08 February, 2008

BBC plans comedy writing college

Katherine Rushton, Broadcast:

" The BBC is planning to launch a "comedy college" in a bid to develop new sitcom and sketch writing talent.

Every year the corporation will recruit six new writers or pairs of writers and train them on real shows alongside established talent. Armando Iannucci and Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps creator Susan Nickson have already signed up as mentors, and the BBC expects "the great and the good of British comedy" to join.

Micheál Jacob, currently creative head of mainstream comedy, is scaling back his development responsibilities to oversee the course. "I'm aspiring to be the Arsene Wenger of the comedy world," he said.

Jacob will begin recruiting next month and expects the first intake to start the course in May. "We hope to find people who are going to make our team-written shows better, and also writers with original voices who can develop their own shows. We also hope that people will like the BBC enough to bring us their work in the future."

The comedy college was inspired by John Yorke's long-established fast track scheme for continuing drama writers, who train on shows such as Casualty and EastEnders.

It comes in conjunction with the launch of Comedy Presents, a new, regular BBC comedy evening where up and coming performers appear on the same bill as long-established comedy icons. The shows are not for broadcast and were designed by head of comedy Mark Freeland to inspire and forge links with new talent.

Two Pints creator Susan Nickson has signed an exclusive three-year deal with the BBC to develop new studio sitcoms across all its channels. Head of comedy Mark Freeland said: "Her remit is to lead the way in studio sitcoms, but if she comes up with a comic drama, no one's going to complain. I hope we can do more deals like this with writers." "


Lucy said...

Any ideas on when the shout-out for applications will be for this, Robin?

Robin Kelly said...

The official announcement will be on 12 March.

Mark from the British Sitcom Guide got the following quote from Micheál Jacob:

"Basically, the college is for people who have already done something/achieved something rather than for absolute beginners. It's designed to be a step up rather than a way in. People will be asked to send in work - either narrative or sketches, and initially assessed on that."

If anyone isn't at that stage yet, then setting the college as a target for next year or the year after seems like an idea, with realistic goals that would lead you there like finishing a good script, getting sketches on the radio, getting a one-act play on at a local amdram etc.

Being pro-active is always going to be better than waiting for opportunities via competitions.