A swarm of Charlie Chaplins hit London's streets yesterday to announce the start of Virgin Media's annual short film competition, Virgin Media Shorts. And, unrelated although seemingly fitting, the cable TV provider is also to expand its high definition channel line-up with the addition of both Sky Arts 1 HD and Sky Arts 2 HD.

The image of Charlie Chaplin, otherwise known as "the little tramp", was chosen to represent the launch of Virgin Media Shorts because he's of the most recognisable, iconic figures in movie history, and joins previous film stars Gemma Arterton and Thandie Newton in kick-starting the competition.

However, rather than just send the Chaplins into the wild and hope for the best, Virgin Media employed the talents of 2009's Shorts winner and BAFTA nominee, Luke Snellin, to create a new short film using the black and white stars. And, hopefully, it will inspire other aspiring directors to enter their efforts.

“I understand just how difficult it can be to break into the British film industry, and as a previous winner of Virgin Media Shorts, I want to encourage other film makers to give it a go too," he said. "We chose Charlie Chaplin as the subject for our short film as he is perhaps the world’s most famous short film icon, as well as being one of the most creative and influential personalities of the silent film era. His abilities in directing, writing, acting and producing make him a real inspiration to budding film makers today.”

Like with Snellin, the competition can also prove to be a springboard to bigger and better things: “Virgin Media Shorts really is a fantastic chance for film makers to showcase their talent in a competitive industry," said Cindy Rose, executive director of digital entertainment at Virgin Media. "In addition to Luke Snellin’s BAFTA nomination, last year’s winner, Oscar Sharp, won a BIFA nomination for his short film, whilst 2008’s winners Phil Sansom and Olly Williams showcased their winning film at Cannes Film Festival. This proves that the success of these entrants doesn’t stop with us.”

The competition is now open for entries at www.virginmediashorts.co.uk, all all films should be submitted by 12pm on 7 July 2011. After which time, a judging panel including actor John Hurt and director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Ultimatum, Green Zone) will decide which short film is deserving of the £30,000 worth of film funding.

It also seems apt that Virgin Media has announced that Sky Arts 1 HD and Sky Arts 2 HD are coming to the platform from 26 April.