Sharp Shorts is a short film fund administered by Short Circuit, a talent development initiative delivered by Film City Futures in partnership with Glasgow Film, and funded by Screen Scotland and BFI NETWORK (awarding funds from The National Lottery).
Sharp Shorts seeks to spotlight ambitious up-and-coming writers, directors and producers based in Scotland; granting funds to create inspiring, engaging and boundary-pushing short films that resonate with audiences worldwide. Up to six short films will be produced this year, with more selected to undergo an intensive three-month script development process.
Sharp Shorts is a development and production scheme for new and emerging filmmaking talent based in Scotland. As a writer, director, producer or writer/director, you will have some experience in making short form work; these might be self-funded or student films, or you might have already gained some professional recognition for your previous work and are looking to make a short as a stepping stone to feature films.
Short Circuit welcomes applications from independent filmmakers, including those looking to make the transition to fiction from documentary or experimental film, as well as practitioners working in other mediums such as television, theatre, literature and other forms of visual and/or performing arts. All applicants should be able to demonstrate some experience of crafting a dramatic narrative or a professional artwork in at least one of these formats.
We are seeking applications from complete teams of writer, director (or writer/director) and producer or from individual writers or writer/directors. Individual producers or directors not currently attached to a project should email us a note of interest directly (including a personal statement and examples of previous work) to email@example.com before Monday 29th May 2023.
We are aware that within the screen industry that Disabled and D/deaf people, global majority communities, women, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex people (LGBTQI+), and those who have been socially and economically disadvantaged by their circumstances and upbringing are proportionately under-represented. We encourage applications from individuals who are currently under-represented within the sector and seek to foster equal opportunities for new and emerging talent from diverse backgrounds, with support on hand for those who need it.
Short Circuit is seeking powerful, imaginative and entertaining works of fiction (live action or animation) that have the potential to gain exposure to international audiences via film festivals and online platforms, in line with our goal to spotlight and raise the profile of visionary new creative voices in Scotland.
Sharp Shorts aims to bring adventurous and distinctive stories to the screen. We are primarily looking for original work, unless you are adapting work that you already own the rights to, i.e. you are a writer with a background in theatre and want to adapt your play into a short film, OR your idea is based on a work that is out of copyright (see ‘FAQs’ below).
Your short film proposal must fit within the following parameters:
We also expect projects to reflect good practice outlined within the relevant sections of Screen Scotland’s Diversity Standards, both on and off-screen. On submission of your Sharp Shorts application, you will be shown a link and each core member of your team will be asked to complete a Short Circuit equality monitoring form.
All applicants and team members must meet the following eligibility criteria at the point of application:
Writers are eligible to apply if they have at least one writing credit on any of the following:
Or, if they have:
Directors must have made at least one previous work that indicates a distinctive directorial vision. Those eligible to apply will have at least one directing credit on any of the following:
Writer/Directors i.e. those who intend to write and direct their project must satisfy the eligibility criteria for both Director and Writer as outlined above.
Producers must be able to demonstrate relevant professional experience, along with a resourceful, can-do attitude and an entrepreneurial spirit. This may include the following:
If you are unsure of the eligibility of any member of your team, please contact the Short Circuit team before applying at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Applications should be made via the online application form.
Applications can also be accepted in other formats including:
Please contact the Short Circuit team via email at email@example.com if you require any assistance navigating our website or the online application form, or if you require the guidelines or application form in a different format.
Teams or individual writer/directors and writers should prepare the following information to include in the online application form.
On submitting the application form, you will be asked to complete an equality monitoring form. Each member of the core team will need to fill this in before your application is complete.
If you’re a director or producer unattached to a project, please email us a note of interest directly to firstname.lastname@example.org before Monday 29th May 2023.
Each core member of your team – including writer,(s) director(s) and producer(s) – will be asked to complete an equality monitoring form once your application has been submitted. The data that you submit on this form will be confidential and anonymous, and will not be seen by the staff assessing your application. This collects data to help measure how effective Short Circuit is in attracting a diverse range of applicants for funding. When filling it in, you can select ‘prefer not to say’ if you’d rather not share the information requested. Please note that we will not be able to put forward your application for assessment until each member of your core team has completed the equality monitoring form.
All teams applying for BFI NETWORK funding need to plan their project, from development stage onwards, with the environment and the climate crisis in mind. In your application, you’ll need to tell us about how you will embed the principle of environmental sustainability into your production. This means working to reduce your carbon emissions as much as possible, and your impact on the living world; and to maximise the positive environmental benefits your project could have. This will require you to think about the impact of your approach to production; where your energy comes from, in offices and on location; what materials you consume and how you plan for reduction, re-use and recycling, etc. We ask all applicants to share and embed sustainable values and behaviour with their collaborators and their supply chain, and promote sustainable production to colleagues across the wider industry.
