Sundance Institute Announces 12 Projects Selected for the Feature Film Program

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute has selected 12 projects for its 2014 January Screenwriters Lab, an immersive, five-day (January 10-15) writers’ workshop at the Sundance Resort in Utah. Participating independent screenwriters – drawn from around the world, including the United States, Latin America, Europe, and China – will have the opportunity to work intensely on their feature film scripts with the support of established writers in an environment that encourages innovation and creative risk-taking.  

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said “The Sundance Institute Labs provide an environment that fosters innovation and creative risk-taking to allow artists to really take chances and push themselves and their work. The Labs are the first step in support programs that provides critical year-round and ongoing resources for some of the most talented and innovative independent artists working today.”

Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, “We are thrilled to welcome our new group of fellows who are telling contemporary stories about the search for identity and connection with artistic ambition and singular vision. With the guidance of an extraordinary group of Lab mentors, they have the opportunity to further develop their scripts in a setting that encourages risk taking and the craft of screenwriting. Our support continues after the Lab through a robust suite of creative and tactical initiatives tailored to their specific needs.”

The Fellows will work with a distinguished group of creative advisors at the Lab, led by Artistic Director Howard Rodman, and including Dustin Lance Black, Naomi Foner, John Gatins, Michael Goldenberg, Erik Jendresen, Patty Jenkins, Kasi Lemmons, Tobias Lindholm, Walter Mosley, Marti Noxon, Jon Raymond, Susan Shilliday, Zach Sklar, Peter Straughan, Quentin Tarantino, and Bill Wheeler.

Sundance Institute Feature Film Program fellows who have recently been recognized with awards for their work include: Ryan Coogler with Fruitvale Station, Haifaa Al Mansour with Wadjda, Andrew Dosunmu with Mother of George, David Lowery with Ain’t Them Bodies Saints and Ritesh Batra with The Lunchbox.

The projects and Fellows selected for the 2014 January Screenwriters Lab are:

The Buried Life (U.S.A.)
Joan Stein Schimke and Averie Storck (co-writers/co-directors)
An archaeologist risks her reputation for the dig of her career, but when her rock ‘n’ roll sister and overbearing father follow her to the excavation, she discovers her biggest challenge is facing what’s above ground. Recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, given to a project that explores science and technology themes and characters.

Joan Stein Schimke was nominated for an Academy Award® for her short film One Day Crossing, which won several other awards including the Directors Guild of America (DGA) Best Woman Student Filmmaker, Best Director, National Board of Review and the Student Academy Award® Gold Medal. Other directing credits include Law and Order and the short film Solidarity, which screened at over a dozen festivals including the New York Film Festival. Stein Schimke is an MFA graduate of Columbia University’s Film Program and is currently an Associate Professor at Adelphi University in New York. 

Averie Storck is an MFA graduate of Columbia University’s Film Program. Her award-winning short films include Live at Five , which won the New Line Cinema Development Award and screened at more than 30 international film festivals. Prior to filmmaking, Storck worked for People and Vogue magazines, was a writer for Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and studied improv at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in NYC. She currently teaches and directs at the Savannah College of Art and Design.

The Father’s Shadow (Brazil)
Gabriela Amaral Almeida (writer/director)
A nine year-old girl with strange powers and an obsession with horror films attempts to bring her mother back from the dead as a means of connecting with her sick father.

Gabriela Amaral Almeida is a Brazilian screenwriter and director. She is the writer/director of six short films, including The Comforting Hand and A Springtime. Almeida holds an M.A. in literature and horror cinema and majored in screenwriting at EICTV, Cuba. She has written for the directors Walter Salles and Cao Hamburger.

Lynch (U.S.A.)
Nicole Riegel (writer)
Following her rescue as an American P.O.W. in the Iraq war, Jessica Lynch embarks on a quest to uncover the truth of her captivity; in her fight to reclaim her personal narrative, she discovers a deeper identity.

Nicole Riegel is originally from Ohio and is now based in Los Angeles. Prior to writing, she served as a soldier in the United States Army. Last year she adapted Robert Boswell’s short story Smoke for James Franco’s company, Rabbit Bandini. She is a 2013 graduate of the UCLA MFA Graduate Film Program.

Manchild (U.S.A.)
Ryan Koo (writer/director)
A talented basketball player gets nationally ranked and must choose between schools, coaches, and belief systems—all at the age of 13. Recipient of the A3 Foundation Fellowship, given to a filmmaker or project that furthers the Asian American voice in independent film.

Ryan Koo’s latest short film Amateur can be viewed free online at Amateur is the prequel to the forthcoming feature Manchild, which has been supported by the Tribeca Film Institute, IFP, and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. For his “urban western” web series The West Side, Koo and co-director Zack Lieberman won the Webby Award for Best Drama Series and were named two of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film. Koo is also the founder of the website No Film School, which won Total Film’s Best Creative Blog award.

