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Film Independent Fellows for 2011 Screenwriters Lab: The Women

by Melissa Silverstein
August 18, 2011 2:43 AM
1 Comment
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Sponsored by the Writer's Guild of America West, the Lab is taking place now through September 18 in LA. The mentors include Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body), Mary Sweeney (Baraboo), and Meg LeFauve (The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys). Maryam Keshavarz (Circumstance) will be a guest speaker.

The list of women: (bios from a press release from Film Independent)

El Luchador – A son fights for the respect of his father, but is TKO’d by a family secret that teaches him why confronting the past is the only way he will ever learn to respect himself.

Jessiline Berry is an accomplished filmmaker, performer and founder of FemmeMaker Productions, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of women in film, both in front of and behind the camera. Berry has worked on several projects ranging in content from experimental to narrative short films to documentary and entertainment television. She received a BS in Radio, Television and Film in 1999 and a BA in Theatre and Dance in 2000 from the University of Texas, and a MFA in Directing in 2007 from Columbia University’s School of the Arts. While at Columbia, she founded Columbia Women in Film, a completely student-run organization that works to celebrate and promote the contribution of women in cinema. Berry has worked in varying capacities for projects produced by Token Productions, The Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education, Alpha Video, PrimeCut Productions, Teachscape, Character Studies Productions, and Lee Daniels Entertainment. In 2009, Berry was commissioned to be a Segment Director for the international collaborative feature film, The Death of Socrates, produced by Kanalya Pictures. In 2011, she participated in the Guy Hanks and Marvin Miller Writing Program as a Cosby Writing Program Fellow. She is currently developing feature film scripts and preparing for production of her original television pilot, Sunshine, sponsored in part by a generous grant from the National Black Programming Consortium.

Lee – A quiet and daring Lakota boy takes on a dangerous job in order to keep his family together on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Chloé Zhao is an award-winning filmmaker who started writing and making films because of her fascination with multiculturalism and its role in the world. Her films usually reflect this curiosity and desire to explore. Zhao’s short film Daughters won First Place Student Live Action Short at the 2010 Palm Springs International Short Fest and Special Jury Prize at the 2010 Cinequest Film Festival. Zhao is currently developing her first feature film Lee, which is a coming-of-age drama set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Lee was personally selected by filmmaker Spike Lee as a recipient of the Spike Lee Fellowship Award, which earned Zhao a screenwriting fellowship at Yaddo Artist Residency. Zhao was raised in Beijing and England and received her BA in Political Science from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts and is now a MFA thesis student at New York University’s graduate film program.

Mammoth – A recluse’s estranged daughter comes to stay and shatters his lonely, stupefied status quo. Has tragedy already damaged Stanley beyond repair? Or can he learn to adopt Bernadine’s joie de vivre?

Daniela Sea is a filmmaker, musician and actor who works in both avant-garde and narrative forms, and is best known for her role as Moira/Max on Showtime’s The L. Word. Her years of traveling through Europe and Asia as a musician, renegade street theater performer and farm worker, have cultivated within her a broad-minded and distinctive relationship with the world. Sea has been acting in television, art movies and feature films since 2006. In addition to her television work, John Cameron Mitchell cast Sea in his feature film Shortbus, and subsequently cast her in two music videos. In 2009, Sea played a trans-man and activist in Law and Order: SVU and in 2010, took the part of a 1960’s suburban housewife in Steve Balderson’s feature film The Casserole Club, which is scheduled for release in 2011. She has acted in art films, which include Amie Siegel’s Black Moon, which premiered in competition at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and Erika Vogt’s Geometric Persecution. In 2009, Sea also formed the band Thorns of Life with longtime friends Blake Schwarzenbach and Aaron Cometbus, touring the West Coast and playing in New York and Philadelphia from fall 2008 to winter 2009. She is currently playing in an unnamed music project with Will Schwartz and performing in art museums and galleries such as the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Sea also debuted her experimental short Stick, Stick, Stuck at the REDCAT in 2010.

