What’s it all about?

Our History

In 2014 Sunderland City Council and Festival Director Anne Tye announced the creation of Sunderland Shorts Film Festival, with the first event taking place in 2015.

Following Sunderland becoming the first and only non-capital city to sign a Friendship Agreement with Washington DC in 2006, the two cities have been working in partnership to develop economic, educational and cultural relationships, providing the people of Sunderland with new experiences and opportunities.

During this time, the annual DC Shorts Film Festival, led by Programming Director, Jon Gann, has gone from strength to strength and has become one of the most respected festivals in the USA and internationally. Over the years there have been numerous conversations with Jon, exploring the possibility of starting such a festival in Sunderland making filmmaking the next in the series of sectors to benefit from the unique relationship.

Thanks to funding from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, Jon worked with Festival organisers in Sunderland to support the development of the first festival.

Our aims

  • To deliver an annual Film Festival for the North East which celebrates the art of short film & music video from around the World.
  • To provide a platform where diverse stories from different perspectives and experiences, across all genres can be shared.
  • To offer unmissable screenings, events & networking opportunities.
  • To make all events available and accessible to all of our audiences, regardless of social and economic circumstances or barriers.
  • To generate opportunities for regional filmmakers to showcase and launch their work internationally.
  • To increase the knowledge and skills of emerging filmmakers through workshops, masterclasses and development opportunities with experienced sector professionals.
  • To operate with transparency and fairness in our screening and submission process.
  • To cooperate with local, national and international partners to deliver the most beneficial experience for our community.
  • To contribute to the developing screen industry in Sunderland and the wider North East region.
  • To be an inclusive cultural hub, screening works from underrepresented communities and championing themes of equality, diversity and creativity.

Festival Vlog

Environmental Impact

We understand the profound need to consider environmental impact in all of our events and actions connected to Sunderland Shorts.

In a move to go paperless, for the 2021 and 2022 editions of the festival we moved all of our tickets, programmes and festival materials to online and digital versions. Utilising a variety of venues within the city centre makes sure that we are easily commutable by foot, and as such reducing any needed carbon emissions.

Additionally within Sunderland and surrounding areas there are various accessible public transport options including bus and metro services, as well as a rail link with the new train station in the City Centre. This year we are also currently looking at formalising a partnership with travel companies to further support this offer.

Near the venues there are also ample bike storage and electric car charging facilities available.

Sunderland has been named a ‘climate leader’ in the world’s environmental battle after receiving a top score from the CDP, and as an event supported by Sunderland City Council we strive to reflect these values. The council itself has committed to become a carbon neutral local authority by 2040, working with partners to shape its Low Carbon Framework, which sets out ways to reduce the city’s carbon footprint. You can read more about this at:


Chris J Allan

Chris J. Allan is a film practitioner from South Shields. Since 2020 he has been Festival Director of Sunderland Shorts, an event dedicated to showing the best filmmakers from around the World while championing National and Regional talent from established names to young, emerging and student creatives. Under his leadership the festival has received BIFA qualifying status as well as entering the Top 100 rated Film Festivals on Filmfreeway.

As a filmmaker with Wycombe 89 he has written and directed numerous projects, including short films and documentaries which have had international awards success. Chris received a Masters in Film Studies from Newcastle University and has taught on various film and media courses for over a decade. He is the current Secretary of the Royal Television Society for The North East & The Border regions, and is passionate about championing the next generation of screen talent and sharing stories from under-represented communities.