12 Projects to Be Developed at Annual January Screenwriters Lab in Utah
8 Projects to Take Part in March Online Screenwriters Intensive
Park City, UT, January 12, 2024 – Sundance Institute announced today the fellows selected for its 2024 Screenwriters Lab and Screenwriters Intensive programs, which provide emerging artists with a creative and nurturing space to develop their first and second independent features. Out of over 3,400 submissions, 12 projects were selected for the annual Screenwriters Lab, where 16 fellows will further develop their scripts under the guidance of experienced creative advisors. The Screenwriters Lab will take place from January 13–17 at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah.
The lab will be led by Michelle Satter (Founding Senior Director, Sundance Institute’s Artist Programs) and Ilyse McKimmie (Deputy Director, Feature Film Program), with Artistic Director Jessie Nelson and creative advisors Ritesh Batra, Linda Yvette Chávez, Scott Frank, Phil Hay, Marielle Heller, Walter Mosley, Nicole Perlman, Kemp Powers, Dee Rees, Howard Rodman, Dana Stevens, Joan Tewkesbury, Bill Wheeler, Tyger Williams, Virgil Williams, and Doug Wright.
“We are excited to welcome this cohort to our global community of bold, visionary artists, developing stories that are a powerful force for empathy, vital culture-changing conversations, and audience engagement,” said Michelle Satter, Founding Senior Director, Sundance Institute’s Artist Programs. “The Screenwriters Lab is just the beginning of our connection to the 16 selected artists. Each artist is provided with year-round customized creative and strategic support throughout the journey of getting their films made. It is a privilege to watch their projects take seed at the Labs in the mountains of Utah and ultimately evolve into some of the world’s groundbreaking films.”
The Screenwriters Intensive will bring 11 writers across eight projects to a two-day online workshop, held February 29–March 1, where they will develop their first fiction features. Alumni of the Screenwriters Intensive include Roger Ross Williams (Cassandro), Laurel Parmet (The Starling Girl), and Vuk Lungulov-Klotz (Mutt).
“We’re thrilled to be spotlighting such a varied group of exciting new voices, who each skillfully build the world of their stories with specificity and originality,” said Ilyse McKimmie, Deputy Director of the Feature Film Program. “The Screenwriters Intensive will provide critical creative support and vital momentum to these artists as they traverse the path toward bringing their debut features to life.”
For 40 years, the Feature Film Program (FFP) Labs have supported and championed an exciting and groundbreaking array of independent filmmakers, including The Daniels (Swiss Army Man), A.V. Rockwell (A Thousand and One), Charlotte Wells (Aftersun), Nikyatu Jusu (Nanny), Lyle Corbine Jr. (Wild Indian), Radha Blank (The 40-Year-Old Version), Lulu Wang (The Farewell), Chloé Zhao (Songs My Brother Taught Me), Eliza Hittman (Beach Rats), Marielle Heller (The Diary of a Teenage Girl), Fernando Frias de la Parra (I’m No Longer Here), Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre), Damien Chazelle (Whiplash), Ryan Coogler (Fruitvale Station), Dee Rees (Pariah), Nia DaCosta (Little Woods), Ritesh Batra (The Lunchbox), Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Gina Prince-Bythewood (Love & Basketball), Paul T. Anderson (Hard Eight), and Quentin Tarantino (Reservoir Dogs), among many others.
Three projects supported by the Feature Film Program will premiere at the 2024 Sundance Film Festival: Kobi Libii’s The American Society of Magical Negroes, Sean Wang’s Dìdi (弟弟), and Sam Zuchero and Andy Zuchero’s Love Me. In addition, FFP alumni with films premiering in this year’s Festival include Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Susanna Fogel, and Haley Elizabeth Anderson.