BFI NETWORK-funded projects are required to complete carbon footprinting via BAFTA albert, submitting pre- and post-production carbon footprint calculations. If you are selected for funding, visit https://wearealbert.org/production-handbook/production-tools/ to request an account (you should not do this prior to receiving a confirmation of funding from the BFI). You can then log into the calculator itself at https://calc.wearealbert.org/login. The prediction will enable you to see which of your activities will generate the most carbon emissions, and so identify actions to reduce these before you enter production.
All teams should read BAFTA albert’s What to Think About When Making a Sustainable Short and follow these ten actions to reduce their actual carbon footprint. Albert has a range of production and editorial tools, and free training courses to support you to reduce the negative and increase the positive environmental impacts of your project. Full details can be found in albert’s Production Handbook.
You can also choose to apply for BAFTA albert certification, to gain recognition that you have taken action to produce your project in a more sustainable way. This includes developing a carbon action plan, and paying to offset any remaining unavoidable emissions at the end of production. This offset fee generally amounts to approximately 0.1% of a total production budget and should be allowed for in the costing of your production if you choose to apply for certification. Projects can use the albert Creative Offsets estimator to predict how much it might cost to carbon offset.
The deadline for applications is 11am on Monday 29th May 2023. Applications submitted after the deadline will not be considered.
Once you’ve sent us your application we will send you confirmation that we have received it within five working days.
Following the deadline and completion of eligibility checks, all eligible applications will be assessed against the assessment criteria set out below by two different independent/external readers.
In the first round of the assessment the individuals assessing will read story outlines and personal statements without access to the applicant’s name or supporting information. Short Circuit will work with a pool of external Script Readers to add additional voices and perspectives to the assessment process.
If your idea is recommended, we will look at your supporting information and previous work and from there assess based on the overall package of the team and idea, taking into account the following criteria:
You will be notified of the decision on your application via email no later than 6 weeks after the application deadline.
Short Circuit will select up to 12 projects to take part in a 3-month development phase.
Over the 3 months, writers or writer/directors will develop their short film proposals into a draft script. Teams will be supported by Short Circuit’s Talent Executives and will have access to masterclasses, editorial feedback, peer-to-peer workshops and additional bespoke training and access support as required. This will also include training to help you prepare to pitch in front of the funding panel.
Individual writers and writer/directors may be paired up with a producer and director as needed at this stage.
If your project is selected for the development stage of the scheme, the producer will be expected to prepare a top-sheet production budget ahead of the funding pitch that includes:
Shortlisted teams will receive assistance from the Short Circuit team in drawing up their budget.
In September 2023, teams who have received development funding will be invited to pitch their projects for a production award. The pitch panel will feature representatives from Short Circuit’s funders and management team, along with the Talent Executives and external assessors.
Up to 6 projects will be selected for production funding. There may still be further development work on scripts at this stage, and selected projects will not shoot until their script is greenlit by Short Circuit. We expect projects to go into production between October and December 2023, and complete post-production between January and March 2024.
Sharp Shorts offers awards of up to £25,000, which you may supplement with additional financing (from sources outside of BFI NETWORK/Screen Scotland funds). Please note that the funding from Short Circuit will be a grant and outside the scope of VAT.
Costs relating to Access support (see section below), and costs of up to £5,000 directly relating to health and wellbeing needs, may also be requested in addition to the core budget if needed.
In the application form you will only be asked to give an indication of the total cost of your proposed short film. If you have any queries about budgeting for your short film at the point of application, please email us at email@example.com.
Projects selected to receive funding will also have training and assistance relating to applying for UK Film Tax Relief (see FAQs below).
If any members of your team have personal access needs that will incur a cost during the development or production of your short film, you can apply for additional funding support. We define such needs as specific support required under the protected characteristics of the Equality Act.
Access costs in this context can include, but are not limited to, the following:
*Please note that childcare costs are classed as a taxable benefit, so whilst we will reimburse these costs, you will be responsible for reporting this to HMRC.
We can also provide assistance to applicants who are D/deaf, hard-of-hearing, Disabled or neurodiverse people, and people with sight loss, where this support is needed in order for someone to make an application.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org if you or a member of your team faces any barriers to making an application.
Applicants are invited in the application form to opt in to receive brief feedback on their story outline in the event their application is not successful. By opting in, you will receive one or two lines of feedback in the decision email from us.
