Category: Talent and Business Development

BBC commission new documentary from Newcastle-based indie Northern Child starring Jordan North

Posted on by North East Screen

North East indie, Northern Child has won a BBC Three commission for a documentary to be filmed in Newcastle, featuring BBC Radio 1 presenter Jordan North.

What’s Really in Your Vape? (w/t) will see Jordan North front his first documentary as he explores the truth behind the UK’s vaping phenomenon.

The number of young people vaping has skyrocketed in recent years. Annual sales in the UK are now worth more than £1.3 billion.

But do we really know what’s inside these vapes? What are they made of, how are they made, and where? What chemicals go into the liquid? How much nicotine’s really in them? Which ones are sold legally, which ones aren’t?

As someone who uses vapes himself, Jordan North seeks answers to all of these questions. As well as meeting scientists performing cutting edge testing on vapes, and researchers looking at the possible long term effects of vaping, Jordan investigates the problem with illegal vapes in the UK. How big is the market? Where are they coming from? Who’s selling them? And just how dangerous might they be?

Jordan North says: “I’m really excited to be back on BBC Three, I’ve always wanted to make a documentary and I’m really interested in this subject, as a vaper myself I’m desperate to know what’s inside my vape!”

Andrew Eastel, Executive Producer says: “Vaping has become incredibly popular in the UK. Not just with those trying to quit smoking, and especially amongst younger people. So, it’s more important than ever for us to have a better understanding of what’s actually inside a vape; how they are made and where they come from, the types or brands of vapes that may pose a risk, and whether there could be longer term implications for the health of people who vape? Jordan is the ideal person to help us answer these questions. He’s naturally inquisitive and open-minded – without being preachy – and as someone who vapes himself, he has a vested interest in getting to the truth.”

Nasfim Haque, Head of Content of BBC Three says: “Jordan is the perfect guide for this fascinating and insightful new documentary as he takes a deep dive into the rapidly expanding phenomenon of vaping and showcases his findings to viewers on BBC Three and iPlayer.”

What’s Really in Your Vape? will be broadcast on BBC Three and BBC iPlayer in early 2024.

What’s Really in Your Vape? (1 x 30) is a Northern Child Production for BBC Three and BBC iPlayer produced from Newcastle. The Executive Producer is Andrew Eastel, the Producer is Katie Elliott and the programme will be Directed by Simon Rawles. The Commissioning Editor for the BBC is Mark Harrison for Current Affairs.

Production studio pictures a brighter future in Sunderland

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A media production company which has worked on blockbuster films and world-tour concerts has swapped London for Sunderland.

Sensel Studio, whose showreel includes Murder on the Orient Express, the Fast and the Furious and numerous Amazon and Netflix productions, has moved to the historic Mackie’s Corner in the heart of Sunderland city centre.

The move has seen the company, which specialises in virtual productions, designing workflows, engineering pipelines and live events, move its entire operation to the North East to capitalise on ‘the region’s growing screen industry’.

“We made the decision to move to Sunderland as we could see the huge potential in its growing screen and tech industries,” said Chris Simcock, founder and managing director.

“When you look at the development of Crown Works Studios, the recent announcements by BBC and Channel 4 to produce more shows here and the University’s continued investment into its media production courses, there is just so much potential.”

Sensel officially moved into Mackies Corner in September following the completion of work on The Co.llective, a suite of ‘individually crafted workspaces designed specifically to meet the needs of creative businesses.’

Located in Sunderland city centre, the office is just a short drive from the proposed £450 million Crown Works Studios development, which took a major step forward this week [20 Nov] with the official submission of a planning application.

“We knew it was perfect for us as soon as we saw the place,” he said. “It had a real sense of history and was just a breath of fresh air.

“As a creative business, we love the idea of a collective and all of the neighbouring studios we’ve met are of similar mindset.

“It feels like a collective of creative free spirits but all who are keen to grow their interests commercially and give back to the community.”

Chris’ decision to leave London for the North East of England also coincided with a post-lockdown realisation that, due to the company’s global reach, there was no real need for the company to be anchored in the bustling capital.

“Covid made me realise that we could do business anywhere and being based in London wasn’t necessarily an advantage,” he said.

