UKTV has unveiled a pair of initiatives for underrepresented writers in comedy and drama and plans to commission an anthology series for Dave that will be written, made and performed by diverse talent.
“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,” said Richard Watsham, UKTV’s director of commissioning. “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.”
The Female Comedy Writers’ Initiative sees the broadcaster working with Comedy 50:50 to turbocharge female voices in its scripted-comedy pipeline. UKTV is funding ten 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.
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 U.K. 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.”
Further, UKTV has extended 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 12-month period. 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. All Voices participants will now benefit from multi-year mentorship alongside the existing program of training sessions that are also open to people outside of the initiative.
UKTV has also committed to ring-fencing a minimum of a quarter of its development budget for diverse production companies and on-screen talent. In addition, it is making a commitment to 20 percent 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 July 1.
For the new anthology series, UKTV has joined forces with the Triforce Creative Network/Dandi.org.uk, which exists to remove barriers to progress that diverse and emerging talent often face in the industry. UKTV is engaging with TriForce in a 360-degree, multi-step process to ensure change across the board. Beginning with using TriForce’s WriterSlam platform, UKTV is looking for writing samples across a broad range of ideas, with a key aim being for writers to tell the stories they wish to tell, ranging from the comedic to the dramatic.
UKTV will work with Triforce/Dandi.org.uk to filter these submissions down to six finalists, who will all receive a paid commission to write a half-hour script based on their own personal experiences of living in the U.K. 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 for recruitment across crew, creative and clerical roles. The broadcaster will also look to identify a number of emerging, diverse-led Indies and work with TriForce/Dandi.org.uk to engage them in the process, ensuring the content creators of tomorrow have the tools they need today.
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 of 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 February 18 through March 25.