Three Weeks, Three Readings

The Feature Film Program’s Screenplay Reading Series of Works-in-Progress has had a burst of activity in the last month, with three readings in a span of three weeks! In each case, we were thrilled to give a Feature Film Program Fellow the opportunity to hear their screenplay brought to life by an ensemble of talented actors, and to bring the Sundance Institute community together to experience this unique process.

Actors at the screenplay reading of Stem in Los Angeles. Photo by Alex Wyman.

On May 18 in Los Angeles, we presented a screenplay reading of Stem, written and directed by Diane Bell, who was supported at the 2011 January Screenwriters Lab. Diane’s first film, Obselidia, premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for two Independent Spirit Awards, including one for Best First Screenplay. This next project is a personal story of a family of lively, complicated women that hearkens back to Diane’s Scottish roots. The reading featured a stellar cast including Rahda Mitchell, Gaynor Howe, Fionnula Flanagan, Michael Piccirilli, Tommy Flanagan, Julie McNiven, Jayne Taini, and Grant Mathis.

Screenplay reading of The Storm King in New York.

On May 23 in New York, we presented a screenplay reading of The Storm King, written and directed by Carlo Mirabella-Davis, who was supported at the 2011 January Screenwriters Lab. The reading gave Carlo a perfect opportunity to take stock of his screenplay as he prepared for the June Directors Lab, where he is currently further developing the project. This complex, audacious character study completely engaged the audience from beginning to end. The impressive cast included David Costabile, Mickey Sumner, Walter Blenky, Ann Dowd, Regency Boies, Peter McRobbie, Karl Jacob, Lee Brock, and Michael Quinlan.

Screenplay reading of Sleepwalk With Me in New York. Photo by Jamie McCarthy.

Most recently, on June 1 in New York, we presented a screenplay reading of Sleepwalk With Me, written and directed by Mike Birbiglia, a 2011 Feature Film Program Fellow.  Mike pulled triple duty on this piece based on his book and This American Life piece, serving not only as writer/director but also as lead actor. The exceptional cast also included Lauren Ambrose, Carol Kane, Dan Lauria, Colin Quinn, Alex Karpovsky, Sondra James, Anna Chlumsky, Dennis Boutsikaris, and Jet Eveleth, with stage directions read by none other than Ira Glass. A packed house was treated to a sweet, hilarious, and touching performance.

We are grateful to the James Irvine Foundation and Writers Guild of America, West for supporting the Screenplay Reading Series of Works in Progress.  If you would like to be included on our mailing list for future events in Los Angeles or New York, please send your full name, location, and email address to us at

Next up for the Feature Film Program is the June Directors and Screenwriters Lab, currently in progress.  Check back soon for reports from some of our Fellows!

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