Wellcome Trust and BFI launch screenwriting prize to inspire science in films

The Wellcome Trust today launches a major new annual screenwriting prize, in association with the BFI Film Fund. The Wellcome Trust Screenwriting Prize aims to encourage high-quality feature films inspired by biology and medicine, from genetics and infectious diseases to consciousness and mental health.

Judges of the prize will include representatives from the BFI and Film4. As well as receiving a £20,000 cash prize to develop their idea to first draft, the winning screenwriter will receive support from the Wellcome Trust to connect them with world-leading scientists and to help identify commercial partners and producers. The BFI will provide the writer with access to professional development executives to help them develop their screenplay.

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, says: "Science and medicine have inspired some of the most memorable, and often challenging, films in the history of cinema, from 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' and 'Inception' to 'Blade Runner' and 'Memento'. These are films that question what it is to be human or even just to be 'normal', that express the hopes and fears of society towards scientific progress.

"At the Wellcome Trust, we work with the brightest minds with the best ideas in medicine. The Wellcome Trust Screenwriting Prize is aimed at identifying and supporting their counterparts in the film world and creating some truly original British films."

Lizzie Francke, Senior Development and Production Executive, BFI Film Fund, says: "Science in film is by no means restricted to science fiction or science-inspired biopics. We want to hear from screenwriters with bold, innovative projects that draw inspiration from science and medicine to tell stories that challenge and entertain audiences."

The Wellcome Trust Screenwriting Prize aims to develop feature-length dramatic films, with both live action and animation projects eligible to apply. First and foremost, the judges will look for great stories with interesting characters and compelling screenplay ideas, which are creative in the way they incorporate biomedicine into the story.

Judges - including experts from the Wellcome Trust, the BFI and Film4 - will shortlist 5-10 entrants. Shortlisted writers will meet the judges and discuss their ideas. They will be invited to an event at the Wellcome Trust in London in the autumn, where they will be introduced to a range of high-profile scientists and given a 'behind the scenes' tour of the Wellcome Trust and Wellcome Collection. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony at Wellcome Collection.

Eva Yates, Development Editor at Film4, says: "Film4 is delighted to be working with the Wellcome Trust on this significant new opportunity for screenwriters. We'll be looking for ambitious cinematic ideas that explore the realms of science and medicine in original and exciting ways, and wish the best of luck to all the entrants."

Notes for editors

About BFI Film Fund

The BFI Film Fund champions creative excellence and boldness of vision, supporting filmmakers at every step of their journey to create distinctive and entertaining films. Working with writers, directors and producers, from first time filmmakers to established, world class talent, BFI Film Fund invests Lottery funding in the development, production and completion of short and long form projects.

Four films backed through the BFI Film Fund premiered In Selection at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, with two picking up prestigious awards:

  • Ken Loach's 'The Angels' Share', screened In Competition and won the 2012 Jury Prize
  • Rufus Norris' 'Broken', opened the Critics' Week
  • Ben Wheatley's 'Sightseers', screened in the Directors' Fortnight
  • Fyzal Boulifa's short 'The Curse', screened in the Directors' Fortnight and won the Illy Prize for Best Short Film

Films supported by the BFI Film Fund and currently in production include: Steve Dwoskin's 'Age Is...', Nick Murphy's 'Blood', Neil Jordan's 'Byzantium', Richard Ayoade's 'The Double', Mike Newell's 'Great Expectations', Ralph Fiennes' 'The Invisible Woman', Omid Nooshin's 'Last Passenger', Julien Temple's 'LONDON - The Modern Babylon', Sophie Fiennes' 'The Pervert's Guide to Ideology', Martin McDonagh's 'Seven Psychopaths', Scott Graham's 'Shell', Mat Whitecross' 'Spike Island', Ken Loach's 'Spirit of '45', Andrew Kötting's 'Swandown', Jonathan Glazer's 'Under the Skin' and Eran Creevy's 'Welcome To The Punch'.

By working with a range of ambitious and innovative filmmakers, the BFI Film Fund has built an impressive and diverse portfolio of projects, including Tom Hooper's Academy Award®-winning 'The King's Speech'; Phyllida Lloyd's Academy Award®-winning 'The Iron Lady'; James Watkins' box office hit 'The Woman in Black'; Steve McQueen's BAFTA-nominated 'Shame'; Lynne Ramsay's 'We Need To Talk About Kevin'; Carol Morley's 'Dreams of a Life'; Andrea Arnold's 'Wuthering Heights'; and Paddy Considine's BAFTA award-winning 'Tyrannosaur'.

The BFI is the lead body for film in the UK with the ambition to create a flourishing film environment in which innovation, opportunity and creativity can thrive by:

  • connecting audiences to the widest choice of British and World cinema
  • preserving and restoring the most significant film collection in the world for today and future generations
  • investing in creative, distinctive and entertaining work
  • promoting British film and talent to the world
  • growing the next generation of film makers and audiences.

About Film4

Film4, headed by Tessa Ross, is Channel 4 Television's feature film division. Film4 develops and co-finances films and is known for working with the most innovative talent in the UK, whether new or established. Film4 has developed and co-financed many of the most successful UK films of recent years, films like Danny Boyle's 'Slumdog Millionaire' and '127 Hours', Martin McDonagh's 'In Bruges', Steve McQueen's 'Hunger' and 'Shame', Mike Leigh's 'Another Year', Chris Morris' 'Four Lions', Richard Ayoade's 'Submarine', Joe Cornish's directorial debut 'Attack The Block', Lone Scherfig's 'One Day', Ben Wheatley's 'Kill List', and Paddy Considine's debut feature 'Tyrannosaur'.

Recent releases include, Ben Palmer's 'The Inbetweeners Movie',Andrea Arnold's 'Wuthering Heights', Terence Davies' 'The Deep Blue Sea', Carol Morley's 'Dreams of a Life', Phyllida Lloyd's 'The Iron Lady', Steve McQueen's 'Shame' and Pawel Pawlikowski's 'The Woman in the Fifth'.

Forthcoming releases include Bart Layton's 'The Imposter', Sophie Fiennes' 'The Pervert's Guide to Ideology', Walter Salles' 'On The Road', Peter Strickland's 'Berberian Sound Studio', Roger Michell's 'Hyde Park on Hudson', Jonathan Glazer's 'Under the Skin', Ben Wheatley's 'Sightseers', Martin McDonagh's 'Seven Psychopaths', Danny Boyle's 'Trance' and Michael Winterbottom's 'King of Soho'.

In 2011 Film4 launched its pioneering role in exploring innovation in filmmaking with the appointment of Anna Higgs as Head of Film4.0. Film4.0 is a talent- and idea-driven hub within Film4 that will work with emerging and established talent, supporting them to tell unique stories and connect with audiences in new ways.

About the Wellcome Trust

The Wellcome Trust is a global charitable foundation dedicated to achieving extraordinary improvements in human and animal health. It supports the brightest minds in biomedical research and the medical humanities. The Trust’s breadth of support includes public engagement, education and the application of research to improve health. It is independent of both political and commercial interests.