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ShortsLab Philadelphia

ShortsLab LA 2012, photo by Jonathan Leibson

International House
3701 Chestnut St,
Philadelphia, PA

Sunday, March 16, 2014
10 a.m.–4 p.m.

Tickets are free, but attendees must RSVP. Visit for RSVP information.

10:00 a.m.
ShortsLab Introduction

10:15 a.m.
Story Development: These tales from the trenches will focus on conceptualization, script development, story, and dialogue.

Writer/director James Ponsoldt was raised in Athens, GA, and graduated from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Film. He made the short films Coming Down the Mountainand Junebug and Hurricane before his first feature, OFF THE BLACK, which premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. His second feature SMASHED premiered at Sundance in 2012 and won a Special Jury Prize, and lead actress Mary Elizabeth Winstead received an Independent Spirit Award nomination. Ponsoldt is an alumnus of the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab, writes for Filmmaker Magazine and co-authored the award winning graphic novel, Refresh, Refresh, based upon his screenplay of the same title. His newest feature, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, premiered at Sundance and is being released nationally this month from A24 Films.

11:30 a.m.
Collaboration: A panel of experienced cinematographers, editors, producers, and directors explore the collaboration process and the importance of having a good crew.

About the Panelists:
Chad Hartigan attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking and majored in Film Directing, shooting five shorts on DV and 16mm film. Since graduating, he has pursued all aspects of film; acting in the award winning feature DANCE PARTY USA, co-writing an animated short nominated for the Student Academy Award and serving as behind-the-scenes videographer for David Arquette’s directorial debut, THE TRIPPER.

He wrote and directed his first feature, LUKE AND BRIE ARE ON A FIRST DATE in 2008, which had its North American premiere at the Hamptons International Film Festival and was released to online platforms. A Latin American remake, entitled LUNA EN LEO, is set to be released in 2013.

His second feature, THIS IS MARTIN BONNER, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award for Best of NEXT.

Sean McElwee also attended the North Carolina School of the Arts, School of Filmmaking. He has worked on many films and music videos as a gaffer, camera operator and cinematographer. He is the director of photography for the feature films DANCE PARTY USA directed by Aaron Katz, and the two features directed by Chad Hartigan, LUKE AND BRIE ARE ON A FIRST DATE and THIS IS MARTIN BONNER.

Lindsay Pulsipher has acted in many independent films and TV shows. She is the lead in THE OREGONIAN (2011) and THE RAMBLER (2013), both premiering in the Midnight section of Sundance. On television she has been featured in The Beast with Patrick Swayze, played Crystal Norris (the panther girl) in True Blood, played the love interest in the center of the family war in Hatfields & McCoys with Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton, and can be currently seen in Justified with Timothy Olyphant.

Alicia Van Couvering's first film as a producer, TINY FURNITURE, won the Narrative Jury Prize at the SXSW Film Festival in 2010 as well as accolades from the Independent Spirit Awards, Gotham Awards, New York Film Critics Awards and many more; it was released by IFC Films and the Criterion Collection. Her background in physical production includes films like Barbara Kopple's MY GENERATION, Phil Morrison's JUNEBUG, Todd Solondz's PALINDROMES and LIFE DURING WARTIME; she is the co-producer of Bryan Wizemann's THINK OF ME, Steve Kessler's PAUL WILLIAMS STILL ALIVE and consulting producer for Whit Stillman's DAMSELS IN DISTRESS. She produced Ry Russo-Young’s NOBODY WALKS, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012 and was released by Magnolia Pictures. She is a contributing editor to Filmmaker Magazine. In 2010 was named a Fellow of the Sundance Institute's Creative Producing Labs.

12:45 p.m.

1:45 p.m.
A screening of a short from the festival

2:00 p.m.
Next Level: Filmmakers with success in the short film world speak about filmmaking, working with cast and crew, and their journey to the elusive first feature.

About the Panelists:
Writer/director Eliza Hittman received an MFA from California Institute of the Arts, School of Film / Video (2010). Her short films have screened at the Sundance Film Festival, Oberhausen Kurzfilmtage, the British Film Institute, BAMcinemaFEST, and the Guggenheim (Bilbao). Her short film FOREVER'S GONNA START TONIGHT was listed on Indiewire Magazine's list of "the Best of the Best" at Sundance in 2011. Her critically acclaimed debut feature film IT FELT LIKE LOVE premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and International Film Festival Rotterdam and was voted one of the Top Ten films at Sundance by Film Comment. It plays as part of Next Weekend in Los Angeles.