Cami Delavigne is a writer, and in 2002 wrote Blue Valentine with director Derek Cianfrance in his freezing DUMBO loft, wearing socks on her hands to keep warm while typing. Blue Valentine was released to critical acclaim in 2010 and starred Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in a portrait of love lost, with Michelle garnering an Oscar nomination. Currently, Delavigne is developing a TV series called Whipsmart about a kindergarten teacher by day and a dominatrix by night. She is also working on a feature film about competitive New York mothers, a father-daughter drama called Mammoth for Daniela Sea to helm, and the thriller God’s Lonely Man, a finalist of the 2009 Netflix FIND Your Voice Film Competition about a pastor with a vision to murder. Last year, Delavigne wrote Famous Person Talent Agency, a 3-party comedy web show about a showbiz agent who has all hope and zero razzle-dazzle. In 2008, she co-wrote OWOTO, an interactive sitcom that received three 2008 Webby nominations. She lives in Brooklyn with director Ivan Harzeler for whom she wrote God’s Lonely Man and their baby daughter, Charlie.

Numb for Jesus – When a 17-year-old girl from a huge Mormon family is left behind at a remote desert gas station on the family road trip, it propels her to explore the world beyond her isolated religious community. But with new vision comes new choices — break her mother’s heart or her own.

Melanie McGraw spent the first decade of her professional life as an instructional designer and training consultant before pursuing her dream of becoming a writer/director. McGraw received her MFA in Film Production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2007, where she was the recipient of multiple awards and scholarships, including a grant from The Caucus Foundation, the Samuel and Lorenza Gary Memorial Award, the Albert J. Broccoli Foundation Award for Excellence in Production, the National Association of Theatre Owners Award, and the Tania Trepanier Memorial Scholarship. She currently serves as the Board President for the Caucus Foundation Alumni Network. McGraw’s thesis film, Pitstop, won a Student Academy Award in 2008, and along with her debut film Coif, has screened in festivals worldwide. Both films are currently in distribution through Logo/MTV Films. In addition to directing, McGraw has collaborated on numerous films as an editor, production sound mixer, supervising sound editor, re-recording mixer and production coordinator. She held a teaching assistantship in USC’s Sound Department from 2005 to 2007, and traveled to Amman, Jordan in 2006 to assist a small group of USC faculty in teaching a nine-day filmmaking workshop, held in conjunction with The Royal Film Commission of Jordan. McGraw’s experience growing up in a large, conservative Mormon family juxtaposed with “coming out” at 23 provides endless inspiration for her work. She is currently developing Numb for Jesus, a feature-length version of Pitstop, and producing and directing client-driven educational and promotional films.

The Murphys – When her Mormon husband asks for a divorce, brazen and wickedly funny Pauline Murphy flees Utah and returns home to Dublin for the first time in ten years. Back home, she must confront her uproarious Irish-Catholic family, her long-lost love, and the secret that forced her to leave in the first place.

Kaitlin McLaughlin is an award-winning writer and producer living in Los Angeles. In 2011, she was selected to participate in the Screenwriters Colony Writers-in-Residence Program and Film Independent’s Screenwriter Lab. Her screenplay, The Murphys, received the 2011 Showtime Tony Cox Award for Best Screenplay from the Nantucket Film Festival. McLaughlin was recently hired to write an independent feature-length drama about romantic relationships across cultural and socio-economic borders entitled Mirrors, which is slated to begin production in early 2012. In addition to her dramatic works, McLaughlin has co-written Black Friday, a full-length family comedy about the busiest (and funniest) shopping day of the year. McLaughlin is a native of Boston, Massachusetts and received a BFA in Film Production and graduated with honors from New York University’s Tisch School for the Arts. Her senior thesis film, Change, earned an award from the Biarritz International Film Festival. Before relocating to Los Angeles, McLaughlin taught film editing at NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

The Wish and The Thing – A troubled LA teen in the throes of postpartum depression finds herself running from her responsibilities to pursue her far-fetched dream of leading a cowboy life on a Texas ranch.

Jenna Friedenberg is a writer and received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College in New York. She worked for several years on stage and in front of the camera as an actress, then stepped behind the camera as a production coordinator on indie features, and as a director of several narrative shorts. She just completed an MFA for Writing for Screen and Television at USC.

Here's a description of the Lab:

In the Screenwriters Lab, Fellows are advised on the craft and business of screenwriting under the tutelage of the Lab Mentors, and are also introduced to established screenwriters, producers and film professionals who serve as one-on-one advisors. The Screenwriters Lab is provided free to accepted screenwriters, and upon completion, they become Film Independent Fellows, receiving year-round support including access to Film Independent’s 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.

More info on the Lab.

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1 Comment

  • stephanie rosenfeld | August 18, 2011 7:46 AMReply

    Thanks for posting Melissa -- that's inspiring.

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