Sharp Shorts Application Guidelines

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Sharp Shorts is an ambitious short film development and production scheme for new and emerging talent run by Short Circuit, a new talent development initiative delivered by Film City Futures in partnership with Glasgow Film, and funded by Screen Scotland and the BFI NETWORK. Sharp Shorts seeks to embolden visionary, up-and-coming Scotland-based writers, directors and producers; granting funds to create inspiring, engaging and boundary-pushing short films that resonate with audiences worldwide.

Launching in May 2020, the Short Circuit initiative will run until the end of March 2022. Up to nine short scripted films will be developed and produced each year. Short Circuit aims to become the key hub for new filmmaking talent in Scotland, supporting writers, directors and producers from across Scotland to develop creatively and professionally, and stimulating the creative and commercial success of Scotland’s film sector. 

Who does Sharp Shorts support?

Sharp Shorts is a scheme for new and emerging filmmaking talent based and/or living 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 animation, 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 in at least one of these formats.

We are seeking applications from complete teams of writer, director (or writer/director) and producer. However, we will still accept short film proposals from individual writers or writer/directors. Alternatively, individual producers or directors not currently attached to a project are invited to submit for consideration as a potential collaborator, omitting the project information requested on the form.

We are aware that Disabled and D/deaf people, minority ethnic 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 within the screen industries. We encourage applications from people who are currently underrepresented 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.

We also use the Social Model of Disability in our practice and recognise that it is society that puts barriers in place (for Disabled people and those with long-term health conditions) in the environment, organisations, attitudes and its communication.

What are we looking for?

Short Circuit is seeking imaginative and entertaining fiction projects (live action or animation) that have the potential to gain extensive 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. Adaptations are not accepted, 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. 

Please ensure your proposal fits within the following parameters before applying:

  • Budget: Up to £15,000 (if required, additional finance must be raised separately. Also, an supplementary amount can be included on top of your budget for direct Access Costs. We advise you to consult the ‘Budget’ section below for guidance)
  • Content: Fiction, either live action or animation.
    There are no hard and fast rules about genre or subject matter, except that adaptations of copyrighted works are not accepted. If you intend to claim UK film tax relief, your project must qualify as British.[1]
  • Duration: Maximum 15 minutes
  • Delivery: December 2020 to February 2021, subject to COVID-19 related schedule changes (see below for further technical delivery requirements)

We also ask that you consider how your project reflects good practice outlined within relevant BFI Diversity Standards, both on and off-screen.


The deadline for applications is midnight on Monday 15th June 2020.

Following the application deadline, Short Circuit will shortlist up to 15 teams, supporting them to develop their short film proposals into a fully-fledged script. Teams will be supported by Short Circuit’s dedicated Talent Executives and will have access to screenwriting masterclasses, editorial feedback and additional bespoke training and access support as required. Individual writers may be paired up with a director and producer at this stage.

Shortlisted teams will be invited to pitch their projects in late July 2020. Up to 9 projects will be selected to progress to the production phase, when teams will have access to up to £15,000 funding to make their short film. 

We expect selected projects to shoot in September, and complete post-production between early December 2020 and February 2021. This timeline may be adapted in light of the uncertainty relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will remain flexible and responsive to this unprecedented situation and ensure a proactive monitoring of government guidelines and the risks relating to film production.

Eligibility Checklist

All applicants and team members must meet the following eligibility criteria before being considered:

  1. Aged 18 or over
  2. Based and/or living in Scotland *
  3. Not in full time education
  4. Fulfil individual eligibility criteria for Director, Writer or Producer as outlined below

* While we will be prioritising Scotland-based filmmakers, Scottish-born talent living elsewhere in the UK may also be considered. Please consult our FAQs for further guidance

Applicant Criteria

Writers are eligible to apply if they have at least one writing credit on any of the following:

  • A screen-based work, including a drama broadcast on TV or online, documentaries, self-funded short film or web series, student film or artists’ moving image
  • A professionally produced theatre or radio play or stand-up comedy show, which may be demonstrable by positive reviews or professional recommendation
  • A published novel or a collection of short stories or poems, or self-published writing that has a demonstrable audience or following e.g. a blog, zine or podcast
  • A no-budget or micro-budget feature film, funded without film industry support and which has not received theatrical distribution in the UK.

