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Do you want to work with Sir Sam Mendes and other executives on your screenplay? Are you the next Vinay Patel or Michaela Coel? Here’s your chance…

Do you want to work with Sir Sam Mendes and other executives on your screenplay? Are you the next Vinay Patel or Michaela Coel? Here’s your chance…

Hurry – deadline is October 9 and company’s co-founding executive answers our Q&A…

Pippa Harris

PRODUCTION company Neal Street is offering Asian, Black and other screenwriters from minority communities, the chance to become a professional screenwriter with five bursaries worth £20,000 up for grabs.

The winners – who should not have any long form produced screenwriting experience behind them – need to write an original story which will be developed by the company into a TV pilot, or feature film script.

Neal Street said it is “keen to widen the pool of screenwriting talent and in particular to nurture new, diverse voices from a Black, Asian or ethnic minority background, who are currently under-represented in the UK”.

Announcing the new scheme last week, it said each bursary winner would have meetings with the Neal Street Productions Development team and company directors, as well there being networking opportunities with other writers and commissioners.

“It is aimed at writers who are near the start of their careers and haven’t yet had an original screenplay produced for film or TV,” said the company, which is part of All3Media.

Founded in 2003 by Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris and Caro Newling, Neal Street has considerable body of work behind it – including the Oscar and Bafta winning film, ‘1917’ and ‘Informer’ and ‘Call the Midwife’ for TV and the company has a strong US and international pedigree.

Sam Mendes

The company’s ‘1917’ won Best Motion Picture and Best Director Oscars last year. Mendes, who directed the First World drama, had a long and very successful career in the theatre before making films. And among his other work is ‘American Beauty’, ‘Skyfall’ and ‘Spectre’ and he was knighted earlier this year.

He said: “We hope these bursaries will provide the resources to offer a stepping stone into the industry for underrepresented voices.

“Applicants shouldn’t feel restricted by subject matter, but instead be encouraged to develop whatever story they feel inspired to write, in whichever medium (TV or Film) is best suited to tell it.”

Pippa Harris, one of co-founding members of Neal Street, answered a few questions from acv about the new scheme. Harris is a former BBC executive producer and also worked as a development executive for BBC films before setting up Neal Street. She was made a Dame in 2015. (ACV): Why do you think Asian, black of other minority writing talent is not coming through into the industry?
Pippa Harris (PH): It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why Asian, Black and minority ethnic writers are currently under-represented within the film and TV industries, but the figures speak for themselves.
We are confident that there is a wealth of talent out there, and very much hope that this scheme will help find new voices, and support them at the start of their careers.

ACV: Are you looking for those who are completely new to professional writing?
PH: The idea behind the bursary is to provide an opportunity to and support for those who have yet to properly gain a foothold in the screenwriting industry. They may be relatively new to professional writing or have had success in other areas, such as prose or playwriting.

ACV: Is ANY screen long form (not a short) professionally produced screen work a disqualification?
PH: Yes

ACV: Will this be a single production deal at the end of this successful bursary?
PH: The bursary provides financial support to be able to write along with guidance and mentoring to help deliver the best possible screenplay. This process is the focus of the bursary.

ACV: How much mentoring and career development will take place after a work is produced?
PH: We hope that the process of development and mentoring will build a relationship that will continue beyond the delivery of the screenplay. But more than this we want the process to put the recipients in a position to take the next steps in their career independent of Neal Street.

ACV: Are you looking for a specific project in mind to develop – can it be a work in progress still, or just an idea that needs development (and is not part of the submission)?
PH: It can be either, as long as the work required justifies the financial support offered. We are open to, and excited about discovering, what it is that successful applicants want to write about.

ACV: Where do you think the next Michaela Coel is? Do you hope to find her?
PH: The goal of the bursary is simply to provide five writers with the best experience of development we can and get them to the next step on their career path.

Vinay Patel is a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit and his ‘Murdered by my Father’ saw Adeel Akhtar win a Bafta for the lead role in the drama in 2017; he has written for ‘Dr Who’ more recently, while Michaela Coel’s ‘I may destroy you’ which screened on BBC One earlier this year has been one of the most talked about dramas of the last few years and is expected to be nominated for many awards.  

More details on the bursary and application form:

Pictures: Courtesy of Neal Street Productions

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture