Project Overview

Finalists announced

FVU and Art Monthly are delighted to announce that Leena Habiballa is the 2023 winner of the Michael O’Pray Prize. The fellow Awardees of the Prize are Aislinn Evans and Natasha Thembiso Ruwona. 

Read the 2023 Award texts

Dreaming Rivers
Leena Habiballa considers the physical reworking of a pioneering film’s 16mm print.

Queer Territories/Lesbian Lenses
Aislinn Evans critically examines a lesbian relation to histories of the land and landscape cinema.

Excavating the Body
Natasha Thembiso Ruwona explores Ashanti Harris’s Black Gold.

The 2023 Judging Panel

Applications and final texts will be considered by a panel comprising:
Kondo Heller, poet, writer, and filmmaker
Juliet Jacques, writer and filmmaker
Terry Bailey, Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader, Creative and Professional Writing, University of East London
Katie Byford, Projects Manager, Film and Video Umbrella
Chris McCormack, Associate Editor, Art Monthly

About the Prize

The Prize is named in memory of the critic, historian and film programmer, Michael O’Pray. The guiding presence behind Film and Video Umbrella in its early years (1985-1990), Mike taught at UEL for over two decades, and was a regular contributor to the pages of Art Monthly

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 gone on to contribute new articles for Art Monthly and other publications.

Testimonials from the 2022 Winners of the Michael O'Pray Prize

Laura Bivolaru: “Opportunities for writing about arts are not very numerous and winning the Michael O'Pray Prize in 2022 was an encouraging step in my writing career. All four selected essays were of great quality and I am honoured to have been published in such a company. Having trained as a fine art photographer, I was reluctant to call myself a writer. However, winning the Prize has given me the confidence I needed to expand my writing and take pride in my work.”

Evelyn Wh-ell: “Submitting to the Michael O'Pray Prize gave me a valuable opportunity to experiment in thinking and writing about moving image practice, as well as the encouragement to finally explore ideas I had been sitting with for years. Since winning, I've had fantastic opportunities to talk about writing with students and other writers, and build a supportive community with others around shared interests and experiences.”


Read the 2022 Award texts

The winning texts

In Defence of the Small Screen’: Laura Bivolaru presents an argument for viewing the moving image while moving.
I Am a Photograph’: Evelyn Wh-ell examines two French trans icons’ focus on image as surface.

The two further awarded texts:

Going on a Bear Hunt’: Dan Guthrie tries to imagine the experience of Steve McQueen's elusive artwork Bear.
Robert Beavers’: Siavash Minoukadeh explores the power of oblique suggestion in queer cinema. 

Previous Awardees

2021: Sara Quattrocchi FeblesRosa Tyhurst and Ronnie Angel Pope
2020: Mimi Howard, Harvey Dimond and Rachel Pronger
2019: Cassandre Greenberg and Laura Jacobs
2018: Adam Hines-Green
2017: Lauren Houlton and Dan Ward 

For eligibility, application guidelines and FAQs, click 'Read More' below, or download the PDF here


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