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:

  • A screen-based work, including a drama broadcast on TV or online, music video, commercials, documentaries, a self-funded short film or web series, student film or artists’ moving image
  • A professionally produced theatre or radio play, which may be demonstrable by positive reviews or a professional recommendation
  • A no-budget or micro-budget feature film, funded without film industry support and which has not received theatrical distribution in the UK
  • New directors may have a substantial track record in another visual or performance-based craft, e.g. cinematography, photography, art direction, acting. If you are unsure of your eligibility, please contact the Short Circuit team before applying.

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: 

  • At least one producing credit on any work of fiction (including student films) or equivalent experience of production in documentary, TV, commercials, music video, radio, theatre or any other form of visual entertainment
  • A demonstrable track record in production management, co-ordination or development
  • We may consider new producers who have relevant transferable skills, e.g. event co-ordination. If you are unsure of your eligibility, please contact the Short Circuit team before applying.

How to Apply

Applications should be made via the online application form.

Applications can also be accepted in other formats including:

  •  Written application
  •  BSL video or other language format

Please email in the first instance if you need any support with your application, for example if you have any access needs or if English is not your first language.

To apply as an individual writer or writer/director you are required to submit a complete application form that includes a story outline for your short film, personal statement, short biography, links to previous work and Equal Opportunities information.

If you’re applying as a full team (writer/director and producer or writer, director and producer) you are required to submit a complete application form as above but include a short biography, links to previous work and Equal Opportunities information for each team member.

If you’re a director or producer unattached to a project, then you can still apply to register interest in the scheme. You may submit the application form without the story outline or project information, to simply include your personal statement, short biography, links to previous work and Equal Opportunities form.

All applicants are required to create an account on the BFI NETWORK Postroom and upload full-length versions of previous work to either watch or read. You can create an account here: Please contact the Short Circuit team via email at if you require any assistance setting this up.

Do you need this information in another format?

Short Circuit is committed to offering clear and accessible application processes that are open to everyone. On request this information is available in alternative formats including as an audio file, hard copy or translations. We offer support to disabled applicants, tailored to individual requests. This support can include Sign Language Interpreters for meeting with us prior to submitting an application and scribing support for dyslexic applicants.

We will accept applications that are written in English, Gaelic, Scots and BSL video applications.

Submitting your application

Teams or individual writer/directors and writers should prepare the following information to include in the online application form:

  • Story Outline (500 words max)
  • Personal Statement (500 words max)
  • Short biography for all team members (Writer, Director, Producer if attached)
  • Confirmation you’ve created a BFI NETWORK Postroom account and uploaded examples of your work, either to view or read
  • Link to website, IMDb page, Vimeo or other site to view previous work and achievements (optional)


Sharp Shorts offers awards of up to £15,000, which you may supplement with additional financing if required (from sources outside of BFI NETWORK/Screen Scotland funds). In the application form you will be asked to give an indication of the budget of your proposed short film.

If your project is selected for development stage of the scheme, you will be expected to prepare a detailed production budget that includes:

  • all costs you expect to incur, with estimates used if necessary;
    • the clearance of all rights in the film worldwide in all media in perpetuity (including use fees, repeat fees and residuals);
    • any access support you require in order to produce the film (see ‘Access’ section below for more details on this);
    • enhanced access materials (HOH subtitles and Audio Description) for the film (see under ‘Delivery Materials’ for more information);
    • the production insurances;
    • a 5% contingency;
    • any other requirements of funding detailed within these Guidelines.

Shortlisted teams will receive assistance from the Short Circuit team in drawing up their budget.

If you have any queries about budgeting for your short film at the point of application, please email us at

Assessment Criteria

Applications submitted after the deadline (midnight on Monday 15th June 2020) will not be considered.

All applications that meet the eligibility criteria outlined within this document will proceed to the assessment stage. All eligible applications will first be read anonymously; that is, the person assessing will be reading story outlines and personal statements without access to the applicant’s name or supporting information. 

If your idea is recommended, we will look at your previous work and from there assess based on the overall package of the team and idea, taking into account the following criteria:

  • the creative strengths of the proposal;
  • the strengths of the project team;
  • the likely career progression benefit for filmmakers;
  • how the story will connect with audiences;
  • consideration of how your project reflects good practice outlined within relevant BFI Diversity Standards and gives voice to under-represented groups in Scotland;
  • the project’s likely need for National Lottery support; 
  • the overall balance of projects receiving support, to ensure variety in the work being funded.

You will be notified of the decision on your application via email within 4 weeks of the deadline.