The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program is supported by explore.org, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation; Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; The Asian American Foundation (TAAF); United Airlines; Hartbeat; The Walt Disney Company; Maja Kristin; Salman Al-Rashid; Kimberly Steward—K Period Media; NBCUniversal; Golden Globe Foundation; Ray and Dagmar Dolby Fund; National Endowment for the Arts; NHK/NHK Enterprises, Inc.; Levantine Films; Max Rifkind-Barron; Directors Guild of America (DGA); SAGIndie; Spotlight on San Francisco; T-Street Productions; Rosalie Swedlin and Robert Cort; Lam T. Nguyen; Deborah Reinisch and Michael Theodore Fund; Octavia Spencer; Scott and Jennifer Frank.
The projects selected for the 2024 January Screenwriters Lab and the artists attending are:
Nikesh Shukla and Himesh Patel (Co-Writers) with Brown Baby (U.K. / U.S.A.): Brown Baby is a tender, hilarious contemporary comedy-drama about the challenges of raising a mixed-race daughter in today’s polarized world. An interracial married couple who thought they had it all figured out learn that there are still plenty of difficult conversations they need to have with each other and with their daughter.
Nikesh Shukla is a bestselling, award-winning screenwriter and novelist, best known for the film Two Dosas, editing the essay collection The Good Immigrant, and writing the Spider-Man India miniseries for Marvel Comics. Nikesh has been chosen as one of Time magazine’s cultural leaders, Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 Global Thinkers and The Bookseller’s 100 most influential people in publishing.
Himesh Patel is an Emmy-nominated British actor and writer. Having established himself on U.K. television from a young age, he broke into the film world with the lead role in 2019’s Yesterday and has since been seen in Tenet, Don’t Look Up, and limited series Station Eleven.
Kaitlin Fontana and Franchesca Ramsey (Co-Writers) with COVER GIRL (U.S.A.): COVER GIRL is based on the true story of Darine Stern, the first Black woman to grace the cover of Playboy. But it’s more than that: It’s the story of a woman choosing herself.
Kaitlin Fontana is an Emmy-nominated writer-director and former music journalist. Her feature film script Girlfriend on Mars was on the 2019 Black List; her directorial debut, Franchesca, was a 2018 Sundance Film Festival selection. Kaitlin lives in Los Angeles and was born in Fernie, BC, Canada.
Franchesca Ramsey is an actor, writer, the creator of MTV Decoded, and a former correspondent for The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. In 2018 her book, Well That Escalated Quickly, was nominated for an NAACP award. Most recently she worked on the iCarly reboot and guest-starred on NBC’s Superstore.
Sylvia Khoury (Writer-Director) with Heather (U.S.A.): Recently widowed Lebanese housewife Fadia, 60, dares to pursue her dream of acting by serving as a standardized patient for a medical student to practice interacting with. When she realizes that Heather, the white character she portrays, commands more respect than she does, Fadia begins to play at being Heather in her everyday life.
Sylvia Khoury received her MD from the Icahn School of Medicine in 2021 and is a 2022 Pulitzer Finalist in Drama (Selling Kabul). She is the Berlind Playwright-in-Residence at Princeton, commissioned by Lincoln Center and LAMF/Protozoa, and developing original TV shows with Plan B and at FX with the Js.
Jane Casey Modderno (Writer-Director) with Here for the Weekend (U.S.A.): A thirsty rom-com about Cherry, a transgender Palm Springs resort manager, and her seduction of a hot, flirtatious guest with the power to make her fashion world dreams come true. But as Cherry hustles for a ticket out, she threatens to destroy the wonderfully messy, uber-queer family she’s built at home. Recipient of the Sundance Institute Comedy Fellowship.
Jane Casey Modderno wrote for Facebook’s The Birch and Peacock’s The Girl in the Woods, with more in development. Her directing work has screened worldwide and is available on Vimeo Staff Picks. A proud trans girl born of punk music circles, she delights in all things absurd, cringe, and naughty.
Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs (Writer-Director) with High Steel (Canada / U.S.A.): A Mohawk man splits his time between his reservation with his family and Manhattan, where he ironworks 40 stories above the ground. When he falls in love with a white woman in the city, his identity is challenged and he must keep his double life a secret or risk losing everything.
Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs is an award-winning actor, writer, and filmmaker mainly known for her work in the groundbreaking hit series Reservation Dogs (2021–23). Jacobs produced her first feature film, Backspot (2023), which premiered at TIFF to critical acclaim. Jacobs is currently writing her debut feature film, High Steel.
