The Female Pilot Club meets to stage readings of brilliant out-of-option comedy scripts, starring the best and brightest of British comic talent. The pilot scripts we take up for a spin are all written by women.
In association with Comedy 50:50 we set up the club as a response to the stubbornly intractable problem of under-representation of female writers in TV comedy.
Since June 2019 we have staged sell-out read-throughs of ten comedy pilot scripts, to an audience of writers, producers and comedy lovers. The writers range from first-timers to Emmy-award winners. We've also partnered with ScreenSkills, The Jewish Comedy Festival and UKTV to produce a bespoke diverse writers mentorship scheme, a new writing evening and a female writers initiative focusing on creating great leading parts for women over 45.
Female Pilot Club scripts can only take off because of the incredibly talented top flight comedy actors that we're lucky enough to have work with us.
Whether you identify as a female writer, want to attend a show or if you're an actor wanting to take part, you're invited to Fly With Us.
The Female Pilot Club hopes to amplify women’s voices, and give women writers the chance to prove their jokes and characters in the room, with the undeniable sound of laughter.
We aim to help female writers from a broad and diverse range of backgrounds get their comedy writing produced.
The Club was founded to address inequality. Female writers continue to face challenges pursuing careers in the film and television industry. Individual successes, though very welcome, can make it seem like women writers are doing just fine, but the research tells another story. The Writers’ Guild of Great Britain (WGGB) revealed in their 2018 Gender Inequality and Screenwriters report that only 17% of comedy films made in the UK had at least one female writer, and that just 11% of TV sitcoms were predominantly female-written.
The report, 'Equality Writes' (2017) noted that 'Bias and specific hiring and monitoring problems within the film and TV industries are creating a self-sustaining loop of gender inequality'.
In comedy writers’ rooms the anecdotal evidence is that female comedy writers are likely to be one-of-a-kind. Nearly four out of five of all respondents to the WGGB report disagreed with the statement that “the way writers are hired, and scripts are commissioned, is fair and free from discrimination”.
Female writers have stated that they find it hard to compete with male writers who have accumulated more credits because of historic discrimination. This perpetuates the male dominated culture within comedy.
"Producers often don’t know how to expand their circle of female writers with whom they work and many feel frustrated that they know only a small pool of talent upon which to draw." (Saskia Schuster)
Writers get to hear their pilots really fly - brought to life by brilliant comic actors – they can hear from a live audience what works and what needs work. Producers and commissioners can get to hear about writers they may not know and hear just how funny their scripts can be. Then writers and producers can come together to make the scripts even better, and crucially, get them made.
Don’t take our word for it! Read the trip reviews from the writers who’ve flown with us so far.
Female Pilot club was founded by comedy writer-performers Kay Stonham and Abigail Burdess in 2019.
We’ve had a lot of luck in our careers but we wished something like the Female Pilot Club existed – a place where our scripts could go on a test flight with the brilliant casts they deserve, a place women could encourage and promote each other’s work, share jokes, discuss scripts and show off. We wanted to amplify hilarious female voices, to share them with producers and commissioners and, we hope, to be part of getting great female-written shows on TV where they belong. Up, up and away!
Congratulations to Abigail for her exciting debut novel Mother's Day! Hear all about it on the FPC podcast!
Founder & Head of Scripts
Creative Director & Producer
Company Director & Producer Kay Stonham is a comedy writer-performer. On TV she's written for comedies including Harry Enfield and Chums (BBC1) My Family (BBC 1)and Comedy Award-winning Alistair McGowan’s Big Impression (BBC 1)
Kids shows include the multi award-winning Shaun the Sheep and Millie In-between (CBBC). She’s appeared in TV shows like The Young Ones (BBC2) Dead Ringers (BBC 1) and People Like Us (BBC2).
Kay created three original series for radio, Audio Dairies, Robin and Wendy’s Wet Weekends, and Bad Salsa (BBC Radio4). She is currently developing a new comedy drama and adapting the best selling book What Would Boudicca Do? for TV.
Founder & Advisor
Abigail Burdess is a comedy writer-performer. TV writing includes Tracy Ullman’s Show (BBC1), Watson and Oliver (BBC2), and the BAFTA-winning That Mitchell & Webb Look (BBC2).
Kids' TV includes Sorry I’ve Got No Head (CBBC),So Beano (Sky TV) and Paddington (Nickelodeon).
She’s also appeared in TV and radio shows like Cuckoo (BBC3), Fresh Meat (C4) and The Musical Life Of (BBC Radio Wales).
Head of Casting
Company Director & Producer
Company Director & Producer Emily Chase is an actress and writer. She appeared in Bad Salsa (Radio 4) and her Youtube Channel, Bloody Comedy TV, gained nominations for the British Comedy Awards and The Funny Women Awards.
She has recently finished filming a comedy for Netflix.
Head of Communications
Company Producer Chelsea Kania brings 15 years of marketing and communications experience to FPC in addition to being a writer.
Her first comedy feature, Being Benjamin (Mad Wife Productions) enters production in 2023. She was a 2021 Academy Nicholl semifinalist.
Thank you for everything last year, I can't tell you enough what it meant to me to be selected. And the experience itself! And the event in general- its just great. Thank you.
I’m still coming down from the high of Wednesday night! I seriously cannot thank you enough. As a direct result of the show, I have had two requests for meetings and one request for more material on Tudor Roses
As a non-performing new writer it’s almost impossible to prove to producers and commissioners that my scripts can make people laugh and that’s what’s so wonderful about what you’ve created here.
My sitcom pilot Two Ladies was performed at the inaugural Female Pilot Club in June 2019. It was an extraordinary experience to see the script brought to life by professional actors for the very first time, and in front of an audience as well.
Before Comedy 50:50, we had no platform from which to assert
ourselves in the industry. The event was sold out so being featured most certainly increased my visibility - since then my agent and I have received several requests from producers to read the script.
Through the Female Pilot Club I saw my work come alive in the hands of some incredible talent. I'd worked in drama previously but, taste-wise, always veered towards comedy.
Having a script selected was a real boost. The cast made the material sing and hearing the audience laugh was incredible. I gained confidence and felt a fresh rush of enthusiasm for writing the next script.
I went to the very first Female Pilot Club and thought it was amazing. The scripts I heard were brill. I don't feel the sexism in TV comedy has improved in this country in the almost three decades I've been writing. Every single channel in the UK has told me "we already have something with women in it. The fact that the most popular sitcom in recent years stars a man dressed as a woman is thoroughly depressing.
Sorry if that sounds negative - but things REALLY have to change and that's why the Female Pilot Club is such a great idea.