My Experience Volunteering with Sunderland Shorts

With preparations for the third Sunderland Shorts Film Festival now underway, it’s clear that the event has proved to be a great success and an important addition to the cultural scene in Sunderland as the city bids to be UK City of Culture 2021.

My own involvement with the event began when I responded to an advert requesting volunteers to help out at the inaugural festival in July 2015 – being new to the area and myself a filmmaker, I jumped at the opportunity to get involved and meet like-minded people who shared my interest in film and culture. The prospect of an international short film festival being held in the city was also an exciting one.

Arriving at Sunderland Minster for the launch event, I was greeted by a friendly festival team who immediately made me feel welcome, and I was extremely impressed by the quality of films being screened, ranging from light-hearted comedies and animations suitable for children to dramas and films with much darker adult themes.

My experience at the first festival was such a positive one that I put myself forward as a volunteer reviewer, which involves watching and reviewing a selection of the films submitted by filmmakers from all over the world for inclusion in the festival. The diversity of genres and subject matter, reflected in the final programming for both the 2015 and 2016 festivals, ensured that this was an entertaining and stimulating experience, and seeing films that I had reviewed being screened at the 2016 festival was very satisfying.

13592198_1723657987906115_4798011597117694563_nVolunteering with Sunderland Shorts has been hugely rewarding, which is why I returned this year and continue to volunteer as a reviewer. The link with DC Shorts Film Festival in America, as well as the visiting filmmakers from all over the world and the inclusion of foreign language films, all add an exciting international element to the festival, resulting in a rich and engaging experience.

I’m convinced that the festival will continue to gain momentum and has a bright future ahead of it, becoming a key event in the city’s cultural calendar, and I would encourage anyone with an interest in film and arts to consider volunteering as a reviewer or to help out at some of the events. With work on Sunderland’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 now in progress, this is a particularly exciting time to get involved with Sunderland Shorts and a great way of supporting culture in the city.

- Sarah Winslett

Become a Reviewer

With Sunderland Shorts: Film Festival entering its 3rd year, we’re looking forward to seeing our Film Freeway site filling up with new and exciting short films, all hoping to be screened at next year’s festival. Regular submissions have now opened and we’re expecting hundreds of films to be submitted to us over the next couple of months from all around the world and covering every genre imaginable. We’ve seen it all here!

But how do we whittle those films down to the final 50 or so that will be screened in the festival itself? Of course we have our programming team who are responsible for putting together the screenings and making sure the flow of them is just right, and they have the final word on all the films that we screen. These guys are not alone though! We are very lucky to have, what can only be described as, a small army of volunteer reviewers as part of our team.  

c0082-mp4-07_53_01_49-still002Reviewers are assigned several films at a time to watch, casting a critical eye over every film that is submitted to us. With the help of a trusty reviewer’s guide and support from the core team, each film is watched by at least three of our reviewers and marked on various criteria such as the storyline, production quality and overall rating. This stage is also the opportunity for reviewers to make any constructive comments about the film. It is not possible for us to screen every film that is submitted to the festival, but we are dedicated to giving valuable feedback to filmmakers who don’t quite make the cut. You won’t find things like ‘OMG best film EVER!!!’ as part of these comments or ‘This was rubbish’, but you will find comments based on plots, characters and overall quality.

So it’s pretty easy really. You don’t need to have any qualification other than an interest in film and let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy a Friday night in with some popcorn and a good thriller/comedy/drama… ?

c0077-mp4-07_51_58_02-still001Is it a big commitment? No. Well. Not really. We appreciate all the help we get when it comes to reviewing the submissions as sometimes we find ourselves swimming in a sea of shorts, but we understand that not everyone will have the time to watch 50 short films that are anything between 3-20 minutes long! All we ask is that you do what you can and let us know how you’re getting on. We know some of our reviewers almost binge watch their allocation, whereas others prefer to fit one in on their lunch breaks over the course of a week or two. It’s totally up to you! We want our festival to be catered to our audience, so it’s important we have a wide range of people volunteering to be reviewers. We’ve got people of all shapes and sizes as part of the team!

Once all the ratings are in, we pick the films with the highest marks to go into the festival competition. That’s when the responsibility is handed back over to our programming team.

