Judges

Judges for the 2024 competitions

The first judges for 2024 have now been announced. This year, as well as their narrative and documentary short and feature length film categories for young and experienced filmmakers, the festival has two new categories: the 17-23yrs New Filmmaker category and the Misfits and Mavericks category.

The Misfits and Mavericks category is open to any short film under 20 minutes which doesn’t fit the mould of a traditional narrative or documentary.

The judges for this category are:

  • Micallar Walker, the Founderof Dark Matter, an inclusive marketing agency that works collaboratively to connect Black audiences with a broad range of films, books and cinema projects. Formerly Head of Marketing for Front Row Filmed Entertainment, and Head of Events for Picturehouse Cinemas prior to that, she brings 20 years of film and marketing experience to inform strategies and shape authentic campaigns. www.darkmatteragency.co.uk
  • Tré Ventour-Griffiths, a Northampton-based autistic-dyspraxic creative, public historian, sociologist, writer, speaker, consultant, and freelance educator whose work can be broadly contained under Black British histories, neurodiversity, intersectionality, film and television, and insurgent politics. https://linktr.ee/treventoured
  • Emily Almond Barr,a multi award winning DP from Australia. In 2021 Emily was nominated for a BAFTA Cymru for her Documentary cinematography. Recent productions are dark romantic comedy for Sky Atlantic “The Lovers”, political action drama “Cobra” Series 3, period drama “Sanditon”  for ITV (Series 2 & 3) and the BFI feature “Sweetheart.” www.emilyalmondbarr.com

The 16 and Under, and 17-23yrs New Filmmaker categories’ judges are as follows:

  • Tyla Sharp, a Northampton Producer who has recently joined the board of Northampton Film Festival. At the centre of his work are narrative short dramas, featuring BAFTA-nominated actors and new emerging talent. Tyla produced his first short film at the age of 19, which was acquired by Channel 4. Since then, he has found a love for creative producing and, as well as a passion for storytelling, he has a passion for breaking out of the mould and achieving whatever it is the heart desires. www.tylasharp.co.uk
  • Toby Wharton, a filmmaker from South East London, with a strong acting background, whose short ‘Held’ won Best Sketchy-Link-to-Northamptonshire in the drama category in 2023. He is passionate about making intimate, character driven stories with a social commentary. Throughout his teenage years, Toby was an MC on the UK Garage music scene. He then went on to study acting at RADA and has performed extensively on stage and screen. He co-wrote and played the title role in the critically acclaimed play, FOG, published by Methuen Drama. Toby’s BFI Network short, Held, is currently hitting the festivals and he’s been shortlisted for a 1.4 award. He’s now in post-production on his most recent short, Exchange, and is developing his first feature with Joi Productions and Sona Films. Toby regularly teaches acting at various institutions, including Bronzefield Women’s Prison and RADA. Toby was recently selected as a Film London Lodestar for 2023. www.tobywharton.com
  • Emily Steele-Dias from Gateway Film Festival in Peterborough has worked as a freelance filmmaker, curator, and arts producer since 2018. She is an internationally screened filmmaker whose work primarily focuses on local communities, heritage and unheard stories. Emily founded the organisation Cine-Sister in 2017 which showcases and promotes films with women filmmakers in a leadership role. She is also the festival director of the Gateway Film Festival which launched in 2019 and aims to celebrate local history, and community, often mixing film with other art forms such as dance, music and poetry engaging a range of people across the wider Peterborough area. In 2023, Gateway Film Festival was selected as the Film Hub South East BFI Spotlight Location 2023-2026.

And judges for both the narrative and documentary categories are the founders of the online film community Shorts2Features running Producer courses, live masterclasses and networking events. 

  • Enrico Tessarin, an award-winning writer, producer with 20 years of experience working in Film, TV, documentary and advertising. He has worked as a Producer/Line-producer/Co-producer on projects for Amazon, Universal, BBC, AL Jazeera and many others, gathering an Emmy nomination, a United Nations award and many other awards and nominations from festivals all over the world. He has also been a Film Professor at The Master in Producing run by Royal Holloway university since 2018. He has previously taught at London Film Academy, Metropolitan Film School and many others. PINCHmedia (pinch-media.com)
  • Giorgia Cecconi, a rising star in film production and content creation. Giorgia, has been in London for the last decade developing a strong media and business background. An actor, presenter and screenwriter, she is the creative force behind ‘Shorts 2 Features‘ social media presence, acting as the key Digital creator on Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin. Her roots in Italy infuse her work with passion for cinema, theatre, the art of storytelling and interviewing creatives about their craft.  
  • Dr Audrey Tang, Advisory Board member for NFF, is a Chartered Psychologist (British Psychological Society), and award-winning business author with a focus on practical tools for wellbeing. She founded Wellbeing Media Studio broadcasting her show “Mental Health Matters” globally from Feb 2024 while also providing a media platform to the local community.  She created The Wellbeing Lounge on NLiveRadio (winning 2nd place Female Presenter of the Year 2022 & 2023, Community Radio Awards), hosts award-winning podcast ‘Retrain Your Brain for Success’, and provided psychology contribution to Channel 4’s “Don’t Diet Lose Weight”, and The Chrissy B Show (Sky). She is a long-time advocate for boosting mental and emotional fitness within the community through her work with CLICK Productions (a theatre group she founded in 1993) offering opportunities to build confidence, boost self-value and learn new skills through shows and performing arts events which she has now turned into the Charity CLICK Arts Foundation.

