North East-based Zahra Zomorrodian has been named as one of the 10 recipients of the supercharged bursary scheme – the BBC Comedy Collective – as announced by BBC Director of Comedy Jon Petrie today [Thursday 23rd May] at the BBC Comedy Festival in Glasgow.

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

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 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 August 2024).

On being named as a recipient of the BBC Comedy Collective, Zahra said: “I can’t begin to describe how excited I am to be part of the BBC Comedy Collective. This is a great opportunity for me to learn more about producing scripted comedy for network television and to improve my craft. And of course, as a producer, the better I am at my job the more opportunities I can create to get regional and underrepresented voices onto the nation’s screens. Being selected to be part of the 2024 cohort is a real honour and I can’t wait to get started.”

Lisa Laws, Development Director at North East Screen, said: “I am so pleased that Zahra has been selected for the incredibly competitive BBC Comedy Collective, following on from the success of North East writer Benjamin Bee last year. 

“Zahra brings experience of producing content for a range of platforms and is a true collaborator and team player. Since joining forces with Candle and Bell as Comedy Development Producer last year, together they have already won their first audio commission for BBC Radio 4 and a range of paid script developments with BBC Comedy.

“Supporting our best regional talent through national initiatives like this is crucial, it creates real opportunities to get our stories on screen.

“We can’t wait to see what Zahra will do with the added boost from the BBC Comedy Collective.”

The 10 recipients of this year’s BBC Comedy Collective: 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).

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.

Zahra Zomorrodian
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