In focus with In Cumbria Magazine
Our Founder and Director Cameron Hall is re-connecting with his northern roots next month, as our Matchstick Productions film series heads to the Lake District for the first time.
A Cumbrian born and raised, Cameron first learnt to ski on a dry ski slope at his secondary school in Keswick.
He speaks with Giles Brown in the October issue of In Cumbria Magazine (P14-15), about his journey from the slopes to the silver screen ahead of our special screening of "Return to Send'er" at the Rheged Centre in Penrith on Wednesday 6th November...
A snowballing career
Cameron Hall, 36, says people find it difficult to believe he learned to ski on a dry slope at his school.
However, it was those early lessons on a short, dry ski slope at Keswick School which sowed the seeds of a passion which would stay with him throughout his life and spawn a highly successful business.
Born in Barrow, Cameron lived in Scotland and the North East as a child, before his family moved back to Cumbria to live in St. Bees when he was seven.
“I lived in St. Bees but went to secondary school in Keswick,” says Cameron.
“It was while I was at Keswick, I discovered skiing for the first time, as the school had a dry ski slope outside the Biology Labs. I was 13 when I had my first ski lesson and I instantly connected with the sport. I didn’t particularly enjoy school, was quite a quiet kid, and never very good at team sports but quickly felt very confident on skis.”
“The slope was so short that you could only make two or three turns and if you didn’t stop at the bottom then you stood a strong chance of falling over the fence and landing in the tennis courts. It proved to be a good incentive to learn the basics quickly!"
Cameron was soon hooked and went on skiing trips with the school every year.
“I went off to university in 2002 and as soon as I graduated the only thing, I wanted to do was be a ski instructor,” he says.
He first taught skiing at Whistler Blackcomb, in Canada, in the winter of 2005-06, before moving to Dubai the following winter to teach at the city’s indoor skiing centre.
During his time in the United Arab Emirates, Cameron taught several members of the Emirati royal family and also gave a private lesson to legendary basketballer Michael Jordan.
“Every entry level teaching technique you go through with a regular client, Micheal quickly got bored of and just wanted to go fast,” remembers Cameron.
“He was a natural born athlete and took to skiing with ease. By the end of the lesson, we ended up racing each other from the top to the bottom. He was very competitive, but I couldn’t bring myself to let him win!”
Cameron went on to teach skiing in New Zealand, Italy and Austria before he returned to the UK in 2008 to take up an internship with public relations company PHA Media, now The PHA Group, founded by former News of the World editor Phil Hall.
“I stayed at the agency for the best part of a decade, working my way up the career ladder, and towards the end I started to combine my passions for the mountains and the media on the side; spotting an opportunity to host high end ski film screenings by acquiring the licence for multi award winning American based ski film production company, Matchstick Productions.
“I grew up watching their films and when I decided to start hosting screening events, they were the only production company I wanted to work with.”He ran his first screening for Matchstick in 2014, which went so well he soon became the exclusive UK licence holder for their annual movies.
“When I ran the second event in 2015 it was profitable enough that I earned more money than I would from my annual bonus and when it came to the third year I decided I had enough of a foundation to build the events into a business model for my own media business, aligned with my passion for adventure,” says Cameron.
The screenings soon became much more than simply a chance for people to watch films about skiing, with brands also paying to sponsor and have a presence at the events.
“I would sell tables and stands for people so they could meet and interact with guests, sell on-screen advertising and do PR and marketing around the events, securing coverage on a local and national level,” says Cameron.
He soon realised that he could run the screenings all over the world and held his first international event in Verbier, Switzerland, in 2017.
“I’d never been to Verbier but used my connections from my ski instructor days to secure sponsorship and prize donations, operating a sold-out screening at the W Hotel – voted the best ski hotel in the world,” he says.
“Suddenly I had gone from being employed and working in a nine to five job to hosting an international film premiere in one of the best ski resorts in the world - bringing together all my background and experience."
Holmlands now takes Matchstick Productions’ films on an annual tour around cities across the UK as well as being invited to run events in Reykjavik in Iceland.
“We’ve now hosted more than 30 events in six years, including four international film premieres”, says Cameron.
“Really the events are all about community, bringing together like-minded people with a passion for the mountains, so they can meet, interact and feel inspired."
Holmlands - which is named after the street where his father grew up - now runs its own adventure film festival – Four Seasons Film Festival - in London each year and also operates PR campaigns, video production services and events for clients within the adventure sports industry.
His work includes representing visually impaired skier Millie Knight and her sighted guide Brett Wild, who were World Para Alpine Downhill Champions in 2017. During the Winter Paralympics in 2018 - in which Millie and Brett won three medals for Great Britain - Cameron was on hand in South Korea to help with their media liaison, as well as representing fellow ParalympicGB athlete Chris Lloyd.
On November 6, Cameron will return to his home county - his parents Doreen and Russell still live in Durdar, near Carlisle - to stage a screening of Matchstick Productions' latest film 'Return to Send'er' at the Rheged Centre, near Penrith.
“Cumbria gave me the foundation to get into skiing which has provided me with an opportunity to travel the world and build a business," says Cameron, who now lives in London.
“When I come back to Cumbria I can’t wait to get out hiking in the mountains or take my stand-up paddle board out on the lakes.
“There is such a great community of people who are passionate about the outdoors in Cumbria, it just feels right to be bringing our event experiences back home.”
Visit www.holmlands.co.uk/events for tickets to Holmlands special screening of “Return to Send’er” at the Rheged Centre on Wednesday 6th November, 7pm.