Trans Comedy Award Goes to Two Winners – Press Release

BBC Writersroom have announced Tom Glover and Elliott Kerrigan as the two recipients of the Trans Comedy Award: a talent search to encourage writers to promote a positive portrayal of Transgender people in mainstream comedy.

Launched at the Creative Diversity Network Awards in November 2012 in partnership with Trans Comedy, the Trans Comedy Award looked for original television comedy sitcoms, comedy dramas or sketch shows featuring transgender characters and/or themes. The Award offers the selected writers the opportunity to develop their script with BBC Comedy Execs.

The winning writers and scripts have been announced today as:

Tom Glover – ‘Nobody’s Perfect’

Transgender mother Julia has a complicated life – an aspergic son, an attention-seeking daughter and a step-son who is just plain odd. The traditional family sitcom, without a traditional family.

Tom Glover said: “I was really thrilled to discover I was one of the winners of the Trans Comedy Award. Often writing can feel like a self-indulgent activity, but as I wrote this piece, I became increasingly convinced that it could do some real good in challenging prejudices through humour. It would be fair to say that I originally viewed the concept with some suspicion, but as I began to think about how the Trans community have been represented, or ignored within the media, I realised that this was a chance to do something ground-breaking and worthwhile.

“This is only the start of a journey, and I am looking forward to the prospect of exploring a whole new world and meeting a range of interesting, vibrant and strong characters from the Trans community to further inspire my work.”

Elliott Kerrigan – ‘Love’

‘Love’ is a comedy drama about two people who fall in love: Leo, a 22 year old who has just lost his job, and Judy, a woman in her forties who, as she tells Leo on their first date, was ‘born with a penis.’

Elliott Kerrigan said: “I saw the Trans Comedy Award on the Writersroom website and I know how important it is to see your life shown on TV in a positive and progressive way. A TV show like ‘Will And Grace’ meant and still means a lot to me. I could watch it with any member of my family and not feel awkward or like I wanted to watch it by myself in my room. We would never laugh at Will or Jack. We would laugh with them. That’s the kind of show I wanted to write.

“I normally slave over the ideas, the comedy, the dialogue. But this time it felt like the characters were coming anyway, and I just had to type it up. And, for me, this became a pleasure and an adventure and I fell in love with them.”

BBC Writersroom received 320 script entries for the award – the first of its kind. The selected scripts were chosen by a judging panel that included Ian Critchley (BBC Head of Creative Resources), Jon Plowman (Executive Producer, BBC Comedy), Sophie Clarke-Jervoise (Head of Comedy, Tiger Aspect) and the BBC’s Creative Director of New Writing, Kate Rowland.

The selected scripts will be developed further by the BBC in association with Jon Plowman and Sophie Clarke-Jervoise, towards a staged reading to be held by BBC Writersroom later in the year.

The BBC has a long-standing commitment to representing the audience it serves both through the diversity of its workforce and in the programmes it broadcasts. The Trans Comedy Award opens up an opportunity for the transgender community and members of the general public to portray transgender characters and the lives and experiences of transgender people in an affirming manner.

Sophie Clarke-Jervoise said: “I’m very pleased to be involved in Trans Comedy Awards.  The standard of the shortlisted scripts we read was very high indeed and the process of getting down to two final scripts wasn’t easy.  The two we’ve chosen are excellent – in both cases there’s a real truth and warmth to the characters, and we feel they have real potential to be successful BBC comedy series.  I’m really looking forward to working with the writers and bringing their scripts to life.”

Jon Plowman said: “The standard of scripts we read for the Trans Comedy Award was gratifyingly high. You expect people to say that about competition entries but in this case I came to the process with the worries that writing about something so out of the norm and so personal might well get in the way of the comedy. I was wrong. Well done to everyone who wrote and especially to the selected writers whose work we’ll try to take further towards television success.”

Kate Rowland said: “This has been a fantastic partnership with Trans Comedy. We are genuinely excited by the scripts we received and we look forward to working with Tom and Elliott. We would also like to commend Michael Lee Richardson (‘Real Life Experience’) and Linda Naughton (‘Twinkle’) for offering a different perspective and creating fresh comedy characters.

Claire Parker & Milanka Brooks from Trans Comedy said: “The Trans Comedy Award demonstrates that partnerships in telling different stories have a real power and a real credibility. It makes perfect sense for the media to work with the Trans community in establishing a real and respectful narrative. We are amazed and encouraged by the number of great scripts and congratulate Tom and Elliott on winning the award with ‘Nobody’s Perfect’ and ‘Love’.”

