Why Netflix U.K. and Sky Teamed Up to Support Underrepresented Screenwriting Talent (EXCLUSIVE)

In an unprecedented move, streaming giant Netflix and Comcast-backed pay-TV operator Sky are teaming up with “Sex Education” and “Ms. Marvel” writer Bisha K Ali to create a screenwriting fellowship for six U.K. writers that will provide them with financial aid, a support network and ultimately a job in a writers’ room for either a Netflix or Sky program. For Variety, Anne Mensah, VP of U.K. Original Series, and Jane Millichip, chief content officer for Sky Studios, discuss their vision for supporting underrepresented screenwriting talent.

As members of the entertainment industry, we believe that we can do more to support British talent in all its diversity. We want to make shows that reflect the world in which we live and develop a more inclusive pipeline of creatives across all production roles, providing those from all backgrounds reason to aspire.

We have made real strides in the television industry in the U.K., but now is not the moment to rest. True diversity in our industry is all about who gets to tell the stories. Who has agency in decision-making? We need more diversity among those who commission stories; we need directors who can shape our understanding through a combination of lived experience and creative vision; we need screenwriters who can create multidimensional characters that transcend stereotypes.

At Netflix and Sky, we continue to look for new ways to drive progress — and we believe that working together and with others to change industry standards is vital.

That’s why today we are launching a new year-long screenwriters fellowship for six outstanding writers. The program is spearheaded by the British screenwriter Bisha K Ali, who was part of the writing team for the first series of “Sex Education” and is now the Head Writer of Marvel Studios’ “Ms. Marvel” series. The program includes:

  • First-hand experience inside the writers room of a Netflix or Sky-commissioned series.
  • Ongoing mentorship support from a member of the Netflix or Sky commissioning teams once the program ends.
  • The opportunity to develop a shadow script alongside the writers and producers on set.
  • A full bursary paid for the duration of the fellowship.

We want to give an opportunity to those from Black, Asian and other racial and ethnic backgrounds currently underrepresented in the film and television industry. We are also specifically looking for writers who haven’t yet found representation. To qualify, applicants must submit a full script.

We know we have a long way to go to ensure the industry is fully representative, but we believe this fellowship is a step in the right direction. No single studio, program, or person can change the industry alone. But we can collaborate to create a more inclusive industry where many tales are told, and many voices tell those stories.

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