Plus for Documentaries we have

  • Simisolaoluwa Akande, a Kettering-based filmmaker. From Nigeria to England, Simisolaoluwa Akande’s fascination with the art of storytelling crossed continents before expressing itself through film. Now a multi-award-winning filmmaker, her films embrace a deeply collaborative approach to storytelling that provides black stories the space to be told and retold. After graduating from the University of Warwick with a BA in Film and Literature, Simisolaoluwa continues to navigate the film industry and continue to develop her craft. Her recent documentary The Archive: Queer Nigerians, won Best Short at the BFI  London Film Festival 2023, Best Documentary at Norwich Film Festival and was Longlisted at BIFA.
  • Tom Dream, a Margate-based director. Tom collaborates closely with artists to create truly original music videos, documentaries, and fashion films. He has created work for Gucci, Nowness, High Snobiety, and artists Arlo Parks, Art School Girlfriend and Celeste. Tom recently signed to Black Dog Films in the UK, and is currently bringing his expertise in filming high-profile music documentaries to long-form human interest features in development this year, including a feature length music documentary about moshing and the return of live music.

And for Narrative Fiction we also have

  • Andrei Austin, a Northampton-based Director of Photography and Camera Operator. Andrei’s credits include DoP on Waking the Dead, Jack Eve’s Death of a Farmer and local Director Mitch Jenkin’s short A Heavy Heart, plus 2nd Unit DoP on the BBC’s The Musketeers and Sky One/HBO’s Strike Back as well as Camera Op and Steadicam credits on A Haunting in Venice, The Witcher, The Man Who Fell To Earth, Belfast, Death on the Nile, The Dark Crystal and Outlander.

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Judges for the 2023 competitions

16 and Under: Disney’s Liza Rhea, Director Marcus Anthony Thomas, both originally from Northamptonshire, and Royal Television Society Midlands Chair and BBC Exec Kuljinder Khaila.

Fiction/drama category: Knives Out and Star Wars Episode VIII Producer Leopold Hughes, Broadcaster/Writer Andrew Collins, both from Northampton, Head of Development Dionne Farrell (B-Side, BBC Films, BFI) and Director of Photography Lolly Michaels who is also Founder of #WomenCreateToo.

Documentary category: Director of international Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Aesthetica Magazine Cherie Federico, BAFTA Breakthrough 2022/23 Paul Sng and Screen International Star of Tomorrow 2020 Ella Glendining.

Liza Rhea is an Environment Modelling Supervisor for Disney in Canada who also wrote and directed the Disney+ animation The No. 2 To Kettering, inspired by growing up in Northamptonshire. Read more here.

Marcus Anthony Thomas, originally from Wellingborough, won Northampton Film Festival 2022’s Drama category. He studied at the National Television School, has written and directed numerous award-winning films and is going from strength to strength having been selected by Warner Bros in a collaboration with HBO to shadow the director of House of the Dragon over 16 months and recently been selected onto Disney’s inaugural Disney Imagine UK, short film incubator programme. Read more here.

Kuljinder Khaila started out as a runner at BBC Pebble Mill Studios in Birmingham before working across daytime, shiny-floor shows, music, comedy, factual entertainment, documentaries and feature films at the BBC. Kully set up his own independent production company making content for BBC Radio, and worked with a number of commercial companies on developing content and talent before returning to the BBC.  He worked with Arts Council England/BBC, helping arts organisations embrace opportunities around digital disruption with The Space project. More recently Kully was Executive Producer of BBC One’s Sunday Morning Live, before moving to the BBC Academy, where he now oversees young engagement projects for the BBC. Read more here.

Leopold Hughes, who was born in Northampton, has worked on some truly brilliant productions, and now lives in the US working for Rian Johnson’s T-Street Productions. His credits include Producer credits on both Knives Out films and ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘ as well as Assistant to Producer credits including ‘Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation‘, ‘Red 2‘ and ‘Serena‘. See more of his credits here.