Notes to Editors

BBC Writersroom champions new writing talent in film, television, radio, and theatre. Recent successes include Welsh writer Debbie Moon’s CBBC hit series WolfBlood and the new BBC Three drama In The Flesh by Dominic Mitchell, both of which have been recommissioned.

They run schemes targeting talent from a range of sources and work in partnerships with theatres, writer’s organisations, screen agencies, and the wider cultural industries. BBC Writersroom helps new writers develop their craft through professional training, the website and in open sessions around the country with the UK’s best writing talent.

Tom Glover trained in Playwriting at Birmingham University. As a playwright, he has recently had worked performed at the Mill Studio Theatre, Guildford, The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter, Gilded Balloon, Ediburgh, amongst others. He has also a written a number of short stories which have been read at literary events and festival in the South East.

‘Love’ is Elliott Kerrigan’s third script. His first script, ‘Northburn’, was one of the winning scripts at the Writersroom Laughing Stock competition in 2011. His second script, ’50 Words For Pete’ was developed with Lime Pictures and sent to the BBC, Sky and Comedy Central.

Kate Rowland

Link to BBC Press Release

Trans Comedy Award’s Roots by Nathalie McDermott

On Road MediaOne evening in October 2010 I found myself rushing to a work do via Kings Cross, where I witnessed the death of leading immigration lawyer Sonia Burgess.

Sonia was pushed into the path of a Piccadilly line train by a companion and in the days that followed I was horrified by the way in which her death was reported by most of the press. Sonia was trans. This seemed to give a green light to the tabloids to delve into her personal life and publish photos and details of her dating profiles, to use headlines like “Sex change passenger admits pushing cross-dressing lawyer under Tube” and pay scant attention to the fact that she changed the face of immigration law in the UK for the better.

Honestly, it was the first time I really became aware that this was an issue – that this minority group had no protection from this sort of persecutory journalism and it made me angry. I decided to do some research online and found a campaign group called Trans Media Watch and after some persuasion, managed to set up a lunch meeting with Jo Shaw, a very active founding member of the group. She was understandably cautious about meeting me, a journalist by trade, but the lunch we had was to be the beginning of a wonderful relationship that has led to a series of projects that On Road has run in partnership with the trans community since early 2011.

Nathalie McDermott

I’ve been running On Road since 2005. It’s a not-for-profit that supports marginalised or misrepresented groups to solve the social problems they face by changing the way they are understood and portrayed by the media. We do that by creating the right environment for journalists, editors and producers to make better content by coming up with creative ways to build relationships between them and the community and to build and co-design projects that lead to positive social change.

One example of this was Trans Camp, an “innovation camp” that brought together over 60 trans people, journalists, digital experts and innovators to come up with creative solutions to several predefined problems. One of the problems was “How do we make producers of comedy aware of who they are making comedy about?” A team made up of comedians like Claire Parker and senior media professionals like BBC Controller of Production Talent, Ian Critchley, came up with the idea of launching a competition that would challenge writers to come up with funny material that contained positive portrayals of trans people.
Following the camp, the team carried on meeting and secured the support of the BBC Writers Room and the Trans Comedy Award was born. It goes without saying that projects like these don’t get off the ground without hard work and commitment from people like Claire, Ian and others but our role is to build relationships and create the opportunities for this sort of collaboration to happen in the first place.

Since Trans Camp, we’ve gone on to launch “All About Trans”, with support from BBC and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. All About Trans kicked off this April with “The Interactions”, 20 informal social meetings between influential media professionals from print, broadcast and web and members of the trans community. We’re hoping that these meetings, which are designed to be fun and about making friends, will kick-start more creative collaborations that lead to better portrayals of trans people across the media.

In the meantime, I can’t wait to see who wins the Trans Comedy Award – good luck to everyone who entered!

Nathalie
Nathalie is the Director of On Road.
You can contact her at nathalie@onroadmedia.org.uk
or follow @natmc on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Sophie Clarke-Jervoise, the final judge has arrived.

Sophie Clarke-JervoisWe kept the last judge under our hats till now. We are delighted to welcome on-board Sophie Clarke-Jervoise, Managing director of Tiger Aspect. She comes to us with an amazing pedigree and we think that she adds a real credibility to the award.

Sophie joined Tiger Aspect as Head of Comedy in November 2005 with responsibility for overseeing the company’s comedy activity; developing original programming as well as executive producing across all comedy productions.

Her most recent credits at Tiger Aspect are Benidorm (ITV1), Mount Pleasant (SKY Living), Bad Sugar (Channel 4), The Spa (SKY Living), Grandma’s House (BBC Two), Harry & Paul (BBC Two), Psychobitches (SKY Arts) and Little Crackers (SKY 1).