So if you fancy yourself as a bit of a film buff and can spare some of your time to help Sunderland Shorts: Film Festival 2017 be the best one yet, then why not sign up to become a reviewer today!

Email the team at or visit the website for more details


What’s  a Short Film? 

In the early days of capturing and projecting moving images, ‘short’ was the norm. Everyday activities depicted on screen for just a few seconds, or a few minutes, captivated or terrified Victorian audiences in equal measure.  The most famous of these is L’arrivée d’un train en gare de la Ciotat (Arrival of a Train) by the Lumière Brothers (1895).

As technologies improved throughout the 20th century, full length feature films took precedence in commercial cinemas but the short film remained a useful tool as newsreels and in disseminating government information, particularly in wartime.

By the 1980s, shorts had just about disappeared from High St cinemas, although their popularity as an art form remained strong with visual artists who weren’t constrained by production values and deadlines and brought a sense of freedom to the medium.  The Oberhausen Short Film Festival, now in its 63rd year has been celebrating and supporting innovation in short film since 1954.

Today, thanks to the arrival in the 1990s of lightweight, portable, recording equipment and ever advancing digital technology, along with the arrival of the internet, the making of short film is enjoying a renaissance.  Short films are no longer the poor relation to the full length feature film in the world of cinematic story telling but are being celebrated in film festivals, TV (Channel 4’s 4Shorts), media (VirginMedia Shorts competition) and of course online via YouTube, Vimeo etc.

In the world of film festivals there seems to be a general consensus about how short a short film can be. Most film festivals agree that a short film needs to be at least 1 minute long – otherwise, blink and you’ll miss it.  There isn’t, though, any official definition of how long a short film can be.

At the Sundance Film Festival any film shorter than 50 minutes qualifies as short film, while at the Academy Awards, any film of 40 minutes or under is eligible for the shorts categories. Here at Sunderland Shorts we ask for films which run for no longer than 20 minutes including all credits.

A short film can be a great way for both script writers and directors to show their skills. Whether a drama or a documentary, an animation or a comedy, an art or a sci-fi film, a short has to grab the audience’s attention straight away and tell its story concisely and beautifully to carry the viewer on the journey.

Programming Sunderland Shorts

As a huge film enthusiast, amateur filmmaker and Sunderland native, I was delighted to be given the opportunity to attend and volunteer at the very first Sunderland Shorts Film Festival in 2015. It was a thoroughly entertaining weekend full of emotional and exciting short films. I was even more delighted when an opportunity arose for me to be part of the team for the 2016 festival, which I eagerly jumped at.

My main responsibility has been leading on the programming for this years festival. The festival’s team of excellent volunteer reviewers watched each of the 240 films that were submitted from all around the world, and together we whittled them down to the best 50.

Due to the high calibre of films it was very difficult (and time consuming) process deciding which ones should stay and which ones should go. But we’ve done it and are very pleased with the final selection. We can’t wait for people to see them!

I thought long and hard about how I was going to programme the festival. Fundamentally at the base of great programming is all about communication and flow. Even though we’re screening 50 films about 50 different stories, it’s about taking the audience on one journey. Creating a flow of emotions that feel natural and is easy to watch.

Sunderland Shorts Film Festival 2016 will be a four-day festival showcasing 50 short films (under 20 minutes) by filmmakers from all over the world, in venues across Sunderland.

There will be a total of 10 screenings with an average run time of around 80 minutes each. The festival will open on Thursday, June 30, and screenings will be taking place at various times through Friday, July 1; Saturday, July 2; and Sunday, July 3. Throughout these dates there will also be family-friendly screenings to ensure everyone can experience the entertainment of short film. As well as a horror/sci-fi only screening for the people who don’t mind the more scary and intense films!

In every screening there is broad mix of themes, genres and tones so that there will (hopefully) be something for everyone in the audience to tap into. There will be highs and lows, laughter and sadness, reflection and relaxation over the course of every 80 minutes. I am very excited to watch the audience react to this year’s films, and can’t wait to talk with people afterwards about their thoughts.

