12 March, 2008

BBC launches College of Comedy

Britain’s top comedy writers are backing a new BBC College of Comedy. The scheme will take six writers and train them over a year by attaching them to sitcoms and sketch shows, giving each a mentor for original work, and running a series of masterclasses in all aspects of comedy writing.

Among those endorsing the scheme are Dick Clement and Ian la Frenais, Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain, Bill Dare, Jeremy Dyson, Andy Hamilton, Armando Iannucci, Laurence Marks and Maurice Gran, Paul Mayhew-Archer, David Mitchell and Robert Webb, Susan Nickson, Simon Nye, Ian Brown, James Hendrie and Ian Pattison.

The scheme, which has financial support from BBC Worldwide, is designed for people who have already begun their careers, and can demonstrate some achievement, such as broadcast material, a script commission or performance of their work.

Applicants are being invited to submit the first 10 pages of a half hour script, or six sketches by the closing date of 14 April. Twelve writers will be interviewed, and the successful six announced on 16 May. They will then be matched with productions, and guaranteed a script commission. They will also be given a mentor for original work, which will be showcased when the scheme ends in March 2009. There will be two residential workshops during the year, with sessions from leading writers, producers and directors.

The scheme is being run by Micheál Jacob, formerly the BBC’s Creative Head of Mainstream Comedy, and executive producer of My Family, 2 Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps, and The Smoking Room. He will combine running the college with developing and executive producing programmes.

"I'm aspiring to be the Arsène Wenger of the comedy world by finding writers with talent and helping them to develop and express it," he said.

"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.”

Mark Freeland, BBC Head of Comedy added: “I’m really excited about the launch of the scheme. I hope that we can find creative writing talent from many places, unearthing origin and diverse comedy voices.”

Applicants should e-mail their submission, and a writing CV to: CollegeofComedy@bbc.co.uk


Some additional details not in the press release but on the BBC Jobs site,
  • Writing pairs will be treated as a single applicant
  • The scheme is open to writers of half hour narrative comedy, and to sketch writers.
  • Applicants may indicate in their application whether a DVD or CD of their work is available, which may be requested during the selection process.
  • A short-list of 12 writers will be invited for interview on 13 May. Applicants will be notified as to whether or not they have been successful the following day.
  • The successful writers will attend a workshop week of master classes in June in London, before embarking on their programme. A second workshop will be held in Manchester halfway through the scheme.
  • Each writer will receive a script commission for the production to which they are attached, and an option fee for their original work. The BBC will convert the option to a full script commission if the work is deemed sufficiently promising. In addition, writers will be paid a daily allowance during their production attachments.
  • As a condition of the scheme, original work by the writers must be submitted to the BBC under a ‘first-look’ deal, The BBC undertakes to decide within three months of submission whether or not it wishes to commission the work.


Lucy said...

Presumably this has to be a half hour COMEDY script Robin?

Also, how will they tell it's a half hour script if it's just the first ten pages writers are to submit?

Robin Kelly said...

The first ten minutes of your hour or feature spec might be freaking hilarious but if they ask for the full script at the next stage, what are you going to do? You could edit it down to half-hour or you could start something new.

The month deadline should be enough to write a new half-hour or six sketches. The emphasis should be on showing you are funny so while characterisation, story and structure are important, they are much more concerned about whether your script has enough laugh out loud moments a page.

In other words time would be better spent punching up smile gags and replacing hack gags rather than working on a complicated intricate plot and novel-like character biogs

The comedy writing links were for those who might qualify through drama but want to write something comedy-specific for this opportunity.

And said...

I notice that a writers CV is required - does this imply that rookie writers need not apply ?

Robin Kelly said...

Just one thing on your CV will do - as long as it's "broadcast material, a script commission or performance of their work."

Someone might have a much longer CV but their sample material might not be as funny and funny is what they're looking for.