Beneath the Big Top Pitch
Created on October 24, 2023
A pitch for TV Development
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'Beneath the Big Top'
An observational documentary following a journey that combines the mesmerising world of the circus with an exploration of mental health.
The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, known for its spectacular and groundbreaking performances, sets the stage for this documentary. As talented artists from around the world come together to create a unique circus extravaganza, we follow their tireless efforts, dreams, and triumphs.But there's a twist to this. We look closer at the mental and emotional challenges these performers face. As they conquer gravity and execute daring acts, they also grapple with the human condition, battling fears, anxieties, and personal struggles.
A captivating, fact-filled documentary that takes viewers on a rollercoaster ride of emotions.
A brief history
The history of the circus is a fascinating journey that spans centuries and continents and can be traced back to ancient civilizations. These early exhibitions laid the foundation for the modern circus. In the early 19th century, the circus took to the road, with companies travelling from town to town to entertain audiences, and in the 19th century, Philip Astley - an English officer, often credited with creating the first circus in 1768 – introduced the three-ring circus concept. Many know this term, but it originated at this time as it allowed for multiple acts to be performed simultaneously, captivating larger audiences. The late 19th and early 20th centuries are often referred to as the "Golden Age of Circus." Contemporary circus emerged as a more artistic and narrative-focused form of circus as it incorporates elements of theatre, dance, and visual arts, offering a new perspective on the circus arts. The history of the circus is a rich tapestry of innovation, entertainment, and artistic expression. It has evolved over the centuries to adapt to changing tastes and societal norms while retaining its fundamental spirit of wonder and spectacle. However, behind these spectacular shows, there are real people and often this is overlooked. Circus artists perform physically demanding skills in a high-stress environment, yet little is known about their mental health nor is talked about.
The mental health of circus performers is often overlooked.
Performance Anxiety: Circus artists, like other performers, can experience performance anxiety, which can manifest as stage fright, fear of making mistakes, or struggling with self-doubt before a performance.
Injury Risk: The risk of physical injuries is higher in circus performers, and these injuries can take a toll on their mental health. The fear of getting injured can also be a significant source of stress and anxiety.
High-Pressure Environment: Circus performers often work in high-pressure environments, with the need to execute physically demanding and sometimes dangerous acts. This stress can have both physical and mental health implications.
Mental health in circus performers is a complex issue and like in many other performance-based industries, often overlooked. It can be caused (or exacerbated) by:
It found a disproportionately high rate of mental health disorders when compared to the general population.
Intense physical and mental requirements associated with professional circus may affect the mental health of circus artists in a similar manner as professional athletes and other performing artists.
The mental health of circus artists could be based on their circus disciplines and external stressors (for example, training environment) could contribute to mental health struggles.
35% have experienced a mental health crisis.
Depression to be twice as likely in performers than in the general population.
57% say they have experienced a mental illness.
In 2020, a study was conducted to learn more about circus artists’ experiences in early 2020 (pre-COVID-19). Over 500 artists worldwide responded to this survey and the report was published in 2021. It found that:
As this includes culture, the arts, performance and mental health, it'll be a diverse audience.
About the Programme
Perfomers and the crew
This will follow the performers and the crew behind the scenes. We will also speak to those within the Edinburgh Circus Community.
Human Interest / Entertainment
Entertaining but also explores the personal stories and challenges of circus performers, shedding light on their lives beyond the spotlight.
As it's following over the Fringe
History of producing high-quality documentaries and arts-related programming. This will be a series of four episodes featuring the beginning and end and will span the entirety of the Fringe.
Who is this for and who will I be pitching to?
Edinburgh Fringe Festival
Circus acts at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are known for their innovation, creativity, and ability to push the boundaries of traditional circus performances. To name a few, Trash Test Dummies, Sophie's Surprise 29th and La Clique.It's a vibrant and exciting part of the festival that continues to evolve and captivate audiences from around the world. This happens each year at the circus hub in the Meadows.Who will we be following?- The crew setting up the main circus tent.- Individual and group performers. We will follow two main participants from differing acts as they go about their days, prepping, training and performing. Their story will be broken up by situations happening around the site and with other acts.- The faces behind the performers. Family members, friends and those who organise the acts.- Edinburgh Circus Community including Aerial Art House in Restalrig, which is a community project set up to use the power of circus to combat mental health
The programme will include:
Mental Health Matters
We candidly discuss the unique mental health challenges circus performers face and how they cope, thrive, and inspire others.
We share the deeply personal journeys of circus artists, uncovering the sacrifices they make, and the mental resilience required to succeed in the industry.
Witness the acrobatics, daring stunts, and intricate choreography that go into creating a circus show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Key Highlights cont...
The programme will include:
Healing Power of Circus
Discover how the circus arts, with their focus on discipline and creativity, can serve as a therapeutic outlet for those grappling with mental health issues.
Explore the importance of camaraderie and emotional support within the circus community, shedding light on how this helps artists overcome their inner battles.