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Opportunity For Writers To Work With High-End Dramas

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Call the Midwife and Doctor Who are the first series to offer opportunities to writers under an innovative new programme designed to give emerging talent the chance to break into high-end drama.

The ScreenSkills New Writers Award for Production Companies has been devised by ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Fund to help production companies collaborate with writers they have not worked with before.

Writers, who must not have written on a high-end TV drama series previously, are awarded a bursary of £15,000 to write a speculative script for a single episode as part of a production company's returning series.

ScreenSkills has been working with producer Marcus Wilson (Luther, The A Word) to help drama production companies identify new writing talent to participate. With the support of the award, Zoe Cooper has just delivered a script for Neal Street Productions' Call the Midwife and a writer will start on Doctor Who on the next series.

The award is now open to further applications from production companies with high-end TV dramas. The initiative is open to production companies who have a returning or greenlit drama (or one that is in an advanced stage of development) that pays into the High-end TV Skills Fund.

The new writers benefit from the experience of working alongside the contracted series writers or potentially in a writers room if applicable. We hope that the experience will allow a writer to develop a script that the production wish to use, at which point the production would engage the writer and the bursary will be returned to ScreenSkills to support another writer. If the script isn’t transmitted, then the writer will keep the bursary and can use the script as a spec. They will also have had a valuable development experience and forged a relationship with the production company that will hopefully pay dividends in the future.  Meanwhile, ScreenSkills has reduced the financial risk to production companies in trying out new writing talent.

Zoe Cooper is a playwright who was shortlisted as most promising playwright at the 2019 Evening Standard Awards for Out of Water and won the same title at the Off West End Awards in 2017 for Jess and Joe Forever. She will undertake an attachment at the National Theatre in 2020 and is also a lecturer at Newcastle University.

Zoe expressed her admiration for the series’ creator and writer Heidi Thomas and the experience of working on a script. "I have been a fan of Heidi Thomas' work for a very long time, and since Call the Midwife first aired I have admired the way that the drama interweaves the narratives of working class women from the east end with important social and medical stories," she said.
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