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Student films capture reality of policing during global pandemic

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Published on 22 June 2021

Short films created by students at Sunderland
Short films created by students at Sunderland

Now in its 8th year, the annual short film partnership project with Northumbria Police and SARC (Sexual Assault Referral Centre), raises awareness about issues impacting on society through films created by final year Screen Performance, Performing Arts and Film production students.

Over the years the projects have addressed challenging issues such as county lines drug crime, male rape, modern-day slavery, the capacity to consent, sexual exploitation, domestic violence, and cyber-crime.

This year’s theme proved challenging in many ways, with students not only living through the experience of the subject they were tackling, capturing a period of history in real time, but also having to ensure they were following the government’s Covid-19 guidelines to produce their films, which were often changing daily.

The students researched, scripted, devised, filmed and edited all five films themselves, with themes ranging from the mental health impact of lockdown, breaking the lockdown rules, how the virus has impacted students across the world, being a vulnerable patient and the impact of shielding, as well as experiencing online education during lockdown.

An awards event has been organised on Thursday, June 24, online via Teams, to announce the winning film. Hosted by Dr Adelle Hulsmeier, Senior Lecturer in Performing Arts and Programme Leader for Screen Performance, with speeches from the University’s Vice Chancellor, Sir David Bell, and the awards presented by Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuiness.

To attend the presentation, go to EventBrite.

Dr Hulsmeier said: “Every year our students get so much out of working in collaboration with Northumbria Police and SARC.

“This year has certainly been challenging in trying to continue to create impactful work, however, the students have continued to showcase their determination and creativity in working on a brief relative to policing during coronavirus.

“The work not only continues to showcase an ability to create professional and hard-hitting work that can be used for awareness and training purposes, but this year the work has reacted to a moment of history we have all been navigating for the past year.”

She added: “These films are testimony to the students’ adept abilities and will remain now as a representation of a time in history that was challenging for us all. We are so proud of the students and their work and are incredibly grateful that we were able to continue our successful collaboration with Northumbria Police and its SARC, with the continued support of the Police Crime Commissioner.”

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, whose Community Fund has helped fund the project once again, said: “The challenges of the last year have been truly life-changing for all of us, and that impact has been felt on both a personal and professional level. It’s great then to see this hard work by University of Sunderland students documenting how our police force kept going through the pandemic.

“The story-telling techniques on show here will ensure we do not take for granted the work of all of our frontline key-workers, including the police. By shining a light on this experience these students are making sure we are one day able to see this work in its historical context, and I’m grateful to them for this.”

All films will contribute to the students’ final-year marks and all productions are turned into an awareness film, to be used as an educational or training tool for the police and specialists, and to promote awareness of the issues around Covid-19 further afield.

Stage three Performing Arts Student, Liam Atkin, 20, from Yorkshire, said: “It’s been a great experience to work for the police during our degree. Although it had been difficult to create a meaningful piece of media due to the restrictions the pandemic imposed on us, it has been a massive achievement for all the students to still be able to create high-quality films.

“Even in times of uncertainty, we all worked together to achieve work that we can be proud of. It's good to work with a client such as the police as it allows us to have the ability to create films that tackle such relevant issues in our society today."

Stage Three, Film Production student, Liam Pringle, added: "Working closely with Northumbria Police has been one of the most progressive and relaxing experiences I have ever had on a project, with no hassle, just support."

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