“By coming to the North East, we can tap into top talent from the university, which is something we’re keen to do as we recruit over the next 12 months.

“We’re right near the sea, just a short drive from countryside and are only an hour’s drive from the airport which can get us wherever we need to be at short notice. Once we factored everything in, it was just an absolute no brainer.”

Alex Kirtley, managing director of Mackies Corner developer, Kirtley Co, said: “The idea behind The Co.llective was to bring to market the workspace required to help grow the city’s creative sector and the arrival of Sensel Studio show how it’s already doing just that.

“To have a business which could have up sticks to anywhere in the world choosing to relocate to Sunderland shows just how appealing an offer the city’s offer is at the moment and we’re delighted to be playing a part in that.”

Sensel Studio was supported during its move to the city by the Business Investment Team at Sunderland City Council who worked with Chris and the team to identify the perfect premises.

Cllr Kevin Johnston, dynamic city cabinet member at Sunderland City Council, said: “Our growing screen and tech industries have really put Sunderland on the map over recent years and this is a prime example of that.

“From the city’s 5G roll-out to the arrival of North East Screen, Crown Works Studios proposals and the regeneration of Riverside Sunderland, Sunderland is a city transforming and we are delighted that Sensel Studio are joining us on our journey.”

North East Screen is attending Focus

Posted on by North East Screen

North East Screen’s Film Office will be attending FOCUS 2023 5-6th December and exhibiting as part of Screen Alliance North.

Screen Alliance North is a BFI Skills Cluster created by Liverpool Film Office, North East Screen, Screen Manchester and Sreen Yorkshire with support of the BFI, awarding National Lottery funding.

The four screen agencies have come together as a lead skills body for the North of England to tackle skills shortages and improve access to quality training provision for diverse talent and communities in the screen industries.

You can find us at Stand P1 which is located on the first level. The stand is visible as soon as you enter the hall.

We will be hosting a Happy Hour (with drinks) at our stand on Wednesday 6th December between  2.30pm and 3.30pm We are attending FOCUS to talk locations, crew, facilities, skills and to raise awareness of sustainability in production and the wellbeing of local crew alongside our partners at Screen Alliance North. Come and say hello!

Taking place at The Design Centre London, FOCUS is the only UK trade event where attendees can meet with content makers and facilitators from over 100 countries. The event is free to enter but all creative screen industry professionals must register for a screen badge. Register on the FOCUS website.

Tull Stories nominated for ‘Best Documentary Campaign’ at Big Screen Awards

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Tull Stories, a film distribution and exhibition agency based in Newcastle upon Tyne, is part of a collective nominated for a prestigious ‘Best Documentary Campaign’ award at the Screen International Big Screen Awards.

Tull Stories is nominated as part of a collective including Met Film Distribution, along with film publicist Zoe Flower and production company Labor Of Love Films for the release of A Bunch Of Amateurs

Jonny Tull, who set up Tull Stories in 2017 after almost 30 years of frontline experience in the North East film sector said,

“Being part of a collective nominated for an award is a very surprising and lovely thing. Tull Stories worked with Met Film Distribution to book the documentary film A Bunch Of Amateurs (2022) into over 120 UK cinemas. To be asked to work with Met Film Distribution was a real watershed moment last year and allowed me to combine my admiration for regional film clubs, my experience of archive film, my love of the North and these ‘outsiders’ of filmmaking in one project. It connected with me deeply”.

This nomination comes within a year of incredible firsts for Jonny. Working with Met Film Distribution and Doc Society, undertaking a major BFI data analysis role as an associate with Indigo Ltd, having a Tull Stories release nominated for a BAFTA, and attending Sheffield DocFest, Toronto International Film Festival and Film London’s Distributor Slate Days as a newly formed distribution company are just some of the outstanding achievements from this year.

“To cap this year off with an awards event, and a prestigious one too, gives me real pause for thought about how lucky I am, how exciting this work is and how energised I am about it all. Imagine if we win!”

Lisa Laws, Talent and Business Development Director at North East Screen said,

“We are thrilled to see Jonny nominated for a prestigious national award for such great work on such a brilliant film.

