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Want to be seen by BBC Comedy? Want to get your ideas or characters developed? Here's your chance.

The following details are from BBC Comedy's new scheme...


The BBC has fired the starting gun on the Comedy Short Films initiative which has replaced its trio of short-form strands.

Under newly-appointed director of comedy Jon Petrie, the BBC is seeking to establish a more coherent path to bring in new talent and help them work up characters and ideas which can graduate to long-form shows.

Director of comedy Jon Petrie revealed that pilot schemes Laugh Lessons, Threesomes and Comedy Shorts were to be retired at Newcastle’s BBC Comedy Festival last month.

The Comedy Short Films brief encourages writers, producers, performers and directors to submit self-contained ideas ‘with the premium feel of the films…on the festival circuit or Vimeo’s Staff Picks’ to feature on iPlayer and other BBC platforms.

Brian and Charles, Neville is Dead, Lock Off, Greasy Spoon and Pregnant Pause were cited as examples of the sort of original ideas the BBC is after.

“We are looking for ideas that have the scale to grow into long-form,” said BBC comedy’s head of talent development Navi Lamba.

Commissioning editor Emma Lawson added: “They are also an opportunity for a new writer/director combination to work together or some on screen talent we might not have seen.”

Those targeted include a theatre or music video director looking to move into narrative comedy, a comedy writer who hasn’t yet had a commissioned work, a production company looking to increase its broadcast credits or a more established creative looking to branch out.

To uncover talent, there are plans to host regular BBC Comedy Short Film nights where it will encourage people to showcase their work and meet potential new collaborators.

Character development

A secondary strand called Character Development has also been established as a first port of call for creatives to ‘flex their muscles’ and act as a low-risk way to develop characters.

Ideas need not be fully fleshed out, with entrants encouraged to submit sub 3-minute videos filmed on an iPhone or laptop.

The work produced will not TX, with a focus on supporting experimentation and originality away from audience and broadcast pressures. Applicants may be developing a character from another platform such as stage or social, or established talent keen to try out something new in a low-risk way.

This Country and People Just Do Nothing digital shorts were highlighted as reference points.

Lamba said instead of “rushing things out when they are not fully worked out”, the scheme will enable talent to feel that “they are not exposed too early and can experiment safely”.

“If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t matter. We’ll try and move quite quickly and if it’s not right for us, hopefully it’ll be right elsewhere,” added Lawson.

The BBC is particularly after ideas that “make audiences feel seen” and are “not bound to channel expectations, but centre on originality and experimentation”.

“Character Development is a place to work something out and Short Films is a place to show off and raise profiles,” said Lawson.

The BBC’s nations & regions teams will contribute by helping to find and support the best comedy talent.

At the Comedy Festival, Petrie said that the corporation would inject an extra £10m into comedy over the next two years and double the number of pilots it airs.


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