Tag Archives: Hannah Matterson

Sunderland Shorts’ Film Festival 2017

Sunderland Short Film Festival 2017 – Sunderland One
Wayne Madden

Lights, Camera, Action.

Filmmakers and fans were elated in equal measure recently at the return of the popular Sunderland Short Film Festival earlier this month. The event, in its third year, was created in collaboration with ‘sister festival’ DC Shorts in America and provides a platform for filmmakers and enthusiasts to showcase their work on a national stage.

Creating a festival which celebrates the uniqueness and storytelling of short film, only films less than twenty minutes in length can be submitted for consideration, with screenings taking place over three days and each featuring a variety of shortlisted competitors.

Carys Watford, whose film ‘Theatreland’ screened at this year’s festival, spoke about the importance of an event like Sunderland Shorts, saying: “it’s always great to get your film seen in as many places as you can…if you can go to the festival which is screening it, all the better”. Bernie Mooney, whose seven minute drama ‘Thief’ tackles the topic of sex trafficking in the United Kingdom, was quick to add that “I’ve been at festivals before where nobody has turned up at all to watch your film…so to be here in Sunderland with a full audience like this is very gratifying”

As well as jury and audience based awards; films were nominated for several categories’ with a selection of the finalists films due to be shown to attendees in Washington at the DC Shorts festival this September. This offers locally based filmmakers the opportunity to have their work seen by an international audience and the offer is reciprocated when DC Shorts shortlist was screened on the last day of the festival in Sunderland. Finalists also received a free upload for their film courtesy of Modyst UK, an international digital platform and online cinema.

In 2006 Sunderland became the first and so far only city to sign a Friendship Agreement with Washington DC. This occasion was paramount to the establishment of Sunderland Shorts, as festival director Anne Tye explained. “Sunderland’s friendship status with Washington DC has brought about some real successes, and Sunderland Shorts Film Festival is chief among them.” adding further, “Learning from our friends in the US, and gleaning the knowledge they have gained over several years – growing their event from a standing start to one that is hugely popular and a key part of the city’s cultural programme – has allowed us to replicate this and quickly create a fantastic festival for Sunderland.”

In previous years, screenings occurred at various ‘pop up’ locations across the city, with each screening providing audiences a unique insight into both the artists work as well as a local venue they may never have visited. This year all screenings were localized centrally in ‘The Place’, a creative business hub in the city centre. Hannah Matterson, festival organizer, said: “Since the start of the festival in 2015, Sunderland Shorts has always had the aim of supporting local, small and medium sized businesses across the city.”

“We’ve been known to use coffee shops, art galleries and even boardrooms as cinemas in the past. By doing this we hope to encourage more young filmmakers to take up the art and to become the directors, cinematographers and producers of the future.”

As well as film screenings the event also presented several free workshops, delivered by established professionals in the industry, imparting advice and wisdom. Roar Motion’s Rob Parsons, who operated an informal showcase with business partner Matt Eyre told us: “It’s very important these workshops happen, when I was a student at University I would have loved to do something like this, get hands on with the technology in this way and see it all up close and in person, it’s invaluable”.

Councilor John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for public health, wellness and culture, said: “Sunderland is a very warm and friendly city and I’m certain this army of filmmakers, writers and actors will be afforded a fine Wearside welcome. Sunderland Shorts is helping put our city on the filmmaking map, and not only bringing exciting new talent in, but helping our city’s creative bight sparks showcase their own work to a whole new audience.”

Personal screen highlights included ‘Pebbles’, a drama from Jonathan Shaw which saw a woman return to the hotel where she spent her honeymoon fifty years hence. ‘Four Day Weekend’ was a superbly acted American drama about a married couple on a self imposed relationship break, animation ‘The Slow Lane’ was an incredible undertaking in both creation and design, a simple film about a tiny village and the damage of a fallen tree and the surreal ‘Dots’ was less than 91 seconds long, but also provided a unique interpretation into the genre of dance from filmmakers Jody Oberfelder and Eric Siegel.

