BBC Comedy Collective: Caitlin Magnall-Kearns, Donya Majidi-Maguire, Ethan Harvey and more

Now in its second year, the BBC Comedy Collective is continuing its commitment to nurture the next generation of comedy talent



May 23 - BBC Director of Comedy Jon Petrie has announced the 10 recipients of the supercharged bursary scheme – the BBC Comedy Collective – for mid-level creatives: writers, producers, directors and editors, to develop their careers in scripted comedy.

They are: Producers: Laura Ferguson (Scotland), Leah Draws (NW England / London) & Zahra Zomorrodian (NE England). Directors: James Button (Wales), Rian Lennon (Northern Ireland) & Sophie Worger (London). Writers: Caitlin Magnell-Kearns (Northern Ireland), Ethan Harvey (East Midlands / London) and writing duo Zak Torbadi & Kate Reid (Wales). Finally, Editor: Donya Majidi-Maguire (London).

The BBC Comedy Collective is a commitment to nurture the next generation of comedy talent. Previous BBC comedy bursary winners have gone on to make BAFTA award-winning TV series, win script commissions via new production relationships, land agents and receive broadcast credits for work gained via the placements.

Last year’s delegates attended the BBC Comedy Festival in Cardiff, the Belfast Media Festival, a directing session with Christine Gernon, an ‘Editing for Comedy’ session with Gareth Heal, and a private round table with Jesse Armstrong, with more tailored sessions and exclusive events to come.

Speaking at the BBC Comedy Festival, in Glasgow, Jon says: “BBC Comedy is committed to supporting the next wave of comedy talent, both on-screen and behind the camera. Our new Comedy Collective cohort promises a bright future for the genre and we look forward to working with them.”

Each bursary winner will receive up to £10k worth of paid shadowing on a BBC Comedy production, along with an allocated production mentor, plus a £5k development grant to put towards new material at the end of their placement. They will also have a dedicated point of contact within the BBC Comedy Commissioning team to help guide them through their year, as well as access to the Comedy Collective representatives.

The BBC Comedy Collective comprises of estate representatives, Geoff Schuman and Paul Whitehouse (for Felix Dexter), Tessa Le Bars and the Galton Family (for Galton & Simpson), Lucy Ansbro (for Caroline Aherne) plus the producer and director representatives; Ash Atalla and Christine Gernon, and our new editing ambassador Gareth Heal alongside the alumni of previous BBC bursary winners.

The Comedy Collective works in partnership with BBC Northern Ireland, BBC Scotland and BBC Wales, with the support of BBC Writers, BBC History, BBC Academy, BAFTA, Picture Shop, Fifty Fifty Post Production, Pinewood Studios and a range of screen agencies including Screen Scotland, North East Screen and Creative Wales.

The 2024 cohort are:

Caitlin Magnall-Kearns

Caitlin is a writer from East Belfast who is passionate about telling new Northern Irish stories from underrepresented and unheard perspectives, with comedy always at the heart of her work.

Having written two short commissions for BBC Radio 4 she is currently writing her first 44’ commission for them with FABEL Productions, based in part on her own ongoing battle with agoraphobia.

A New Playwright with the Lyric Theatre, Belfast in 2021, she has since had various short plays and monologues performed across the UK and Ireland in venues such as The Lowry, Camden People’s Theatre and Theatre 503.

She is also currently a BAFTA Connect member and part of the Percolate development programme with Bewley’s Cafe Theatre, Dublin.

Donya Majidi-Maguire

Donya is a British-Iranian editor based in London.

She has over eight years of editing experience in short films, independent features, and broadcast factual. Her work has gained recognition at festivals worldwide, including the BFI Film Festival, Clermont-Ferrand, RTS Awards, Student Academy Awards, and the BAFTAs.

She recently edited the short film ‘Crab Day’, which won Best Short Animation at the BAFTA Film Awards in 2024. Later this year, she is editing ‘The Department of They’, a dark comedy short funded by BBC Film that will feature on iPlayer.

Donya excels in collaborative storytelling and builds strong partnerships within the teams she works with. She is an editing graduate of the National Film and Television School.

Ethan Harvey

Ethan is a London-based comedy and comedy drama screenwriter, originally from Northampton.

His work is often inspired by his own life: queer, from a mixed ethnic background with a dysfunctional family that have no indoor voice.

Ethan developed his first spec script, Rock Bottom, with the support of former Two Brothers Pictures Executive Producer Daniel Walker, and is now developing several original TV & Film projects. He wrote episode 5 of Netflix’s Sex Education S4, and has worked in writers' rooms including Tell Me Everything S2 for ITVX.

Ethan was selected for the ITV Comedy Writers Initiative, is a BAFTA Connect member, and a Soho Theatre Comedy Labs alum. He also trained as an actor; which obviously went really well!

James Button

James Button is a BAFTA Cymru Nominated Writer and comedy director who’s had a LOT of fun making fun films for fun.

An excitable indie filmmaker always seeking to spread silliness. The latest 3 (of his 20) short films The Foul, RoButler and Road Rage, have amassed awards and 70+ official selections, including at BAFTA and BIFA recognised festivals.

