £2m at 53.

"It was a good solid career and I thought that I would be meeting people who liked the international lifestyle, but I realised I was surrounded by people who, what they really liked was banking," he said.

The need to study hard and earn a living for himself was drummed into Mr Stitt from an early age. "My father died when I was seven and I was not from a wealthy family," he said.

After studying biology at Oxford, graduating with a 2:1, he followed his late father into the Army, serving with the Royal Greenjackets in Northern Ireland in the early 1990s, and later with the Gurkhas in the Far East.

But it was his early obsession with making images, fostered by his grandmother, who gave him a Kodak Instamatic when he was a young boy, which was eventually to persuade him to try to be successful in the world of cinema.

The London Film School "called my bluff" he said, after applying with little expectation of being granted a place. However, he left after only one year of the two-year course to find out what making films would be like on his own.

After a couple of efforts that he admits he would rather the world did not see, he eventually hit on the idea of producing a film examining the effect that child abuse had on those who worked with its victims and perpetrators.

During his research, he interviewed Metropolitan Police officers, lawyers and counsellors who specialise in the field and was shocked by what he learnt.

The film only became a reality thanks to a grant from the Newham Film Fund, and also money from the Film London Film-makers Festival Fund, which helped produce a 35mm print for the festival.

Inclusion at Venice has already opened doors for Mr Stitt, and he has been invited to show the film at other festivals around the world, boding well for future projects, which include a full-length psychological thriller.