Kristian Foreman

Introducing Sunderland Shorts Festival Sponsor: See it Do it Sunderland

seeit-doit-cmykIf you’ve made it this far you’re probably a bit of a film buff. So there’s a pretty good chance you’ll understand exactly what the Sunderland Shorts Film Festival is all about. But why a film festival in Sunderland; what’s the city all about… and what else is there to do here?  See it Do it Sunderland talk about some of Sunderland’s treats on offer to our visiting film buffs and filmmakers.

If Sunderland was a film, it’d be one of those tricky works that you couldn’t place into one genre. Where the story line grips you and reels you in, is never as you expected it, but leaves you with a feel good factor that is hard to put your finger on.

Sunderland is a city by the sea with miles of golden sands and all the traditional fun of the seaside. But it’s also on a major river, the Wear. It’s got a busy and vibrant city centre. But it’s also within minutes of rolling countryside. It’s home to new and exciting creative industries. But it’s got a phenomenal heritage ranging from early Christianity to heavy engineering.

The city’s twin resorts of Roker and Seaburn have been a favourite spot to relax and unwind, or let off steam, for generations. If you’re coming with the family then it’s a sandcastle builder’s paradise. Either way you’ll have no bother finding refreshment to suit regardless of whether ice cream or a full meal take your fancy.

Just a short stroll through the marina and onto the riverside brings you to the National Glass Centre  Sunderland has been big in glass since the 7th Century when Bede brought glass making to the Britain… and modern Christianity for that matter. As well as taking in cutting edge glass and ceramic arts, there are opportunities to get hands on in glass making demonstrations.  Right next door lies St Peter’s Church , which incorporates parts of the original 7th Century monastery created by the aforementioned Bede and Benedict Biscop. For fact fans, it’s right here where the date of Easter was set.

Even in the middle of Seaburn’s sandy beach, you’re only minutes away from the city centre where Sunderland Shorts is hosted.  Obviously you can expect a good choice of pubs, bars, restaurants and shops. On top of that there’s the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art to investigate. If you want a sneak preview of the next big thing in contemporary art then this is the place to be. Names like Sam Taylor-Wood and Adam Chodzko shot to prominence after early exhibitions here.

If history is more your thing, Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens  is just around the corner. You can meet local icon Wallace the Lion, see the first Nissan car built in Sunderland or study works by LS Lowry and others. The glass rotunda of the Winter Gardens is home to over 2,000 species that can be appreciated from the ground or an elevated walkway too.

Another of Sunderland’s cultural gems is Sunderland Empire Theatre . It’s the biggest theatre in the North East and the only one capable of hosting the biggest ‘West End’ style shows like Billy Elliott, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, or The Sound of Music. Beautifully decorated in true theatre style, it’s a favoured venue for all manner of big name performers.

Or, if you’ve got time to travel slightly further afield, Penshaw Monument  is a must. Modelled on the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens, it was built as a memorial to the Earl of Durham, John George Lambton. In summer months the National Trust offer the chance to climb to the very top where the views across almost the whole of the North East are simply phenomenal.

That’s far from an exhaustive list of course; we haven’t even mentioned Washington Old Hall , the ancestral home of George Washington, of United States presidential fame, for example  If you’re not already convinced, we hope that the warm welcome you’ll get when you visit Sunderland Shorts will change your mind.

Sunderland Shorts FREE Taster Sessions


If you didn’t make the festival last year, here’s a way to find out what you missed.

Are you wondering ‘just how short is a short?’  Then come along to one of our FREE Taster Sessions and see what all the fuss is about.

We want to spread the word about Sunderland Short Film Festival throughout the city and  the region and get more people coming along in July to watch our new selection of brilliant short films. Over the coming weeks we’ll be appearing at a community space near you with a selection of some of our best films from last year’s event.

We’ll even stand you a cuppa and a cake and if you do well in our quiz – Famous Lines from the Movies – you’ll win tickets to a festival screening.

Evening screenings are suitable for 16yrs+.  Each screening lasts about 1 hour and will feature a mixture of drama, comedy, animation, sci-fi and documentary.

‘Family Friendly’ screenings are about 30 minutes long and the films are specifically selected for  young people under 16yrs.

