Want to write for TV and just started? Here’s a massive ladder as last year’s winner talks about how it helped her…
ASPIRING screenwriter Shivani Vijayapalan went from nannying and uncertain scribbler to writing for Idris Elba’s Sky comedy drama series, ‘In the Long Run’ – and then winning a debut writers award and establishing herself in the industry.
Vijayapalan was the recipient of the New Voices Debut Writer Award 2020, presented to her in February at an awards ceremony at Rich Mix in London. She also got £750 and has a development script with an established production company, Big Light Productions – as part of her winners’ prize.
You could follow in her footsteps now as the New Voices, which is also part of the Edinburgh TV Festival, is calling for entries to its 2021 competition.
For the best debut writer category, you must have one broadcast credit this year – it can be from Youtube or any recognised streaming or web channel, as well as traditional terrestrial broadcasters.
But hurry to make the most of the Early Bird deadline which closes today (December 18) and entry is just £5. It will increase to £10 from tomorrow. The deadline for entries is January 25 and winners are expected to be announced the following month and should attend an awards ceremony.
Vijayapalan was working part-time as a nanny and was training to be a teacher three years ago, when the mother of the child she was looking after in London helped to get her an agent.
She hadn’t written a lot, but signed to this agent, after a pilot script of hers got shortlisted from nearly 3,000 and helped to smooth her way out of nannying and into full-time writing.
The agent knew that Green Door Pictures, the production company Idris Elba runs and which makes ‘In the Long Run’, was looking for writers for its second series last year. Her writing on Series 2 helped her win the New Voices award.
She has continued to write for ‘In the Long Run’ which is about the Easmon family living in East London in 1985 and the disruption brought about when a relative from Sierre Leone moves in with the family. Elba plays steady-eddy Dad ‘Walter’ to his more exuberant brother ‘Valentine’, (Jimmy Akingbola) who lands up in London. The comedy drama series, now in its 3rd year, was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award this year.
“Green Door has been really helpful and supportive and I’ve learnt so much. It was like going to film school,” Vijayapalan told www.asianculturevulture.com. “I had studied Economics at Leeds Metropolitan University and had taught English in Japan.”
Vijayapalan can’t talk about the script she is working on with Big Light, but told us the award has moved her onto another level.
“It’s definitely got my name out there. It wasn’t just with Big Light Productions – I got contacted by another company that wanted a British Tamil writer and I am still interested in film.”
Vijayapalan was born in Sri Lanka and grew up in Rugby in the Midlands and her route to writing never seemed clear or even possible. She has an older sister who went to Oxford University and her father is a GP.
“I had a lot of anxiety about showing my writing to anyone.
“I wasn’t like my sister academically.
“I spent a lot of time on my own making up stories,” she chuckled. “I didn’t expect any of this to happen. I spent a lot of my adult life living by proxy and had flatmates and experiences that people said I should write about. I always wanted to write but I didn’t have any way to channel it.”
Sarah Vignoles from the TV Foundation, which manages the New Voices awards, told acv that it was a scheme designed to help identify slightly obscured or hidden gems such as Vijayapalan.
She told us: “By rewarding and platforming talented people at an earlier stage in their TV career than traditional awards ceremonies, we hope to draw the industry’s attention to people who may not be on their radar, but definitely should be! Our goal was always to create an accessible, approachable event that anyone could enter and attend.”
She said the scheme was created to reach out further to talent and platform the best still coming through.
“Talent should be all that matters but sadly in TV that isn’t always the case, so we hope to redress the balance a little bit,” said Vignoles. “Production companies always want to know about the best new and emerging talent and we’re so pleased we can connect them to brilliant people.”
The winners will be revealed at a digital event in February 2021 and the precise format of the Edinburgh TV Festival in August was still under discussion.
In Feburary this year the awards ceremony was hosted by Youtube star and music artist, Yung Filly (pictured at the top).
As well as Best Debut Writer, there are eight other New Voice awards – all aimed at getting new talent better established in the industry – click on the links to find out more…
Entry form details – https://www.thetvfestival.com/new-voice-awards-entry-form-2021/