In 2024 he’s directing three new comedy shorts: The Quackening, 1 In 5 Sheep and Time’s Up, I’m Afraid. James is also developing his debut feature script and a comedy series based in a fantastical Welsh town of crazy characters called Screbs.

Laura Ferguson

Laura is a Scottish producer with hundreds of hours of content spanning a myriad of genres under her belt.

She was the producer on A Better Place, one of the 2023 BBC Comedy Shorts and has produced two feature length documentaries - including Sea of Thieves: Voyage of a Lifetime for Xbox.

Laura has also written and produced emotive and impactful films including The First Day for the Scottish Cot Death Trust, which won Charity Film of the Year in 2021, and the Football Saved My Life series for the Scottish FA.

Laura was previously Head of Production for Production Attic and is currently developing an exciting slate for North Bridge Media. She is passionate about Scottish comedy, championing new talent and empowering women to pursue their career ambitions, regardless of age.

Leah Draws

Raised in the North-West and now based in London, Leah is a producer with short-form beginnings.

Having collaborated with some of the UK’s most prominent comedy performers and exciting writer-directors at the very forefront of their career she was awarded Broadcast Digital’s, Best Short-Form Scripted Series for Jordan Gray’s Transaction in 2020.

After spending time in-house working on a multitude of formats including Inside No 9’s first animated episode she has since gone on to produce BAFTA winner Siobhan McSweeny’s directorial debut Spud and founded her own production company, Runt Films.

Runt Films first production, Meat Puppet, recently received SXSW’s prestigious Special Jury and publicly voted, Audience award. With a continued focus on developing distinct and tonally ambitious scripted comedy Leah is excited to further expand her slate while continuing to collaborate with industry peers, coming on board to produce BBC Three series Funboys this summer.

Rian Lennon

Rian is a writer and director based in Belfast. He works as part of sketch comedy troupe Super Lemon, and co-wrote and directed the BBC Comedy short film Funboys which is going to be filming its first series this summer.

Rian co-wrote and directed his debut feature film Housejackers in 2023 as part of the Northern Ireland Screen New Talent Focus Scheme and is excited to continue developing more feature film and comedy series ideas in the future.

Sophie Worger

Sophie is a comedy director from London who is driven to tell stories that surprise, intrigue and use humour to unlock conversations.

She is passionate about female-centred narratives, and as long as a script makes her cackle, she’s up for it!

Blue, Sophie’s latest short film, landed over 30 film festival selections alongside seven nominations and three awards for Best Short Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. The film also earned Sophie a Silver Award at the Young Director’s Award 2023 in Cannes.

For the past 10 years, Sophie has worked as an Assistant Director alongside some hugely talented directors on shows such as Ted Lasso, Catastrophe, The End of the F***ing World and many others. All of which have given her insight into her directorial work.

Zahra Zomorrodian

Zahra is an award-winning producer who started her career as a stage manager in various theatres in her hometown of Newcastle.

After getting tired of carrying heavy things, she started producing comedy shorts, then three micro budget features including the raucous comedy The Stagg Do - which featured Lost Voice Guy in his first screen role.

In 2019, after a detour in documentary with the RTS award winning feature doc We Are The Geordies, she moved into producing comedy sketches for Channel 4’s Sparks. One of which – If Boobs Were Like Balls - won a commendation at the RTS Awards (February 2020), and to date has amassed over 3 million views online.

She currently heads up the comedy slate for Candle & Bell and has projects in development with BBC Comedy and BBC Studios, and she’s producing their first BBC Radio 4 commission Tom & Lauren are Going OOT! (TX Aug 2024).

Zak Torbati & Kate Reid

Zak is a Welsh-Iranian writer, actor and songwriter. He co-wrote and performed the award-winning comedy musical Hot Gay Time Machine alongside Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. He is now developing HGTM into a musical TV series with Left Bank Pictures. He is working on a number of commissions and is currently on the BAFTA x BFI Flare mentorship programme.

Kate is a Northern Irish-English writer-performer, who trained at Bristol Old Vic and Soho Theatre Writers’ Lab. Her theatre credits include A Girl, Standing (Theatre503), The Cleaner (Traverse Theatre), The 4th Country (Park Theatre). She was a finalist for the Royal Court’s Lynne Gagliano Award and Sister & South Of The River’s Screenshot Award. She’s currently working on several commissions, whilst on Channel 4’s Screenwriting Course and Left Bank’s Diverse Writers’ Development Programme.

Together, Kate and Zak have written sketches for BBC One’s Age Of Outrage and were shortlisted for World Productions’ Writers’ Award. They were runners-up for the David Nobbs Comedy Competition and their sitcom pilot The Other Half won TCN’s WriterSlam. It was produced by Ranga Bee for DAVE in 2022. They were nominated for Best New Sitcom at the British Comedy Guide Awards and as Debut Writers at Edinburgh TV Festival New Voice Awards. They’re currently working with Baby Cow Productions on their next sitcom, whilst on the BBC Writers’ Studio: Casualty Scheme.

Source BBC One

May 24, 2024 2:00am ET by BBC One  


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