“Our REACH funding supported Tull Stories to attend Toronto Film Festival and Slate Days, which has already yielded great results: meeting international sales agents, pitching for, and winning contracts and bookings, as well as profile raising. At Slate Days Jonny and Jens Meurer (director of Seaside Special) were even cheered on and off stage!”

2024 is set to be a transformational year for Tull Stories with Jonny commenting on what is to come,

“2024 will see Tull Stories grow and employ new staff in the North East. It’s fundamental that we operate and thrive in our region. The screen sector is on a path of growth, and distribution and audience engagement is a key part of that. We’re even expanding into new areas of film and TV, as well as distribution we now work with production companies, and are helping the company, Park the Bus, to develop their slate for film or TV and to build key partnerships.” 

Forthcoming Tull Stories releases include Jeanie Finlay’s new documentary ‘Your Fat Friend’ and Hilmar Oddsson’s Icelandic comedy-drama ‘Driving Mum’.

BBC One commissions Making It with Sara Davies (w/t) for all us eager would-be inventors

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BBC One has today announced a brand-new commission: Making It with Sara Davies (w/t). Produced by Gateshead based Twenty Six 03, and backed by the North East Production Fund, delivered by North East Screen, this exciting new series will air on BBC One in 2024 and has been commissioned for 15×30 episodes.

Each programme will feature ordinary people who think they’ve come up with a brilliant or innovative idea for a new product, but just don’t know where to start to see if it could ever become a reality.

Enter Sara and her crack team of highly-skilled experts…they’ll meet all of the aspiring inventors to help develop their initial ideas with the aim of turning them into fully-functioning, and potentially even money-making products. Life changing stuff!

But will the ideas always work or are the aspiring inventors dreaming of the impossible? With her keen eye for innovation, and amazing concepts, Sara will be joined by her team in their specialist workshop, based in the North East of England, to see if these dreams can become a reality.

Sara, has been a successful business woman since the age of 21, when she spotted a gap in the craft market when she invented an envelope-making tool for card makers. With the help of her engineer dad, she tested and refined her product before she made a prototype and started to sell it. And since then, her life has changed, and her personal success has seen her become a major investor in some of the UK’s most successful businesses through her role on Dragons’ Den.

Sara says, “There are thousands of people across the UK who have brilliant and big ideas, but are stuck on how to get started, so I am delighted that I am going to be able to help these wonderfully innovative people develop and make their inventing dreams a reality. I can’t wait to see what ideas are out there and get them into our workshop of dreams!”

Alison Gwynn, Chief Executive at North East Screen comments, “We’re excited to be supporting Sara Davies next project, this is a great example of how our development and production fund supports North East production and on screen talent to develop and drive future content. The BBC have made a solid commitment to having commissioners based in the region and we can see that really making a difference.”

Gayle Woodruffe, Operations Director at North East Screen comments, “The North East Production Fund is really starting to have an impact, supporting regional based indies and talent reach new markets, attracting international films and ground-breaking TV series, which all bring investment and jobs to our region growing businesses, skills and talent.”

Helen Munson, Commissioning Editor for BBC Daytime comments, “Where better to make a programme about inventing than the North East?! This is where Joseph Swann invented the lightbulb, and George Stephenson became the ‘Father of the Railways’. We are in good company! And with the brilliant Sara Davies at the helm we know we are going to unearth brand new inventions for the 21st Century. Gateshead based Twenty Six 03 will be working with a host of local off screen talent to bring this exciting new series to BBC One.”

Rob Unsworth, Head of BBC Daytime and Early Peak Commissioning comments, “The UK has always been an innovative nation, but could any one of us be the next to come up with a game-changing new invention? Viewers are in for a treat as the brilliant Sara Davies and her team of experts discover which of the clever, creative or crazy ideas so many of us have knocking around our heads could ever become a reality. I hope this will be a warmly inspirational addition to our schedule, and can’t wait to see what our budding inventors bring to the workshop.”

