Today Bisha K. Ali, Netflix and Sky reveal the cohort of six outstanding screenwriters chosen to be part of their first screenwriting talent programme.
The year-long fellowship which is now at its halfway point, is spearheaded by screenwriter Bisha K. Ali, part of the writing team for the first series of Sex Education, the Head Writer of Marvel Studios' Ms. Marvel and Consulting Producer for Sky Original The Baby. The fellowship aims to give the UK’s brightest new voices the opportunity to join a Netflix or Sky writers’ room and receive their first television credit.
Bisha K. Ali said: “I'm so proud to see the creative growth of the talented and driven writers selected for our Screenwriters' Fellowship. The world of screenwriting is a historically difficult one to break into, made even more challenging by the systemic issues within our industry. Our Fellowship doesn’t purport to have all the answers, but we aspire to be a part of the movement towards a more inclusive industry. I know that our spectacular inaugural Fellows have long creative careers ahead of them, and will go on to be vital storytellers across multiple genres and mediums. Remember their names - I'm sure you'll be seeing them again in the credits of your favourite new shows!"
Anne Mensah, VP Netflix Original Series said: “At Netflix, we want to make shows that reflect the world in which we live and develop a more inclusive pipeline of creatives across the UK. True diversity is about whose voices are heard, and whose stories and perspectives are told. Netflix is proud to play a part in helping develop these outstanding up and coming writers and designing a programme that not only tries to remove some of the barriers to entering our industry, but provides the space, time and financial security to help writers develop their craft.”
Cécile Frot-Coutaz, CEO Sky Studios said: “The stories we tell shape our collective understanding of the world so it’s critical we open up the closed sphere of screenwriting to as many voices as possible, enabling us to tell untold stories to global audiences. Inspired by Bisha’s vision, we are proud to help break down the barriers and back these six new writers at this early stage of their career.”
Applicants had to be dedicated writers with an authentic and original voice and submit a full script to be considered for the Screenwriters Fellowship, which received almost 2,000 entries. The successful fellows include Asad Ullah a queer screenwriter and theatre performer, from Manchester., Daniel T. David an award-winning advertising copywriter, Kayla Hendy a 23-year-old writer from Slough, Kim Taylor a former teacher and freelance writer for the stage and screen, Lewis Wren a 29-year-old playwright and screenwriter based in the North West of England, and Robyn Ahern a writer who has also worked in film development and academia. Fellows have been assigned industry mentors and have participated in workshops and fireside chats with industry luminaries such as Charlie Brooker, Charlie Covell, Kate Herron, Chandni Lakhani and Laurie Nunn.
The Screenwriters Fellowship is part of Netflix and Sky’s broader commitment to improving representation and spreading opportunity right across the UK.
Through Grow Creative UK, Netflix has invested £1.2m to help develop and support the careers and training of 1000 people in the past year. This follows Netflix’s $5M Creative Equity fund to create opportunities for underrepresented groups to break into the industry, and the UK Documentary Talent Fund to support emerging filmmakers. This year Netflix will invest another £1.2 million to continue developing the pipeline of talent and supporting them progress in their careers, by offering paid placements and work opportunities on our shows.
Earlier this year, Sky Studios partnered with The Birmingham Repertory Theatre on Sky Comedy Rep - an initiative to provide 6-month paid scholarships to new, under-represented comedy writing talent from across the UK, and since 2015 has held monthly Sky Table Reads to showcase and champion under-represented writers to the UK industry. Sky has also committed £30m to tackle racial injustice across society, including by using the power of content to make positive change.
Below is the full list of fellows: (in alphabetical order)
Asad Ullah is a queer screenwriter and theatre performer from Manchester. He is part of the Fat Blokes Company, an award winning queer dance company. His work focuses on tackling the drama, romance and comedy that lives at the intersections his life: Queer, Muslim, British, Brown and Fat.
Daniel T. David is an award-winning advertising copywriter with a degree in law. He's interested in tackling the climate crisis through storytelling, and breaking barriers in sci-fi and fantasy.
Kayla Hendy is a 23-year-old writer from Slough. The first screenplay she wrote as a teenager was longlisted in BBC’s Drama Writersroom. After graduating, she began freelancing as a script proofreader and editor, whilst also working as a director’s assistant in London. Kayla’s stories often explore gender and inequality, and her favourite narratives follow women with twisted morals.
Kim Taylor is a freelance writer for the stage and screen. Her scripts reflect a clear interest in social issues, women's rights and mental health. Kim's crime drama TV Pilot 'The Watcher' was a finalist for the BBC Studios ScriptWorks and Thousand Films Scriptwriting competition 2021. Kim holds both Barbados and British citizenship.
Lewis Wren is a 29-year-old comedy playwright and screenwriter from in the North West of England but based in Bristol. His plays have been longlisted and shortlisted for awards such as the Bruntwood Prize and the Lancaster Playwriting Prize, and his screenwriting has been longlisted for the BBC Writers’ Room.
Robyn Ahern is a writer based in London and is currently working on projects for film and television. She has previously written for theatre; her first project, Monster, was developed through Camden People’s Theatre's Starting Blocks residency, and was shared at Battersea Arts Centre. Her writing is deeply character-driven and often constructs a sense of unease, experimenting with genre to explore themes such as alienation, solidarity, power and belief on an intimate scale.