Most stories that are successful express some underlying idea that has universal appeal for audiences. This idea causes audiences to identify with the characters and situations, usually because the theme tells us something about our human condition.

Taking Black Writers Seriously


After the success of Taking Black Writers Seriously, during the industry programme of the BFI London Film Festival’s Industry Programme in 2020, Dramatic Encounters will be presenting it again this year in a hybrid form for an audience of producers and commissioning editors both online and in person at BFI Southbank in NFT1. As before, the event is designed to draw attention to new writers and stories that will be fresh and compelling attractions for audiences of series drama and films.

This event enables producers and commissioning editors to engage with the creators to determine whether these projects could be right for them. They are projects by Black writers or are intended to be developed with Black creative leaders to bring variety to the type of screen stories that audiences get to see about the lives of black people. They also embrace other forms of diversity in order to normalise the story world these characters move in that, in reality, includes much more diversity.

It’s also to side-line the stereotypical expression of Black lives that have dominated in the past. Broadcasters, streamers and production companies are concertedly trying to embrace the challenge posed to them by many during last year’s BLM protests and black creatives and actors. Taking Black Writers Seriously puts a spotlight on emerging talent and the interesting new projects they want to work on with producing partners to fully develop them and proceed into production and reach their desired audiences. The programme is supported by the BFI as part of its commitment to increase racial diversity and anti-racism in the film and TV industry.

The programme involves a mini development lab and a pitching showcase for writers whose ideas the producers identify as being potentially marketable concepts. They are offered an intensive 3-day concept development lab to strengthen the ideas followed by two weeks of story development support to enable the writers to produce a compelling 2-page pitch document and verbal pitch. The lab also provides training in concept and story development for a few selected individuals who have an interest in becoming professional story editors and creative producers.

The showcase is for writers of novels or memoirs whose latest book they feel meets the requirement of being a story that we haven’t seen before or, maybe, in the way the writer has chosen to tell it; for established playwrights who want to transpose a successful play to the screen or even an unseen play that is ambitious and merits creative cinematic treatment that could elevate the play’s market potential; and television and feature film screenwriters who yearn to tell a story in a manner that surpasses what we usually see from typical genre-based films and dramas or in the arthouse.

We want writers to surprise us and recognise that this is an opportunity to be bold and innovative in their storytelling. Above all, we want to see stories in which the lead character is black and is not a victim but a character who has agency. Finally, we want writers to remember that we are part of the entertainment world and that viewers want to empathise with lead characters and enjoy what they watch. Also, there is a feeling that there needs to be less drama focusing on historical black trauma.

Writers, publishers, agents and story editors/creative producers are now invited to submit proposals to join this concept development lab and showcase event. Submissions may be made via the Dropbox link below.

Screenwriters and playwrights wishing to enter the programme should submit a logline for up to three ideas they are keen to develop and a brief biography.

Novelists, short story and memoir writers should submit a brief biography and the name and a brief synopsis of the story the writer is keen to see adapted for the screen. The writer should also let us know if he, she or they would like to dramatise the book personally.

Story editors/creative producers should submit a cv, a review of a play, film or book and a statement that expresses their vision for the impact they want to make on film and television drama.

The Dropbox link is

Submissions should be made by 17 September.

This programme is a partnership between Alby James’ and Shantelle Rochester’s film & TV production companies, respectively Dramatic Encounters and Ida Rose. Alby started working with Shantelle when he headed up the Diverse Directors’ Workshop at the National Film & Television School in 2017 and she joined him as line producer for the final productions. Shantelle’s energy and ability for finding quick and practical solutions to problems impressed him.

Alby proposed Taking Black Writers Seriously as a response to the BLM protests last year because, he says, “It’s now clear to everyone that we have been overlooked, misunderstood and left out because of the thing we can’t change – the colour of our skin – and, sometimes, because of our different culture and working-class backgrounds. BLM has made everyone realise it’s time to fill the spaces that should have been filled by the work of Black and Asian people by providing funding and opportunities now for those from these communities who have the talent and authentic voices.”

Shantelle is committed to the programme, she says, because “When we founded our company, it was to work on projects exactly like this one – gaining exposure for Black creators who are making the kinds of content we want to see in the world.”                       

The Taking Black Writers Seriously showcase event is planned for October 26th.