Kristian Smith: BBC Commissioning for Comedy, Panel Discussion at ASFF 2016

Kristian Smith, Commissioning Editor at the BBC (Boy Meets GirlUncleBlandings), will chair a captivating panel discussion alongside Agent Kate Haldance (PBJ Management) Producer, Gill Isles (Peter Kay’s Car ShareRovers) and Writer, Caroline Moran (Raised by Wolves). The panel will explore all areas of commissioning from developing an idea to getting noticed on the pitch. Ahead of the event, we speak to Smith about what drives the BBC’s comedy commissioning.

ASFF: You began your career as a script editor, working on award-winning shows including the Channel 4 series, Teachers. How influential was this role to your career and what encouraged you to get involved in comedy commissioning?
KS: Not influential at all. I lied and cheated my way through and I regret nothing! In truth, script editor jobs are completely influential to everything that followed. Story is central to all great fiction, and the script is central to all good television. Being a script editor allowed me to work closely with writers on their particular story and vision, along with some pretty great producers. My job as a Commissioner is very similar, but now I take more of an overview of all editorial aspects to try to deliver the right Comedy to the right audiences.

ASFF: How has UK Comedy changed during your time at the BBC and what is your opinion on recent trends in the industry?
KS: Funny comes in all sorts of forms and is ever evolving. We try to reflect that across the four BBC Channels with a mix of tones and flavours. The amount of studio audience sitcoms has perhaps risen slightly, and the amount of short-form comedy is growing.

ASFF: As Commissioning Editor for BBC scripted comedy, what advice can you offer to future filmmakers starting out?
KS: Filmmakers, programme makers, producers, directors, writers, whatever people identify themselves as, all want to tell great stories. It’s those with great conviction for that story, that sense of humour, that idea, who are also able to traverse the industry to find like-minded others to share their idea, who will succeed. Originality, passion and collaboration are the key ingredients. And be kind too.

ASFF: At this year’s Aesthetica Short Film Festival in November, you are chairing the masterclass BBC commissioning for comedy, alongside a panel of industry experts. How important do you feel such opportunities are for aspiring filmmakers, particularly in terms of networking?
KS: Opportunities like this are tremendous. It’s a terrible cliché, but we’re learning all the time. Even if we think we know our own tiny part of the industry, there’s always somebody exciting to meet who can challenge your perspective. That’s a wonderful thing.

ASFF: Finally, how do you see your role developing in the future, and do you have any projects in the pipeline?
KS: Oh goodness, I dread to think. I can only imagine I’ll make several misguided grasps at power before being dumped in the basement, occasionally surfacing to squawk “I used to be a contender”. Until that day arrives, there’s lots in the pipeline. A bumper Christmas with specials and new one-offs. And 2017 will see the return of several favourites, along with brand new goodies. Keep your eyes peeled.

BBC: Commissioning for Comedy, ASFF 2016, Saturday 5 November, 15:00 – 16:00Temple Hall, York St John University.

Book tickets here:

1. Harry Hepple and Rebecca Root in Boy Meets Girl. Courtesy of BBC,