Michaela Coel is the new Wellcome Screenwriting Fellow

Michaela Coel, award-winning screenwriter, playwright, actress and poet (‘Chewing Gum’), has been awarded the 2017 Wellcome Screenwriting Fellowship in partnership with BFI and Film4. Selected from over 100 names...

Michaela Coel, award-winning screenwriter, playwright, actress and poet (‘Chewing Gum’), has been awarded the 2017 Wellcome Screenwriting Fellowship in partnership with BFI and Film4.

Selected from over 100 names nominated by the film and television industries, the award recognises Michaela’s remarkable screenwriting talent and distinctive approach to exploring the human condition. As one of the UK’s most promising and versatile new talents, Michaela has won multiple awards for writing and starring in the hit comedy series ‘Chewing Gum’.

Now in its fifth year, the £30,000 Screenwriting Fellowship is a major annual award that explores the intersection between screenwriting and science.

Fellows can choose to take up some or all of the following:

  • access and introductions to leaders in the fields of science and medical history
  • behind-the-scenes access to Henry Wellcome’s library, archive and collection of curios
  • visits to research institutions and programmes which carry out work in areas such as HIV, malaria and tuberculosis and mental health conditions
  • a personal MRI brain scan and genome analysis for insight into neuroscience and genetics
  • direct access to contemporary science research trials
  • a new interdisciplinary space to work alongside scientists, scholars and creative practitioners – The Hub(opens in a new tab) at Wellcome Collection.

Michaela says: “This fellowship couldn’t have come at a better time. Whilst retaining my individual identity as a writer, my next project will take me on a journey of discovery about brain chemistry, cognitive error and memory, by the end of which I will undoubtedly have learned to create stories in ways that are currently foreign to me.

“Here at Wellcome I’ll be able to talk to experts about the diagnosis of personality disorders, cognitive patterns, how they’re formed and myriad other things. I’m very grateful to have been chosen for this year, and can’t wait to get going.”

Simon Chaplin, our Director of Culture and Society, says: “We’re delighted that Michaela Coel has accepted this year’s Wellcome Screenwriting Fellowship – this is the start of an exciting new journey which will allow her to dive deeper into the world of science and explore what it really means to be human. She joins Sally Wainwright, Carol Morley, Jonathan Glazer and Clio Barnard, who have each found unique ways to approach the challenges and joys of the fellowship.”

The aim of the fellowship is to give a screenwriter time and space to explore without the constraints of a specific project. All fellows receive continued access and support from Wellcome.

‘Gentleman Jack’ and ‘Dark River’

During her year as 2016 Screenwriting Fellow, Sally Wainwright has completed the scripts for an eight-part BBC and HBO drama, ‘Gentleman Jack’. It’s about 19th-century Yorkshire landowner and prolific diarist Anne Lister, who had a passion for science and medicine.

Clio Barnard, 2013 Screenwriting Fellow, developed her new film ‘Dark River’ during her fellowship, meeting psychologists and psychiatrists working on traumatic memory. ‘Dark River’ goes on release in the UK on 23 February 2018.

Michaela Coel biography

Michaela Coel is an award-winning actress, playwright, screenwriter and poet.  As one of the UK’s most promising and versatile new talents, Michaela has won multiple awards for writing and starring in the hit comedy-series CHEWING GUM.

CHEWING GUM is based on Michaela’s sensational play, CHEWING GUM DREAMS, which ran at the Bush Theatre in 2012 and then at the National Theatre in 2014.  Michaela has received monumental praise for her stellar performance as the central character ‘Tracey Gordon’; a restricted, religious virgin, who desperately wants to lose her virginity. The E4 sitcom follows Tracey and her friends, navigating their way through their twenties and trying to discover the meaning of life on her estate in Tower Hamlets, East London.

In 2016, Michaela received two Royal Television Society Awards for ‘Best Comedy Performance’ and ‘Breakthrough Performance’, a BAFTA Television Craft Award for ‘Breakthrough Talent’, the ‘Best Female Performance in a Comedy Programme’ award at the Television BAFTAs and a Broadcast Digital Award for ‘Best Scripted Programme’.  The sitcom was also nominated for A BAFTA TV ‘Best Scripted Comedy’ award.  The highly anticipated second series aired earlier this year to rave reviews from around the world.

Earlier this year she filmed an episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian drama series BLACK MIRROR, returning to the series for the second time. In 2016 Michaela made her first appearance on the show, in an episode directed by Joe Wright. Her other television credits include E4 comedy-drama THE ALIENS alongside Michael Socha, Ashley Walters and Michael Smiley, the BBC espionage drama LONDON SPY, starring alongside Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent, the award-winning, raw and gripping C4 drama TOP BOY and LAW AND ORDER: UK. She is currently filming a contemporary drama for BBC and Netflix.

Michaela recently filmed the lead role in a feature adaptation of the hit stage musical BEEN SO LONG, directed by Tinge Krishnan. This love story set in London also stars Arinze Kene, George Mackay and Joe Dempsie.

Michaela’s theatre credits include acting roles in HOME directed by Nadia Fall, MEDEA and BLURRED LINES, directed by Carrie Cracknell, all at the National Theatre, and THREE BIRDS at the Bush Theatre and Manchester Royal Exchange, directed by Sarah Frankcom.

Michaela attended the Guildhall School of Music and Drama and graduated in 2012.

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