Kristine Gerolaga (Writer-Director) with Lamok (Philippines / U.S.A.): A Filipino woman determined to avenge the death of her daughter following a botched abortion finds her worldview dramatically altered after she is cursed to transform nightly into a fetus-eating creature known as the manananggal. Recipient of the Sundance Institute Horror Fellowship.
Kristine Gerolaga is a Filipina American filmmaker and actor. Her work has been featured on ALTER and Shudder. She is supported by The Future of Film is Female and Sundance Institute. Her latest short film, Mosquito Lady, had its world premiere at Beyond Fest and is playing film festivals now.
Francesca Canepa (Co-Writer-Director) and Miguel Ángel Papalini (Co-Writer) with La Otra Orilla (Peru): Through the canals of a floating neighborhood in the Peruvian Amazon, Belén, a 12-year-old mother, struggles to belong to the world that has been taken from her. Drifting down the river, carrying her son in her arms, the rain will awaken in her an irresistible desire for freedom. Francesca Canepa is a Peruvian director based in Mexico City. She’s currently working on her first feature, La Otra Orilla, winner of the CNC Production Fund 2023. Her last short film, The Silence of the River, was selected at the Talents Buenos Aires and premiered at the Berlinale.
Miguel Ángel Papalini is an Argentinian filmmaker. His first film as a screenwriter, Packing Heavy, premiered at the Berlinale in 2018. He has a postgraduate degree in contemporary documentary filming and specializes in screenwriting at EICTV (Cuba) and Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain).
Diana Peralta (Writer-Director) with No Love Lost (U.S.A.): When a troubled young woman brings her new husband home to meet the family, her devoted but insular sisters reveal the extremes they will go to protect one another.
Diana Peralta is a Dominican American writer, director, and creative producer from New York City. Her debut feature film, De Lo Mio (Criterion Collection), premiered as the closing night film of BAMcinemaFest in 2019 and was initially distributed by HBO. Diana was featured in Filmmaker magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film.”
Christian Moldes (Writer) with Quince Kings (U.S.A.): Sebastian and Freddy, undocumented immigrant brothers, infiltrate as many quinceñeras as they can to assimilate and provide for their destitute family in El Paso, Texas. They find themselves at odds with one another when Sebastian falls for the mayor’s daughter, Regina, a privileged young woman with a lot to lose.
Christian Moldes is a Caribbean-born writer, producer, and editor raised in El Paso, Texas. His screenplays focus on the Latin American experience through unexpected genres ranging from comedy to sci-fi. A 2020 NALIP Media Market Fellow, his commercial work has been featured across North and Latin America.
Hanna Gray Organschi (Writer-Director) with Rubber Hut (U.S.A.): Rhode Island, 1992. An entrepreneurial ex–Pan Am stewardess opens a drive-thru condom shop in her Italian Catholic town. Overnight, Emanuella DelVecchio becomes the local lightning rod, a radical hero to the neighborhood teens and an unlikely threat to her tight-knit community.
Hanna Gray Organschi is a New England filmmaker pursuing her MFA at NYU. She has received the NY Women in Film & Television Scholarship, the Wasserman Award, and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative Accelerator Grant. Her upcoming short film F*ck That Guy is executive-produced by Spike Lee and Riva Marker.
Sara Crow (Co-Writer, Co-Director) and David Rafailedes (Co-Writer, Co-Director) with Satoshi (U.S.A.): The potentially true story of a teenage anime-obsessed hacktivist who, after losing her scholarship to Stanford, returns home to Arizona to become the mysterious inventor of a new digital currency called Bitcoin. Recipient of the Sundance Institute | Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship.
Sara Crow is a Brooklyn-based writer-director whose stories center subcultures and misfits. She is an MFA candidate at NYU’s Graduate Film Program, where she is a Martin Scorsese Scholar, the recipient of the Sloan Feature Film Award, and the AnnaRose King Production Award for Comedic Storytelling.
