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 volunteers@sunderlandshorts.co.uk or visit the website for more details www.sunderlandshorts.co.uk

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