A SHORT film about an old woman pushing a pram has helped a North-East animator reach the finals of a national competition.

Ian Fenton, 40, has qualified from more than 7,000 budding film makers to be in the running for the Virgin Media Shorts 2008 title.

Mr Fenton, from Darlington, is a screenwriter who has impressed the judges with his cartoon comedy The Big Push.

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It is a simple but funny animation featuring an old woman's struggle to push a pram to the top of a steep hill.

The Big Push is Mr Fenton's first animation. His wife Siobhan helped to produce the film.

It was chosen for the final shortlist of 12 by an independent curator and will be reviewed by a judging panel which includes Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey.

It will also be screened at 212 independent cinemas across the country from September for 12 months, and also feature on Virgin Media's Movies on Demand Platform.

Mr Fenton said: "I've produced lots of short films but this is my first animation and I'm delighted it's been so well received.

"My wife has produce several animated films but this is the first time we've worked together.

"She brought in graduates from the University of Teesside, animator Paulina Brinck and designer Gus Hughes, and we got a little bit of funding from Northern Film and Media to make the film. It was a real team effort.

"Virgin Media Shorts has given me a fantastic opportunity to get my work shown to millions across the UK."

More than 7,000 film makers registered for the competition, which amounted to 1,400 entries made.

Mr Fenton has reached a shortlist of 12 for the final, which can all be viewed online. Members of the public can vote for their own favourite in the People's Choice award.

The winner will receive £30,000 and the chance to work with Virgin Media and the UK Film Council to make their next short film.

James Kydd, Virgin Media's managing director of brand and marketing, said: "Through Virgin Media Shorts, we wanted to offer a life-changing opportunity for film makers who have historically struggled to get exposure for their work and put them in the spotlight to an audience of millions."

Virgin Media television customers can watch the films through the FilmFlex service. Virgin Mobile customers can download clips through the Mobile Bites service.

The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony in London on September 29.