Pupils reel in top award for short film about sweet-toothed Martians

Maggie Stratton A CLASS of Yorkshire schoolchildren have scooped a prestigious young filmakers prize.

Pupils from Burley St Matthias School in Leeds received the Best Animation award for their 10-minute film about sherbet-loving Martians at yesterday's 2004 First Light Awards which showcase the best National Lottery-funded short films by young people.

Included on the judging panel were Kenneth Branagh, Ray Winstone, Jamie Bell and Christopher Eccleston.

The 30 children spent six months working on Spaced Out – a story of four children who are kidnapped and whisked off to Mars to make sherbet for aliens whose supplies have run dry. Teacher Stephanie Bretell and two of the young filmakers – Calum Carey, 11 and Kieran Santhara, 10 – were at a ceremony in London's West End to receive the award.

She said: "It has been an amazing opportunity for the children to learn something that is not normally be part of the National Curriculum.

"They have achieved a great bond as a class working together as a team and have got a great deal out of working with older children who were really positive role models."

The alien storyline came out of a brainstorming session with the children, who were then involved in every part of the process – script writing, acting, filming, special effects.

The schoolchildren worked with director Ricardo Barker and student screenwriters from Leeds Metropolitan University.

The 6,700 lottery-funded project was a partnership with John Smeaton Community High School, Leeds International Film Festival and Derek Thatchett City Learning Centre.

Among the 27 nominees for the nine eventual winners at the First Light Awards was Sheffield Independent films for a horror spoof about the spirit of a mythical dead dog.