Duncan Gray and Antonia Hurford-Jones, Executive Producers for Twenty Six 03, comment, “We’re thrilled to get the chance to be making this series with the brilliant Sara Davies and our fantastic team here in Gateshead.  Ingenuity in the UK is alive and well and we’re already getting in some amazing ideas.” Making It with Sara Davies (w/t) will be on screens in 2024, it was commissioned for BBC One and iPlayer by Head of BBC Daytime and Early Peak Commissioning Rob Unsworth, the Commissioning Editor for BBC Daytime is Helen Munson. The programme is produced by Twenty Six 03’s Duncan Gray and Antonia Hurford-Jones with funding from North East Screen.

Two Newcastle based indies receive discretionary awards from Channel 4

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Schnoobert Productions and Rock Paper Productions have been selected alongside four other indies in the nations and regions to receive a discretionary award as part of the Channel 4 Emerging Indie Fund.

They will gain access to 4Producers’ networking events, development workshops and funds to help towards the development of programme ideas. They will also benefit from regular access to Head of Indie Relations, Rebecca Thompson.

When announcing the recipients of the awards, Rebecca Thompson, Channel 4’s Head of Indie Relations, said: “This is a difficult time for indies, particularly small indies based in the Nations and Regions, so we are delighted to be able to support these companies to make them more robust and also help them shape their ideas to put them in the best possible position to win commissions.”

Discretionary awards were also made to: Blair Black (Belfast); Catman Media Ltd (Belfast); Lunar Lander (Sheffield); and Rock Films (Birmingham.

Launched in 2020, the Emerging Indie Fund has been specifically developed to help nurture up and coming indies, widen their networks and relationships and help them move on to the next level of their development. The fund’s focus is to support indies based in the Nations and Regions.

Grand coalition formed to create a ‘Northern Creative Corridor’

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Today (Tuesday 14 November) local leaders across the North of England alongside some of the leading figures in the creative industries, have come together to commit to developing a “Northern Creative Corridor” (NCC). 

The partnership is intended to unlock the huge potential of the creative industries across the North of England.  A background briefing paper written by Creative PEC sets out that potential, which could raise the Gross Value Added (GVA) economic productivity measure across the region by an additional £10 billion each year

This would make a significant contribution towards meeting the ambitions set out in the Government’s Creative Industries Sector Vision published earlier this year. 

Our work will be supported by a charter, which sets out the areas where local and sector leaders will collaborate in developing the NCC, including skills, finance, innovation, and communication. 

There are 25 signatories of the charter, including the mayors in Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and the North of Tyne, and sector leaders including Creative UK, North-East Screen, the N8 Research Partnership universities, and Ubisoft, plus the BBC, ITV and Channel 4. 

Alison Gwynn, Chief Executive of North East Screen said: “The Northern Creative Corridor is a real statement of intent to unleash the collective power we have across the creative industries in the North. Our voice is stronger together, and we look forward to working with the wider collective creating more opportunities for our creative talent to benefit from.”

The Rt Hon Lucy Frazer, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “From the grassroots music venues that launched The Beatles in Liverpool to today’s cutting edge screen facilities in Yorkshire and Salford’s MediaCityUK, our creative industries have always thrived in the North of England. We know great things happen when creative industries work together, and the Northern Creative Corridor is going to maximise the potential of these sectors so communities across the region can benefit from new opportunities and investment.” 

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire Combined Authority said: “We are united in our shared ambition to level up our towns and cities by turbocharging our cultural offer in the North of England. The route to regeneration, well-paid jobs and happier communities lies in building better places, with creative opportunities for all at the heart of our plans for economic growth. I look forward to further collaboration across the North of England, as we unleash our full potential and drive more opportunities for creative talent to thrive.” 

Tim Davie, BBC Director-General said: “This Charter makes clear the huge scale of the economic opportunity on offer for the North. By coming together as a cross-sector coalition, we are committing to putting the full weight of the creative industries behind the Northern growth agenda – with jobs, skills, investment, and innovation as the prize. The BBC is determined to play its part to the full.” 

Andy Haldane, Chief Executive of the RSA said: “There are pockets of creative genius right across the North of England. But the potential to nurture and grow these pockets into a Northern creative supercluster, by working in pan-regional partnership, is simply enormous. Unlocking that huge potential, through practical action, is the purpose of putting together this grand coalition of leaders from the region and the creative industries.” 

