British Comedy Guide

BBC short-form development opportunities open for submissions

Wednesday 8th June 2022, 11:53am

  • The BBC has opened the submission window for its new short film commissioning opportunity
  • Meanwhile the Character Development brief has been issued to allow writer-performers to try new ideas
  • Only UK-based production companies can pitch for these opportunities. Independent creators will need to team up with a company
BBC Comedy

The BBC's new short-form development opportunities are now open for submissions.

As was revealed at the BBC Comedy Festival in Newcastle, the BBC is consolidating and retiring its previous short-form strands (e.g. Laugh Lessons, Threesomes and Comedy Shorts) to focus on funding a new set of self-contained short films.

BBC Comedy is also launching a new "character development" opportunity, aiming to support writer-performers.

Talking to production companies, the BBC explains: "Short-form is a place for both new and established talent - writers, performers, producers, directors and companies - to experiment, develop and showcase exciting new worlds and memorable comedy characters. This is where you can take your first steps into development with BBC Comedy, and work with us on characters and ideas that can potentially grow into longform.

"We're excited about ideas and characters that make audiences feel seen, and worlds that are so irresistible that they suck us in and leave audiences championing them. We want ideas that are not bound to channel expectations, but centre on originality and experimentation."

Short Films

The BBC explains: "Short films are designed to give writers, producers and directors an opportunity to bring their comedy ideas to life and be showcased on BBC platforms.

"Are you a theatre or music video director looking to move into narrative comedy? A comedy writer who hasn't had a commissioned work as yet? A new producer or production company looking to increase their broadcast credits and comedy roster? Or are you a more established creative who is looking to try a new collaboration?

"We're looking for standalone ideas that have a beginning middle and end. They should not be treated as pilots or sketches, but as self-contained, brilliantly funny, and original short films with the premium feel of the films that have inspired us on the festival circuit or Vimeo's Staff Picks. This new strand will showcase the best and most exciting comedy talent from around the UK.

"Think: Brian and Charles, Neville is Dead, LOCK OFF, Greasy Spoon, Pregnant Pause."

Only UK-based production companies can submit short film pitches to the BBC. If you're an independent creator you should find a production company to team up with to make the pitch on your behalf (you can find production companies via BCG Pro BlackBook).

If you are a production company you should send a one page treatment featuring a summary of the film/tone/key performers and behind the scenes talent (i.e. writer/producer/director) and a sample scene from the proposed short film to with 'Short film' in the subject line.

Character Development brief

This new development route is aimed at writer-performers and is aimed at allowing them to "try things out away from audience pressures and broadcast expectation."

The BBC explains: "Character development will be offered as a first point of call for 1) new to screen talent, perhaps developing a character from stage or social platforms or 2) for more established talent who are keen to work with us to try out something new. This is a space for writer/performers to flex their muscles, and they should be seen as a low-risk way to develop comedy characters to see what works, and equally what doesn't!

"This should be the start of your development journey with us. So, we're not looking for fully fleshed out stories here with a beginning, middle or end. We're not looking for high production values at all, you can film this on an iPhone and edit it on your laptop, in fact it's highly encouraged!

"We are looking for your tape to demonstrate who your character is - what do they care about? What are their motivations? Show us a glimpse into their world - a singular portrait to showcase your comedy character and highlight what makes them stand out. And most importantly show us what makes them funny."

"Think: This Country digital shorts, People Just Do Nothing shorts."

As with the Short Film brief, pitches must come via established production companies. If you're an independent writer-performer you should find a production company who will collaborate with you on the pitch.

Production companies should send a summary of the character ("who are they? what do they care about? what are their motivation? who else is in their world/space? why are they special?") and a video or visual rep of the character / performer with a maximum time limit of 3 minutes to with 'Character development' in the subject line.

In regards to the video submission, they add they are not looking for high production values, and "it could be a link to their stand-up, social clip or other material they have done before. It doesn't need to be the specific character you are pitching."

No deadline has been given for submissions... this is an on-going pitching opportunity.

In terms of opportunities for full-length scripts, the BBC's existing writing-related bursary schemes - The Felix Dexter Bursary, The Caroline Ahern Bursary and The Galton & Simpson Bursary - are all expected to return, with October 2022 mentioned as a possible starting date for the next windows.

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