UKTV has announced a pair of writers’ initiatives aimed at improving the variety of voices across comedy and drama, along with plans to commission a 4×30’anthology series for Dave that will be written, made and performed by diverse talent.

Richard Watsham, UKTV’s Director of Commissioning, said: “We aspire to be the best in the industry at discovering, developing, and promoting underrepresented talent, and it’s vitally important that we empower talented individuals to tell their unique stories on screen. We are not seeing enough of those voices in comedy despite enormous amounts of talent out there. These two initiatives will offer tangible opportunities, funding, and a support structure that I hope will help us take a big step in the right direction.”

Firstly, UKTV has joined forces with the Triforce Creative Network/Dandi.org.uk, and is using TriForce’s WriterSlam platform, to discover writers from all backgrounds.

UKTV is looking for writing samples (10 pages maximum, not full scripts) across a broad range of ideas both in comedy and drama.

UKTV will then work with Triforce/Dandi.org.uk to filter these submissions down to six finalists, who will all receive a paid commission to write a fresh half hour script based on their own personal experiences of living in the UK today. Four of these scripts will then be selected to be produced and broadcast on Dave, with the potential to secure a full series commission.

UKTV will also work with Dandi.org.uk, which provides bespoke D&I support to the entertainment industry through diverse recruitment across crew, creative and clerical roles.

Working closely with these key collaborators, UKTV will also look to identify a number of emerging, diverse-led Indies.

Pete Thornton, Head of Scripted, UKTV, said, “We’re excited to be working with TriForce Creative Network and Dandi on this unique UKTV WriterSlam and to be throwing this opportunity open to all underrepresented voices from any background. This is a truly inclusive initiative, and we want to hear from people from ethnic minorities, those from underserved socio-economic groups, the LGBTQ community, those who identify as having a disability and basically anybody who feels that their voice isn’t currently heard clearly on our screens. We’re offering dedicated support and mentoring over a three-month writing period and then the opportunity to see your show prepped, cast, shot, edited, marketed and broadcast on Dave next year.”

Fraser Ayres, Executive Producer and CEO TriForce Creative Network, said, “This is what a ‘360° approach’ actually looks like. If we’re going to find more Michaela Cole’s and Tim Renkow’s we need to develop pathways that provide access – then perhaps those much-needed voices won’t have to traverse so many obstacles to be heard. This move is unprecedented and kudos to UKTV for taking this tangible and giant step to truly move the dial with us.”

Submissions are open from 18 Feb – 25 Mar 2021. For more information on how to submit, visit the WriterSlam page at  http://thetcn.com/writerslam/

In addition to commissioning the WriterSlam and anthology series on Dave, the broadcaster is also announcing a second writers’ initiative, working with Comedy 50:50, to increase female voices in its scripted comedy pipeline. UKTV is funding 10 treatments for new half hour comedies for either Dave or Gold and is looking to commission at least three full scripts from those. The aim is to extend one or more projects into a series commission.

Initial submissions are requested for top line ideas, no longer than two paragraphs, along with a five-page writing sample to comedy5050@comedy5050.com. Previous experience is not necessary as UKTV will support writers throughout the process, providing templates and mentorship as appropriate. Submissions are requested now with a deadline set at midnight on Friday 26th February.

Pete Thornton, Head of Scripted at UKTV, said “We are firm admirers and supporters of the work that the team at Comedy 50:50 have put in already in their drive to redress the balance in comedy more towards female writers. This is something I’m aware of every time I go through our development slate and I want to make sure that brilliant female writers have their voices more clearly and frequently heard within the body of scripted comedy that’s currently broadcast in the UK each year. I can’t wait to read the ideas that are going to come in from this initiative, and to get working on the scripts and hopefully full series commissions that will result for either Dave or Gold.”

UKTV also announced today the extension of its All Voices initiative which works with Film London’s Equal Access Network and offers paid positions on UKTV Original productions. The aim is for people to work on multiple productions across a twelve-month period so that they carry a meaningful volume of experience forward on which to build sustained and developing careers.

Interviews will be held shortly for candidates wishing to be part of the 2021 intake which will now consist of 20 people across multiple production disciplines and experience. Previous participants have worked as a camera assistant, in the art department, in make up and as a production secretary. In extending the scheme, UKTV has announced that from 1st April, all its production partners are being asked to make a role available to one of the candidates. All Voices participants will now benefit from multi-year mentorship too, alongside the existing programme of training sessions which are also open to people outside of the initiative.

The broadcaster has also committed to ringfencing a minimum of a quarter of its development budget for diverse production companies and on-screen talent. In addition, UKTV is making a commitment to 20% of production talent coming from underrepresented groups across its originations. The broadcaster will work collaboratively with suppliers to help them reach this target for all productions from 1st July 2021.

 

Jon Creamer

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