Hasan Bakhshi, Director Creative PEC said:“All the evidence suggests that neighbouring creative clusters can work together in key areas like workforce skills and access to finance to supercharge growth in their creative industries. The North of England’s creative industries grew in real terms by around 23 per cent between 2010 and 2019 before the pandemic. However, despite the presence of creative hotspots like Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle, the creative industries still only contribute around 3 per cent of the north’s economy, compared with just under 10 per cent in London and the Southeast. This illustrates the huge scale of the opportunity.” 

Signatories to the charter have committed to making the North of England ‘one of the best regions in the UK for creative industries to thrive’. 

Next steps will involve a series of workshops in January and February 2024, to bring together policy, business, education, and civil society stakeholders, including creative industries and arts, culture, and heritage practitioners. New policy and practice interventions will be co-designed and stress-tested across skills, finance, and innovation, to help realise creative corridors in different parts of the UK.  

The results of this activity and progress towards making the Northern Creative Corridor a reality will be reported at the time of the Convention of the North in March 2024. 

Click here to view the full list of the signatories to the charter.

Natterbox moves into Gateshead’s PROTO creating a new Northern HQ

Posted on by North East Screen

Chatterbox, the acclaimed BAFTA-winning production company behind hit TV series Meet the Khans and Charlotte in Sunderland, has announced the establishment of a new Northern headquarters, known as Natterbox, in Gateshead.  

The Brighton-based company has moved into offices in Gateshead’s state-of-the-art digital production facility, PROTO, alongside a host of other TV production and immersive technology companies, with plans to create 10 new job opportunities in the North East. 

This move builds on the continued growth of the screen sector in the region following the formation of the public sector-led North East Screen Industries Partnership (NESIP) and the BBC’s commitment to commission a minimum of £25m programming spend over the next 5 years.

Operating as Natterbox, the team hopes to harness the unique potential and cultural richness of North East England, shining a spotlight on some of Britain’s most stunning landscapes and attracting new commissioning spend to the area.

Natterbox is also looking to foster local talent through the creation of new apprenticeships and training programmes, providing fresh routes into the television industry and empowering aspiring creatives in the North East to pursue their passion for production.

The female-led team regards diversity of thought as integral to its DNA and wants to nurture the next generation of creative talent through early career mentoring and guidance, creating jobs for local residents. 

Natterbox was founded by former Channel 4 Factual Entertainment Commissioning Editor, Nav Raman, and experienced Director and Producer, Ali Quirk, whose credits include Gogglebox, Come Dine With Me, Lion Country, Sky Cops and Gold Rush.

Nav Raman, Founder and Executive Producer, Natterbox, said: “Our mission is to collaborate with the best creative talent in the country, both on and off screen, to produce bold, entertaining and compelling content for major platforms and broadcasters.

“Launching Natterbox in the North East will not only help us do that, it will allow us to join an exciting ecosystem of incredible businesses who are at the forefront of innovation in all aspects of screen entertainment.”

Natterbox brings an impressive track record of producing hit shows such as Meet the Khans, Extraordinary Portraits, Sally Lindsay’s Posh Weekends and of course, Charlotte in Sunderland.

BBC Three has just announced a second season of the hit show, which follows TV personality Charlotte Crosby, as she looks to settle down in North East England after making a name for herself with appearances on Geordie Shore, Celebrity Big Brother and I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here.

The programme’s first season averaged 300,000 viewers (28 day/4Screen) and generated 448,000 engagements via social media with a combined total of 36m impressions.

Lisa Laws, Head of Talent and Business Development, North East Screen, said: “We’re delighted to see Natterbox invest in the North East and further strengthen the vibrant screen industry we have here in the region. Natterbox bring great expertise in unscripted TV and we look forward to working more closely with Nav, Ali and the team to provide further opportunities to regional crew and trainees.

 “It’s an exciting time to invest in the North East with the launch of the North East Production Fund strengthening our Film Office support, which is already attracting major feature films and TV productions such as Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves, The Red King and Vera; alongside the FulwellCain plans forging ahead to build one of Europe’s largest film studios, Crown Works Studios, in the North East creating over 8,000 jobs.”

Working closely with North East Screen and Gateshead Council, Invest Newcastle, part of NewcastleGateshead Initiative, supported the Chatterbox team with their move to the North East, helping to identify suitable premises for their new headquarters and showcasing the thriving digital cluster on both sides of the River Tyne.

