Terry Gilliam and Ridley Scott have lent their support to a new competition for short films, backed by the Sci-Fi Channel and the First Film Foundation.

Sci-Fi Shorts said it is "the first genre-dedicated short film competition to guarantee theatrical distribution". It has teamed up with exhibition chain UCI to ensure that films reach cinema audiences as well as those on TV.

Scripts, which must be submitted by Nov 30, will be judged by a jury which includes A Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy author Douglas Adams, Human Traffic director Justin Kerrigan and Working Title Films executive Simon Wright.

The winner will receive script editing and storyboard support from First Film. The ten-minute piece is to be delivered by mid-2001.

Janet Goldsmith, Managing Director, Sci-Fi and Universal Studios Networks UK, said "Sci-Fi Shorts is the first short film competition to develop and produce films specifically aimed at commercial cinema audiences. We hope to help encourage and nurture a new generation of British sci-fi talent."

Jonathan Rawlinson, director of First Film said: "Until now, science fiction has been sadly neglected as British films have been forced into stereotypes of crinolines or criminals. We aim to make short films that are not only a showcase for new filmmaking talent, but can also entertain and inspire mainstream cinema audiences."