The commission was secured thanks to a unique partnership with executive producer Emma Lawson, who heads the Comedy Hot House, along with Northern Film + Media leadership.
The comedy shorts will be aired exclusively across Channel 4’s portfolio of social channels, including YouTube and Facebook, as part of Channel 4’s bold new short form comedy showcase – a catalyst for emerging talent to break through in funny, social shorts that reflect the interests and experiences of younger audiences. Around 120 videos are set to air from late autumn as part of C4’s £1m investment into comedy shorts.
Northern Film + Media works to develop the screen industry in the North East and to support the growth of the talented independent production companies in the region. The Sparks pitch has a sub-commissioning model at its heart, bringing together a cooperative of outstanding regional independent production companies across the region to amplify its benefits, rather than opting for one production company.
Following an open call this summer, the selected regional production companies are working with Emma Lawson to tweak their comedy ideas to be published via social media.
This cooperative of eight companies will create a diverse range of content that represents the entire region, as well as develop a thriving production community that will keep growing. The first three companies producing a short are Roundhouse Pictures, Couch Potato Films and FNA.
Laura Marks, the Channel 4 Commissioner for the project, said: “Showcasing new writers and talent from across the country and providing a platform for them to try the things they wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to do is hugely exciting for us. We look forward to unearthing the comic voices of the future and seeing how our online audiences respond.”
Emma Lawson, head of North East Comedy Hot House and executive producer for each of the shorts, said: “I’m thrilled to finally have the opportunity to develop and showcase the rich on-screen and programme-making talent in the North East. We have such a unique, exciting comedy community, and this initiative has been formed especially for us to get more involved with that on a programme making level. The humour here is mischievous, inventive and has a strong sense of place, so it’s a dream first project for the North East Comedy Hot House to be partnering with a broadcaster like Channel 4 on, and we can’t wait to get cracking.”
Alison Gwynn, Northern Film + Media, said: “Our collaboration with Sparks is the beginning of a unique way of collaborating and working together in the region. This commission is the first of many from the North East Comedy Hot House. We’re a home for passionate, ambitious comedy talent that has its eye on reaching large audiences with relatable comedy. Our mission is to nurture that comedy talent and champion it. This sector is growing and we’re creating the opportunities the brilliant creatives and companies based here need.”
Broadcasters are increasingly looking to the regions for new content outside of London. Channel 4 announced last year that it was moving its headquarters to Leeds from London. The BBC outposted large parts of its broadcasting division to Salford, Manchester, in 2006, which continues to thrive and provide a gateway into the industry for that region.
More news on the C4 commission can be found here.