David Rafailedes is a writer-director from Canton, Ohio, surviving in New York City. He is in NYU graduate film pursuing an MFA/MBA. He is the co-playwright of Cellino v. Barnes and the recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Production Grant.
Claire Fowler (Writer-Director) with Toad (U.K.): After seeing a disturbing accusation online, a woman living far away from home and ostracized from her strikingly successful twin brother begins to piece together memories of the teen theater experience that came between them.
Claire Fowler is a writer and director from North Wales. She is an alum of Oxford University, Columbia University’s Film MFA, the WB Directors’ workshop, and the AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women. Her short Salam premiered at Tribeca Festival and won a BAFTA Cymru, and she recently directed on Netflix’s Manifest.
The following artists’ projects were selected for the 2024 Screenwriters Intensive:
Rebecca Iliana Kahn (Writer-Director) with ¡Ay Bendito! (U.S.A.): Puerto Rico, 1955. After preventing her best friend’s coerced sterilization, a broke and desperate nurse is recruited to conduct experimental human trials of the first birth control drug. But as women in her community clamor for the pill, she wrestles with her conscience when unusual side effects emerge.
Rebecca Iliana Kahn is a Chicago-born Puerto Rican Jewish writer and director. She received her MFA from NYU Tisch Asia, where she was awarded a HFPA grant for her thesis. Her debut film, Chisel, premiered at the Palm Springs Shortfest, and her films have screened at festivals internationally.
Courtney Loo (Writer-Director) with Bangbang Teahouse (U.S.A.): Hayley and Mimi — an Asian American music duo — stop at absolutely nothing to convince their label to release their long-awaited album over a raucous, self-destructive 48 hours in New York City.
Courtney Loo is a Chinese American writer-director and entrepreneur whose work explores identity, language, and female objectification. Her latest film, Slick Talk, premiered at SXSW 2023. As an entrepreneur, Loo co-founded Thrice Cooked — a management company that reps multiplatinum musicians Pink Sweat$ and KIRBY. Bangbang Teahouse will be her debut feature.
Sarah Mokh (Writer-Director) with Diary of a Muslim Cynic (U.S.A.): Desperate to escape her midwest small town in the aftermath of a tragedy, a teen girl’s pursuits of love, school, and big city dreams are upended by the ghosts of her past and mystical encounters.
Sarah Mokh is a writer and director interested in what the stories we tell reveal about our deepest beliefs. Her television and film scripts have been supported by Sundance Institute, Film Independent, and others. Sarah is a graduate of Harvard and current graduate student at NYU.
Eirini Vianelli (Co-Writer-Director) and Andrew Gilchrist (Co-Writer) with Human Negligence (Greece): As a devastating fire ravages the countryside, four generations of women struggle to navigate their toxic and abusive relationships after they’re forced to evacuate the family home following an emergency government mandate.
Eirini Vianelli is an award-winning writer, director, and animator from Athens, Greece. She studied Experimental Animation at CalArts. Her work has been featured in operas and films. Her animations have been screened and awarded at international festivals, including San Francisco IFF, Ottawa IAFF, Oberhausen ISFF, and more.
Andrew Gilchrist is from Kansas City, based in southern California by way of Brooklyn. He has collaborated with such avant-garde luminaries as Marina Abramović, Robert Wilson, Laurie Anderson, Willem Dafoe, Anohni, and Christopher Knowles. In 2019, he graduated with an MFA in film directing from California Institute of the Arts.
Nolam Plaas (Writer-Director) with pecan. (U.S.A.): Junie, a boy from Cancer Alley, Louisiana, is on the precipice of becoming a man. Influenced by his religious yet promiscuous uncle, his peers, and newfound access to porn, Junie attempts to maintain an intimate relationship with his girlfriend, Monique, but his quest for manhood may compromise all that they’ve cultivated.
Nolam Plaas was born in LaPlace, Louisiana, and attended Southern University and then American Conservatory Theater. After filming this weary flesh, his short script, he realized being involved in every facet of filmmaking — writing, directing, acting, and producing — would be his path forward.
