Diverse Group of Filmmakers Convene for Customized Support and Mentorship
12 Fellows Join Screenwriters Intensive, Supported by the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation; 10 Join FilmTwo, Supported by Universal Filmed Entertainment Group
Los Angeles — This spring, Sundance Institute advances the new work of writers and directors through two focused tracks of support under the auspices of the Feature Film Program: the Screenwriters Intensive, taking place March 15-16, and the FilmTwo Intensive, convening March 22-23.
“It’s imperative that we support storytellers at multiple points in their careers, and with tailored programs that address specific challenges,” said Michelle Satter, Founding Director, Sundance Institute Feature Film Program. These Fellows will advance the art and craft of their work under the guidance of experienced filmmakers and industry leaders, while serving the Institute’s commitment to introduce the industry to an inclusive pipeline of exciting new storytellers. Under the creative guidance of Satter, the programs are led by Labs Director Ilyse McKimmie (Screenwriters Intensive) and Senior Manager Shira Rockowitz (FilmTwo).
Launched in 2013, the Screenwriters Intensive provides emerging screenwriters with the opportunity to hone their craft in a two-day concentrated workshop focused on the further development of a fiction feature screenplay. Past projects supported at the Screenwriters Intensive include Spa Night, written and directed by Andrew Ahn, and Monsters and Men, written and directed by Reinaldo Marcus Green; both filmmakers return as advisors for this year’s program. The Sundance Institute Screenwriters Intensive is made possible with leadership support from the Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation.
The 2018 Screenwriters Intensive Fellows are: Clara Aranovich (writer/director, Mayacamas), Iyabo Boyd (writer/director, Kayla and Eddie, en Français), Emma Dudley (writer, Eggshells), Melissa Hickey (writer/director, Panic), Tani Ikeda (co-writer/director, Sealskin Woman), A-Ian Holt (co-writer, Sealskin Woman), Tory Kamen (writer, Eleanor Invisible), Gabriella Moses (writer/director, Leche), Alicia D. Ortega (writer, Righteous Acts), Meedo Taha (writer/director, Other People), Roger Ross Williams (co-writer/director, The Life and Death of Cassandro) and David Teague (co-writer, The Life and Death of Cassandro). More information about the Fellows and their supported projects is below.
Advisors for the 2018 Screenwriters Intensive include Andrew Ahn (writer/director, Spa Night, an alumnus of the Intensive), Reinaldo Marcus Green (writer/director, Monsters and Men, an alumnus of the Intensive), Chad Hartigan (writer/director, Morris from America), Sian Heder (writer/director, Tallulah), So Yong Kim (co-writer/director, Lovesong), Sarah Koskoff (screenwriter, Hello I Must Be Going), Dana Stevens (screenwriter, Safe Haven), Joan Tewkesbury (screenwriter, Nashville), Ligiah Villalobos (screenwriter, Under the Same Moon), Malik Vitthal(co-writer/director, Imperial Dreams), Tyger Williams (screenwriter, Menace II Society), and Andy Wolk (screenwriter, From the Earth to the Moon).
FilmTwo was created to support independent filmmakers in response to the challenges they face when developing and completing their second feature film, which is often the greatest obstacle to a sustainable career. These barriers are heightened for women and people of color. The Intensive, which launches this annual program, provides specialized creative and tactical guidance for Fellows. The Sundance Institute FilmTwo Initiative is made possible with generous support from Founding Supporter Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.
The 2018 FilmTwo Fellows are writer/directors Ana Asensio, Christina Choe, Deborah Chow, Nia DaCosta, Andrew Okpeaha MacLean, Josh Mond, Nijla Mu’min, Olivia Newman, Celia Rowlson-Hall and Heidi Saman. More information about the Fellows is below.
2018 FilmTwo Creative Advisors include Semi Chellas (Screenwriter, Ophelia), Gyula Gazdag (Filmmaker, Artistic Director, Sundance Directors Lab), Rodrigo Garcia (Writer/Director, Last Days in the Desert), Phil Hay (Screenwriter, The Invitation), Kourtney Kang (Co-Executive Producer, Fresh off the Boat), Michele and Kieran Mulroney (Co-Screenwriters, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Peter Sollett (Director, Freeheld), Joan Tewkesbury (Screenwriter, Nashville) and Alex Tse (Screenwriter, Watchmen).