Writer/director Madeleine Olnek honed her skills in downtown New York City venues with over 20 produced plays–all comedies. A former student of David Mamet’s, she is one of the authors of A Practical Handbook for the Actor (with a foreword by Mamet), a widely-used acting textbook. She studied filmmaking at Columbia University, where she was awarded the William Goldman Screenwriting Fellowship and the Adrienne Shelly Award/Grant for Best Female Director. Her first short, Hold Up, was presented at Sundance in 2006. She returned to Sundance in 2009 with another short, Countertransference. Olnek’s debut feature comedy, Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Her newest feature, THE FOXY MERKINS, is having its World Premiere at Next Weekend.

As a writer-director Calvin Lee Reeder made a name for himself with the short films Piledriver; Little Farm, which screened at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival; and The Rambler, which appeared at the Festival the following year. His feature debut, The Oregonian, divided Sundance Film Festival audiences in 2011 just as his shorts had before it. Cinemad released it to theaters in 25 cities. His second feature THE RAMBLER, adapted from the short and starring Dermot Mulroney, played in the Midnight section of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. Anchor Bay released the film on DVD and VOD in June.

3:15 p.m.
YouTube and Vice: Making A Short Film Channel
Reps from the successful Vice online channels discuss how they create content, leading to thoughts about subject matter, style of filming, marketing and promotion, and why having a YouTube channel works for them with (or instead of) other forms of distribution for shorts. Vice currently has 3 million subscribers to their channel and over 200 million views of their shorts.

4:30 p.m.
Indie Filmmaking Then and Now: Mark Borchardt
A lifelong film fanatic, writer and director, Mark Borchardt became known through Chris Smith and Sarah Price’s documentary American Movie, following Borchardt through the trials and tribulations of making an independent film in Milwaukee, WI. After the film won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, Borchardt went on to cult fame as the epitome of a dedicated indie filmmaker. Equally inspired by Ingmar Bergman and George Romero, Borchardt strove to make horror films in his own way and continues to write new work and act in films, in turn being an inspiration to today’s indie filmmakers like the Duplass Brothers.

A lesson in perseverance, Borchardt and IndieWire columnist Kim Adelman will discuss filmmaking, stretching your resources and being creative in story and style.

5:15 p.m.
Short Film Programmers from the Sundance Film Festival explain the selection process and what they look for in a film, plus take questions from the audience.

6:00 p.m.
Reception in lobby

Recognizing the important role shorts have in cinema, storytelling, and culture, Sundance Institute presents ShortsLab to help empower the next generation of artists. Filmmakers are invited to participate in this seminar of Sundance-organized panels and discussions to offer firsthand insight and access into the world of story development,  production, working with cast and crew, and how to get the most out of making a short film.


Cherien Dabis received her MFA in film from Columbia University. She has written, directed, produced and edited several short films including MAKE A WISH, which premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Dabis worked for three seasons as a writer and co-producer on Showtime´s groundbreaking, original hit series The L Word. In 2009, her feature directorial debut AMREEKA world-premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, opened New Director´s/New Films at MoMA, and won the prestigious FIPRESCI award at the Directors´ Fortnight at Cannes. Her second feature MAY IN THE SUMMER was a project in the 2010 Sundance Screenwriters Lab and premiered in competition at Sundance 2013.

Madeleine Olnek is a writer and director who honed her skills in downtown New York City venues with over 20 produced plays – all comedies. She is one of the authors of "A Practical Handbook for the Actor" (foreword by David Mamet). Her first feature, the Gotham Award nominated CODEPENDENT LESBIAN SPACE ALIEN SEEKS SAME (Sundance 2011) was called “hilarious” by The Hollywood Reporter, and is viewable online, as are her short films COUNTERTRANSFERENCE and HOLD UP. Her second feature-length film, THE FOXY MERKINS, premiered at Sundance’s NEXT WEEKEND festival, was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award ("Someone to Watch") and was an official selection of Sundance 2014.

Carter Smith’s first short film, BUGCRUSH, received the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival. His script with Dennis Cooper, “Warm”, was a project at the 2006 Sundance Screenwriters Lab. He then directed his debut feature, THE RUINS, for DreamWorks. His next short, YEARBOOK, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD is his second feature and premiered at Sundance 2014 in competition. It marks his return to character studies focused on the teenage psyche and small-town life. Smith’s fashion photography and celebrity portraits can be seen regularly in Vogue, Elle, Allure, and GQ.

ShortsLab Philadelphia is presented by Sundance Institute. The program is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.