Night Comes On (U.S.A.)
Jordana Spiro (co-writer/director) and Angelica Nwandu (co-writer)
Angel is released from juvenile hall on her 18th birthday with a single focus: shoot the man who killed her mother. As her rebellious past and empty future confront her at every turn, her plans derail and Angel becomes what she wanted and feared.

Jordana Spiro is a writer, director, and actress currently finishing her MFA in Film at Columbia University. Her short film Skin won the Women in Film Grant at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, an Honorable Mention Award at SXSW, and was shown at Telluride, Palm Springs, and AFI among others. As an actress, she has starred in numerous films and television shows. 

Originally from Nigeria, Angelica Nwandu has traveled around the world as an advocate for foster youth after her own 12 years experience living in foster care. A recent graduate of Loyola Marymount University, she developed a passion for writing with the hope of being a clear voice for children in the system. She currently tours nationwide to perform her Spoken Word Poetry.

Park (Greece)
Sofia Exarchou (writer/director)
Nine years have passed, and the Olympic Village in Athens, Greece is in decay. Among the abandoned athletic facilities and new-money tourist resorts nearby, 16-year-old Dimitris and his friends traverse Greece’s “glorious” past with the decadence of today, creating a portrait of a society unprepared for the brutal fall.

Sofia Exarchou is the writer-director of the short films Mesecina and Distance. She pursued post-graduate studies in Toulouse and at the Stella Adler Studio in New York. Exarchou is based in Athens, where she received degrees in Electrical Engineering and Film Studies. Park, whichhas been developed with the support of the Centre Nationale de la Cinematographie (CNC, France) & the Eurimages Council of Europe, is her first feature film.

Patti Cake$ (U.S.A.)
Geremy Jasper (writer/director)
Patricia Baccio, aka Patti Cake$, is a big girl with a big mouth and big dreams of rap superstardom. Stuck in Lodi, New Jersey, Patti battles an army of haters as she strives to break the mold and take over the game. 

Geremy Jasper is a music video and commercial director, composer, and co-founder of the progressive New York production studio LEGS. With his wife and creative partner Georgie Greville, he has directed VMA nominated videos for Florence + The Machine, Selena Gomez and others, and his direction for the “Target Kaleidoscopic Fashion Spectacular” won a Cannes Gold Lion, TED Prize and was inducted into the MOMA’s permanent collection. A New Jersey native, he was a recording artist for Kemado/Hollywood records. Patti Cake$ is his first feature film. 

Stranger with a Camera (U.S.A./Northern Ireland)
Oorlagh George (writer/director)
In this dramatic thriller, an American girl is stranded in a remote village in Northern Ireland after her father is arrested on a 20-year-old murder charge tied to the IRA. Compelled by her father’s secrecy, she sets out to uncover the mysterious family history that he has kept hidden from her

Oorlagh George is an award-winning filmmaker and artist from Northern Ireland. In 2012, she won the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short for producing The Shore, which won over 40 awards in festivals and was released in cinemas worldwide. George worked as a creative executive and in production on films such as Beginners and Hotel Rwanda. Her new video installation, OFF SIDES, opens at The Golden Thread Gallery in February. 

Swiss Army Man (U.S.A.)
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (co-writers/co-directors)
In this absurdist comedy, a hopeless man stranded in the wilderness befriends a dead body and together they go on a journey to get home.

To some Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert are better known as DANIELS, a directing duo who have made uniquely strange, occasionally award winning music videos over the past four years for bands like Foster the People, The Shins, and Battles. They’ve also dabbled in television work for Adult Swim, directing commercials, and a slew of internet friendly short films about sweating to death, skateboarding on dogs, and the dangers of having pockets on your clothes and stuff. They both currently live and work in Los Angeles. But to be honest, Daniel does most of the work.

Ten Thousand Happiness (U.S.A./China)
Johnny Ma (writer/director)
The sudden divorce of their 80-year-old grandfather causes three generations of a Chinese family to each re-evaluate their relationships in love, life and happiness in modern Beijing.

Johnny Ma was born in Shanghai China and immigrated to Toronto at age 10, where he learned his first English sentence “Can I play?” He is a DGA and National Board of Review student-award winning director and a recent graduate from the Columbia University MFA program. His most recent short film A Grand Canal screened at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Other than filmmaking, Ma enjoys teaching cats how to play fetch like dogs.

We the Animals (U.S.A.)
Jeremiah Zagar (co-writer/director) and Dan Kitrosser (co-writer)
Based on the bestselling novel by Justin Torres, We the Animals is about the brutal love of a multi-racial working class family, seen through the eyes of the youngest son, as he discovers his heritage, his sexuality and his madness.

Jeremiah Zagar is the co-founder of Public Record, a production company in Brooklyn. His documentary, In A Dream, screened theatrically across the US and was broadcast on HBO. His newest film CAPTIVATED: The Trials of Pamela Smart, will premiere in competition at the Sundance Film Festival and air on HBO in 2014.

