Issa Rae Pitching Dystopian Sci-Fi Drama As Part of Diverse Writers’ Scheme

Issa Rae, star of HBO’s Insecure, is pitching a dystopian sci-fi series to broadcasters and streaming after launching a diverse writers’ initiative. Rae’s production company ColorCreative.TV, which she runs with Deniese Davis, has taken out The Awoken from Katelyn Howes after the newcomer beat more than 2,000 others to win the Fresh Wave scheme.

The scheme was set up by Rae, Sky Vision, the international distribution division of the UK pay-TV broadcaster, and Talos Films, the fledgling New York-based company set up by former MTV exec Elli Hakami and History’s former scripted exec Julian Hobbs.

The Awoken is a bold sci-fi drama following Alabine Rivers, a young adult who is resurrected from cryogenic preservation in 2103, a very different world from 201, the year she left behind. Rivers is forced to join an underground network of rebels fighting for the basic human rights of The Awoken, others like her who have been frozen and then resurrected, who are ruthlessly hunted down by a regime has restricted scientific advancement and technology and returned the country to an agrarian dystopia.

A 10-minute pilot presentation, produced by ColorCreative.TV and Talos Films and funded by Sky Vision, was shown to buyers today, Wednesday 13 December, at an event in Hollywood. The team are also set to pitch half-hour comedy pilot Court For Short from LaDarian Smith, runner up of the initiative.

Rae, who earlier this week received a best actressGolden Globe nomination for Insecure , was keen to help other new writers after being discovered by posting episodes of her autobiographical series Awkward Black Girl on YouTube, where it received over 20M viewers. She said that providing a platform for “underrepresented” voices was extremely important to her, “particularly with so many polarizing views dominating the mainstream right now”. “I’m so pleased that Fresh Wave has produced not just a fantastic winner in Katelyn, but a wealth of new voices amongst the other finalists, showing that there is a huge amount of diverse young talent out there ready to light up our screens,” she added.

Sky Vision Managing Director Jane Millichip told Deadline that The Awoken will have huge international appeal. She said that show would be appealing to a number of broadcasters and could work as either a big-budget drama or with a smaller budget due to its “low tech dystopia”. “The best sci-fi shows are about alienation rather than just aliens and spaceships. We don’t necessarily need a spaceship budget but the show has scale and scope,” she said.

Millichip added that Sky’s involvement in the diverse talent scheme was not an act of altruism but rather a commercial based on the idea that diversity offered new opportunities for storytelling. “The world has finally woken up to social mobility and this scheme is a way that Sky Vision can get involved. But there’s also a commercial aspect, why would we do this just to get brownie points?,” she said.

The Awoken creator Katelyn Howes added that she was thrilled to have been given such an “amazing opportunity”. “The producers and mentors of Fresh Wave have provided a thoughtful and unique program that has allowed a female created sci-fi world to come to life. With The Awoken, I set out to write about privilege and how you can only really see it once it’s taken away. It’s a story about growing up. It’s a story about memory. And of course, at it’s heart, it’s a story about love.”

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