Sky Studios partners with Birmingham Repertory Theatre for new writing scheme ‘Sky Comedy REP’

Thursday 27 May 2021
  • Partnership to discover and develop new comedy writing talent from across the UK
  • Comedy legend, Dame Julie Walters will be the scheme’s Patron.  Award-winning writers Meera Syal, Simon Blackwell, Danny Brocklehurst and Guz Khan among the scheme’s mentors.

Sky Studios and Birmingham Repertory Theatre today announce the launch of 'Sky Comedy REP’, a new partnership that aims to discover and develop new regional comedy writing talent from across the UK, particularly from communities that have traditionally been under-represented in the Arts. 

The scheme – which opens for entries today and features Dame Julie Walters as Patron – will see nine writers selected to develop a one-act stage play. This year, all the plays will focus around a simple premise: a meeting on a park bench. All nine plays will then be performed at a three-day comedy festival at The REP early next year, featuring up-and-coming actors and emerging directors.

Throughout the six-month programme, writers will be paid for their work and receive one-to-one mentoring from huge names in British Comedy including Meera Syal (Goodness Gracious Me, The Kumars), Simon Blackwell (The Thick of It, Veep) Danny Brocklehurst (Brassic, Shameless) and Guz Khan (Man Like Mobeen). The scheme will also include a series of workshops and Masterclasses at The REP featuring insights into all aspects of writing and production.

Based in Birmingham, an international hub that is Europe’s youngest and the UK’s most ethnically diverse city, this partnership between Sky Studios and The REP will offer significant talent development in Comedy, helping new writers, who may not have access to conventional networks, emerge and progress, ultimately benefitting the TV, theatre, film and wider creative industries. 

The initiative will be overseen by The REP's Artistic Director, Olivier Award-winning Sean Foley (The Play What I Wrote) and Sky Studios Creative Director of Comedy, BAFTA Award-winning Anil Gupta (Goodness Gracious Me, The Office). 

Dame Julie Walters, Patron of Sky Comedy REP, said: "I am honoured to be Patron of this important new initiative to provide a platform for new comedy writing talent. Participants will be given access to some of the very best in the business whilst being given a paid opportunity to develop their skills and materials. I very much look forward to seeing, and enjoying, the final results."

Anil Gupta, Creative Director of Comedy at Sky Studios, said: “At Sky Studios, our ambition is to work with the funniest, most talented writers wherever they may be. When new and underrepresented voices are nurtured and encouraged, it creates better comedy, that speaks to more of our audience, a belief we share with The REP.” 

Sean Foley, Birmingham REP Artistic Director said: “Sky Comedy REP is a unique and ambitious talent development programme for Comedy Writing in the UK. Developing and nurturing new talent from wherever it springs is a cornerstone of everything The REP does, and we are thrilled that this new partnership with Sky Studios will enable new diverse voices to take first steps in our industry. Comedy is a genre very close to my heart - I’m delighted to be creating this new initiative alongside some of the UK's leading names in comedy, including our Patron, the great Dame Julie Walters.” 

The launch of the project further establishes Sky Studios at the forefront of UK Comedy and The REP as the unofficial 'National Theatre of Comedy’. Working together, the scheme will serve as a training ground for a new generation of narrative comedy writers, directors and actors.

To be eligible, writers must not have had their writing broadcast on television or performed in any theatre above 200 seats in size. For further information on how to submit entries writers can visit: https://www.birmingham-rep.co.uk/get-involved/creative-development/sky-comedy-rep.html

The deadline for submissions is June 28th 2021.

Notes to Editors

 Media Contact   

lauren.cameron@sky.uk / +44 (0) 7817157798

About Sky Comedy REP 2021

We are asking people to write a short, one act comic play. This year each play will be based around the simple premise of a meeting or situation that develops around a Park Bench.  That’s it. Could be anyone, anywhere, anytime. But it has to be funny.

Submissions will require an outline of the idea and characters as well as 2-3 pages of sample dialogue from the proposed play. All submissions will be read by a representative of the REP or Sky Studios, and after review, we will select nine new writers to take part in the scheme which will commence in September 2021.

The selected writers will then enter an intensive Writer Development Scheme which will develop their initial idea and hone their writing talent. Selected writers will be paid for their participation and entry to the scheme is free.