As in previous years, winning films were announced on the last night of the festival, with Irish drama ‘Pebbles’ capturing both Best International picture and a Jury’s Choice award. Best North East regional film went to ‘Mordecai’, a truly original comedy drama from Benjamin Lee about two brothers at their father’s funeral, made with the permission and involvement of an orthodox Jewish community in Gateshead. There was also an audience choice award for James Cookson’s horror, ‘Panic’ while Best UK National film went to the picture that had proceeded it in that screening, comedy ‘Rhonna and Donna’ from director Diana O Pusic about two women conjoined at the hip.

“You make the film you feel passionate about” Carys’ told us, and this mantra can easily be transferred to the positive work Sunderland Shorts are doing making a festival in an area they truly feel passionate about.

“Each year, it is growing, and as we move into our third year, we look forward to creating something that is bigger and better than ever” Anne told me of this year’s event, “establishing a reputation of being ‘the friendliest festival’” making it obvious the team has no plans to slow down. “Short films aren’t an easy sell” Hannah confided, reflecting on the festival overall, “but we’re making steps forward each year to increase our audiences and to engage with more filmmakers from all over the world.”

With such a unique platform and a plethora of talent signing up, there’s no reason to imagine we’ll see the end of Sunderland Shorts anytime soon.

Wonderlands Expo 2017

Wonderlands Expo 2017 – Sunderland One
Wayne Madden

Fans of graphic novels were in their element recently with the return of the ever popular ‘Wonderlands’ Expo to Sunderland. Now in its third year, this free celebratory event was held at City Space, Sunderland University, and paid tribute to the comic in all its forms, with a wide variety of workshops, panels, stalls and talks.

Ordinarily home to the Sunderland City Predators, a converted basketball court was the stage for a variety of stalls, featuring work from a plethora of talented national creators and designers. Artists like Track 11 Design, Drew X and Castle Rock’s Bob Turner were on hand to provide caricatures and commissions as well as examples of their latest work. Others, such as Alan Henderson’s The Penned Guin, provided a humorous example of parody and design with selections from previously established catalogues.

Guests of honor gave talks throughout the day, with a particular fan favorite being Liverpool born John Higgins, colorist on Watchmen; the seminal series from DC Comics written by Alan Moore and later a major motion picture directed by Zack Snyder. “We can’t believe how friendly people are” John said, “The Northern friendship is just magic. I think the thing I enjoy most about it is that you get to meet the fans. 90% of the time we spend at home is in a darkened room drawing, so to actually get out and meet fans is just so important and the fact that the University is presenting it in such a considered way we can give a bit back about how we created the characters and share that knowledge is fantastic”.

The events strong foot fall was just one indicator of its popularity and continued success. Organizer Hannah Matterson, Events and Development Coordinator for MAC Trust, said: “We’re thrilled that Wonderlands [is] back for a third year. We’ve worked hard to make sure the event stays free and we’ve been awarded money from Arts Council England to help support the event.”

Providing an introduction for younger people, ‘The Wonderlands Anthology’ was a brand new comic book available for free – a collaboration between pupils at Farrington Community Academy and St Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Sunderland – where students contributed their own short strips for inclusion and then collected their published work at the event. It was another reminder that Wonderlands catered for all ages and exposures.

Beano illustrator Nigel Auchterlounie travelled from Whitley Bay, on hand to make a rare public appearance at Wonderlands showcasing works like ‘Bunny Girl and Pig Boy’ and leading an informal design workshop. “It’s great here, I’ve never been before” he remarked, “I think events like these are important in widening culture, showing another medium, there are so many other ways to tell a story than television – like in comic books”.

Other attendees to the convention used comics in more serious, yet still entertaining light. Comics vs. Cancer are an innovative forum in which Scottish writer Gordon Robertson used the medium to talk about taking a stand against cancer. “I was diagnosed with cancer” said Gordon, “I wanted to write a blog about it. But there’s so many great cancer blogs out there, things that are heart rendering.

I didn’t have that bad of an experience [with cancer] so I felt I couldn’t do that…I created a comic called ‘Arse Cancer’ and that’s where it went. I taught we could use it to raise money for charity. I had bowel cancer, my first wife died from breast cancer and my current wife has also had breast cancer. Humor is a great way of getting things across we wouldn’t normally discuss, so if it helps people recognize symptoms it could save lives and make a real difference.”

Wonderlands ended on a high, being a positive event for Sunderland, encouraging people to expand their minds, get to know a little bit more about graphic novels and share similar interests. A resounding success for the region.