Feedback is given in the spirit of constructive comment and owing to the high level of applications we receive we will not be able to enter into dialogue about the project and its further development.
We welcome your feedback on the application process and how we might improve it.
You may only make a formal complaint against a funding decision if you have good cause to believe that the procedures for processing your application were not adhered to or applied in such a way as to prejudice the outcome of an application. In this case please refer to the complaints procedure included in our Terms & Conditions.
If you progress through the development stage and are one of the teams selected for a production award of up to £25,000, you will be required to enter into an agreement with Short Circuit that sets out the terms and conditions of our funding, which takes the form of a non-recoupable grant. The agreement will include the following:
Short Circuit exists to support filmmakers up to first feature level. ‘Emerging’ tends to mean that you have some industry experience and recognition, e.g. you have made one or two (or more) short films in a writing, directing or producing role which have found an audience. If you are ‘new’ talent, you may still have some experience but have not yet got recognition from the industry, or you may be new to film from another art form or storytelling medium.
We encourage applications from complete teams comprising a writer, director or writer/director and producer as well as individual writers or writer/directors with an exceptional short film idea who meet the eligibility criteria for the Sharp Shorts scheme. If shortlisted for development, we’ll then help connect you with a producer (and director if applicable).
Yes, if you are eligible then please apply, and if your application is successful we will attempt to make connections to directors at the development stage ahead of the funding pitch.
Individual producers or directors not currently attached to a project should email us a note of interest (including a personal statement and examples of previous work) directly to email@example.com before Monday 29th May 2023. If you meet the eligibility criteria and your work is of high artistic quality, then you will be considered. Your involvement in the programme will be dependent on the number of projects selected for development by solo writers. If all shortlisted projects have a director and producer attached at the point of application, then we’ll be unable to offer any opportunities. If there are projects in need of a director or producer, then we may share your statement and previous work with them and begin introductions where appropriate.
Yes, you may apply as long as both directors/writers are eligible.
Projects will be considered based on the career progression opportunities they offer Scotland-based talent, alongside their overall artistic merit. We therefore expect both writer and director to be based in Scotland. If the writer, director or writer/director of your project is based outside of Scotland, you should instead consult the relevant local BFI NETWORK hub about the short film funding they offer.
Yes. We encourage directors with experience in other mediums to apply, though you must be applying with a fiction project. Directors with a short documentary proposal should refer to Doc Society’s Made of Truth fund, also supported by BFI NETWORK, and the Scottish Documentary Institute.
You will not be eligible to apply if you will be enrolled full-time in formal further/higher education between August 2023-March 2024 (or until your project has been delivered).
No, you must be 18 or over. If you’re 16-25 years of age, passionate about film and interested in a career in the film industry, you might also consider getting involved in the BFI Film Academy.
You probably need more experience before Sharp Shorts is the right opportunity for you, as we expect applicants to either have some proven experience of filmmaking, or another form of storytelling or visual art practice. We would recommend you start looking to make contacts in the film industry and consider other early career opportunities, e.g. GMAC’s Little Pictures scheme. If you are 25 years of age or under, you may wish to check out opportunities with the BFI Film Academy.
Yes, you may apply if you’re working with a producer or production company who is already well-established in TV or film; however, you must still meet the minimum requirements outlined in the applicant eligibility criteria.
Yes, this is possible if it has specific benefit to the project.
No, although if awarded funding you will need to set up an SPV (Special Purpose Vehicle) to channel all production expenditure through. Selected producers who do not yet have a production company will be supported through this process by Short Circuit.
We are looking to ensure opportunities such as these are open and inclusive, therefore we are unlikely to support writers, directors and writer/directors who have already benefited from BFI NETWORK shorts funding in the past. However, we acknowledge that there is currently a shortage of emerging producers in the industry, and therefore producers who have previously received funding are welcome to apply as long as it is with a new writing and directing team.
If you have a personal relationship to a staff or board member of one of the delivery or funding partners, please tell us about this in your application form so that we can ensure that your application is assessed without any conflicts of interest. If you are currently engaged by Film City Futures, Glasgow Film, Screen Scotland or BFI as an employee or board member, then you are unable to apply.
We’re not looking for a certain genre of film or type of story – but it has to be viable within the parameters of the scheme. Successful short films are often contained, concise stories. From a practical standpoint, you should try and limit the number of characters in your story, as well as the number of locations. You can find out more about our slate of funded projects on our website [add link].
Yes, we accept animation projects as well as live action; however, your proposal must qualify as fiction, with the intention of developing a script alongside an animatic. In this case, we also expect you to have experience in animation.