Where better to start than at Pop Recs Ltd?  Join us next Friday 18th March at 7.00 pm for some chat, films and a bit of a laugh

Oh and by the way …’s FREE !!!

Here’s the schedule to date, but there’s more to come:

18th March  7.00 – 9.00pm  Pop Recs Ltd , 27 Stockton Road, Sunderland  Over 16s

29th March  3.30 – 4.30 pm Back on the Map, Villette Road Hendon, Family Friendly

5th April       6.00 – 8.00 pm Back on the Map  Villette Road, Hendon, Over 16s

6th April       2.00 – 4.00 pm City Library, Fawcett Street, Sunderland   Family Friendly

7th April       5.00 – 7.00 pm City Library, Fawcett Street, Sunderland   Over 16s

5th May       7.00 – 9.00 pm Canny Space, Holy Trinity Church, Hendon,

1st June      3.45 – 4.45 pm Pallion Action Group, Eastmoor Road, Sland, Family Friendly 

Submissions have closed and it’s looking fab!

Lots of amazing films are in the bag and the 2nd edition of Sunderland Shorts is well on the way.

Our small army of volunteer reviewers is being nothing short of heroic, working diligently through the very high calibre submissions to sift out the very best films for you lovely people.

Once again, we have received films in a really wide variety of genres from all around the world, from 28 countries in fact , including South Korea, China and Nepal! Equal top though were the U.K. and the U.S.A and it’s fantastic that several of last year’s filmmakers have returned to the festival with brand new projects. Several filmmakers are keen to travel to join in the festival and do audience Q and As or workshops while they’re here.

There has also been a great response this year from regional filmmakers who have submitted work ranging from brilliant to thought provoking.

We’ll be announcing the full details in early May when we will have the final selection but we can promise we’ll be bringing you some really impressive work with the odd famous face or two to spot!

There’s so much more to tell in the weeks ahead so stay with us !!!

Introducing Jon Gann…


With Sunderland Shorts Film Festival only a matter of weeks away, we’re fast approaching our big countdown!! Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun…

So, having already introduced you to the faces behind our Sunderland-based festival team, we thought it was about time that took you on a trip over to Washington DC to introduce you to the inspiration behind our inaugural festival – Jon Gann.

Jon is a highly acclaimed DC-based filmmaker and the Programming Director of the prestigious DC Shorts Film Festival. His long standing relationship with Sunderland stems from the city’s 2006 Friendship Agreement with Washington DC – which was formed with the aim of fostering and developing economic, educational and cultural relationships between the two cities.

The unique relationship has paved the way for a number of creative collaborations that have taken place since 2008, Sunderland Shorts being one of them.

Having forged strong connections with Sunderland Council representatives, Jon had always been keen to bring new cultural activities to the city, particularly a film festival that would provide an international stage for film makers from around the region and beyond.

And, with a wealth of experience in running his own internationally renowned Film Festival, he was perfectly placed to help us with Sunderland Shorts. Well, we certainly think so!

“I am really looking forward to bringing the film festival to Sunderland. Your City Council has a great focus on the arts and I think that this is really important. I have also always wanted to start a film festival somewhere outside of DC and this was the perfect opportunity to do so.

“ Sunderland is a city that looks like it wants to have more arts. It also has very little going on with film right now, so if I can help create something that grows into something large and important for the region, then that’s a fabulous thing for me to do.” Jon Gann

From the offset, Jon has been integral to the development and planning of Sunderland Shorts, guiding us through the process of setting up a festival for the very first time and offering his expert advice whenever it’s needed (via Skype of course!)

We look forward to welcoming Jon back to Sunderland in July when he’ll be helping us to make sure the festival is a success (and no doubt entertaining us in the process).

Meet The Sunderland Shorts Team…


With submissions closed for entries and the festival itself less than two months away, the Sunderland Shorts team are working really hard to make our very first festival a real success.

As we’ve quickly learnt, there’s lots to take care of! From selecting the venues, programming the films, and designing the posters, through to organising awards, acquiring the necessary technical equipment, and building a strong team of volunteers, we’ve certainly got our hands full.

