Sundance Institute Selects 12 Projects for 2016 January Screenwriters Lab


Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute announced today the 12 projects selected for the 2016 January Screenwriters Lab, an immersive, five-day writers’ workshop at the Sundance Resort in Utah, January 15-20. The Lab is one of 25 residency Labs the Institute hosts each year for independent artists in theatre, film, new media and episodic content.

Under the leadership of Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, with Ilyse McKimmie, Labs Director, Feature Film Program, participating independent screenwriters will have the opportunity to develop their feature film scripts with the support of accomplished writers in an environment that encourages creative risk-taking and original storytelling.

Satter said, “We’re excited to welcome sixteen new Fellows to the January Screenwriters Lab, which is the beginning of a year-round customized system of creative and tactical support. The filmmakers reflect a broad and diverse spectrum of independent storytelling from the U.S. and around the world, all bringing a personal and distinctive voice and aesthetic to the projects we selected.”

At the Screenwriters Lab, Fellows will work with a distinguished group of Creative Advisors, led by Artistic Director Kasi Lemmons, including Paul Attanasio, Marcos Bernstein, Thomas Bidegain, Naomi Foner, John Gatins, Michael Goldenberg, Susannah Grant, Erik Jendresen, Walter Mosley, Jennifer Salt, Susan Shilliday, Zach Sklar, Dana Stevens, Joan Tewkesbury, Audrey Wells, Bill Wheeler and Tyger Williams.

Following the Lab, nine films supported by the Feature Film Program will premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The U.S. Dramatic Competition will feature: Birth of a Nation, written and directed by Nate Parker; Spa Night, written and directed by Andrew Ahn; and Swiss Army Man, co-written and co-directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert. The World Cinema Dramatic Competition will feature Halal Love (and Sex), written and directed by Assad Fouladkar. The NEXT section will include The Fits, co-written by Anna Rose Holmer, Saela Davis, and Lisa Kjerluff, and directed by Anna Rose Holmer, and Jacqueline Argentine, written and directed by Bernardo Britto. The Midnight section will include Under the Shadow, written and directed by Babak Anvari. In addition, the Premieres section will feature Frank and Lola, written and directed by Matthew Ross, and Hunt for the Wilderpeople, written and directed by Taika Waititi.

The projects and fellows selected for the 2016 January Screenwriters Lab are:

Bull (U.S.A.) / Annie Silverstein (Co-writer/Director) and Johnny McAllister (Co-writer)
In a near-abandoned subdivision west of Houston, a wayward teen runs headlong into her equally willful and unforgiving neighbor, an aging bullfighter who’s seen his best days in the arena; it’s a collision that will change them both.

Annie Silverstein is an award-winning filmmaker and youth worker based in Austin, Texas. Her fiction and documentary films have screened at international festivals including Cannes, SXSW, Silverdocs and on PBS Independent Lens. Most recently she wrote and directed Skunk, which won the jury award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival–Cinéfondation. Silverstein is a recipient of the San Francisco Film Society/Kenneth Rainin Foundation Grant for developing her first fiction feature.

Johnny McAllister is a filmmaker and writer based in Austin, Texas. Born in Iran to Irish parents, McAllister grew up an itinerant, living and working throughout the Middle East, Europe and the U.S. He’s written for films that played at Cannes and Sundance and co-founded a news and doc startup based in Beirut, Lebanon. Recently, he co-wrote and produced Booger Red with director Berndt Mader and executive producer David Gordon Green, which premiered at The American Film Festival in Poland. He received his MFA from Columbia University.

The Gold Bug Variations (U.S.A.) / Mark Levinson (Writer/Director)
The Gold Bug Variations is a double helix of two love stories spiraling across 25 years and the mysterious disappearance of a scientist on the verge of understanding the code for life, but derailed by the search for the code for love. Script based on the novel by Richard Powers. This project is the recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship.

After first getting a doctoral degree in theoretical particle physics, Mark Levinson began his film career as an assistant editor on the feature film Smooth Talk. He developed his writing and directing skills as an ADR Supervisor on films such as The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Cold Mountain and The Rainmaker. Levinson wrote, produced and directed the narrative feature Prisoner of Time, which had an acclaimed premiere at the Moscow International Film Festival. Most recently, he directed the award-winning documentary feature Particle Fever about the discovery of the Higgs boson, the so-called “God Particle.”