Each writer will be allocated an experienced mentor who will work with the writers in one to one sessions to develop their ideas. 

The new writers will also get the opportunity to participate in masterclasses; workshops and table reads with actors and directors. This development will be based at Birmingham REP, with guidance throughout from both Birmingham REP and the Sky Studios Development team.

Whilst these will be one act plays, we are looking for talent with TV potential as well. Fleabag, Chewing Gum, The League of Gentlemen - all started as live performance. Having your work performed in front of an audience is the best way to answer the ultimate comedy question – is it funny?

Excitingly, the process will culminate in a live staging at the three-day Sky Comedy REP Festival. The festival will consist of a programme of events including three short plays per evening, performed in the 300 seat Studio Theatre at Birmingham REP.  A special ‘Repertory Company’ of actors will come together under the direction of emerging directing talent to perform the plays in front of an audience.

About Sky Studios

Sky Studios brings to screen unique stories from the very best talent in Europe.

We develop, produce and fund original drama, comedy and documentary for Sky’s 24m customers and beyond. Building on the success of critically-acclaimed Sky Originals including Emmy-winning Chernobyl, Bafta-winning Patrick Melrose and international hits Das Boot, Riviera and Britannia, Sky Studios is the new creative home of Sky Originals, such as The Third Day with Jude Law, I Hate Suzie, co-created by Lucy Prebble and Billie Piper and BAFTA-nominated hit comedy, Brassic.

We’re an agile Studio, seeking out the best untold stories from new voices while working in creative partnership with today’s best writers, producers and on-screen talent to bring viewers stories they wouldn’t find anywhere else.

With commissioning talent and production capability across the UK, Germany and Italy, we understand local tastes across Europe better than anyone else and have plans to more than double our investment in original content by 2024, fully supported and backed by Comcast NBCUniversal.

We’re also developing a new TV and movie studio, Sky Studios Elstree, which is expected to lead to the creation of over 2,000 new jobs and generate an additional £3 billion of production investment in the UK creative sector in the first five years alone.

Sky Studios invests in the cultural economy and global production sector with equity stakes in several production companies in the UK and the US, including Great British Bake-Off creator Love Productions, and the premier reality crime producer in the US, Jupiter Entertainment, creator of long-running hit Snapped. Sky Studios has invested in high quality factual specialists Blast! Films, True North Productions, and Transistor Films; natural history producer True to Nature; drama producers The Lighthouse and Longboat Pictures; and growth businesses Sugar Films, Chrysalis Vision, and Talos Films (US).

Sky Studios launched in June 2019. The senior leadership team is Chief Executive Officer Gary Davey, Chief Content Officer Jane Millichip, Chief Operating Officer Caroline Cooper, Director of Commissioning, Drama Gabriel Silver, Director of Comedy UK Jon Mountague, Director Original Production Sky Italia Nils Hartmann, and Director Original Productions Sky Deutschland Marcus Ammon.

About Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Birmingham Repertory Theatre is the only producing theatre in the UK’s Second City.

The oldest building-based theatre company in the UK, The REP has an unparalleled pioneering history and has been at the forefront of theatre in this country for over 100 years. It is a registered charity (number 223660).

The REP’s mission is to create artistically ambitious popular theatre for, by and with the people of Birmingham and the wider world.

The commissioning and production of new work lies at the core of The REP’s programme and over the last 15 years, the company has produced more than 130 new plays. As well as presenting over 60 productions on its three stages every year, the theatre tours its productions nationally and internationally. The REP’s acclaimed learning and outreach programme is one of the largest and most diverse of any arts organisation in the country. Every year we have over 70,000 contacts with young people and adults in the community on projects from drama or writing workshops to large-scale productions. The REP is also committed to nurturing new talent through its youth theatre groups, and it offers training for early career writers, directors, and artists through its ground-breaking REP Foundry theatre makers programme.

Many of The REP’s productions go on to have lives beyond Birmingham. Recent tours and transfers include The Lovely Bones, Brief Encounter, Nativity! The Musical, What Shadows, LOVE, The Winslow Boy, The Government Inspector, Of Mice and Men, Anita and Me, Penguins and The King’s Speech. The theatre’s long-running production of The Snowman celebrated its 25th anniversary as well as its 22nd consecutive season at London's Peacock Theatre in 2019.

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