Dan Kitrosser is an award-winning writer and storyteller living in Manhattan. His plays include The Mumblings (published on, Tar Baby, which will go on a national tour in 2014, and the upcoming Dead Special Crabs.

Weather Talk (Chile)
Marcella Said (writer/director)
Weather Talk tells the story of a 40-year-old married woman who realizes the extreme violence surrounding her once she befriends her horse riding teacher, a former army colonel who was involved in human rights violations in Chile.

Marcela Said was born in Santiago, Chile. She graduated from the Catholic University of Santiago with a degree in Aesthetics, and received her master’s degree in Media & Language at La Sorbonne University. After four documentary films, including El Mocito, which screened at the Berlinale Forum in 2011, she directed her first fiction feature The Summer of Flying Fish, which premiered in Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.

Ten films supported by the Feature Film Program will premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The U.S. Dramatic Competition will feature: Fishing Without Nets, written by Cutter Hodierne, John Hibey, and David Burkman and directed by Cutter Hodierne; Hellion, written and directed by Kat Candler; Skeleton Twins, written and directed by Craig Johnson; and Whiplash, written and directed by Damien Chazelle. The NEXT <=> section will include: Drunktown’s Finest, written and directed by Sydney Freeland; Imperial Dreams, written by Malik Vitthal and Ismet Prcic and directed by Malik Vitthal; and War Story, written by Mark Jackson and Kristin Gore and directed by Mark Jackson. The Premieres section will feature: I Origins, written and directed by Mike Cahill, and Little Accidents, written and directed by Sara Colangelo. In addition, Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox will screen as part of the Spotlight section.

The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program 2014 January Screenwriters Lab is made possible by generous support from The Annenberg Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Mumbai Mantra Media, LTD., HP, B.Co, Cinereach, Philip Fung-A3 Foundation, Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Microsoft, Red Crown Productions, RT Features, NHK Enterprises, Inc., Time Warner Foundation, SAGIndie, National Endowment for the Arts, 3311 Productions, The Ammon Foundation, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund, Sundial Pictures LLC, and DCM Productions.

The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program
Since 1981, the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program (FFP) has supported more than 500 independent filmmakers whose distinctive, singular work has engaged audiences worldwide. The program’s approach to the discovery and development of independent artists has become a model for creative development programs internationally. Program staff fully embrace the unique vision of each filmmaker, encouraging a rigorous creative process with a focus on original and deeply personal storytelling. Each year, up to 30 emerging artists from the U.S. and around the world participate in a year-round continuum of support which can include the Screenwriters and Directors Labs, Creative Producing Fellowship and Lab, Music and Sound Design Lab, Creative Producing Summit, ongoing creative and strategic advice, significant production and postproduction resources, a Rough-Cut Screening Initiative, a Screenplay Reading Series, and direct financial support through project-specific grants and artist fellowships. In many cases, the Institute has helped the Program’s fellows attach producers and talent, secure financing, and assemble other significant resources to move their projects toward production and presentation. In addition, the FFP is providing strategic resources to completed Lab films in distribution and marketing across all platforms to support and expand their connection to audiences worldwide.

Over its 30-year history, the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program has supported an extensive list of award-winning and groundbreaking independent films which include Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station, Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda, Andrew Dosunmu’s Mother of George, David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts Of The Southern Wild, Craig Zobel’s Compliance, Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil, Ira Sachs’ Keep the Lights On, Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Dee Rees’ Pariah, Maryam Keshavarz’s Circumstance, Eric Mendelsohn’s 3 Backyards, Shirin Neshat’s Women Without Men, Cherien Dabis’ Amreeka, Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre, Alex Rivera’s Sleep Dealer, Fernando Eimbcke’s Lake Tahoe, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden’s Half Nelson, Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, Miranda July’s Me and You and Everyone We Know, Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now, Debra Granik’s Down to the Bone, Ira Sachs’ Forty Shades of Blue, Josh Marston’s Maria Full of Grace, Lisa Cholodenko’s Laurel Canyon, Peter Sollett’s Raising Victor Vargas, John Cameron Mitchell’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry, Tony Bui’s Three Seasons, Walter Salles’ Central Station, Chris Eyre and Sherman Alexie’s Smoke Signals, Allison Anders’ Mi Vida Loca, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Hard Eight, Tamara Jenkins’ Slums of Beverly Hills, and Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs.

Sundance Institute
Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, Sundance Institute is a global, nonprofit cultural organization dedicated to nurturing artistic expression in film and theater, and to supporting intercultural dialogue between artists and audiences. The Institute promotes independent storytelling to unite, inform and inspire, regardless of geo-political, social, religious or cultural differences. Internationally recognized for its annual Sundance Film Festival and its artistic development programs for directors, screenwriters, producers, film composers, playwrights and theatre artists, Sundance Institute has nurtured such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, Sin Nombre, An Inconvenient Truth, Spring Awakening, Born into Brothels, Trouble the Water, Light in the Piazza and Angels in America. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

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