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Getting behind the camera; Throw students, experts, a good idea and lots of imagination into the mix and the result is truly dramatic. BARBARA HODGSON hears about a film project which comes to fruition tonight.


FILMMAKERS of the future are in the spotlight this week as the result of a collaboration between students and professionals makes the big screen.

In these tough days for the film industry, like every other, new starters need a helping hand which is why a new project, matching up screenplays with fledgling directors and producers, has given fresh graduates a valuable insight into the working world.

In a pilot scheme this summer, media production graduates from Northumbria University worked with members of Tyneside Cinema's screen-writing course on new film ideas.

And with input from university staff, themselves industry experts, they've produced a series of films which have an airing at both venues.

Initiate Films screen in the Squires Building of Northumbria University tonight and in Tyneside Cinema's digital lounge tomorrow and Wednesday. The idea was adapted from a scheme in 2009 and, says Peter Dillon, course lecturer and producer of Initiate Films, it acts as a bridge into the film and TV industry, offering the graduates - who had completed their final year at university - an opportunity to make films under professional conditions.

And for those on the cinema's introductory course on screen-writing - which Peter has also worked on - it offered a chance to see their work on screen.

To Peter, it made perfect sense: "After the students' final project, and before they left, we had all these kids, having made a film, bursting to make another and all the equipment there so I thought let's put them together with some of the Tyneside scriptwriters so they can work with scripts they haven't generated or initiated."

About 30 young people, involved both behind and in front of the cameras, were joined by 17 university staff with, like Peter, all-round experience of working in the industry. Actors, meanwhile, were enlisted from the university's performing arts course.

Peter, whose CV takes in Wildcat Films, Pinball films and script-writing for Emmerdale, is proud of the joint effort which has produced seven varied shorts, describing the result of what the graduates picked up over their three-year course as "mind-blowing."

And the prospect of seeing script ideas on film helped strengthen the writing. "Three films have been made by students with scripts from Tyneside, two by staff with students, and two documentaries have been shot and edited by students," adds the lecturer who himself was involved in writing and producing.

"There's something for everybody, including an idiosyncratic one, two with very strong narratives and a dark comedy."

There's also a plan to have behind-the-scenes interviews, carried out by the young group, on DVD.

While this week's screenings are to invited audiences only, Peter hopes the films will go on to have a wider public viewing.

He hopes too that the project will be back next year.

"I'd love it to be an annual thing." While the media production course has a history of success, with graduates going on to show work at festivals such as Cannes, the current bunch will be embarking upon their careers in a harsh economic climate.

One of them, Andrew Edwards, who directed a film called Dilemma and wrote and directed another, Kerb, said: "People who are dedicated to the craft and want to make films, regardless of their circumstances or financial situation are going to make them.

"But with times in the film industry as hard for new starters as they are now, it's schemes like the Initiate that could really make a difference."

And Steven Pattinson, who worked as a camera assistant on two films, Arriving and Leaving - which Peter produced - and wrote and directed Minimum Reason, found the shoots "the perfect step" from student to professional and had prepared him for the job.

"I feel I have learned a great deal."


LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Steve Sinclair and David Reed on sound, on the set for the production of 'Bed & Breakfast' ON THE SHOOT Actors Lauren Hurwood and Chris Kirtley on location at Shaftoe Crags in Northumberland for 'Arriving'
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 14, 2011
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