Newnham student in the spotlight as head of international film festival

Watersprite International Student Film Festival Director Charlotte Matheson

An inspiring internship in Paris provided a springboard for Newnham undergraduate Charlotte Matheson to become Director of what promises to be a fascinating film festival, in Cambridge in March.

Final year MML undergraduate Charlotte has been busy recruiting dozens of student volunteers and overseeing the shortlisting of films from around the world for Watersprite, which is the UK’s largest international student film festival, and the second largest in the world.

Watersprite International Student Film Festival is in its 14th year and aims to celebrate the next generation of film and TV talent and increase access for under-represented people to careers in the media. It features drama, animation and documentary, screened in Cambridge on 3-5 March. Alumni have gone on to win awards at BAFTA, Cannes and Sundance.

Charlotte secured the prestigious role of Director after spending time in Paris for her year abroad, as an intern for the Young Director Award.

“It opened my eyes to the whole range of roles connected to film. Paris is such a beautiful city I saw films being made on every street corner, it seemed at times, and I noticed all the different people involved in making them. More than that, I found I loved film festivals,” she said.

Charlotte developed skills she’s been able to use for Watersprite, where she has helped to plan screenings and the awards ceremony, and passed on her experience of chairing meetings and taking minutes to the student volunteers running the event.

Producer and former Chair of BAFTA, Hilary Bevan Jones, chairs the festival Board but apart from that the students, from Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin Universities, run most of the festival. Even the first rounds of longlisting are conducted by student volunteers, to check entrants meet technical eligibility, before a shortlist is presented to industry experts to select the final short films for screening.

“We made a real effort to reach out to film schools in Africa this year and had a surge in entries: a 40% increase from Africa. It was exciting to see that effort pay off,” Charlotte added.

“I’m really enjoying seeing it all coming together. We have films from Mexico, Uruguay, Taiwan, as well as from across Europe. I’m looking forward to meeting the nominees and seeing them watch their films on the big screen for the first time.”

Watersprite International Student Film festival is free to attend, and even to enter, although competition is fierce: of 1,500 entrants from 106 countries this year, 27 will be shown. Alongside these the festival offers screenwriting workshops, talks and more, in person and online.

Charlotte, who is studying French and Modern Greek, grew up in Devon and was strongly averse to applying to Cambridge despite encouragement at her school, Kingsbridge Community College. However she was persuaded to enter Newnham’s Virginia Woolf Essay Prize and – when she won – a visit to Newnham College helped to change her mind.

“I loved the gardens! And since I’ve been here I have really appreciated the all-women environment: even in supervisions at Newnham everyone is so respectful of each other. There’s also such a great bursary system in Cambridge, with lots of support. I had a grant to help fund my stay in Paris and another to make a short film, on Super 8 film, in Bordeaux. The film was fun to make: experimental. But not ready for a festival!”

Find out more and book online: Watersprite Student Film Festival