A new festival of short films being launched at the weekend could bring long-term benefits to the region’s independent film-makers, linking them with counterparts in America.
The Sunderland Shorts Film Festival will take place in July but the launch event, on Friday and Saturday, will feature screenings of 16 films which were shown at last year’s DC Shorts Film Festival in Washington DC.
It is anticipated that the best films shown at the Sunderland festival in the summer will be screened in Washington DC in September.
The weekend launch event at Sunderland University’s David Puttnam Media Centre is intended to mark the start of a collaborative project that will shape, influence and grow the city’s independent film community.
Organisers say the Sunderland Shorts Film Festival will provide a platform for North East film-makers to show their work to international audiences.
The new festival was inspired by Washington’s DC Shorts Film Festival and is one of the fruits of an accord between the two cities.
Stemming from the fact that the ancestral home of George Washington, first President of the USA, is Washington Old Hall, near Sunderland, it was formalised in a Friendship Agreement signed in June 2006 which has since fostered several initiatives.
Jon Gann, programming director of the DC Shorts Film Festival and a film-maker based in the American city, will be in Sunderland to launch the festival.
He said: “I am really looking forward to bringing the film festival to Sunderland.
“My vision is to unite a community of film-makers, encouraging them to be focused on getting together, networking and hopefully collaborating in the future.
“I’ve already been talking to some film-makers and people in the community who want to be involved in making this happen.”
Mr Gann put a call out for volunteers to contribute to the success of the festival and said: “I am hoping that, whilst I am here for the weekend’s launch event, I will get to visit lots of venues and meet lots of people.
“I can scout and see what there is to work with and figure out how we can make the most of what is available.”
Also attending the launch and answering questions will be directors Devon Avery and Scott Calonica whose films are to be shown at the weekend.
Avery’s six-minute comedy, One-Minute Time Machine, is about a nerdy scientist who tries to impress a pretty girl with the invention described by the title. It was an audience favourite at DC Shorts.
Calonica’s nine-minute film, voted outstanding documentary short, is called The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed and features a telephone rant by President JF Kennedy in 1963, which gave the film its title, and the man who unwittingly provoked his rage.
In 1963 an erroneous story was leaked to the media about a large sum of money being lavished on a special hospital room at a US air base to be used in the event of the President’s wife, Jackie Kennedy, giving birth while on holiday nearby (she was eight months pregnant at the time).
The room was prepared but not at the widely reported cost. Venting his anger via phone at air base top brass, Kennedy referred unflatteringly to the innocent smiling airman who had been photographed in the room.
He was Ernest Carlton. Scott Calonica tracked him down, played him the President’s recorded rant of years previously and filmed Mr Carlton’s reaction as he listened to it for the first time.
The Sunderland Shorts Film Festival will receive funding from Sunderland City Council and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.
Proceeds from tickets sold for this weekend’s screenings, which can be bought from Eventbrite, will go towards the July festival. Find more details on www.sunderlandshorts.co.uk