AN Oscar-winning York filmmaker is launching a brand-new film at festivals in York and Leeds next month.

The Birth Of Valerie Venus, by Serena Armitage, is having its UK premiere at Leeds Film Festival (November 3-19) and at York’s Aeshetica Short Film Festival (November 3-30), which has moved online this year.

Serena, is from Nun Monkton and won an Oscar for her short film Stutterer. Her Red Breast Production company is based in York. She said: “The film is a collaboration between myself, Yorkshire writer and director Sarah Clift and my producing partner Pietro Greppi. When I set up Red Breast Productions, one of my goals was to work with Yorkshire talent so it has been great to find Sarah and now complete our first project together. I hope it will be the first of many.”

“Meanwhile Pietro and I are joined together by a shared interest in outsider stories and visionary talent. I think it’s important to have a partner because you have to wear so many different hats as a film producer, and it’s good to have someone to share the ups and downs because it can be quite a rollercoaster ride.” said Serena.

The Birth Of Valerie Venus had an early showing at the University of California and Los Angeles (UCLA) Festival. It has also been screened in Montana and will be shown in Berlin and Hollywood, as well as York and Leeds, next month.

Sarah Clift, who divides her time between Harrogate and Mexico City, said: “The Birth Of Valerie Venus is set in parochial England and it tells the story of Valerie, a vicar’s wife in her late middle age, whose life is consumed with serving her husband and his needs, meaning there is no time to remember herself.

“Valerie needs to make some real changes in her world, but it is difficult because she doesn’t know where to begin. Rescue comes in the form of the Virgin Mary, who helps her on to the path of a unique enlightenment.

“It’s a film about redefining ourselves and starting again, which can be harder the older you get. As a woman, once you’re past child bearing age, there’s often a feeling of being forgotten about - so this story puts an older woman centre stage.

“Comedy is a huge part of my work and I used it in my storytelling to convey important points in an enlightening way."

Serena said: “We were delighted that the film was tremendously well-received at the UCLA Festival, winning the best director award.

“Separately Valerie has won both a gold screen and silver screen award at the Young Director Awards - dedicated to rising young directors. Our film has also already qualified for entries to BAFTA and BIFA (the British Independent Film Awards).”

The film has been funded by BFI Network and Madrefoca, a Mexican production company.

Serena added that the same team had been selected for the BBC/BFI/Creative England development scheme iFeatures with their warts-and-all pastoral comedy called Two Old Maids, which is set in Wensleydale in the 1800s.

In 2016 Serena won an Oscar for her short film Stutterer.

She said: “What an incredible year that was. First an Oscar for Stutterer and then a Vision Award from the BFI, which allowed me to set up my own independent production company, based in York. Visually, Yorkshire is stunning and diverse, providing the perfect backdrop for our work.

“I am interested in telling stories about underrepresented people and communities. At Red Breast our goal is to make entertaining films that offer new perspectives and ultimately have the capacity to change the way people think,” she explained.

Sarah Clift was bought up in Dishforth, near Thirsk, and was educated at Boroughbridge High School and Harrogate Art College. Her background is in writing award-winning advertisement campaigns at London agencies.

She made the bold move to writing and directing films with her debut short, The Good Mother, which was extremely well-received in Oscar and BAFTA-qualifying festivals, collecting 50 wins and nominations.

Serena began her career as a factual television producer/director at ITV, working on programmes such as Come Dine With Me, Piers Morgan’s Life Stories and Paul O’Grady’s For The Love of Dogs.

Another of Serena’s films, Fog, is receiving its world premiere at the Bolton Film Festival later this month.