Neal Street Productions has revealed the five recipients of its previously announced screenwriters bursary scheme aimed at supporting and training emerging Black, Asian and ethnic minority screenwriters. There was an excellent response to the scheme, with over a thousand entries received from writers across the UK. The final bursary recipients were selected by the Neal Street directors and development team.
The successful writers are Dexter Flanders, Sophia Leonie, Gemma Mushington, Dominique Reid and Kirsty Rider.
The five screenwriters will each receive £20,000 to write an original screenplay, which can either be a TV pilot or a feature film script. The Neal Street team will provide the writers with creative support throughout the script development process.
Pippa Harris said: “We are incredibly excited by the range of unique British voices in our five finalists. The writing samples submitted by Dexter, Sophia, Gemma, Dominique and Kirsty all demonstrate their flair for vivid and distinct characters and complex relationships driven by compelling, emotional and witty storytelling. We can’t wait to dive deep into their creative worlds as they develop their new original ideas.”
Sam Mendes said: “The fantastic response to the bursary is truly a testament to the wealth of talent amongst underrepresented voices. We were in the difficult but very fortunate position of having to select our five finalists from an insanely large pool of gifted writers. With All3Media’s backing, it is an enormous privilege to be able to provide financial and mentoring support during their script writing process to these hugely promising artists.”
Dexter Flanders trained as an actor at RADA. His debut play FOXES was a finalist for the Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play of the Year by a Black British playwright. This was due to premiere at Theatre503 last spring but dates were pushed back due to Covid. Dexter was in the writers’ room for the new street dance inspired Sky series. He was also asked back to RADA to pen a short film for the final year students and is taking part in a new audio project about climate change.
“The Neal Street bursary award creates space and time for me to fully and purely commit to my storytelling, coupled with working alongside a highly experienced development team.”
Sophia Leonie is a writer and performer from north London. Her first short film, Love and More important Things which she wrote and produced, was selected for the BUFF Film Festival’s Odeon Love Shorts collection. In summer 2020, Sophia was part of the Writers’ Room with Kelebek Media for a new animated series. Sophia is currently developing a script with CBBC for a new television series and was selected for the BBC’s Holby City Shadow Writer’s Scheme in autumn 2020.
“I’m absolutely over the moon to be selected for this bursary. I believe passionately in telling stories that represent the under-represented and explore worlds that we rarely see on screen – I can’t wait to get stuck in and begin development of my new television series idea, which, as a working-class artist, during a particularly difficult year, has been made possible due to this support from Neal Street Productions.”
Gemma Mushington is an East London born and raised screenwriter. She graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London in 2018, with a First-Class Honours degree in Film, Television and Digital Production, specialising in Screenwriting. In 2019 her scripts were longlisted for the Thousand Films and BBC Script Room Drama competitions, and her short-form script was among the top 8% for the BBC InterConnected contest in early 2020. While she has taken time to explore a career in fitness and freelancing since graduating, she has continually made time for writing, penning multiple scripts and plays.
“I am incredibly grateful and fortunate to be one of the recipients of the Neal Street Screenwriting Bursary, it is literally life changing for me. I am being given the opportunity to learn, grow and create with a degree of financial freedom and professional support that has never been available to me before – I am so excited to be taking this step into the industry and for everything that’s next.”
Dominique Reid is a self-taught screenwriter from Birmingham. Her passion for writing comes from personal experience as well as things that resonate with her to tell a story. Her first script was one of the winners in the BAFTA Rocliffe Comedy competition in 2016. Currently working as an administrator, Dominique uses her free time to create new stories that offer different perspectives and voices on the world we know.
“To be awarded the Neal Street Productions screenwriting bursary means the absolute world to me. I’m beyond thrilled and excited to work with and learn from some of the greatest minds in the industry – an opportunity to develop my writing I would not have had without the bursary. The vote of confidence from Neal Street Productions inspires me to keep telling my stories which I hope one day more people will enjoy.”
Kirsty Rider trained as an actor at Drama Centre London and since graduating in 2016 has performed at The National Theatre, The Almeida, The Globe, and Regents Park Open Air Theatre. She wrote her first short film Hāfu (2018), which explores the feeling many British people of colour face, when their otherness is seen first and foremost and comes in clashing conflict with how they may see themselves. In 2019, Kirsty earned a place on The Royal Court Writing Group where she wrote her first play and has since finished the pilot of her TV show Re-pulsed, which explores the depths of young female rage.
“East Asian people are often voiceless in Western media and it feels incredibly profound to have Neal Street Productions believe in and invest in my voice. I am British and not white, something that baffles people every day, that is the story I want to see on TV and now I get to start 2021 by writing it.”
Run by Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Caro Newling, and Nicolas Brown, Neal Street Productions has been successfully producing award-winning film, TV and theatre for almost 20 years. Their recent productions include the Oscar and Bafta winning 1917, and for TV, RTS winning and BAFTA nominated Informer and Call the Midwife, currently in production on its 10th series, which remains one of the highest rated returning dramas in the UK. Like others in the UK industry, Neal Street are 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. The bursary scheme is supported by Neal Street Productions’ parent company All3Media.
For further details about the bursary scheme please visit –www.nealstreetproductions.com