Since we are anticipating a high number of applications for this inaugural round of Sharp Shorts, it is inevitable that applications will be turned down and applicants may be disappointed by the outcome. We are unable to commit to providing feedback on individual applications.

Equalities, Diversity & Inclusion

Sharp Shorts is an inclusive programme, and is open to applicants regardless of race, disability, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, or socio-economic status as defined by the Equality Act. 

Short Circuit encourages applications from individuals and teams currently under-represented within the Scottish screen industries, which includes writers, directors and producers from Black, Asian or Ethnic Minority backgrounds, Disabled and D/deaf people, the LGBTQI+ community and women. 

We support the Social Model of Disability and recognise it is society that puts the barriers in place preventing Disabled people from taking part. We encourage applications from Disabled and D/deaf people, those with hidden disabilities and those who have access needs, and will ensure that access provisions are taken into account.

Please note that we will not use your Equality Monitoring Forms in the assessment of your application.


To support the equalities and diversity of Short Circuit, you should consider if your proposal requires additional support costs and provide details in your application.

These costs are not just Disability access focused but also additional costs that help reduce barriers faced by members of your team, crew or cast members involved in the management and delivery of your production.

If any members of your cast or crew have personal access needs that will incur a cost during the production of your short film, you can include these costs in your production budget as part of your request to us.

We define such needs as specific support required under the protected characteristics of the Equality Act which will result in an actual cash cost to your production budget.

Access costs in this context can include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • childcare costs, where applicants are unlikely to be able to undertake the planned activity without this support. 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.
  • personal assistance support
  • transport
  • an advocate
  • accommodation
  • equipment including adaptations
  • communication support such as BSL interpreter, note taker, speech to text reporter, lip speaker, translation of documents into other formats/language, translation of documents into Easy Read or other formats such as large print or audio, translation support if English is not your first language
  • communication support provided remotely or purchasing software and equipment to deliver communication support

If you require support for such costs, you would include them in your budget under the category Access Support. These costs will not count towards the £15,000 maximum award amount – so, if you require additional funding to pay for personal access support during production, you can submit a budget to us for up to £15,000 plus the additional amount you need for access support.

Environmental Sustainability

We want to ensure that teams have the tools they need to understand the impact of their production on the environment, including the carbon emissions generated and their contribution to climate change.

Productions should follow these core principles:

  • Seek to reduce the negative environmental impact of production wherever possible
  • Share and embed sustainable values and behaviour with cast, crew and their supply chain
  • Promote sustainable production to colleagues within production and across the wider industry.

All productions in receipt of BFI NETWORK short film funding are required to complete a carbon prediction in pre-production and a final calculation once post-production is complete. The prediction and the online materials 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. 

Your final carbon calculation will need to be submitted to us via the albert website, alongside the delivery materials you will submit to the BFI. Visit to set up an account. You can then log into the calculator itself at

BAFTA albert also provide free sustainable production training to understand climate change and the actions that can be taken to create a more sustainable production. We encourage at least one person from your team to attend the training. Please check here for upcoming training dates:


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.

What happens if I am awarded funding?

If you progress through the development stage and are one of the teams selected for a production award of up to £15,000, we will send you information that tells you if there are any specific conditions of the award that must be met before we can confirm the award. Once specific conditions, if any, have been met we will issue you with a Funding Agreement. You must note and adhere to all the terms and conditions of the Funding Agreement. At this point we will also ask you for your banking details, and agree a payment schedule and cashflow with you, which will normally be set against agreed milestones. You will need to return a signed copy of our Funding Agreement. Once all conditions are met, we will release the first instalment of your award.

If you do not progress past the development stage, we will give feedback and outline the reasons for the decision.

Crediting Requirements

The support provided by Short Circuit is only possible because of the National Lottery. We ask the filmmakers we fund to do everything they can to acknowledge the National Lottery as the source of this funding. This includes displaying the National Lottery logo on your completed short film. We ask beneficiaries to actively acknowledge and spread the word about their project being made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, whenever they can. This includes mentioning the National Lottery, at a minimum, on press releases, on print and marketing materials, online including through social media, and when speaking to the industry and the wider public about the project. Full crediting guidance will be set out in your Funding Agreement.

Delivery Materials

Your completed film and supporting materials, once delivered, will be acquired by the BFI National Archive and the National Library of Scotland for the purposes of long-term preservation.

You will be expected to provide the delivery materials listed below. Full details will be provided in your Funding Agreement.