2018 FilmTwo Industry Advisors include Stephanie Allain (Producer, Hustle & Flow), Melissa Breaux (Manager, Management 360), Ian Bricke (Director, Content Acquisition, Netflix), Christine D’Souza Gelb (Agent/Partner, Global Finance & Distribution, Endeavor Content), Ali Herting (Production/Acquisitions Executive, A24), Lynette Howell Taylor (Founder, 51 Entertainment), Tendo Nagenda(Executive Vice President, Production, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures), DanTram Nguyen (SVP, Production, Fox Searchlight), Kim Roth (President of Production, MACRO) and Tristen Tuckfield (Executive Vice President, 30West).
The 2018 Screenwriters Intensive Fellows are:
Clara Aranovich is the daughter of two immigrants, an Argentine physicist and a Chilean market researcher/author. She holds a BA from Dartmouth in Literature/Creative Writing and an MFA from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in Film Production. Her narrative fiction work has competed in festivals around the world, from SXSW to Stockholm Film Festival, and has been featured by curators such as the Flux Screening Series at the Hammer Museum, NOWNESS.com and Le Cinéma Club. Her original web series, Tantalum, stars Marcus Henderson (Get Out) and will premiere in 2018. Her commercial work has received various awards, including a Bronze Lion and several Clios. When not writing or on set, she can usually be found watching films, on a mountain somewhere, or volunteering at a women’s clinic with LA 4 Choice. She is also a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Mayacamas: Seven years ago, a small haphazard group of strangers got locked into a 2-mile radius enclosure by a mysterious, impenetrable barrier. One day, someone new suddenly appears on the inside and his presence irreversibly divides the group.
Writer/director, Kayla and Eddie, en Français
Iyabo Boyd is an independent screenwriter, director, and producer. She was a 2016/2017 Sundance Creative Producing Fellow and a 2016 Impact Partners Creative Producers Fellow. Boyd recently produced the feature documentary For Ahkeem, which had its international premiere at the 2017 Berlin International Film Festival, and its US premiere at the 2017 Tribeca International Film Festival. She previously held positions at filmmaker support institutions Chicken & Egg Pictures, Tribeca Film Institute, Hamptons Film Festival, IFP, and Kickstarter. She has served on juries for the Camden International Film Festival, Antenna Documentary Film Festival in Australia, DOC NYC, and others. Boyd is the founder of Feedback Loop, a documentary consulting firm, and started the Brown Girls Doc Mafia, a collective for women filmmakers of color.
Kayla and Eddie, en Français: When aging dad Eddie Williams finds out his estranged filmmaker daughter Kayla will be premiering a film in Paris, he decides to crash her trip as a means to reconnect. But his sudden, rambunctious presence quickly derails Kayla’s professional aspirations, and unearths their longstanding tension around family, addiction, and living in your own shadow.
A native of Berkeley, California, Emma Dudley is a writers’ assistant and script coordinator on an upcoming half hour comedy at DreamWorksTV. She graduated as valedictorian from University of California, Los Angeles’s undergraduate film school in 2017, where she concentrated in screenwriting and minored in English. While at UCLA she was honored with the Peter Stark Memorial Scholarship and the Theater Film & Television Executive Board Scholarship for her accomplishments in screenwriting. Dudley is a contributor at Reductress and has written for sketch teams at iO West and The Second City Hollywood. She has had over a dozen short stories published in literary magazines such as Hanging Loose Press, Stone Soup, Creative Kids, Adolescent, and Matchbox.
Eggshells: When an aspiring writer turns 18, she receives a letter releasing the identity of her sperm donor father. The only problem: she must endure a cross country road trip with her borderline personality disorder mother to meet him.
