USW graduates jet off to BAFTA Student Film Awards

Joe Sullivan Martin Read BAFTAs

Two University of South Wales filmmakers have travelled to Los Angeles as finalists at the BAFTA Student Film Awards.

Martin Reed and Joe Sullivan, who graduated last year, were one of just three teams to feature in the Documentary category at the awards – chosen from hundreds of entries submitted around the world.

Their short film, Living Behind Numbers, takes a rare glimpse into the world of fraud, studying one man’s techniques of counterfeiting and cloning credit cards.

Directed by Martin, 39, from London, and shot by Joe, 23, from Caerleon in Newport, the film has already won a number of awards at the Wales International Documentary Festival and Cinemagic London, among others.

The pair have also made a nationally-recognised documentary on homelessness, entitled Where am I Sleeping Tonight?, which was based on Martin’s own experience as a teenager on the streets. The film was commissioned by BBC Three and helped raise awareness of what being young and homeless is really like.

In order to make Living Behind Numbers, Martin and Joe agreed to keep the identity of the fraudster completely hidden – a challenge which demanded a lot of work to gain his trust.

Living Behind Numbers still Joe said: “We spent a lot of time going to visit this guy in London, to build a rapport with him and ultimately get him to open up to us.

"It was quite unbelievable really, the level of detail he was prepared to go into, and we were just in awe of how he was living his life.”

After capturing an in-depth interview with their subject, Martin and Joe set to work capturing the cinematic fictional sequences that told his story – including reconstructions of him using specialist machines to clone cards.

“It was a real passion project for us,” added Joe, who now works for Callapro Films in Cardiff. “We really wanted to stretch the boundaries of cinema and make something that was completely different to what our classmates were doing.”

Joe and Martin’s lecturers, Shafeeq Vellani and Sally Lisk-Lewis, nominated Living Behind Numbers for the BAFTA Student Film Awards on their behalf – something that came as a surprise to them both when the finalists were announced.

Joe said: “Sally told us we had made the shortlist, and we never thought we’d get any further than that, especially as our film is so politically charged. To actually be in LA felt like a bit of a dream!”

BAFTA’s Student Film Awards competition seeks to foster strong talent connections across the globe, as part of BAFTA’s commitment to ensuring that talented individuals are offered a clear pathway to careers in the entertainment industry – uninhibited by background, demographics or personal circumstance.

During their short stay in LA, Martin and Joe also benefited from workshops with world-renowned film directors.

Joe added: “We’re incredibly grateful for this experience, and thankful to our lecturers Shafeeq and Sally for believing in us in the first place. We’ll never forget our film being shown at one of the world’s most iconic cinema destinations.”

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