Jennifer Hartley, Director, Invest Newcastle, said: “The screen industry is emerging as a significant driver of investment, place transformation and new opportunities in our region, which should give confidence to Nav and Ali that they are establishing their new headquarters in the right place.

“It’s been a pleasure working with the Natterbox team on securing their move to the North East and we look forward to helping them take advantage of the fantastic creative talent on offer.”

Cllr Malcolm Brain, Cabinet Member for Economy, Gateshead Council, said: “It’s fantastic to welcome Natterbox to Gateshead, they join a thriving hub of creatives who work within all aspects of the screen industry.

“Over the years we’ve invested into the screen industry with our facilities at PROTO, behind the four walls of the ‘black box’ there is a wealth of innovative technology which assists with the production of programmes and films.

“Combine the technology with a friendly North East welcome and the continued commitments from the BBC and Channel 4, I am sure we will see continued investment of other media companies to the borough.”

Channel 4 ‘In Too Deep’ Digital Development Initiative

Posted on by North East Screen

Channel 4, in collaboration with North East Screen, has launched a new digital commissioning opportunity for production companies and creatives in the North East to create a hard-hitting piece for their ‘In Too Deep’ Documentary strand.

The Channel 4 Digital Commissioning team are on the hunt for brilliant youth-focused ideas. They are dedicated to reaching young audiences in the digital space so your ideas should authentically speak to young people across the UK and be social native.

‘In Too Deep’ is a doc strand where brave young journalists delve into a world, expose something and experience it first-hand for the audience. The films should be high-octane and immersive and will see a rotating roster of (sometimes undercover) journalists get closer to the action than ever before: scammers, con artists, criminals, pyramid schemes, nothing is off limits.

Click this link to watch the first ‘In Too Deep’ documentary (TW // Sexual Violence).

‘Exposing from the inside’ is a phrase to keep in mind. They are looking for pieces that take them into hidden and dark youth culture by shining a light behind the scenes. What is the darker side of big topics that interest young people? You tell us, but more importantly, show us!

These films are circa 15-20 mins each. Digital Original commissioning tariffs are between 1-3k per min and the budget will depend on the scale and ambition of your submitted projects.

Don’t be afraid to pitch ideas that you think just couldn’t be made, because Channel 4 believe there is always a way!

The deadline to send in your pitches is the 9th of November.

Send your pitches to

If you have any questions about this opportunity, please email

Check out the video below to learn more.

Durham-based filmmaker selected for BFI London Film Festival Works-in-Progress showcase

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Harder Than The Rock, a music documentary from North East filmmaker Mark Warmington, is one of only five projects selected to take part in the BFI London Film Festival (LFF) Work-In-Progress showcase.

The music documentary tells the story of the UK’s first reggae band, Cimarons, and follows the band in their old age as they battle to keep the Cimarons dream alive and play to live audiences again, one last time. By diving into the historical and social context that connects Ireland and Jamaica, Harder Than The Rock explores the relationship between the Irish diaspora and the Windrush generation who lived alongside each other and faced similar prejudice in London, features interviews with all of the surviving band members, a live performance of their classic hits from the 1970s and exclusive archival footage from an incredible tour.

The in-person event took place on October 7 as part of the festival’s UK Talent Days focus, in partnership with the British Council, at London’s Picturehouse Central.

The event screened extracts from each project, with an introduction from its filmmaker to an invited audience of international buyers as well as UK sales agents and festival programmers, followed by a networking event. Clips from the films will be available online for a week from October 7 via a secure platform to an invited pool of international industry professionals. All projects are still in production, or in post, from filmmakers at debut or second feature stage.

Laura Purvis, Talent and Business Development Manager at North East Screen said: “It’s great to see Mark’s hard work and brilliant ideas paying off regionally and nationally. He is definitely a one to watch!”

Other films selected for the BFI LFF Works-in-Progress showcase include The Ceremony, dir-scr. Jack King; Low Rider, dir-scr. Campbell X; Smoking Shoes, dir. David Warwick; and A Winter’s Journey, dir-scr. Alex Helfrecht.