The Michael O’Pray Prize is an award for new writing on innovation and experimentation in the moving image. The prize is open to all early-career writers based in the UK and is free to apply to.
Applicants are invited to send a proposal or pitch for a new text, alongside an example of previous writing. Three of the applicants will be selected to realise the proposed text and awarded £500 first prize and £250 for two special mentions. All three texts will be published by Art Monthly and FVU.
Find out more about the prize, application process and eligibility below.
About the Prize
The Prize is named in memory of the critic, historian and film programmer, Michael O’Pray. Over the course of his long and varied career, Mike was an impassioned and energetic champion of avant-garde cinema, highlighting the continuing influence of key figures from the past, while dynamically promoting contemporary talents in experimental film and video. In his writings, and in the many programmes he curated for Film and Video Umbrella and elsewhere, Mike always endeavoured to make radical, challenging, occasionally esoteric work accessible to a wider public – and it is with this in mind that the award seeks to encourage examples of imaginative, engaging writing that extols and advances this longstanding tradition of experimentation in film and video for a non-specialist audience.
One of the aims of the prize is that the platform it offers helps writers to receive future writing commissions. Previous winners have each gone on to contribute new articles for Art Monthly and other publications.
Testimonial from Sara Quattrocchi Febles, Michael O’Pray prize recipient 2021:
“Entering the Michael O’Pray Writing Prize a year ago was the opportunity that I needed to help me take a leap of faith in my writing. I’m very grateful for having been chosen as the winner as the prize has given me the momentum and confidence that I needed, motivating me to continue exploring different ways of developing how I write and to pursue a career in writing.”
Last Year’s Awardees
Sara Quattrocchi Febles explores how a film can no longer be fixed in time and place when screened outdoors.
Rosa Tyhurst on Danielle Dean’s subverting of the vampiric strategies at work in brand marketing.
Ronnie Angel Pope enters a cinematic void.
Mimi Howard, 2020 prize recipient
Harvey Dimond, 2020 prize recipient
Rachel Pronger, 2020 prize recipient
Cassandre Greenberg, 2019 prize recipient
Laura Jacobs, 2019 prize recipient
Adam Hines-Green 2018 prize recipient
Lauren Houlton 2017 prize recipient
Dan Ward 2017 prize recipient
Applications and final texts will be considered by an expert panel comprising:
Tai Shani, Artist
Ellen Mara de Wachter, Writer on Arts and Culture
Terry Bailey, Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader, Creative and Professional Writing, University of East London
Steven Bode, Director, Film and Video Umbrella
Chris McCormack, Associate Editor, Art Monthly
What is the Prize?
The prize consists of:
- £500 first prize and £250 prize for two special mentions.
- All three texts are published by Art Monthly and FVU
- The Prize is aimed at writers starting out in their careers, having had no more than four articles about the arts or experimental film published in print or online. This does not include self-publishing.
- The Michael O'Pray Prize is open to submissions from across the UK.
- Submissions must be in the English language.
- There is no age limit for applicants.
- No formal education is required to apply to this prize.
How to Apply
Please submit the following four things:
1. An example of your writing of up to 1,200 words. This can be a whole article/text, or an extract, and could be previously published or unpublished. We are interested in discovering and supporting new voices who can enliven and popularise discussion of the experimental spirit in film and video art, therefore ideally the sample of writing that you submit would be about artists’ moving-image work. If you have not previously written about artists’ moving image, it could be about other visual arts mediums, or take another form of cultural criticism. Please note, we are not looking for academic dissertations, or specialist scholarly papers, couched in highly technical/theoretical language, so it is not advisable to submit academic texts.
2. A 300-350 word proposal/pitch for a new text on artist’s moving image or experimental cinema that if successful, would then go on to be published by Art Monthly and FVU. The text that you are pitching to write, if realised, should be between 1,250 – 2,000 words. The text that you propose could be for a straightforward review of a forthcoming exhibition or existing piece of work, or it could take a more creative and experimental form. We strongly suggest you read the previously awarded texts, as well as looking at Art Monthly’s published works and the texts on FVU’s Writing section, to get a sense of the style and tone of the writing we publish.
3. CV of no more than two sides of A4, at no smaller than font size 11pt. Please be sure to include details of previously published articles/texts.
Please submit these three items via email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
SUBMISSION DEADLINE: 12 noon, 26 September 2022.
Please note that for the first assessment of your application by the panel, your name and other identifiers will be redacted.
Equal Opportunities Monitoring
We strongly encourage writers who are under-represented within visual arts in the UK to apply, particularly writers with disabilities or long-term health conditions, and artists from low-income, LGBTQI+ and ethnically diverse backgrounds, and artists living outside of London.
If you face barriers to making this type of application, please contact email@example.com at least two weeks in advance of the submission deadline to discuss how we might be able to make adjustments to the application requirements, to facilitate your application. We are however not able to extend the submission deadline.
Once you have applied all applicants will be sent a link to an equal opportunities monitoring form. This will be processed separately from your submission and will not affect your eligibility for the opportunity.
You can view data from last year's equal opportunities monitoring for the Michael O'Pray Prize here.
With the exception of the Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form, the personal data you give us in submitting to this prize will be used to process your submission for the Michael O’Pray Prize by Film and Video Umbrella and Art Monthly and will be shared with external members of the selection panel. We will only contact you in connection to this submission. Your personal data will be kept by both Film and Video Umbrella and Art Monthly for up to 10 years and will only be used by each organisation for their own research, evaluation, reporting and marketing analysis for opportunities. It will not be passed on to anyone else. If you want to be removed from either organisation’s database you can email Jonathan Stubbs firstname.lastname@example.org and Chris McCormack: email@example.com. You have the right to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office should you wish to complain about how your information has been handled.
How strict is the four article limit? / What if I have had published more than four articles but they aren’t all about artists’ moving image, or experimental film?
We are predominantly interested to discover new voices in arts criticism, particularly those writing about artists’ moving-image work. However, if for example you have had a few more than four articles published, but these are about other things unrelated to the visual arts or film, then we would still consider your application. If however you are a very established writer in another field, then it is probably not worth your applying, as you may be able to make the transition into arts criticism another way.
Does self-publishing count towards my four published article limit?
What if I have never had an article published before?
There is no minimum. If you are an unpublished or inexperienced writer, with an ambition to break into the world of arts criticism, then you are exactly who we are looking for.
Does the proposed text need to be about a recent film or exhibition?
No. It could be about older/more historical work instead.
If we write collaboratively, are we able to apply as a duo, or group?
Yes. So long as under the authorship of that duo or group you have not had more than four articles published in print or online. If however one or more in the group are already established writers, we may consider you ineligible, depending on the balance of experienced writers to inexperienced writers in your group.
If my application is successful, and I am one of the three writers invited to realise their proposed text, how long will I get to write the finished article?
You will be given at least one month to write your text. Edits may then be proposed/requested by Art Monthly and FVU before publishing, and there will be a one to two-week period for this editorial process to take place.