Press release

Clio Barnard awarded Wellcome Trust and BFI Screenwriting Fellowship in association with Film4

Film-maker Clio Barnard ('The Selfish Giant', 'The Arbor') has been awarded the inaugural Wellcome Trust and BFI Screenwriting Fellowship in association with Film4.

The fellowship provides her with the opportunity to delve into and draw inspiration from the exciting worlds of neuroscience, genetics and human development, supported by one of the world’s leading supporters of the arts, humanities and sciences.

The announcement was made at a special reception yesterday evening at the Wellcome Trust’s headquarters, where leading figures from film and science gathered to celebrate the Screenwriting Fellowship.

In addition to receiving £30,000, Barnard - through her contact with the Wellcome Trust - will have unparalleled access to experts at the forefront of medical research, ethics and the history of medicine. She will have the opportunity to spend time behind the scenes at Wellcome Collection and visit the Trust’s research centres in the UK and internationally, including the option to have a brain scan at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging, UCL.

Barnard has been awarded the Fellowship in recognition of her original, enquiring and visionary screenwriting. Her work has drawn praise from across the film industry: her most recent film, 'The Selfish Giant', is currently nominated for six British Independent Film Awards, including Best British Independent Film, Best Director and Best Screenplay. The film premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, where it won the prestigious Europa Cinemas Label Prize for Best European Film.

She has expressed a keen interest in exploring the implications of key developments at the frontline of science and medicine, in particular the impact of trauma on children, as well as in our wider understanding of the human condition and society. Of the Fellowship, she says: “This is an incredibly generous and unique opportunity to mainline inspiration; a unique opportunity to access cutting-edge research as well as the Wellcome archives; a unique opportunity to immerse myself in past, present and future...the freedom to explore and experiment, to see what emerges, to alter my view of the world and beyond; a unique opportunity to switch between the minute details and rigours of research and to stand back to try and see the big picture. I can’t wait!”

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, adds: “From research and discovery to art, film and television, the Wellcome Trust supports the brightest and best minds in exploring what it means to be human. Clio Barnard exemplifies this with her work, and so we are delighted that she has accepted this very first Screenwriting Fellowship. We look forward to working with her as she takes up this exciting opportunity to further her interest in science, health and humanity.”

Lizzie Francke, Senior Executive in the BFI Film Fund, commented: “The Fellowship is a great opportunity for a screenwriter to immerse themselves in the wonders of Wellcome, to provide some thinking and dreaming space, so as to create stories infused by the biomedical world. I think of it as a wonderful experiment in itself: the writer’s brain in a tank of scientific inspiration - the synapses flashing, sparks of future stories to be kindled for audiences to share.”

The Wellcome Trust has been working in partnership with the BFI, the UK's leading film organisation, with experts at Film4 taking an advisory role in the development of the Fellowship. Like other Wellcome Trust fellowships, the award is open-ended and flexible, but it will provide the opportunity to work with all three organisations to consider the role of science in film and film in science.

Eva Yates, Senior Development Editor at Film4, added: “We offer our warmest congratulations to Clio and will await the work she generates throughout the fellowship with great anticipation. We hope her accomplishments as fellow and the extraordinary resources available through the Wellcome Trust will inspire a generation of screenwriters to explore the intersection between cinema and biomedical science, and the potential it holds for unique and universal storytelling.”

The Fellowship builds on the success of the 2012 Wellcome Trust Screenwriting Prize. This year, the Wellcome Trust, the BFI and Film4 worked with industry experts to select a writer of exceptional talent who seeks to explore science and the human condition. Clio Barnard is due to begin her Screenwriting Fellowship in January 2014.