After earning her master’s in Directing from the American Film Institute, Melissa Hickey’s short film, Ni-Ni, premiered at Clermont Ferrand, won a number of Jury and Best Short awards, and was recognized by the DGA with a Diversity Award for Female Director. The recipient of the Daniel Petrie Scholarship, the Women in Film Scholarship, and the Richard P. Rogers Spirit of Excellence, Hickey was also the only woman out of five directors from AFI chosen to direct a commercial short for the Sony ‘Be Moved’ Campaign. She is an inaugural member of the Ryan Murphy Television Half Foundation Mentorship Program, and was recently named a fellow in the Sony Pictures Television Diverse Directors Program.
Panic: In late 19th century New England, a mysterious plague threatens a small farming community. When the ensuing panic drives the townspeople to scapegoat a 19-year-old girl, the consequences are far more terrifying than the disease itself.
Co-writer/director, Sealskin Woman
Tani Ikeda is an award-winning director who creates narratives, documentaries, music videos, and commercial films. She was previously selected as a Film Independent Project: Involve Directors Fellow. Her credits include two films in the 2017 Emmy-winning series Wonder Women. Ikeda recently executive produced and directed a documentary series with the co-founder of Black Lives Matter, Patrisse Cullors, about organizers on the frontlines of the resistance to white supremacy in the era of a Trump presidency. Her work has been recognized in The Hollywood Reporter, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan magazine and has screened internationally at festivals around the world including the Sundance Film Festival. Ten years ago, at the age of 21, Ikeda co-founded imMEDIAte Justice, a nonprofit that fosters the talents of young women artists working in digital media. She is the current executive director of imMEDIAte Justice and was named one of the “25 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World,” by the Utne Reader.
Co-writer, Sealskin Woman
A-lan Holt’s poetic and intimately charged practice transcends boundaries as a playwright, filmmaker and Stanford University educator. She is the youngest playwright to receive a two-year residency at the Public Theater in New York where her play, The Bottom of Heaven,was developed starring Lupita Nyong’o. Holt serves as Associate Director at Stanford University’s Institute for Diversity in the Arts where she teaches and supports interventions in art practice, spiritual practice and social change. Her debut artist book Moonwork was shortlisted for the Cornish Family Prize at the Melbourne Art Book Fair. As a filmmaker, Holt’s work has been viewed across the country. She is the writer and director of Inamorata.
Sealskin Woman: After her mother dies, a young girl goes to live with her grandparents in Japan and discovers that the people who are supposed to protect her can’t; she must rely on her own magic to save herself.
Writer, Eleanor, Invisible
Tory Kamen was born and raised in New York City. She graduated from NYU Gallatin and recently received her MFA in Writing for Screen and Television from USC School of Cinematic Arts. Kamen currently works as an assistant on the FOX comedy, The Mick. She splits her time between Los Angeles and the Internet.
Eleanor, Invisible: After the death of her last living friend, 90-year-old Eleanor moves from Florida to New York City in search of companionship, only to find herself more alone than before. In one final and desperate attempt to connect, Eleanor takes on her best friend’s life story: she pretends to be a Holocaust survivor.
Gabriella Moses is an award-winning director, writer, and production designer based in Brooklyn, NY. She is a graduate of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. Her latest short films Sticky Fingers and Leche are currently playing the festival circuit. Her award-winning thesis film Las Mañanitas has played at numerous international film festivals winning Best Ensemble Cast, Production Design and Score at NYU’s First Run Film Festival and Best Film at the Katra Film Fest Series. Her production design work has been featured across top film festivals across the globe including Sundance, Toronto, Tribeca and SXSW. Moses was selected by the Hispanic Coalition of NY as one of their 2015 Rising Latino Stars. She also served as a Shadow Director for the 2015 ABC Diversity Showcase. Her directorial debut feature, Leche, which has received support from the Sundance Institute’s 2016 Creative Producing Lab and the 2017 NYWIFT “From Script to Pre-Production” Workshop.
Leche: A coming of age story infused with moments of magical realism, Leche tells the story of Nina, a ten-year-old Dominican American girl who believes she can perform miracles after seemingly resurrecting an albino deer. She discovers that what sets her apart may be more of a blessing than a curse.
Alicia D. Ortega
Writer, Righteous Acts
Alicia D. Ortega graduated from Stanford University, and is pursuing an MFA in fiction at LSU. In addition to screenwriting, she is working on a novel about a Mexican-American family, fractured by grief, that stubbornly insists on the myth of the American Dream. Ortega lives in Dallas, Texas, but she’s most inspired by her hometown of San Antonio.