Dionne Farrell is Head of Development at B-Side Productions, working across film and TV. She began her career working on a magazine youth show, What’s Up, then worked in factual before moving into script development, working for the likes of the BFI and BBC Film. Read more here.

Lolly is a London-based DOP. She has ample experience in working brands, influencers and other creatives to produce authentic, relatable and engaging content. 2022 saw her working with the likes of The Brits, Puma, Nike, Converse and Wray N Nephew, featuring talent such as Nella Rose, DTG and Nikita Parris to name a few. She also expands herself creatively by working on various camera teams as an a camera assistant (2nd AC) for commercial & film productions. Most recently she worked on ÓWÀMBÉ (developed and created as part of the Netflix Documentary Talent Fund) and The Ballad of Olive Morris which has just been shortlisted for Best British Short Film at this year’s BAFTAs.

Lolly continually aims to challenge status quo by being a black female navigating within the film production industry. Being a strong advocate for women of colour who work in the industry, she built a platform to empower the community called #WomenCreateToo. It launched in March 2020, and fast-forward a few months later was supported by Superdrug, after she won the 2020 ‘Faces of the Future’ competition. Visit her website here.

Cherie Federico is Director of Aesthetica Short Film Festival and the internationally-selling Aesthetica Magazine. She co-founded Aesthetica Magazine in 2003 and since then the magazine has become one of the leading British art and culture publications with 500,000 readers across print, digital and social media, and is exported to 20 countries. Aesthetica Short Film Festival is a BAFTA-Qualifying festival and screens films in York City Centre from over 40 countries, as well as attracting key industry from across with sector. Plus she is the Director of the Aesthetica Art Prize, which champions new talent and has 4,500 applications with artists from across the world with artists going on to be commissioned by Absolut Vodka, Channel 4 and participate in biennales and exhibitions worldwide. Visit the ASFF website here.

Paul Sng is a bi-racial British Chinese filmmaker based in Edinburgh, Scotland whose work focuses on people who challenge the status quo. His work has been broadcast on television and screened internationally, and his feature film credits include DISPOSSESSION and POLY STYRENE: I AM A CLICHE (winner of BIFA 2021 Best Documentary, BIFA 2021 Raindance Discovery Award and nominated for several Best Documentary awards including BAFTA and Grierson). He is a BAFTA Breakthrough 2022/23 artist. Read more about Paul on the BAFTA website here.

Ella Glendining is a Writer/Director dedicated to telling authentic disabled stories. She works in both documentary and fiction and has written/directed short films with backing from Film4, the BFI, Arts Council England, Screen South, and the National Paralympic Heritage Trust. Ella has recently completed her first feature film, ‘Is There Anybody Out There?’, a personal documentary about her search for others with the same rare disability as her, supported by BFI Doc Society, Chicken and Egg Pictures and Creative Scotland, and produced by Janine Marmot. Ella is currently developing a historical drama feature for the BFI with disabled characters at its core, produced by Janine Marmot. She currently has a short comedy-drama in post-production called ‘Pyramid of Disunion’ which she wrote, co-directed with Jessi Gutch, and starred in, produced by Justin Edgar for Film4. Ella was a member of the BFI’s Disability Screen Advisory Group from 2018 – 2022. Ella was named one of Screen International’s Stars of Tomorrow 2020. Ella has recently qualified as an Access Coordinator, a new role created to ensure disabled people involved in Film / TV productions get their access needs met. Read more about her here.

Judges for the previous 2022 competition: Actress Callie Cooke, Producer Jim Mooney of EMU Films + Kerrie Cosh of BBC Radio Northampton

Northampton-raised actress Callie Cooke graduated drama school in 2016. Her credits include Firebird (Hampstead Theatre & Trafalgar Studios West End) which she was nominated for an ‘Emerging Talent’ Evening Standard award, Britannia (Sky), The Stranger (Netflix), Rules of the Game (BBC), Cheaters (BBC) and is currently shooting Wedding Season for Disney Plus. 

Producer Jim Mooney is one of the founding partners of EMU Films which has some impressive projects under their belt from Mangrove, Lovers Rock, and Education with Steve McQueen, to The Goob, Jawbone and Sacha Polak’s Dirty God, not to mention Northampton’s own The Show.

Kerrie Cosh is a Presenter at BBC Radio Northampton – hosting the BBC Introducing show on Saturday nights – and can often be found sitting in for Jack Saunders on BBC Radio 1’s Future Artists. After starting out as a YouTube video editor whilst at University to make money on the side, she then made her first audio documentary called ‘The Men Forced to Marry’ in 2019 about male victims of forced marriages who live in the UK. Outside of radio, Kerrie hosts workshops to teach people how to shoot and edit films using only their smartphones.