Hot Clip (U.S.A.) / César Cervantes (Writer/Director)
A week after their best friend’s fatal confrontation with a cop, three Southeast Los Angeles skaters spend 24 hours chasing dreams, making trouble and trying to survive in a community on the verge of exploding. This project is the recipient of the Feature Film Program Latino Fellowship.

César Cervantes is a first-generation Chicano filmmaker from Maywood, California. His skateboarding do-it-yourself background and whatever-it-takes approach to filmmaking got him into the Emerging Filmmakers Showcase at the Cannes Film Festival, led him to create an after-school film program for inner-city youth with the help of CAA, and put him on tour with the Grammy-winning band La Santa Cecilia as their lead videographer. A Vassar College graduate, Cervantes will make his feature debut with Hot Clip.

House of Tomorrow (U.S.A.) / Peter Livolsi (Writer/Director)
When a sheltered teen raised inside a geodesic dome meets a rebellious kid with a heart transplant, the two form a punk band to escape an oppressive grandmother, an overprotective father, and the looming legacy of renowned futurist Buckminster Fuller.

Peter Livolsi is a graduate of the American Film Institute, where his thesis short film won a Student Emmy. His latest short film, Leonard in Slow Motion, starring Martin Starr, has played festivals worldwide and received praise from The Onion, The A.V. Club, Vice, Indiewire, and Vimeo Staff Picks, among others.

In Vitro (U.S.A.) / Will Jaymes (Co-writer), Talia Zucker (Co-writer) and Tom McKeith (Co-writer/Director)
A woman kept in isolation on a remote cattle ranch discovers the disturbing truth about her existence, and becomes obsessed with reclaiming her identity.

Will Jaymes is an Australian filmmaker and actor based in Los Angeles. He wrote, produced and performed in his first feature Beast, which screened at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, and co-created The Sellers for MTV Australia. Jaymes has participated in Australia's prestigious AURORA Lab and has been an award candidate for the Inside Film Rising Talent Award. He has twice been nominated for the Heath Ledger Scholarship as an actor.

Talia Zucker is a Los Angeles-based writer and actress from Melbourne, Australia. She studied film at Monash University and UC Berkeley. As an actor, she studied at The Moscow Art Theatre School. She has appeared in many television series and short films, and also starred in the feature film Lake Mungo, which screened at SXSW and the Busan International Film Festival.

Tom McKeith is a Sydney-based writer and director. His first feature, Beast, premiered at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was a finalist for the DropBox award. His short films have played at numerous national and international film festivals including Berlin, Telluride and Busan. McKeith is a graduate of the Australian Film Television and Radio School and The University of Sydney.

The Kitchen (United Kingdom) / Daniel Kaluuya (Writer) and Kibwe Tavares (Director)
London, 2030: The city has become a billionaire’s playground, where the working class live in lawless slums and depend on smash-and-grab forays into wealthy neighborhoods to survive. A young father, Izi, is desperate to go straight, but when his young son contracts a devastating illness, he is forced into a heist that will change the lives of everyone around him forever.

Daniel Kaluuya began his writing career by working closely with Bryan Elsley on multiple episodes of the BAFTA-winning television drama Skins, in which he also starred. As an actor, he was cited as one of BAFTA’s 2011 Brits to Watch, and his more recent screen credits include Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, Kick-Ass 2 and Eran Creevy's Welcome to the Punch. Kaluuya is also a celebrated stage actor, having won the Evening Standard Editor's Award for Shooting Star and Critics’ Circle Theatre Award for Outstanding Newcomer in 2010 for his performance as a boxer in Sucker Punch at London’s Royal Court Theatre. The Kitchen is his debut screenplay.

Kibwe Tavares graduated from the Bartlett School of Architecture with a thesis called Robots of Brixton, a short film that won the Special Jury Award for Animation at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. With the backing of Film4, he directed his second short film, Jonah, which won both the Special Jury prize and Best Short Film at the Commercial Film Producers of Europe & Shots Young Directors Awards. More recently, Tavares has been awarded a TED fellowship, named as one of the top 20 young global directors at the Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase and has recently finished directing his third short, Robot and Scarecrow. The Kitchen is his debut feature film.

The Last Black Man in San Francisco (U.S.A.) / Joe Talbot (Writer/Director), story by Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails
Jimmie Fails is a young African-American who dreams of buying back the Victorian home his grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. Now living in the city’s last, dwindling black neighborhood with his oddball best friend, Prentice, they search for belonging in the rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind.

