Susie McShane discusses Faith Shorts with SceneTV
SceneTV recently caught up with Susie McShane, Senior Communications Manager at the Tony Blair Foundation to find out more about their annual Faith Shorts competition. You can read the interview below.
What is the Faith Shorts Film competition?
Faith Shorts is an annual global short film competition run by the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, which aims to encourage participation in film, gives young people an outlet to talk about their faith and offers cameras to those with a great idea but without the money to film it. This year, we're asking 14-27 year olds to submit a three minute film that answers the following brief: "Let me show you how my faith inspires me".
What does it aim to achieve?
Faith Shorts is a great opportunity for young people to express what their faith means to them in their own words and a chance to challenge some of the presumptions that exist about religion. Last year one 14 year old film-maker from the North West of England sought to tackle stereotypes about Islam and terrorism through his film "My Name is Tayyab". "Islam is a religion of peace, the actions of a few should not define a whole religion," proclaims Tayyab in the film.
Through these films you can form opinions based on first hand information. You learn that not all Muslims think "this" and all Christians think "that"- they have a great range of views and there is often disagreement within religions and not just between them. So seeing this diversity helps reduce stereotypes. It is this human connection that really helps people understand where "the other" is coming from. Ignorance is often the source of conflict as people fear the unknown. By building understanding we can help to avoid conflict in the future.
We also want to make filmmaking accessible to young people all over the world, regardless of what background they come from. Those who don't have access to a camera had the opportunity to win a camera to make their film. This element of the competition recently closed and we sent cameras to young people in countries including Sierra Leone, Kenya, South Africa, Pakistan, Serbia and Palestine.
What are the benefits of entering? What happens after the winner is selected?
This competition gives entrants the chance to tell their story. Whatever their background, religion, or wherever they live. It also gives them a chance to correct common misconceptions about their faith and become a positive ambassador. And not only will their film will be judged by an impressive panel including Hugh Jackman, Oscar Winning Producer Lord Puttnam, Dawn French, Tony Blair and the Grand Mufti of Bosnia, but if you win, you will be flown to London and have your film premiered at a red carpet awards ceremony.
There is an amazing line-up of judges; what are they looking for in the submissions, what makes a winning entry?
We are very lucky to have such a great line up of judges. When a budding filmmaker asked Hugh Jackman for advice about his Faith Short on Twitter he gave some really good advice and told him he is looking for: "Authenticity, originality and out of the box thinking". This succinctly sums up what we are looking for.
What have been some of the success stories that have arisen from past competitions, entries and winners?
Just last month, Sheyin, a 21 year old from Kerala, India who made the shortlist for the inaugural Faith Shorts competition, got in touch with us. He told us: "I was born and brought up in an orthodox Muslim family where films are prohibited, but I always wanted to be someone who was remembered as a great story teller. When I was short listed in Faith Shorts, things changed and my family allowed me to follow my dreams. Now I'm working for a television channel as a program producer." It is stories like this which make you realise just how worthwhile the competition is.
Why do you choose film to be the medium of the competition? What is it about film and television that gives it the ability to tackle assumptions and challenge perspectives?
Film is a fantastic way to explore these complex issues as it is engaging, creative and above all else universal.
Finally, a question that we ask all interviewees – what does diversity mean to you?
We see diversity as a very positive term, one which means a celebration of difference.
To find out more about Faith Shorts go to www.faithshorts.org. The deadline for submissions is 9th July 2012.