Misan Sagay

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Misan Sagay
Years active1999–present

Misan Sagay is a British-Nigerian screenwriter, best known for the 2013 film Belle.


Sagay graduated from St Andrews University with a First Class Honours degree in biochemistry then trained as a doctor at St Mary's Hospital Medical School, London.[citation needed]

After qualifying as a doctor, she specialised in Paediatric Hamematology and Critical Care and at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Westminster Children's Hospital.[citation needed]


A former emergency room doctor, Sagay made her writing debut with the 1999 film The Secret Laughter of Women on which she was a writer and producer.[1] She co-wrote the teleplay for the Oprah-produced television movie Their Eyes Were Watching God, based on the book by the same name.

Portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay (1761–1804) and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray

Sagay wrote the 2013 British drama Belle after visiting Scone Palace, where she saw a unique portraiture of two women, Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsay and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray.[2] This painting, and the women within, acted as the inspiration for her screenplay.[3] The film tells the Story of Belle, the daughter of an enslaved African and a British admiral. The film discusses the prominence of African decedents and women in British society in the late 1700s.[3] In 2013, the authorship of the film was in dispute. The director of the film, Amma Asante, contested that she dismissed Sagay's writing and instead wrote her own adaptation of the story seeking writing credit. Asante's claim caused the Writers Guild of America to automatically investigate per their regulations.[4] The guild took the case through arbitration and ruled in favour of Sagay as the sole writer. Asante appealed but lost.[5][6]

In 2016, Sagay was a co-writer on the six-part limited TV series Guerrilla from award-winning writer and producer John Ridley, known as the screenwriter of 12 years A Slave. The Showtime and Sky Atlantic series stars award-winning actor Idris Elba, known for the TV series Luther.[7]

Sagay is a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[citation needed]

Away from screenwriting, Misan is creating a programme with the Tisch School of Fine Arts in Florence, which will help established connections between aspiring black screenwriters and established ones. The end goal is to help provide guidance to the next generation of talent.[citation needed]

Sagay is also a member of the Wolfe pack, a guild of 50 leading female Screenwriters working in Hollywood that aims to encourage more women to enter the film business.[8] Misan hopes also to be a catalyst for African descendants to take charge of their own narratives. Sagan said in an interview with The Guardian, "Black women need to be in control of their own stories and that means hiring more black talent across all aspects of film and television".[8]


Year Title Notes
1999 The Secret Laughter of Women Co-writer & Producer
2005 Their Eyes Were Watching God Co-writer
2013 Belle Writer
2017 Guerrilla Co-writer

Awards, honors and nominations[edit]

Misan Sagay was nominated for a 2005 Black Reel Awards for Best Screenplay, Original or Adapted – Television for Their Eyes Were Watching God

Sagay was nominated for a 2015 Black Reel Awards for Best Screenplay for Belle.[9]

Sagay received the 2015 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing in a Motion Picture for Belle.[10]


  1. ^ "BFI | Sight & Sound | The Secret Laughter of Women (1998)". old.bfi.org.uk. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  2. ^ Shaina411. "Her Source I Writer Misan Sagay Talks 'Belle'". The Source. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  3. ^ a b Rickey, Carrie (25 April 2014). "'Belle' and Slavery's End in Britain". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  4. ^ Times, Los Angeles. "Writing dispute for film 'Belle' bubbles up again". latimes.com. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  5. ^ Mumin, Nijla (19 May 2014). "Understanding Screenwriting Credit and WGA Arbitration in 'Belle' and '12 Years A Slave'". Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  6. ^ "Belle authors in bitter feud over writing credit". Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  7. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (20 April 2016). "Idris Elba To Star In John Ridley Limited Series 'Guerrilla' For Sky & Showtime". Deadline.com. Retrieved 13 October 2017.
  8. ^ a b Brewer, Kirstie (16 June 2016). "'If diversity means giving white men more work writing about black women, we've failed'". the Guardian. Retrieved 16 July 2016.
  9. ^ "And the Nominees Are . ." 17 December 2014. Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  10. ^ "Winners of the '46th NAACP Image Awards' | Press Room". www.naacp.org. Archived from the original on 13 February 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2016. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)

External links[edit]