Drama indie Red Planet Pictures and ITV, have announced Genevieve Barr as this year’s winner of the bi-annual writing competition, Red Planet Prize, with her script CURIO.

The runner-up is Nick Ahad with his script Apnay.

A deaf writer and actor from North Yorkshire, Barr has previously collaborated with screenwriter and playwright Jack Thorne on several projects, most recently on factual drama Independence Day? How Disabled Rights Were Won (BBC Two). Receiving a script commission as part of the winner’s prize, she will now work with both Red Planet Pictures and ITV to develop CURIO as a fresh and original four-part legal drama.

CURIO freshly examines the question of consent. When the family of a disabled man accuse his girlfriend of rape, a newspaper’s investigation throws up a spate of abuse cases surrounding the contentious issue of Facilitated Communication. A coming-of-age love story as much as a crime drama, Curio tackles disability, social care, responsible journalism, and language. It pits family against friends and law against media in the pursuit of truth.

 Runner-up Ahad, is a Yorkshire-based journalist, broadcaster and writer and will receive development opportunities with Red Planet Pictures and ITV on the back of his script, Apnay. Telling the story of a crime family in Bradford and the head of the family’s quest to appoint an heir before her death, Apnay takes the audience through the kitchen doors of Bradford’s curry houses and reveals a world that is at once familiar and disorientating, compelling and terrifying.

The judges included Red Planet Pictures’ CEO Tony Jordan, ITV Drama Commissioner Chloe Tucker, Red Planet Pictures’ Joint Managing Director Belinda Campbell, Red Planet Pictures’ Creative Consultant Kate Rowland and actor and writer, Rhashan Stone (Keeping Faith, Apple Tree Yard).

This year’s award focussed on finding original voices and stories to bring into the mainstream and thousands of scripts were whittled down to a shortlist of 12. Despite the nationwide lockdown, the judges conducted a digital masterclass with the shortlisted entrants, of which Barr and Ahad were eventually chosen.

ITV Drama Commissioner, Chloe Tucker, said: “We have met so many great writers during this prize, and are delighted to announce Genevieve as the winner and Nick as the runner up.

Genevieve’s writing is so visceral and surprising, it gets under your skin. We’re also very happy to recognise Nick’s work, which is incredibly entertaining. I want to thank everyone at Red Planet Pictures for helping us discover such brilliant talent.”

Red Planet Pictures’ Creative Consultant, Kate Rowland, added; “We absolutely love running the Red Planet Prize, but this year has been truly exceptional. During an unprecedented time, these stories and writers reflect the kind of stories we want and need to tell – diverse, complex, and original. A true writing talent, Genevieve’s script was captivating and as funny as it was emotional. Nick’s script was also one we couldn’t put down and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for him.”

Genevieve Barr said upon winning the competition; “I am totally overwhelmed and thrilled that CURIO has been selected. Thank you so much to Red Planet and ITV for this opportunity and for their efforts in developing emerging writers. I can’t wait to get into the story.”

 Rhashan Stone, actor and writer said of the two winners; “I was captivated by Genevieve’s writing. She’s smart, confident and mischievous. She’s out to challenge our preconceptions and does so with humour, intelligence and emotional insight. Her voice feels so fresh, so authentic, I can’t wait to read more from this fiercely talented writer.”

“Not only was I won over by Nick’s vibrant (and often violent) story of a Bangladeshi crime family, I was won over by Nick himself. Smart and charismatic – Apnay packs a punch and is just as vibrant, funny and full of life as he is.”

Jon Creamer