Judges for 2021 Short Film competition: Actor Julie Hesmondhalgh, Comedian Hugh Dennis and Actor Colin Salmon

Northamptonshire-born comedian, writer and actor Hugh Dennis is the first judge to be announced on the panel of this year’s Northampton Film Festival short film competition. Hugh Dennis began his performing career in 1985 as one half of double act ‘Punt and Dennis’. Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis have just released Series 56 of ‘The Now Show’ on BBC Radio 4. Hugh’s has starred in BBC1’s Outnumbered, Not Going Out and Mock the Week.

And our second judge is actor Colin Salmon. Colin’s mum was from Northamptonshire and he spent a lot of his childhood playing in and around the River Nene. His film credits include Mortal Engines, London has Fallen, Resident Evil, Exam and 3 James Bond movies.  TV includes award winning Prime Suspect 2, No Offence, Arrow, Some Girls, Limitless, Krypton and Intelligence.

And Julie Hesmondhalgh becomes the third person to join this year’s Northampton Film Festival short film competition judging panel alongside comedian Hugh Dennis and actor Colin Salmon. Julie’s credits including current series The Trouble with Maggie Cole, Castastrophe, Doctor Who, Broadchurch for which she was nominated for a BAFTA, Happy Valley, Inside No. 9 and of course Coronation Street for which she won Best Serial Drama Performance for her role as Hayley Cropper at the 2014 National Television Awards.

Becky Adams, Director of Screen Northants which runs the festival says, “My business partner and I were driving in to Screen Northants late last year and caught Hayley’s ‘Only Artists’ on BBC Radio 4. She was discussing with poet Tony Walsh how much of a closed shop the Creative Industries can feel if you don’t see people like yourself working in them. You need to be able to “see it to be it” and this is exactly this reason that Northampton Film Festival and Screen Northants exist, so we knew we had to ask Julie to be a judge this year.”

Meet our panel of judges from 2019:

Alan Moore, born in Northampton in 1953, is a writer, performer, recording artist, activist and magician. His comic-book work includes Lost Girls (2009) with Melinda Gebbie, From Hell (1991) with Eddie Campbell and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (for which he won a Bram Stoker Award in 2000) with Kevin O’Neill. He has worked with director Mitch Jenkins on the Show Pieces cycle of short films and on forthcoming feature film The Show, while his novels include Voice of the Fire (1996) and his epic Jerusalem (2016). He lives in Northampton with his wife and collaborator Melinda Gebbie.

Photographer and Director Mitch Jenkins is a visual storyteller who specialises in filmic, narrative-driven work. Most recently Mitch Jenkins directed EMU Productions’ BFI and Lex Records-backed feature film The Show in Northampton, written by the revered comic book writer Alan Moore. The ongoing partnership with Alan is built on the pair’s complementary skillsets, shared artistic vision and mutual love of Northampton.

Mitch started his career at the Chronicle and Echo before photographing celebrities for the Times and Sunday Times Magazines in London, shooting the likes of David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen and Patrick Stewart. During the last 10 years he has been shooting advertising campaigns all over the world, along with producing key art for major TV Networks. In recent years he has also been part of rebranding both the A&E Network and BSKYB.

Editor Colin Goudie grew up in Northamptonshire and was a Foundation course Art student for two years at Northampton’s Nene College. His credits include Rogue One – A Star Wars story, the award-winning sci-fi film Monsters, the BAFTA winning Between the Lines as well as TV movies Attila the Hun, Lusitania, Murder on the Atlantic and Holy Cross for which he won the RTS Award for Best Drama Editor. He has given Q&A’s around the world including at BAFTA, the National Film Theatre and Skywalker Ranch.

Rebekah Louisa Smith runs The Film Festival Doctor, the name a nod to her academic past. Rebekah has a PhD in Film and Audience research. The company- which has offices in London and Los Angeles- has helped win over 500 awards for their clients and her team have supported over 585 creatives across the world.

In 2018, Rebekah worked extensively on the feature length documentary George Michael Freedom: The Director’s Cut which has been screened at over 25 international festivals. It has won 5 awards and was shown in competition at the 26th Raindance Film Festival.

The Film Festival Doctor has assisted on triumphant film festival and awards campaigns for Martin Kemp’s Stalker, The Boy With A Camera For A Face (45 festivals and 13 awards), Commune (30 festivals including the BAFTA-qualifying London Short Film Festival), the BAFTA- shortlisted documentary Noma: Forgiving Apartheid and the South African long-listed Oscar entry film Kalushi: The Story Of Solomon Mahlangu.

The Film Festival Doctor’s production arm is also working on a number of full length horror movie projects with an array of Great British talent.