Film Independent Announces 2009 Screenwriter's Lab Participants

Film Independent Announces 2009 Screenwriter’s Lab Participants

FirefoxIf you’re an aspiring screenwriter which, let’s face it, you may be, one way to break into the “business” is through a lab where you work with established mentors and advisers on honing your work and getting it in the hands of the right people. One of the most prestigious and famous of these labs is the one sponsored by Film Independent, a non-profit group dedicated to fostering and nurturing creativity that also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival and the Spirit Awards.

Today, they’ve announced a new group of writers who will participate in this year’s lab. Here’s all the info about the lucky 9 participants from the official press release.

Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and Los Angeles Film Festival, has announced the screenwriters and film projects selected for its 10th annual Screenwriters Lab, sponsored by the Writers Guild of America, West.  Taking place in Los Angeles from August 17 until September 16, the Screenwriters Lab is an intensive five-week incubator designed to help writers improve their craft, and take their current scripts to the next level in a nurturing, yet challenging creative environment.

Screenwriter and producer Meg LeFauve returns as this yearís Lab Instructor, and Lab Mentors and Guest Speakers include Allison Anders (Things Behind the Sun), Shauna Cross (Whip It!), Rodrigo Garcia (Mother and Child), Dito Montiel (A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints), Kay Schaber-Wolf (WGAw), Michael Sucsy (Grey Gardens), and Ligiah Villalobos (La Misma Luna).

“This year’s Lab has a talented and diverse group of screenwriters with remarkable stories to tell, and we look forward to guiding them through the process of getting their scripts to the screen.  Suzi Yoonessi’s Dear Lemon Lima, which world premiered at this year’s Los Angeles Film Festival was developed in an earlier Screenwriters Lab, and itís so gratifying to showcase a Fellow’s finished work,” said Film Independentís Director of Talent Development, Josh Welsh.

Under the tutelage of the Lab Mentors, the participants are advised on the craft and business of screenwriting, and are also introduced to established screenwriters, producers and film professionals who serve as one-on-one advisors.  The Screenwriting Lab is provided free to accepted screenwriters, and upon completion, they become Film Independent Fellows, receiving year-round support including access to Film Independentís annual film educational offerings, on-staff Filmmaker Advisor, and the Los Angeles Film Festival.  In addition, Lab Fellows are eligible to join the Indie Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild of America, West.

Recent projects developed through the Lab include Suzi Yoonessi’s Dear Lemon Lima, which premiered at the 2009 Los Angeles Film Festival, Erin Cassidy and Bruce Pavalon’s We Are the Mods, which won the Best Screenplay award at the 2009 Outfest Film Festival, Beth Schacter’s Normal Adolescent Behavior, which premiered at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival, Scott Prendergast’s Kabluey, which premiered at the 2007 Los Angeles Film Festival, and Minh Nguyen-Vo’s Buffalo Boy, which was Vietnam’s entry to the 2006 Academy Awards.

The 2009 Screenwriters Lab participants and projects are:

1.   El Flaco – In Arizona desert towns just beyond the Mexican border, young Flaco and his father Gonzalo harbor illegal immigrants for a local “coyote” to repay an old dept.

Jeff Seymann has a broad background of work in both film and television as a director, editor and writer.  Recently, Jeff was awarded a Fellowship in Screenwriting from the New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA).  In conjunction with his fellowship, Jeffís project El Flaco won the prestigious Geri Ashur Grant awarded to the foundationís highest ranked screenplay.  Currently, El Flaco is a quarterfinalist for the Nicholl Fellowship, won the Martha Munoz Award from the Latino Screenwriting Competition, placed as a Top Five Finalist in the Blue Cat Screenwriting Competition, and took Third Place honors in the Phoenix Film Festivalís screenwriting competition.

In addition to Jeffís screenwriting laurels, he won the Best Director Award from the Chilean International Film Festival for his short, Earl & Puppy, which played at some of the top festivals in the world.   His documentary Pitch Man was a finalist for the Independent Film Channelís short documentary award and was broadcast on PBS.  Professionally, Jeff has directed numerous short videos for Yahoo! and has a long list of editing credits for networks such as National Geographic, History Channel and the BBC.  Jeff has an MFA in filmmaking from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and recently relocated with his family from Brooklyn to Los Angeles.

2.  The End of Something – Rachel, a down and out recovering alcoholic, and Isaac, a young mentally ill drifter, meet by chance at a truck stop off the interstate and journey deep into the Oregon wilderness together in search of spiritual rebirth.

