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ViacomCBS International Studios’ VIS unit has unveiled first-look deals with five emerging writers from the U.K., kicking off a new “First Look Deal Program” designed to “amplify diverse voices” as part of the company’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.
The writers – Morgan Bailey, Bec Boey, Chris Bush, Iman Qureshi and Kaamil Shah – were chosen “based on their proven scriptwriting talent, their variety of interests and writing styles, and potential to collaborate on distinctive development projects intended for Paramount+,” the company said.
“These deals mark the first round of creatives confirmed to work with the international studio as part of a new, ongoing program in the U.K. intended to provide meaningful opportunities for diverse creators,” the arm of ViacomCBS said on Tuesday. “As a part of the first-look deal strategy, the VIS content and production team has identified five initial writers from underrepresented groups in the U.K., all of whom will have the opportunity to pitch five ideas to VIS over two years.”
VIS said it was committing to commissioning at least two projects to the treatment stage of development, with at least one of them being taken to the script stage.
“Since inception, VIS has been on the front lines of finding and partnering with diverse creatives from around the world,” said Kate Laffey, vp of ViacomCBS International Studios. “As ViacomCBS continues its expansion of Paramount+ globally, it’s critical that we create content that speaks to all audiences. This new initiative will ensure we continue to infuse diversity, equity and inclusion into every aspect of our work, particularly our U.K. originated content.”
The company unveiled it on the heels of its launch of VIS Social Impact, a studio division of ViacomCBS International Studios dedicated to the development of social impact-driven content. The program was conceived and developed by Laffey and Claire Sowerby-Sheppard, VIS’ head of development for the U.K.
Here is more information on the five writers chosen for the initiative.
“Bailey is a writer of Caribbean descent,” said ViacomCBS. “He has recently been commissioned to write an episode for a new animated children’s series for CBBC. His short film titled Cuffed is currently in development with the BFI/ Film Hub North.” Previously, he was a member of the BBC Writers room. In early 2018, he directed the short film Rumet.
Boey is a graduate of the Royal Court’s Young Writers Program and the BBC Writers Room London Voices group. Her short film work includes Jade Dragon (best comedy at London International Short Film Festival), Troll Hunters and The Burglar. “Her audio horror series The Beach Hut has been commissioned to pilot by Storypunk,” the company also highlighted. “She’s currently developing a TV comedy with Sarah Brocklehurst and a feature film with Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor/BFI.”
“Bush is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, theater-maker and an associate director at Sheffield Theatres,” the company noted. Her past work includes Hungry, Kein Weltuntergang/(Not) the End of the World, Standing at the Sky’s Edge (best musical at the U.K. Theatre Awards) and Nine Lessons and Carols: Stories for a Long Winter.
Qureshi is an award-winning writer for stage, screen and radio. “In 2018, she won the prestigious Papatango New Writing Prize with her breakout play The Funeral Director, which premiered at the Southwark Playhouse before touring the U.K.,” the company said. “The play is now being adapted for the screen with STV Productions. Her play The Ministry of Lesbian Affairs is also being adapted with NBCUniversal.”
Kingston Upon Thames
The writer for TV, film and theater is “passionate about telling the stories of the Indian and Pakistani diaspora,” the company highlighted.” A graduate of both the London Film School and Cambridge University, in 2019, he was selected for the UGC Writer’s Campus at the Series Mania festival in Lille, France where he developed his drama Dubai on Thames, which is now in development with Three Tables Productions.” His TV monologue Shahid’s First Shave was available on the BBC iPlayer, while his first short film The Colour of Milk premiered at London’s BFI Southbank. He is developing original series ideas with various companies.
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