Amy Adler (Writer, Co-Director) and Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez (Co-Director) with Rag Dolls (U.S.A.): A young Mexican American woman living with cerebral palsy seeks independence from her overprotective mother. When she falls in love with a woman who also uses a wheelchair, she faces the emotional and physical challenges of letting go of the only life she has ever known.
Amy Adler is a visual artist working across the disciplines of painting, performance, photography, and film. She has had multiple gallery and museum exhibitions worldwide and is a 2021 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow. She is currently Professor of Visual Art at UC San Diego, where she has been teaching since 2004.
Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez is a Mexican American poet, teacher, and disability activist. Author of six poetry books, Ekiwah has presented in universities and literary forums in Mexico, the U.S., and abroad. Born with cerebral palsy, his work explores disability, poetry, eros, fatherhood, and the joys and challenges of using a wheelchair.
Arthur Elias Gay (Co-Writer-Director) and Rali Chaouni (Co-Writer) with When the Goats Came (New Zealand): Cyrus and his adoptive mother, Flora, return to their hometown in New Zealand in search of Cyrus’ long-lost father. However, when the real motive behind Flora’s desire to return is revealed, the two must reconcile the resentments they hold for a life they never had and accept each other’s love.
Arthur Elias Gay is from Tāmaki Makaurau, New Zealand, and is currently completing his MFA at Columbia University. He is the recipient of the Miloš Forman Directing Fellowship and the Katharina Otto-Bernstein Mentorship and Development Prize. Before moving to the U.S., he completed his bachelor’s degree in Film at Unitec Institute of Technology.
Rali Chaouni is a Moroccan American filmmaker based in New York and an MFA candidate at Columbia University. His scripts explore tensions within relationships as characters struggle with their private and public personas, discovering when self-interest becomes selfishness. He hopes to provoke viewers as they laugh, cry, cringe, and gasp.
Lindsey Villarreal (Writer-Director) with Woman Hollering (U.S.A.): After she and her brother are abandoned and forced to move in with her estranged aunt and cousin, a young girl in South Texas fears the uncertainty of her burgeoning adulthood. Little does she know that her imminent transformation will not be into womanhood, but rather into a half owl, half witch called The Lechuza. Recipient of the Sundance Institute Horror Fellowship.
Lindsey Villarreal is a Tejana feature and television writer. Most recently she was co–executive producer on the upcoming series La Máquina (Hulu). She is an alumnus of IFP, the Austin Film Festival, and The Tracking Board’s Hit List. She is a graduate of USC and UT Austin film schools.
As a champion and curator of independent stories, the nonprofit Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists across storytelling media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, 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. Sundance Collab, a digital community platform, brings a global cohort of working artists together to learn from Sundance advisors and connect with each other in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Through the Sundance Institute artist programs, we have supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Big Sick, Bottle Rocket, Boys Don’t Cry, Boys State, Call Me by Your Name, Clemency, CODA, Drunktown’s Finest, The Farewell, Fire of Love, Flee, The Forty-Year-Old Version, Fruitvale Station, Get Out, Half Nelson, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hereditary, Honeyland, The Infiltrators, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Woods, Love & Basketball, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Mudbound, Nanny, Navalny, O.J.: Made in America, One Child Nation, Pariah, Raising Victor Vargas, Requiem for a Dream, Reservoir Dogs, RBG, Sin Nombre, Sorry to Bother You, The Souvenir, Strong Island, Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Swiss Army Man, Sydney, A Thousand and One, Top of the Lake, Walking and Talking, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and Zola. Through year-round artist programs, the Institute also nurtured the early careers of such artists as Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Gregg Araki, Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Cholodenko, Ryan Coogler, Nia DaCosta, The Daniels, David Gordon Green, Miranda July, James Mangold, John Cameron Mitchell, Kimberly Peirce, Boots Riley, Ira Sachs, Quentin Tarantino, Taika Waititi, Lulu Wang, and Chloé Zhao. Support Sundance Institute in our commitment to uplifting bold artists and powerful storytelling globally by making a donation at sundance.org/donate. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube.
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