Film files:

  • A digital master file of your film (i.e. ProRes 422HQ or 4444 Quicktime [.mov] file) which must be mastered for cinema distribution
  • A password protected Vimeo link for the film
  • An H264 .mov or .mp4 file for the film
  • Enhanced Access Materials* (see below)

Supporting documentation:

  • Full written list of production credits
  • Cast and Crew Agreements
  • Final Cost Report
  • Release Plan
  • Publicity Materials (including stills)
  • Shooting Script
  • ‘Behind the Scenes’ Stills

Submitted online:

  • BFI Equality Monitoring Report
  • BAFTA Albert Carbon calculator (see ‘Environmental Sustainability’ notes above)

*Enhanced Access Materials:

Short Circuit’s partners are committed to ensuring that the cinema experience is open to all, especially to disabled audience members. It’s a requirement of BFI NETWORK and Screen Scotland funding that the film is delivered with captions and Audio Description, that the availability of these materials is publicised, and they are made available in time for any screenings of the film.

In addition, both an SRT file of the captions and audio description transcript should be made available for future screening purposes. This means that both the audio description and captions can be created in other languages.

You will need to factor the production of these materials into your production timeline and ensure you have budgeted for them accordingly. Someone from your team will need to take responsibility for liaising with the company carrying out the work, and with the editor who is generally responsible for adding HOH subtitles to the film. Cost estimates for this work can vary considerably so it is important to shop around as early as possible to ensure you have budgeted appropriately. Short Circuit can advise you on this further with details of local captioners/audio describers based in Scotland.

If you have any general enquiries about the application process, Guidelines or Application Form, or require this information in an alternative format, please contact:


1. When is the deadline for submitting applications?
All applications must be submitted via the online application form by midnight on Monday 15th June 2020.

2. Who will read my application?
Applications will be assessed by the interim Short Circuit Talent Executive and Film City Futures Management Team. External assessors may be appointed in the event that we receive an unprecedented volume of submissions.

3. When will I hear if I’ve been selected for development?
We will inform all applicants about whether or not their project has been shortlisted for development by email within 4 weeks of the submission deadline. If you would prefer to be contacted through a different method, please outline your communication needs in the personal statement section of your application form. Please do not contact us about the status of your application within the four-week assessment period.

4. What should I include in my personal statement?
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 be written by the creative lead on the project – i.e. the director or writer/director.

5. What type of film are you looking for?
We’re not looking for a certain genre of film or type of story. We want to hear from talent who would benefit from being developed as part of a short film scheme at this point in their careers; and see original stories that have the potential to connect with audiences on a global scale.

6. My short film idea isn’t set in Scotland. Does that matter?
No, as long as you are Scotland-based and/or living in Scotland, and your idea is achievable on your proposed budget.

7. I’m a writer without a director or producer. Can I apply?
Ideally, we are expecting applications from complete teams comprising a writer, director or writer/director and producer. However, we are keen to accommodate individual writers or writer/directors with an exceptional short film idea who meet the eligibility criteria for the Sharp Shorts scheme, so you may apply on your own in this case. If shortlisted for development, we’ll then help connect you with a producer (and director if applicable).

8. I’m a producer without a project but would like to produce one of the selected shorts, what do I need to do?
You can still apply via the online application form, omitting the project information requested. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you will be on standby and have the opportunity at a later date to connect with filmmakers selected for development who do not yet have a producer.

9. I’m a director without a project but would like to direct one of the selected shorts, what do I need to do?
You can still apply via the online application form, omitting the project information requested. 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 attached at the point of application, then we’ll be unable to offer any opportunities. If there are projects in need of a director, then we may share your statement and previous work with them and begin introductions where appropriate.

10. We’re a co-directing/co-writing team, can we apply?
Yes, you may apply as long as both directors/writers are eligible.

11. I already have a draft script for my short film. Can I send that to you instead of a story outline?
Please still write and submit a story outline as part of your application. If you like, you may upload your draft to the BFI NETWORK Postroom and we will review it along with the other examples of work you’ve uploaded.

12. I’m a Scotland-based producer with a team and project looking to co-produce with a production company outside of Scotland, can we apply?
Yes, this may be possible. Applications that propose a co-producer outside of Scotland will be considered on a case by case basis. 

13. I am a Scottish-born director, writer/director, director or producer but I don’t live in Scotland. Can I apply?
Projects will be evaluated based on the career progression opportunities they offer Scotland-based talent, alongside their overall artistic merit. Projects which include the contribution of non-Scotland based talent will be evaluated on a case by case basis. Please contact Short Circuit before applying if you have any eligibility questions. You may also wish to first consult your local BFI NETWORK hub about the short film funding they offer.