We’ll have plenty of updates over the coming weeks about venues, tickets, and showings, but first we thought we’d introduce you to the team behind the festival…

Sunderland Shorts is being run by a team of film, media, design, and management professionals. Whilst we all work together to make key decisions and ensure that the festival runs smoothly, each member of the team has been allocated key responsibilities.


Festival Director – Anne Tye

Festival Manager – Rebecca Burdon

As the titles suggest, these two ladies are responsible for leading, managing and overseeing the running of the festival as a whole. Rebecca and Anne work together to ensure that key decisions are made and vital deadlines are met; Rebecca concentrates on logistics and Anne is responsible for keeping track of the budget and ensuring that we comply with all of the necessary regulations.

It’s an important, and often stressful job but, with these two ladies in charge, we’re in capable hands!


Programming Team – Jerome Vyland and Aman Sharma (Northern Bear Films) and Wojtek Bozyk partner_northernbear

Jerome, Aman and Wojtek are currently hard at work making sure that all submissions are reviewed and the successful films are selected. They will then lead the team in programming the chosen films into a number of screenings.


Volunteer Co-ordinater – Hannah Matterson

We wouldn’t be able to run our festival without a friendly bunch of volunteers, and it’s Hannah’s job to manage the recruitment, allocation and supervision of the helpful team.


Graphic Design – Matthew Tye & Beth Dowd (Bureau) 


It’s thanks to Matthew & Beth that our website, posters, and branding all look so good! From designing our logo, creating adverts, and making all of our documents look great, to creating our website, arranging ticket sales, and setting up our online submissions page, we can always rely on Bureau to ensure that we’re looking and performing at our very best.


PR – Amy Armstrong and Marie Donnelly (M.A.D Communications) partner_mad

Amy and Marie handle our social media accounts, make sure that people are talking about the festival, and take care of most of our copywriting. They also deal with the press and will be generating lots of stories in the lead up to the events – keep your eyes peeled for them!


Final Call For Submissions

With submissions from as far as Australia, Korea, Iran and Taiwan, news of the Sunderland Shorts Film Festival is spreading around the world and, with submissions set to close on April 30, there’s still time to submit your film or volunteer to be part of the inaugural festival.

Set to take place in July 2015, the festival will provide a valued platform for short filmmakers of every level, from across the globe, to showcase their work to international audiences.

Created in collaboration with the prestigious DC Shorts Film Festival, Sunderland Shorts will be held at various creative venues across Sunderland between July 2 and July 5 – selected films will then be shown at the next DC Shorts later in the year.

Rebecca Burdon, Festival Manager, Sunderland Shorts Film Festival, said: “We’ve had submissions from over 26 countries so far and it’s been great to see that so many talented filmmakers want to be part of our festival – especially since we’re in our first year.

“With submissions set to close later this month, we’re still on the look out for more great shorts – particularly from around the region as we’re really hoping to have a strong North East presence at the festival.”


535002 - SSFF - Call for Submissions - Red

Born out of a long standing relationship between Sunderland and Washington DC, Sunderland Shorts will put the spotlight on talented independent short filmmakers, giving them the opportunity to gain exposure to international audiences in the UK, Washington DC, and beyond.

Having been reviewed by a panel of volunteers, around 60 films will be hand selected by the Festival’s Programming Team to be screened during the course of the event. Awards will also be presented to winners of various categories, including Audience Choice, Critics Choice and several Best in Category Awards.

Jerome Vyland, Programming Team, Sunderland Shorts Film Festival, said: “It’s been great to see so many people coming forward to review films for the festival. From those who are technically savvy through to those who are simply passionate about film, we’ve been astounded by the level of support we have received.

“We’ve also had a great response in terms of people coming forward to volunteer for other roles in the festival. We’ve still got plenty of roles to fill, so if you’re interested in getting involved, get in touch.”

With the aim of bringing together filmmakers from across the globe to celebrate the very best in short films of every genre, the Sunderland Shorts Film Festival will also give filmmakers the opportunity to network with peers and other influential industry figures.

There will be a number of screenings taking place across the city during the weekend in July – full details of venues, tickets and schedules will be announced in the coming weeks.

Final submissions will close on 30th April, with an extended deadline entry fee of $38 USD. For further information about the festival, submitting your film, or volunteering to take part, please visit