Rory Kelly is a professor in the Graduate Directing Program at UCLA and the director of two feature films. His first feature, Sleep With Me, which he also co-wrote, stared Eric Stoltz, Meg Tilly and Parker Posey.  It premiered as an Official Selection at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival, was a Gala Screening at the 1994 Toronto International Film Festival, and was distributed by MGM/UA. His second feature, Some Girl, starring Juliette Lewis, Giovanni Ribisi, Michael Rapaport and Jeremy Sisto, premiered at the 1998 Los Angeles Independent Film Festival (now the LA Film Festival) where Kelly received the DGA-sponsored Best Director Award.

His most recent short, The Women, premiered in 2006 at the Long Island International Film Festival. That same year he was co-executive producer on Sucks Less with Kevin Smith for mtvU.  He has been a mentor for Film Independentís Directors Lab and is also a modestly accomplished film scholar whose research focuses on cognitive and evolutionary explanations of film reception. He is currently in production on a documentary project about morality in the workplace and is actively seeking funding for two feature-length fiction films, including The End of Something. Kelly is also at work on two books: The Concise Production Handbook and Story and Performance: An Introduction for Writing and Directing Students.

Tim McCarthy is a writer/director and editor in Los Angeles. He most recently cut the independent feature, Dying Days and the feature documentary What are We Doing Here?, a critique of western influence in Africa. In 2008, McCarthy produced the award-winning short Watchtower, a 1920s period piece about the making of a hit man, which is now in development as a feature-length motion picture at Fox.  He is currently an MFA candidate in UCLAís Graduate Directing Program where he has won numerous awards for his work, including the prestigious Edie and Lew Wasserman Directing Fellowship.

His short film, The Rick, is the only UCLA student film to have screened as an Official Selection at the Cannes Film Festival (2004). In addition to screening at several high-profile festivals, The Rick was also a National Finalist for the Student Academy Awards. He has directed several other shorts, including Trespassing, which premiered at the 2006 One Reel Film Festival.  Born and raised in Iowa, he majored in philosophy and economics at Middlebury College, where he was also a member of the schoolís football team.

3.  Grievous Angel  – Exploring his role as the catalyst for a country rock movement that had him collaborating with The Rolling Stones and The Byrds, Grievous Angel is the amazing true life and tragic early-death tale of Sixties music legend Gram Parsons.

Jessica Hundley will see the release this fall of two books, which she wrote and edited – an extensive overview of the photography of Dennis Hopper, to be released from Taschen Publications, and a collection of photographs from longtime Michael Jackson photographer Todd Gray from Chronicle Books.  Hundley is an extensively published film, music, art, travel and food writer. In spring of 2001, she wrote and edited her first book, a travel guide to Los Angeles that spent three months on the Los Angeles Times Bestseller list and is currently in its fourth printing. Hundley released her second book with DaCapo in 2006, a biography of country rock icon, Gram Parsons. Also an established filmmaker and producer, Hundley is a partner in the production company Draw Pictures. She has directed numerous short films and music videos, as well as penning several screenplays. In 2008, she wrote the narrative overdub for the award-winning documentary on architectural photographer Julius Shulman – Visual Acoustics.

The project had her working in the recording studio and developing the script with the filmís narrator, Dustin Hoffman. Her documentary short Viva Morrisey, screened at the 2006 Edinburgh, UK and SXSW film festivals. Recently, she completed co-directing and co-producing Such Hawks, Such Hounds, a feature-length music documentary on the American hard-rock underground. The film is now available on DVD. She has worked for publications such as Vogue, Rolling Stone, Dwell, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Spin, Mixte, Travel & Leisure, Maxim, Mojo, BlackBook, and many others. Over the last decade, she has written numerous features and cover stories, and interviewed countless actors, directors, writers, artists and musicians (ranging from Johnny Depp to David Lynch to Kanye West). As an editor, Hundley has served as West Coast editor for menís magazine Complex, Entertainment Editor for Angeleno/Modern Luxury magazines, Film editor for Soma, and Editor In Chief of both print and online for Currently, Hundley serves as West Coast editor for the UK magazine Dazed and Confused.

4.  Gringita – American Helen Hartwellís comfortable life in Mexico City that she shares with telenovela writer Ernesto, turns grim when a large inheritance exposes Ernesto to possible extortion, violence, and family conflict.