Righteous Acts: Homeschooled teenager Judith yearns for a community of faith. When her parents finally allow her to join the cast of a megachurch hell house, she believes she’s finally found her people—until she fails to nab the role of the Abortion Girl, and understands it’s her holy duty to steal the show.
Writer/director, Other People
Meedo Taha is a filmmaker born into a family of video bootleggers during the Lebanese civil war. In a creative free-fall, he received a scholarship to the University of Tokyo, wrote a PhD dissertation about the love affair between cinema and architecture, earned an MFA in Directing from UCLA, taught college-level filmmaking in Dubai, got his first novel published, and is adapting it into a film. His work has received support from the Samuel Goldwyn Foundation, Directors Guild of America, and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son, a budding photographer at three years old.
Other People: A family of refugees in Beirut clean apartments by day and pickpocket weddings by night. But as the boyish middle daughter falls in love with the final bride of the summer, she must choose between freedom for her family and freedom for herself.
Roger Ross Williams
Co-writer/director, The Life and Death of Cassandro
The first film that Roger Ross Williams directed, Music by Prudence, won the 2010 Academy Award® for documentary short subject. He is the first African American director to win an Academy Award. Williams’ latest film, Life, Animated, premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival to enormous critical acclaim, and has received countless accolades including DGA and PGA nominations and a 2017 Academy Award nomination. Williams serves on the board of the Tribeca Film Festival, the advisory boards of both the Full Frame and Sundance Film Festivals, and the Board of Governors for the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
Co-writer, The Life and Death of Cassandro
David Teague is a writer and documentary film editor. He has edited five Oscar-nominated documentaries, including one winner. His work includes Life, Animated, Cutie and the Boxer, The Departure, E-TEAM, Mondays at Racine, and Freeheld.
The Life and Death of Cassandro: Saúl, a gay lucha libre wrestler, creates a powerful alter ego named Cassandro to both fight in the ring and fight his own demons. But this superhero story gets turned on its head as Cassandro starts to take control and threatens to become Saúl’s downfall.
The 2018 FilmTwo Fellows are:
Ana Asensio is an international actress, writer and director from Spain, currently living in Brooklyn, New York. Her first feature film as writer/director, Most Beautiful Island won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival and was nominated for the 2018 John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards. Asensio’s film credits as actress include: The Afterlight, by Craig Macneill and Alexei Kaleina; The Archive, by Oscar-winning director Ethan Spiglan; Zenith, by Vladan Nikolic; and the HBO short film, Betty La Flaca, by Hugo Perez. Asensio has produced and performed in three contemporary one-woman shows and toured them around the world. She has worked on Spanish television drama series, directed contemporary plays and adapted a best-selling Spanish novel into a one-woman show.
Christina Choe’s debut feature, Nancy, premiered in the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, winning the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Choe’s docu-series Welcome to the DPRK, a personal portrait of North Korea, was recently acquired and released by First Look Media. Her short films, I Am John Wayne won the Grand Jury Prize at the Slamdance Film Festival, with The Queen and Flow screening at Telluride, SXSW, and Aspen Film Festival, among many others. Additional honors include a year-long directing fellowship with HBO, participation in the Sundance Institute Editing Residency, and a Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation Fellowship awarded at the Independent Spirit Awards.
Deborah grew up in Toronto, Canada, shortly after her parents emigrated from Australia and China. She received her M.F.A from Columbia University, during which time she wrote and directed several short films which toured extensively on the festival circuit. She wrote and directed The High Cost of Living, which won the Best First Feature award during its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was released theatrically by Tribeca Films. She has also worked extensively in television and has directed numerous shows including Mr. Robot, Jessica Jones and Better Call Saul.
Nia DaCosta is a writer and director based in New York City. Her first feature film, Little Woods, starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James, will premiere at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival. She has been supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program and Catalyst, New York Film Festival, the San Francisco Film Society and the Time Warner Foundation.