Joe Talbot is a native San Franciscan. Beginning when he was a teenager, his short film work has screened at SFIFF and been covered in Vice, The Atlantic, Indiewire, San Francisco Chronicle and Filmmaker Magazine. Perhaps most proudly, though, for the lover of Old Hollywood, Talbot’s work has shown at San Francisco’s last two remaining cinema palaces: The Castro Theatre and The Roxie Theatre. The Last Black Man in San Francisco, adapted from the life of his childhood friend, co-writer and star of the film-to-be, Jimmie Fails, is his feature debut.

Nina (U.S.A.) / Eva Vives (Writer/Director)
Just as Nina Geld’s brilliant and angry stand up kicks her career into high gear, her romantic life gets complicated, forcing her to reckon with what it means to be creative, authentic and a woman in today’s culture.

Eva Vives is a graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 2000, she won the Best Short Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and Cannes Film Festival with Five Feet High and Rising, a short she cast, edited and produced. She followed that up with the feature film Raising Victor Vargas, which she co-wrote. Vives has been writing numerous projects including Chrome & Paint, which she co-wrote with Ice Cube. She was also one of four writers in the Disney Writers Program from 2010-2012. Her short Join the Club will premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival.

Santosh (India/United Kingdom) / Sandhya Suri (Writer/Director)
When a widow receives a "compassionate assignment" and assumes her husband's former role as a police investigator, she finds herself at the heart of a violent sex crime investigation steeped in prejudice and corruption.

Sandhya Suri is a British-Indian writer/director based in London. A graduate in pure mathematics, she received a scholarship to study documentary at The National Film and Television School. Her feature documentary I for India premiered in the World Competition section of the Sundance Film Festival, screened at over 20 international festivals and garnered several awards before being released theatrically to critical acclaim in the UK and the U.S. Santosh was selected to the 2015 Drishyam | Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and will be her first narrative feature.

Share (U.S.A.) / Pippa Bianco (Writer/Director)
In this cyber thriller, a disturbing video leaked from a local high school throws a Long Island community into chaos and the national spotlight as they try to unravel the story behind it.

Pippa Bianco studied at Yale University, where she received the Lamar Film Studies Prize and Pearson American Studies Prize before moving to New York to make films. In 2015, her short film, Share, screened at the Telluride Film Festival, won a jury prize at SXSW 2015, and won Cinéfondation's First Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Her recent work also includes a commission for LACMA scored by Nico Jaar, and a writing credit on Bleed for This, a forthcoming boxing biopic starring Miles Teller, produced by Bruce Cohen and executive produced by Martin Scorsese.

Sicilian Ghost Story (Italy) / Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza (Co-writers/Co-directors)
When a local Mafia don’s son is kidnapped, a young Sicilian girl refuses to accept the sudden disappearance of the boy she loves. Based on real life events at the height of the Mafia’s reign, Sicilian Ghost Story is a striking and unique look at the power that love has to survive in the darkest of worlds.

Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza are Sicilian filmmakers. Their first feature film Salvo premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, winning both top prizes of La Semaine de la Critique, the Grand Prix and the Prix Révélation. The film secured distribution in about 25 countries, including the U.S., where, among other festivals, it was also presented at New Directors/New Films in New York. In Italy, Salvo won the Nastro d'Argento (Silver Ribbon) for Best Cinematography, the Italian Golden Globe for Best Actress and four nominations for the David di Donatello Awards.

The Wolf Hour (U.S.A.) / Alistair Banks Griffin (Writer/Director)
A former 60’s activist, who has barely left her six-story walk up in years, becomes unraveled when an unseen tormentor begins harassing her as the events of the 1977 New York blackout riots unfold outside her window.

Alistair Banks Griffin’s first feature film Two Gates of Sleep premiered in Directors Fortnight at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and was produced by Borderline Films and Andrew F. Renzi with support from Cinereach. In 2013, he participated in the second annual Berlin Film Festival Residency and was the winner of the 2013 San Francisco Film Society/Hearst Screenwriting Grant and KRF prize; he was also the first American director to be awarded the Aide Aux Cinemas du Monde from the French CNC. He is a graduate of RISD and lives and works in New York City.

The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program is supported by The Annenberg Foundation; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; YouTube; RT Features; Time Warner Foundation; Amazon Studios; Jeanne Donovan Fisher; Hollywood Foreign Press Association; National Endowment for the Arts; NHK Enterprises, Inc.; Manish Mundra; The Ammon Foundation; Firestone / von Winterfeldt Family Fund; A3 Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; SAGindie; The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund; Grazka Taylor; and Naja Pham Lockwood and David Lockwood.

Sundance Institute
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 Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, The Invisible War, The Square, Dirty Wars, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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