Monica Bider attended the American Film Institute (Cinematography), and has worked on various film and music video projects, with a stint as a Development Intern at a Disney-based production company following. From production and development, she moved on to gain experience in acquisitions and distribution while working for Strand Releasing, a Los Angeles-based independent film and video distributor. Subsequently, she wrote for television in documentary-based programs such as A&E Biography, shows for AMC and the History Channel, as well as some reality television.

5.  Future Weather – In this coming-of-age drama about coping with uncertainty, a 13-year-old girl’s plans to save the planet from global warming are trashed when her flaky single mom skips town to find herself.

Jenny Deller is a writer, director and actor living in Philadelphia. Her second feature-length screenplay, Future Weather, won the 2009 Showtime Tony Cox Award for Best Screenplay at the Nantucket Film Festival. The project is currently a finalist for the Netflix FIND Your Voice Film Competition. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Young Scholars grant, Jenny has been writing fiction for over twenty years, and directing theater and film since attending high school at the Illinois Math & Science Academy. Jenny has directed and edited eight short films with a range of budgets and formats, which have screened at such venues as Open Cine New York and EggFest.

Most recently, she produced short video series for Drew University and women’s retailer Anthropologie, where she also served as Senior Copywriter for four years. After graduating with a full academic scholarship from Lewis & Clark College, Jenny went on to study acting at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, and in New York at the Ward Studio Meisner Program and American Mime Theater. Her appearances include Law & Order and several Off-Broadway productions including Romeo & Juliet. Jenny is currently preparing Future Weather for production and will start a new screenplay at the Nantucket Screenwriting Colony.

6.  I Am Not Werner Ernhard – A man joins Werner Erhard’s EST, a seminal self-help program in early 70’s San Francisco, and finds himself caught between his own redemption and the ethics of an organization some would call a cult.

Steven Schardt studied English and American Literature at Harvard. He has worked at D.E. Shaw & Co, a hedge fund in New York, and at in Seattle, Washington, and Paris, France. Since 2004, Steven has directed short films, including Boutique with James Urbaniak, and written feature scripts, including I Am Not Werner Erhard and the action comedy Norteamerica! Recently, he co-produced Humpday, a feature by Lynn Shelton, which garnered a Special Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, made its European premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, Directorsí Fortnight and is distributed by Magnolia Pictures.  Steven co-wrote I Am Not Werner Ernhard with short fiction writer Peter Moutford.

7.  The Prettiest Girl – Two friends try to keep things quiet after a girl they invite to go camping with them disappears into the woods.

Sasha Isaac-Young is a published visual artist, writer and filmmaker. While earning her MFA in film production at USCís School of Cinematic Arts, Sasha directed a short documentary entitled Foster Stories and wrote and directed a short narrative film entitled Little Valerie, both of which sold to the Independent Film Channel. Foster Stories won best short documentary at the 2005 Urbanworld Film Festival. Along with her degree from USC, she holds a BA in acting and a BFA in drawing/printmaking from Washington University in St. Louis. Sasha also studied acting and directing at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Originally from Seattle, Sasha resides in Los Angeles where she continues to pursue filmmaking as an art form and a profession.

8. Touchback – Pushed by a sick contest created by his older brother Truck and his friends known as “Tough Club” into the highly sexualized underworld of high school, smart, but awkward freshman Ted struggles to break free and overcome the dark fate that has trapped his brother.

Philip Flores is a writer, producer, and director. His script Touchback was recently named a finalist in the 2009 Netflix FIND Your Voice competition. While attending USC’s School of Cinematic Arts, Philip produced several USC short films, including the award-winning Holocaust film Crescent Star, and was selected to direct the USC-financed comedy short Square Wheels. He has also worked in development at DreamWorks and Everyman Pictures, director Jay Roach’s production company. Philip earned a MFA in Film/TV Production from USC and a BA in Creative Writing from Stanford University.

In addition to his filmmaking work, Philip has volunteered as an instructor at The Ghetto Film School, a South Bronx-based non-profit organization headed by filmmakers David O. Russell and Spike Jonze, which teaches underprivileged youth how to make movies.  Currently, Philip is the story editor at Bobker/Kruger Films, whose credits include The Skeleton Key and The Brothers Grimm.  Philip co-wrote Touchback with writer Max Doty.

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  • Art Jones
    February 27, 2010 at 8:11 pm


    How might I get more information concerning the application process for the screenwriter’s lab?

    Thank you,

    Art Jones

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