Andrew Okpeaha MacLean
Andrew Okpeaha MacLean is an Iñupiaq filmmaker born and raised in Alaska. His feature film debut On the Ice premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival and won Best First Feature and the Crystal Bear at the 2011 Berlinale. In 2014-16 he served as a mentor in the Sundance Institute’s Native American and Indigenous Program Film Lab. He is currently an Assistant Arts Professor in the Graduate Film Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, of which he is also an alumnus.
Josh Mond’s directorial debut, James White, which he also wrote, premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the NEXT Audience Award. The film also won the Audience Award at AFI Fest, the Revelations Prize at Deauville Film Festival, and Don Quixote Award at the Locarno Film Festival. Mond was also nominated for the Breakthrough Director Gotham Award and Best First Feature Independent Spirit Award. His music video for Mayday Parade’s “Kids in Love,” was featured at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival and named by MTV as one of the top videos of the year. Mond’s producing credits include the critically acclaimed films Martha Marcy May Marlene, for which he was named one of Variety’s “Ten Producers to Watch;” Afterschool; Simon Killer; The Eyes of My Mother; Christine (EP); Two Gates of Sleep; and the forthcoming Piercing. Mond is a co-founder of Borderline Films.
Nijla Mu’min is a writer and filmmaker from the East Bay Area. Named one of “25 New Faces of Independent Film” by Filmmaker Magazine for 2017, she tells stories about black girls and women who find themselves between worlds and identities. Her work has been supported by the Sundance Institute, IFP, and Film Independent. Her first feature film, Jinn, premiered at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, where it won Special Jury Recognition for Writing. Her short film Dream was acquired by Issa Rae Productions (Insecure, HBO) for online streaming. She is a 2013 dual-degree graduate of CalArts’ MFA Film Directing and Writing Programs.
Olivia Newman, is an alum of the Sundance Screenwriters and Directors Labs. Her debut feature film, First Match, premiered in competition at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival, where it won the SXSW LUNA® Gamechanger Award, and will be released online and theatrically by Netflix on March 30. Written and directed by Newman, First Matchstars newcomer, Elvire Emmanuelle, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Greatest Showman) and Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead). Her work has received support from IFP, Film Independent, Tribeca Film Institute, San Francisco Film Society, the Durga Foundation, Adrienne Shelly Foundation, Maryland Filmmakers fellowship, and HBO. Her short films have screened at festivals internationally including the New York Film Festival, Aspen Shortsfest and Palm Springs International Shortsfest.
Celia Rowlson-Hall is a filmmaker, choreographer, and Bessie Award Winning performer. Her debut feature film, MA, which she wrote, directed, choreographed, and starred in, premiered at the 2015 Venice Film Festival. MA screened at over forty festivals worldwide, winning the Breakthrough Audience award at AFI Film Festival, Independent Visions Award at Sarasota Film Festival, among several others. In 2015, Rowlson-Hall was featured as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces,” and in 2016 was the recipient of a Cinereach Fellowship. She was the co-executive producer and sole guest director of season one of the new series Strangers, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and debuted on Facebook’s Watch this past fall. She is currently in pre-production for season two of the series, as well as developing her next feature.
Named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces to Watch,” Heidi Saman’s first feature film, Namour, won the Jury Award at the 2016 Los Angeles Film Festival and was developed with the Sundance Institute and funded by the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant and a Knight Foundation Grant. Namour was acquired by Ava DuVernay’s distribution collective, ARRAY, and is streaming on Netflix. In 2008, Saman’s short film The Maid (il Shaghala) premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. She is a 2016-2018 Pew Fellow in the Arts and is currently a producer for NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program is supported by The Annenberg Foundation; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; YouTube; RT Features; Will and Jada Smith Family Foundation; Time Warner Foundation; Universal Filmed Entertainment Group; Amazon Studios; Hollywood Foreign Press Association; National Endowment for the Arts; Sandra and Malcolm Berman Charitable Foundation; The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund; NHK Enterprises, Inc.; John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; SAGindie; Grazka Taylor; Rena Dillon Cruz and Rene Simon Cruz; and Philip Fung – A3 Foundation.
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and new media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Boyhood, Swiss Army Man, Manchester By the Sea, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, Life, Animated, Sonita, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.