Published on 17 February 2022
A short film highlighting the harrowing consequences that Peer-on-Peer abuse has on a transgender teen has been named winner at an annual awards ceremony in Sunderland.
Now in its 9th year, the Northumbria Police project, a collaboration with the University of Sunderland, raises awareness about issues impacting 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, students were asked by Northumbria Police, alongside South Tyneside Safeguarding Children and Adults Partnership, to look at Peer-on-Peer abuse, which is becoming more widespread in society and is wide-ranging from criminal, sexual, physical and emotional exploitation.
The students researched, scripted, devised, filmed and edited all seven films themselves and the 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 Peer-on-Peer abuse.
This year’s winner, Broken Stones, is 15-minute drama that focuses on the cyberbullying of a17-year-old transgender boy. The film explores the impact cyberbullying can have on an individual, while also exploring what bystanders can do to stop it.
Co-director Eddie Flyte, 24, originally from Croydon now living in Sunderland, said: “It feels incredible to win this award. We all worked so hard to create a film that would do the subject matter justice and one that would work well for the client. I am incredibly proud of the final film, and that in itself is enough, but winning the award certainly helps validate the time and work that we all put into making it the best film possible.”
Eddie, a Film Production student, added: “Broken Stones itself was definitely a labour of love. I drew largely on my own experiences as well as what I felt was missing in terms of support when I came out, alongside similar stories from other members of the trans community.
“Pitching the idea to the client was nerve-wracking, but their ongoing involvement and feedback were extremely useful as this was not something that we had experienced before. As such, the partnership has pushed us to approach our filmmaking in new ways, as well as giving us invaluable experience as to what it would be like to work for clients in our professional lives.
“It is exciting to know that the partnership will allow our film to be shown to teenagers in schools, many of whom may be looking for answers as to how to approach and support the trans community and our human rights. It is incredibly gratifying to know that Broken Stones could go on to have the positive representation and influence that many of us wish we had known when we were younger, and I am so proud to have been part of such an important project.”
Peer-on-Peer abuse covers areas such as physical and sexual abuse, sexual harassment and violence, emotional harm, on and offline bullying and teenage relationship abuse. Last year, the NSPCC announced an increase in children seeking help from Childline due to Peer-on-Peer sexual abuse.
The awards evening at the Sir Tom Cowie Lecture Theatre, St Peter’s Campus, was 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.
Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner Kim McGuiness’s Community Fund is supporting the project with a bursary.
“What a year this has been,” said Dr Adelle Hulsmeier.
“The students have created exemplary work, and have done so facing such adversity from issues with covid, a cyber security attack and then the impact of Storm Arwen, it’s been a bumpy road for all involved and that's before we even began to tackle the issue of peer-on-peer abuse.
“The students have created seven excellent films that can be used far and wide to educate and train people about this hard hitting and prevalent issue. We are so proud, the students are an absolute credit to the university. We are grateful to our partners also. South Tyneside Safeguarding Children and Adults partnership have also worked tirelessly to help guide and shape the students’ work.
Dr Hulsmeier added: “This is such an important issue to address and we are so grateful to continue to work with such insightful and inspiring partners, in the creation of work that holds such importance for a number of communities of people. We really believe in this project and the outputs it creates and it is with passion and dedication that we continue to spearhead the creation of such influential films.”
Nicholas Glean, Senior Lecturer in Video and New Media at the University of Sunderland, said: “It was a fabulous night with a well-deserved winner. It was a pleasure to guide such hardworking and determined filmmakers. “It is truly remarkable to see how the project and ceremony have helped create a space for the voiceless and dis-empowered to be heard and seen.
“It also shows our strength in the region with the fantastic collaborative partnerships we have generated.”
What the winning students say
Screen performance student Chris Gotts, 45, from Newcastle, who played the role of a teacher in the film, added: “I was truly humbled and honoured to be asked to be a part of the Broken Stones’ cast.
“After reading the script, it was clear that this was a powerful, and relevant, story that needed to be told and I wanted to help to tell it.
“Everyone has the right to be who they are and true to themselves without fear of what others will say, or post about them online. I hope that our film will go on to help raise awareness of the impact and power words can have and hopefully make people stop and think before they post something they think is ‘just a joke’.”
Lead actor Artie Dunn, 23, from Seaham, a Performing Arts student, said: “I genuinely didn’t believe we’d do as well as we did, let alone win!
“This project has meant the world to me over the last few months and through it I’ve met such a lovely cast and crew. Throughout the whole filmmaking process, we had quite a few twists and turns in the road and probably enough drama to make a film about the film. But I’m grateful to our crew Eddie, Helena, Maia and Steve for turning everything around in such a professional manner. And especially grateful to Eddie as our writer and director, it was very important to me to have someone LGBT in the filming environment to ensure the process was comfortable for me.”
Performing Arts student Chloe Shipman, 21, from Manchester, said: “The project was really interesting to be involved in as this is something I’ve never done before. I’m over the moon with winning as well, as these short films will hopefully help others in the future.”
Film Production student Helena Dinnca, 21, from Valenica, Spain, a co-director, producer and editor of Broken Stones, said: “I couldn’t feel prouder to have participated in this project. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing we are going to help trans-teenagers with our film. Working with a client as a third-year student gives a new vision for my career and is helping me grow as a filmmaker. I couldn’t be prouder to help with such an important project.”