14. One of my team is not Scotland-based. Can we apply?

Sharp Shorts is funded by Screen Scotland to primarily support quality ideas that clearly demonstrate value for the filmmaking landscape in Scotland. We therefore expect at least one, if not both, writer and director to be based in Scotland, and will prioritise projects that fulfil this criteria. If you are a Scottish-born or Scotland-based producer but are applying with a writer and director with no connection to Scotland, then you are ineligible for Sharp Shorts. 

15. I’m a writer/director working with a more established producer, can we apply?
Yes, you may apply if you’re working with more established talent, however you must still meet the minimum requirements outlined in the applicant eligibility criteria.

16. What is the BFI NETWORK Postroom and why do I need to create an account with them?
BFI NETWORK is one of the principal funders of Short Circuit and the Sharp Shorts scheme, along with Screen Scotland. The Postroom site is a secure, industry access-only platform where new and emerging talent from across the UK can submit and share their work directly with industry executives. If you’ve written, directed or produced a short film, then you may submit it for the NETWORK team to watch or read. Each writer, director and producer attached to your project must create a profile and where relevant upload previous work at in order to be considered for funding. If you require any support with creating your Postroom account or uploading content to it then please contact

17. How much work will I have to do on my script before making my film?
Sharp Shorts is a development and production programme, so script development is integral to the process. If you are among the 15 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. Further development will continue for the 9 projects selected for the production phase of the scheme, and no short will be expected to shoot until both the filmmakers and the Short Circuit team are happy with the script.

18. Do you accept “proof of concepts”?
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. 

19. How many applications can I submit?
Eligible filmmakers may submit up to two applications. However, please note that only one project per team can be selected to progress through the scheme.

20. I’m a documentary director, am I eligible?
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

21. Can I apply with an animation project?
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.

22. My budget is higher than £15,000. Can I still apply?
Yes, but you must be prepared to supply evidence that any additional finance is confirmed at the point of final pitch (i.e. July 2020).

23. I am currently at film school, can I apply?
No, you are not eligible to apply if you are currently enrolled full-time in formal further/higher education. However, you may apply if you are graduating before June 2020. 

24. I am under 18, can I apply?
No, you must be over 18. If you’re 16-25 years of age, passionate about film and interested in a career in the film industry, you should consider getting involved in the BFI Film Academy.

25. I have a short film idea but no prior experience in film or another form of narrative storytelling. Can I apply?
We would advise that you look into other opportunities before applying, as we expect Sharp Shorts to be competitive and for applicants to have some proven experience of filmmaking, or another form of storytelling or visual art practice. As a starting point, we would recommend you begin to make contacts within the industry to find potential collaborators. If you are 25 years of age or under, you may wish to check out opportunities with the BFI Film Academy.

26. Can I apply with an adaptation of my own play/short story?
Yes, as long as you own the rights to adapt it for the screen. We may require you to provide chain of title documentation to support this in the event that you are shortlisted.

27. Will there be any support for distribution once my film is delivered?
Yes, we will guide teams to create a festival strategy for their completed films. Teams may apply for support to attend relevant festivals through Screen Scotland’s Markets and Festivals Attendance Fund.

28. Will I own the rights to my completed Sharp Shorts film?
Yes – the completed film will be owned or jointly owned by the filmmaker(s).

29. I was previously funded by Scottish Film Talent Network (SFTN). Can I apply?
We are looking to ensure opportunities such as these are open and inclusive, therefore we are less likely to support a team that has already benefited from BFI NETWORK funding in the past, particularly if you already have a feature in active development or a highly successful funded short. 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.

30. If I am unsuccessful in this round of Sharp Shorts, can I reapply?
We envisage Sharp Shorts to be an annual scheme, therefore likely to launch for a second time in May 2021. You may apply again if you are not shortlisted this time round, though it is advisable that you submit a new, different project. 

If you have read these Guidelines in full and have a question that is not answered above, please email

If you require communication through an alternative format, please contact us by email in the first instance to discuss your communication access needs.

[1] Projects can qualify for certification as British through:

i. One of the Cultural Tests;

ii. One of the UK’s official co-production treaties; or

iii. The European Convention on Co-Production

Please note that your own assessment of your project as being capable of qualifying for certification does not mean that it will necessarily pass. Full guidance on British certification can be found on the BFI website at: