A GROUP of young autistic people from the North-East have reached the finals of a national charity film award – and now they are appealing for support to help them become winners.

The Autism Activists Group, organised by the North East Autism Society (NEAS), planned, wrote, and produced their film Let Me Be Me last year with the help of professional animator Graeme Patterson.

Now, the group of nine to 18-year-olds’ are thrilled that their film has reached the finals of the Smiley Charity Film Awards, alongside entries from national charities such as Samaritans and Dementia UK.

A panel of judges will score the films to decide a winner, but the public can also vote for the film to win a People’s Choice award.

Family Development Manager Kerrie Highcock, who helps run the group said: “I’m incredibly proud of the group for reaching the final.

“A lot of hard work went into the film. Autistic young voices are often underrepresented within society, so this has given them a valuable platform to be able to share their voices.

“Winning the award would just be a really lovely accolade to let them see how much their hard work has paid off.  It’s about widening that message of acceptance so it’s not just about a creative arts project, it’s much more about a wider campaign of autism acceptance.”

The film project began in October 2022, as part of NEAS’ Everyday Equality campaign, which addresses barriers autistic people face in daily life, and how organisations and individuals can ensure equal opportunities.

It was created after NEAS chief executive, John Phillipson, challenged the group to produce a film about human rights, focusing on dignity, equality, and respect.

Written in their own words, the film focuses on the voices and lived experiences of the young people who created it.

A young member of the group, called Lucie, said: “The film is about recognising that autistic and neurodiverse people have unique talents, so they may need to be accommodated in different ways in order to succeed.

Group member Edward Armstrong, 18, added: “I’m really passionate about human rights, and the voices of young autistic people being heard, so I was proud to be part of making the film because it will help raise awareness.”

As finalists, the Autism Activists will have the chance to attend the red-carpet awards ceremony held in London’s Leicester Square on Wednesday 20 March, where the winners will be announced.

Voting for the People’s Choice award ends at midnight on 12 March.