Tianna Johnson’s fantasy drama TV series Obeah has topped this year’s Brit List of unproduced screenplays by UK writing talent, with more female writers making the list than ever before.
The series is set in north-west London, and takes inspiration from indigenous spiritual practices in the Caribbean. It follows a woman’s attempts to track down a serial killer on a rampage across the UK.
Johnson, from London, was a child actor, appearing in shows including The Bill. She has also worked as a freelance script reader for the BBC.
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UK film and TV companies are invited to recommend the best unproduced scripts they have seen in the past year. If a script receives seven recommendations it will be featured on the the list. This is only the second year that the TV and film lists have been combined.
Of the 300 scripts put forward, 18 have made it onto this year’s list, with 65% written by female writers – more than ever before.
TV series have dominated again this year, taking up over two thirds of the list. The highest place feature is The Last Man In Europe by James Roblin, a joint third place, produced by The Lighthouse Film And TV. It’s a drama set on the Scottish Isle of Jura, focusing on the last years of writer George Orwell’s life as he grapples with illness and all-consuming visions of Nineteen Eighty-Four.
The Brit List was established in 2007 by Alexandra Arlango, who still runs the initiative, to help discover outstanding writing talent from the UK which might otherwise have gone unnoticed. The King’s Speech, Paddington and The Favourite have all previously appeared on the list.
The Brit List 2021
Synopses provided by The Brit List
Obeah by Tianna Johnson
Prod co: available
Genre: Urban fantasy drama
Summary: When the bodies of young people start showing up across the country, an angsty woman finds herself on the hunt for a serial killer acting out a very ancient revenge. Set in present-day north- west London, Obeah is inspired by the indigenous spiritual practices from the Caribbean and its clash with the descendants of practitioners.
Maps by Jessi Drewett
Prod co: available
Summary: A portrait of love, loneliness and loss, Maps is a soulful sci-fi about a woman who secretly assumes a false identity working in the interstellar mines of the Kuiper Belt to save her family from ruinous debt.
Animals by Laurence Coriat
Prod cos: Warp Films, Haut et Court
Genre: Comedy drama
Summary: How far will Liv – wife, mother, daughter and overlooked scientist – be willing to go in order for her ground-breaking research into chimpanzees’ behaviour to be heard? Seeking her independence she challenges the status quo of 1970s British, male-dominated academia, stealing her (alpha-male-of-primate-research) husband’s spotlight, and throwing her family, reputation and self into an upheaval that quickly spirals out of her control.
The Last Man In Europe by James Roblin
Prod co: The Lighthouse Film and TV
Summary: On the Isle of Jura, George Orwell fights a losing battle with time and tuberculosis as he wrestles with the dark dystopian visions of ’Nineteen Eighty-Four’.
Aphra by Jessica Lambert
Prod co: Origin Pictures
Summary: The outrageous true story of the UK’s first female playwright – a bisexual libertine who lived an incredible double life as a 17th century spy. A Restoration thriller told with the same iconoclastic mischief with which Aphra Behn lived her life.
Fool’s Gold by Ryden and Rowe
Prod co: Company Pictures
Genre: Darkly comic crime drama
Summary: Manchester firearms officer Sonny Gilbride trades the hazardous life of counter-terrorism for the rural tranquility of the West Country, only to find himself embroiled in a personal odyssey of love, murder and international crime in the illegal eel trade.
Malfeasance by Jon Baker
Prod co: Artis Pictures, in development with the BBC
Summary: A dark, funny, completely untrue, Northern Irish, crime story.
Let’s Go Get your F***ing Dog Back by Poppy Damon
Prod co: Joi Productions
Genre: Gangster thriller
Summary: A mobster’s daughter is trying to arrange a secret abortion, a pair of women hide a stolen dog, and a grandmother sells ketamine for her granddaughter’s college fund. All these stories connect in a tale of theft, murder and betrayal in New York City.
White Stork by Chris Dunlop
Prod co: Eleven Film
Summary: White Stork is a tightly choreographed political thriller about finding and burying truth in this post-truth world.
Misguided by Charlotte Alexander
Prod co: Available
Genre: Drama comedy
Summary: A darkly comic, high-stakes, domestic family drama. When a young and out of work actress is forced to join her parent’s Robin Hood-esque, white-collar crime consultancy business, the last thing she expects is for it to be the key to her wildest dreams, as well as liberation from toxic co-dependency with her mother. But at what cost does freedom and success come?
Misadventure by Leanne Davis
Prod co: Heyday TV
Genre: Drama with comedy
Summary: Jess has always been a ‘good’ girl. But when she discovers a secret – that her 55-year-old mother has early onset Alzheimer’s – it suddenly dawns on her that if ‘being good’ doesn’t stop the bad things happening in life, then ‘being good’ can fuck right off.
A True Crime Story by Joseph Baker and Lydia Rynne
Prod co: Various Artists
Genre: Comedy drama
Summary: A lonely true crime junkie teams up with her former high school bully to fake a disappearance that will catapult them both to stardom. But their audacious plan is thrown into chaos by a much grislier real-life crime.
Learning To Breathe Under Water by Richard Brabin
Prod co: Shudder Films
Genre: Family Drama
Summary: Leo, eight, lives alone with his grieving father, Peter, and his only friend is a thirty-foot metal shark. Anya, a Polish au pair, enters this broken family unit and breathes new life and new hope into both Peter and Leo.
Write Offs by Lela London
Prod co: Bad Wolf
Genre: Drama Comedy
Summary: A young American journalist is thrust into personal and professional chaos after arriving in London to start her dream job at the country’s most successful newspaper.
Birdsong by Sheila Nortley
Prod cos : BBC Film and Parkville Pictures
Summary: When British-born Danielle returns to Ghana to visit her dying grandfather, she unearths a past love and the tumultuous family secret that alienated her from her ancestral home, embarking on a journey coloured by memory and magic on Africa’s west coast. Based on a true story.
Easy Out by Melissa Osborne
Prod co: available
Genre: Coming of age, comedy drama
Summary: Benny, a terminally ill teen, asks his life-long friend Clover to help him die, but as Clover wrestles with the heart-breaking decision, life throws her a curveball that sets her previously ordered world spiraling out of control.
Ursula by Kat Rose-Martin
Prod co: Red Production
Genre: Grounded fantasy comedy-drama
Summary: Humorous grounded genre. A Yorkshire country bumpkin falls pregnant and, by the power of Oestrogen, is able to predict the future. Her skint sister shoves her into the spotlight to cash in.
Confinement by Lydia Yeoman
Prod co: available
Genre: Psychological thriller
Summary: After a strange encounter with a patient goes horribly wrong, an arrogant doctor is imprisoned for manslaughter. There she discovers she is pregnant and must experience pregnancy and childbirth in an environment in which she has no privacy or control.