Kevin Spacey has joined the judging panel in a contest to discover the UK's most talent filmmakers.

The American Beauty star will work with Oscar-nominated short film director Daniel Barber, Lenny Crooks, head of the New Cinema Fund of the UK Film Council, and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson in judging for the Virgin Media Shorts competition.

Offering a £30,000 prize and a chance to have their work screened in cinemas across the country, the Virgin Media Shorts competition looks to find the brightest film talent in the UK.

By submitting a film of no more than two-and-a-half minutes long before June 30th, budding directors who aspire to be the next Joe Wright or Sam Mendes could reach a final shortlist of 12 before a prestigious judging panel selects the winning entry in September.

All 12 shortlisted pieces will be screened before the main feature at 211 independent UK cinemas while 3.5 million Virgin Media customers will be able to access the film through the internet and phone provider's on-demand service.

And the winning filmmaker, as well as earning £30,000 and a premiere of their work on the Virgin 1 digital channel, will also get the chance to produce short film in conjunction with the UK Film Council.

Commenting on his appointment to the judging panel, Spacey said the competition would "provide a terrific opportunity for emerging talent to find a shop window for their work".

"It's great that Virgin Media is supporting British film in this way," he added.

"The film business is only as strong as the talent it attracts and it's really important that we find new ways of engaging young filmmakers and showcasing their ideas and creativity.

"I'm sure that we're going to see some great short films and I'm excited for the judging process to begin."

Branson himself said at the competition's launch last month: "My advice is simple - don't give up and believe in yourself."

07/06/2008 00:01:02