No – you must have a script that is original to your writer, and not an adaptation of third-party existing material. A short form adaptation of an existing work created by your writer, including (for example) work developed by your writer for the stage, will be eligible for funding, provided that the writer or the producer have, or have a contractual right to secure, the rights in the existing work that are required to do so.. If you are at all unsure, please email firstname.lastname@example.org ahead of making an application.
You can, though you should take care to review the project according to these latest guidelines.
Technically yes, though please be aware that your proposal must be viable as a standalone short. It may, however, draw on similar characters or themes to longer form work you intend to develop.
Yes, but you must be prepared to supply evidence that any additional finance is confirmed at the point of the funding pitch (i.e. September 2023).
Yes, as long as the terms of your existing investment are compatible with Short Circuit’s funding.
Your idea doesn’t necessarily need to be set in Scotland, but we expect all Sharp Shorts projects to shoot in Scotland, and for the writer/director to be Scotland-based (and preferably the majority of the crew and cast too).
All applications must be submitted via the online application form by 11am on Monday 29th May 2023.
This is an opportunity to tell us more about yourself, your project and why we should be supporting you and your film. Ideally, this should have input from all of the core team, i.e. the writer, director and producer.
Please still write and submit a story outline as part of your application, as we assess that part of your application first. If you like, you may submit your draft too and, if your application makes it to the second stage of assessment, we will review it along with the other examples of work you’ve uploaded.
Eligible filmmakers may submit, or be attached to, a maximum of two applications. However, please note that only one project per person can be selected to progress through the scheme.
We will inform all applicants about whether or not their project has been shortlisted for development by email within 6 weeks of the submission deadline. If you would prefer to be contacted through a different method, please outline your communication needs in the Declaration section of your application form. Please do not contact us about the status of your application within the 6-week assessment period. If we end up needing longer to assess, we will let you know.
Applications will be assessed by the Short Circuit Talent Executives and a small cohort of independent external assessors from varied backgrounds. Representatives from Short Circuit’s management team and funders – Screen Scotland and BFI NETWORK – will be involved in the final assessment stage.
We envisage Sharp Shorts to be an annual scheme. You may apply again if you are not shortlisted this time round, though it is advisable that you take on board the feedback from our readers if submitting the same project during next year’s round of applications.
Sharp Shorts is a development and production scheme, so script development is integral to the process. If you are among the shortlisted projects, we will support you to develop your outline into a full shooting script by inviting you to submit drafts responding to editorial feedback working the the Short Circuit Talent Executives and our funders where appropriate. Further development will continue for the projects selected to receive production funding, and no short will be expected to shoot until the Short Circuit team and our funders have formally approved and greenlit the script.
Yes, as long as government guidance says it is safe to do so. Filmmakers will be advised on the most up-to-date regulations on film & TV production and may also have individual consultations with Health & Safety body First Option. If needed, an additional amount of up to £5,000 is available to each selected team in order to cover costs relating to shooting under COVID restrictions, such as PPE, testing and close contact cohorts. Latest guidance on production is available here.
Films that qualify as ‘British’ can claim a 25% tax relief on up to 80% of their core production expenditure. The easiest way to qualify is to pass the cultural test for film: https://www.bfi.org.uk/apply-british-certification-tax-relief/cultural-test-film. We expect all Sharp Shorts projects to be eligible for UK Film Tax Relief, and will support producers in applying for the cultural certification as well as the accounting and reporting process of claiming the tax credit from HMRC.
No, unless this is arranged through a company, organisation or educational institution as a traineeship. All cast and crew must be paid at National Minimum Wage rates or higher, rather than on expenses only. There may be exceptions if their services are provided in-kind e.g. an editor is employed by a post-production house.
No, we encourage all directors to work closely with an experienced editor or post-production house to edit their short film.
Yes, you are allowed to use licensed music in your film. However, you must be able to clear all third-party rights, including in the music for your project, for use throughout the world, in perpetuity, before it becomes part of your script or is included in the project (this is to ensure that you do not infringe any third-party rights whenever or wherever you show the film). The fee for this music must also be included in your budget. You will not be permitted to use an unlicensed guide track in early cuts of your film. Proof of the music license must be given to Short Circuit before proceeding.
Yes – the completed film will be owned or jointly owned by the filmmaker(s).
Yes, we will guide teams to create a distribution strategy for their completed films. You will work closely with our festival strategy partners to discuss your film, possibilities and filmmaker priorities. Following 1-2-1s, a festival strategy proposal will be designed for your film. You will also receive a £250 bursary to use towards festival submissions.