Project Overview

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. From these, there will be a £750 prize for the winner, with £350 each for two further awardees. All three awarded texts will be published by Art Monthly and FVU.

Find out more about the prize, application process and eligibility below. 
All applications should be submitted to admin@fvu.co.uk by 12 noon, 31 May 2024.

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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 University of East London 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.


The 2024 Panel
 

Applications and final texts will be considered by a panel comprising: 

Alice Hattrick, writer, lecturer and author of ‘Ill Feelings’.
Ghislaine Leung, Turner Prize nominated conceptual artist.
Dr Terry Bailey, Senior Lecturer, Programme Leader, Creative and Professional Writing, University of East London.
Chris McCormack, Associate Editor, Art Monthly.
Angelica Sule, Director, Film and Video Umbrella.


What is the Prize?


£750 prize for the winner.
£350 each for two further awardees.

All three awarded texts will be published online by Art Monthly and FVU.


Eligibility
 

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 writers based anywhere in the UK. We unfortunately cannot accept applications from those based internationally. 

Submissions must be in English, though we welcome applications from writers for whom English is a second or additional language. 

There is no age limit for applicants. 

No formal education or qualifications are required to apply to this prize. 

More information can be found via. the FAQ section below. We welcome applications on artists’ film and moving image artworks from those whose voices and perspectives have historically and continue to be marginalised. If you have any questions about eligibility please email admin@fvu.co.uk. We will be responding to questions at regular intervals between the 9 April and 29 May.
 

How to apply
 

Your application must include the following three elements:

1. A previous writing sample (1200 words maximum). This can be a whole article/text, or an extract, and could be previously published or unpublished. The aim of the prize is to support writers 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 and/or experimental cinema. If you have not previously written about this medium, your sample text could focus on other visual arts media, or assume another form of cultural criticism.

2. A 300-350 word proposal/pitch for a new text on artists’ moving image or experimental cinema. If you are selected as a finalist, you would go on to write the finished text, to be published by Art Monthly and FVU. The text you are pitching to write, if realised, should be between 1,250 – 1,500 words. Your proposal could consist of a straightforward review of a forthcoming exhibition, or an existing piece of work; a survey of a wider trend or historical moment in the medium; or it could take a more creative and experimental form. We strongly recommend reading the previously awarded texts, as well as looking at writing published with Art Monthly and texts previously published on FVU’s Writing section. 

3. A CV. Please include your full name (or the name under which you write), phone number, email address and the region in the UK where you are based. For the first assessment of your application by the panel, your name and other identifiers will be redacted. CVs should be no more than two sides of A4, at 11pt font or larger and should include details of any previously published articles/texts. [NB re eligibility: excluding self-publishing, entrants should have had no more than four articles about the arts or experimental film published in print or online.]

Please email these three items to admin@fvu.co.uk before the submission deadline, 12 noon, 31 May 2024.
 

Application Preparation
 

In order to help you prepare your application, as well as to provide some professional tools for a future working as a professional writer, we will be hosting an online event - an in-conversation and Q&A - at 19.00 on 22 April 2024, where Associate Editor at Art Monthly, and Michael O’Pray Prize panellist Chris McCormack will be in conversation with FVU Director, Angelica Sule (also a Michael O’Pray Prize panellist) about what makes a strong pitch from his perspective, how to go about researching where might be receptive to a pitch for a particular article, and also how a professional editorial process works. There will be an opportunity to ask present panel members questions at the end.
 

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, LGBTQIA+ and ethnically diverse backgrounds, and artists living outside of London.

If you face barriers to making this type of application, please contact admin@fvu.co.uk 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 the equal opportunities monitoring data from each year of the Michael O'Pray Prize here.
 

Privacy
 

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, (with the exception of the Equal Opportunities Monitoring form, which will be totally anonymous and not impact the outcome of your application). 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 Susanna Chisholm: susanna@fvu.co.uk and Chris McCormack: chris@artmonthly.co.uk. You have the right to contact the Information Commissioner’s Office should you wish to complain about how your information has been handled.

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Writing Futures - Online Event: 19.00 on 22 April 2024


We are hosting an online in-conversation and Q&A with Michael O’Pray Prize panellists Chris McCormack, Associate Editor at Art Monthly, and FVU Director, Angelica Sule about what makes a strong pitch, how to go about researching where might be receptive to a pitch for a particular article, and how a professional editorial process works. 

This event will be free to attend. Find out more and register your place HERE.

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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.
 

Previous Awardees
 

2022: Laura Bivolaru, Evelyn Wh-ell, Dan Guthrie and Siavash Minoukadeh
2021: Sara Quattrocchi FeblesRosa Tyhurst and Ronnie Angel Pope
2020: Mimi HowardHarvey Dimond and Rachel Pronger
2019: Cassandre Greenberg and Laura Jacobs
2018: Adam Hines-Green
2017: Lauren Houlton and Dan Ward 
 

Testimonials


Lauren Houlton (MOP Prize 2017): "Winning the Michael O'Pray Prize has been instrumental to my research and writing in several ways. Firstly it contributed significantly to the PhD that I am currently completing. My PhD supervisor, Lucy Reynolds, was on the prize panel. I had been interested in Lucy's research for some time so winning the award gave me the confidence to reach out to her to discuss a PhD research proposal. I expect my winning the award contributed significantly to her accepting me as a student and me being accepted at the University of Westminster. Chris McCormack at Art Monthly also very kindly provided me with a very generous reference for my funding application which I was also successful with. Finally I had the opportunity to interview artist Petra Bauer for Art Monthly. Our conversation ended up feeding into the development of my PhD research proposal. I am so grateful for these opportunities that the Award has opened and for the way that writing for Art Monthly allowed me to test ideas and connect with others which has led me to where I am today."

Laura Bivolaru (MOP Prize 2022): “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 (MOP Prize 2022): “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.”
 

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FAQs
 

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?

Self-publishing on personal websites, blogs, Medium, Substack or other equivalent platform does not count towards the 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.

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.

Is there any support available for those who face barriers to making this kind of application?

If you face barriers to making this type of application, please contact admin@fvu.co.uk 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.

I have never pitched to an editor before. Are there any guidelines for how to do this / what this pitch should look like?

We are hosting an online event - an in-conversation and Q&A - at 19.00 on 22 April 2024 where Associate Editor at Art Monthly, and Michael O’Pray Prize panellist Chris McCormack will be in conversation with FVU Director, Angelica Sule (also a Michael O’Pray Prize panellist) about what makes a strong pitch from his perspective, how to go about researching where might be receptive to a pitch for a particular article, and also how a professional editorial process works, so that you are prepared should you reach the final stages of the prize. There will be a Q&A at the end.

Does the proposed text need to be about a recent film or exhibition?

No. It could be about older/more historical work instead.

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 six weeks to write your text. Edits may then be proposed/requested by Art Monthly and FVU before publishing. A minimum of six weeks will be allowed for the editorial process to take place, and deadlines within that, for responses / edits to be turned around will be made clear at each stage.

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