Welcome to the North East!
Thanks. It’s freezing cold in Washington DC so I’m happy to be here!
We know that Sunderland has a Friendship Agreement with Washington DC, but how did the collaboration with DC Shorts happen?
Well, I’ve known Anne and Catherine (Sunderland Council representatives) for a while. I always end up hosting them for a party at my apartment when they come over, and over the years we’ve discussed the ideas of the possibility of bringing some sort of film festival to Sunderland. And then, this year, I received a grant from the DC Commission on the Arts to help do it. I’ve also been talking a lot about how we can bring new cultural activities to Sunderland and it’s something that’s not really done in the region. And although there are some really fine film festivals in the North East, there’s nothing about short films. I think there are a lot of people who like to watch shorts, who do it all the time on their mobile or on their computer, and I just think that they give a different experience, so it will be nice to bring that to Sunderland.
Will it put Sunderland on the map for filmmakers?
It’s going to take a while, it took us about five or six years for that to happen in Washington DC, but I think it will happen eventually. I think the idea for this launch event is to kind of identify the audience, see who will come and more importantly find out what they want to see and what their expectations are. So when the big event in July happens we match the needs and wants of the community. I really think this has the potential to grow into a much bigger event over the course of a few years.
What will happen at the launch event?
We’re producing two different shows [on Friday and Saturday evening]. Each show is 90 minutes long and has about nine films. There are a variety of films: comedy, drama, documentary, foreign, some from the UK. If you don’t like what you’re seeing, you can just close your eyes and a few minutes later there will be another movie up on the screen more to your liking, which is the beautiful thing about shorts. I brought the films over from DC. They are the winners of audience or jury awards from the 2014 DC Shorts Film Festival.
How long is a ‘short’ film?
Well, that’s interesting. According to BAFTA rules, it’s 40 minutes or less, but all the films we’re showing are around 20 minutes. My feeling is that a short should be under 20 minutes.
Why do you like short films so much?
I like the succinctness of them. I think a lot of us sit through feature films, that are 90 or 120 minutes long, and they’re really only 10 minutes worth of story. I’d rather just see the 10 minutes worth of story. I think if you’re filmmaking and storytelling, and you can tell a story in a short amount of time and really change people’s emotions, I think that’s what talent is.
What advice would you give to budding filmmakers?
I think the most important thing is a) be able to tell a story, but b) know what else is out there. I think it’s critical for filmmakers, especially new and young filmmakers, to go to as many film festivals and watch as many films as possible. The problem is a lot of filmmakers don’t do that, and they make the same film that someone else has made. If they go out there and see that there are too many zombie movies this year, and decide they’re not going to make a zombie movie, it might really help their career!
Sunderland Shorts Film Festival
Launch event: 9th–10th January
Buy tickets and find out more at www.sunderlandshorts.co.uk