Sophie previously spent six years at the BBC where she became Head of Comedy in 2002. During that time she developed and executive produced series across all channels including My Family, Coupling, The Smoking Room, Help and My Life in Film.

She formerly worked as a freelance producer for Talkback where she produced Murder Most Horrid and Smith and Jones, and at Tiger Aspect where she produced Harry Enfield & Chums and Blackadder Back and Forth.

 

We asked Sophie what she though about the award.

“I’m very pleased to be involved in the Trans Comedy Award. The best comedy characters should have some truth at their heart, so it’s great to be inviting new writers to share their stories and reflect the lives of the transgender community – in a witty, affirming and entertaining way!

Sophie”

 

Feedback – From The Writers Room Team

Feedback

A few of you have enquired about script feedback for the Trans Comedy Award.  Unfortunately, we are afraid that as with all of our talent searches through the BBC Writers Room, we do not have the resources to provide feedback on any scripts that did not reach the shortlist.

 

Readers were looking for a range of qualities across the work; engaging characters and comic creations, compelling stories and situations; the portrayal of transgender characters in an affirming manner and particularly, original ideas that can sustain a full series.

The standard of the work that has progressed through every stage of the Award is very strong and so the competition amidst the 320 scripts submitted was very tough. We appreciate you are bound to feel disappointed – but we hope you will consider sending new work to future opportunities at BBC writersroom.

Best wishes,

Writersroom

Trans Comedy’s Milanka Brooks describes her involvement

Milanka BrooksI must start by saying first of all that I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Trans Comedy Award team this far. It has, without a doubt, transformed not only my perceptions of the Trans community, but also my understanding of the society that we are living in.

Before I attended the Trans Camp event at Channel 4 last March 2012, I must admit I was undeniably ignorant to the Trans world. Whether I wanted to believe it or not, the information that I thought I was cognizant of when going in to the event was in fact all based on stereotypes, because let’s face it that’s all that most of us know. The Trans world is at any rate one of the most underrepresented communities out there.

I remember being sent a small book’s-worth of information to read through before coming to the event and thinking, wow I really didn’t realise there could be this much to read up on and research. How wrong I was… I was completely glued to all the material, facts and personal stories I was reading; not to mention watching You Tube videos and people’s blogs. All gave insight in to this world that I thought I knew but actually couldn’t have been more of a stranger to. I very much felt like an outsider looking in; as though the people I was reading about and watching were sharing something with me that no one else was aware of. How mad is that? We’re not talking about some distant tribe in Sub-Saharan Africa, these are people that coexist all around us in everyday life. And yet we know so little about their lives.

I was automatically hooked and intrigued to go Trans Camp the next day. During the event I met some incredibly inspiring people, and I even had the chance to work with some of them, which is ironically where the Trans Comedy Award was initiated. The amount I learned and the extent to which I was touched by hearing some people’s stories was mind-altering. And yet here I was, the only non-trans, non-gay, heterosexual woman in the room and boy did I feel like I fitted in! The team were so warm and welcoming. My position this time was of an outsider being invited in, and what a wonderful and vibrant world I found; stand-up comedians, psychotherapists, BBC controllers, journalists and a plethora of others. Arguably one of the most talented rooms I have been in! We all hit it off fairly quickly, and the rest is history.

Fast forward one year and we now find ourselves continuing to work closely with the BBC Writers Room, and reading what can only be described as some seriously bloody funny scripts, by some extremely talented writers. Writers who I am sure we will be hearing a lot more of in the coming years.

Claire and I went in to the BBC a few days ago and read the final 14 scripts. I must mention that after receiving more than 320 submissions I am absolutely thrilled to see that so many people felt they had something they wanted to say about the Trans community. It is so fulfilling to see, as this is not only something that we wanted to eventually see written (and possibly one day performed), but something that has inspired people to want to be a part of giving the Trans community a voice. This has really been our mission statement since the beginning, and now seeing that this has flourished and become something so tangible is an absolute wonder.

I was so impressed by what I read, and there really are some strong contenders. I don’t know how the judges will decide on the final script. They’re going to have a seriously tough job choosing!

As I now bring my waffle to a close I would like to end by saying thank you so much to everyone who has taken an interest in our competition, and who has had the courage to put pen to paper (ipads and macbook pros these days I know…) and share their world with us. Because without your input we would not be able to make our audience, quite like myself one year ago, believe what an exciting and exhilarating world we have yet to discover. One in which we can form new and savvy conclusions.

A good comedy in my opinion is not always about laughing at the other person, it’s about laughing intelligently with.

Milanka