Red Planet Pictures and ITV have announced Dublin-based Devin Doyle as the winner of this year’s Red Planet Prize – the talent discovery initiative that was launched by Tony Jordan’s indie a decade ago to find writers that can create fresh, original and inspiring popular drama.
As the winner, Doyle will get a script commission and development opportunities with ITV for his family drama Devoted Wife And Mother. It tells the story of a woman whose life is turned upside down when her debt dealing husband is kidnapped with a 500k ransom deadline for 5pm that day.
“I’m excited, delighted and still more than a little shocked to have been named the winner of the Red Planet Prize”, Doyle said. “I’m deeply grateful to Red Planet Pictures and ITV for the opportunity the competition affords emerging writers. It’s a privilege, and I can’t wait to get stuck into the work.”
His script impressed the judges with its wit, originality and unique style. Kate Rowland, who was one of the judges for the prize, will develop Doyle’s script. She set up the BBC Writersroom and across her career has been responsible for developing the early careers of some of the UK’s most successful screenwriters including Lee Hall, Stephen Butchard and Sarah Phelps.
The runner-up, Sharma Walfall, has secured funding from Red Planet Pictures to further develop her 1960s Manchester-set drama The Front Room. Her script showcased her natural storytelling ability with the judges feeling that ‘the idea just jumped off the page bringing the audience into her freshly drawn world’.
“Being a runner up in such an incredible competition filled with such talented writers, and being able to work with Red Planet Pictures, is mind-blowing and exciting”, Walfall said. “This means the world to me as the story that I want to tell is very close to my heart. Thank you to Red Planet Pictures and ITV for picking me. I’m really looking forward to the future of this project.”
The pair were selected after a short-list of twelve writers were invited to a pitching master-class with Red Planet Pictures CEO Tony Jordan and ITV’s outgoing Senior Drama Commissioner Victoria Fea, with the strongest ideas and writers being invited to a final interview. Jordan and Fea served as judges alongside the aforementioned Kate Rowland, and Adrian Lester OBE.
“We know this industry can be hard to break into, which is why we believe so fervently in giving opportunities like the Red Planet Prize to brilliant and talented writers”, Jordan said. “All 1,300 entries this year showed great promise, but Devin’s assured and great visual style makes him a real talent for the future, and I believe that Devoted Wife and Mother will make an incredible piece of drama for viewers to get their teeth stuck into.”
While Victoria Fea added: “We were excited by the range and diversity of storytelling on offer this year and had a difficult job in creating a shortlist – a situation which reflects the dynamism and creativity in the TV Drama industry. However, both Devin and Sharma submitted pitches which had great potential for development; showing a great deal of thought about how their idea would stand out in a competitive marketplace.”