The Film Independent Screenwriting Lab is 25 years old. Can you believe it? It’s officially old enough to rent a car! And sure, hardshell clams and giant tortoises can live for centuries, but you don’t reach the quarter-century mark as a Hollywood talent incubator without substance, value and tangible success.
But more than that, this year’s cohort of freshly announced Screenwriting Lab Fellows are special. Why? Because! We’re in the midst of celebrating #AD30, aka the 30th anniversary of Film Independent’s Artist Development programs. And like its elder sibling Project Involve (which got the whole ball of wax rolling in ‘93), the Screenwriting Lab has been an essential industry resource, whether your looking to develop your own skills or tap new talent.
“We’re thrilled to support this exceptional group of filmmakers, who bring compassion, authenticity and curiosity to their work exploring unique communities and characters,” says Dea Vazquez, Associate Director of Fiction Programs. “We’re so fortunate to be able to give filmmakers the space to focus on not just their current projects but their overall careers.”
Past Screenwriting Lab projects include Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao’s feature debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me; Andrew Ahn’s Spirit Award-winning debut Spa Night; 37 Seconds by HIKARI, which won the Panorama Audience Award and CICAE Art Cinema Jury Prize at the 2019 Berlinale Film Festival; Ani Simon Kennedy’s A Short History of the Long Road, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and received a Special Jury Mention for Best Screenplay; and Kate Marks’ The Cow of Queens, which was a 2020 recipient of the prestigious Nichols Fellowship.
Over the course of the program, Fellows will workshop their projects under the guidance of creative advisors Andrew Ahn, Javier Fuentes-León, Jeff Stockwell and Robin Swicord. Additional guest speakers and advisors include Ruth Atkinson, Angela Cheng Caplan, KD Dávila, Greta Fuentes, Jordan Hart, Eliza Hittman, Ana Leocha, Ilyse McKimmie, Lauren Mann, Kiva Reardon, Pamela Ribon and Ellen Shanman.
Karina Dandashi will also be the recipient of a $10,000 grant from the MPAC Hollywood Bureau for her Out of Water script. Congrats, Karina! Now, let’s get to know our 2023 screenwriters up close and personal…
This year’s Screenwriting Lab projects include:
- Title: Gem & Shaz
- Writer/Director: Chloé Hung
- Logline: In this coming-of-age story, two Asian-Canadian best friends struggle with their strict households to find their independence as one begins an unlikely romance and the other discovers a new artistic passion. As their paths diverge, their friendship will be put to the test.
- Title: Kiki Goes Baby Crazy!
- Writer/Director: Nat Moonhill
- Writer/Director: Veronica Moonhill
- Logline: In this absurdist romcom, a queer woman’s uterus becomes sentient and starts hounding her to get pregnant against the wishes of her trans partner.
- Title: Out of Water
- Writer/Director: Karina Dandashi
- Logline: A young woman raised by a Syrian Muslim immigrant father and an American mother navigates the dual nature of her upbringing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- Title: The Girl of The Shining Snow
- Writer: Bri Brooks
- Writer/Director: Thais Drassinower
- Logline: When her disillusioned father refuses to participate in the annual religious pilgrimage of their people, and indigenous eight-year-old girl embarks on the perilous journey alone to retrieve the sacred ice from a remote mountain glacier—the last remaining hope for her dying mother.
- Title: Uncle Hiep’s Casino
- Writer/Director: Richard Van
- Logline: Somewhere between his mother’s house and his uncle’s illegal casino, a prisoner finds a new life.
- Title: Union County
- Writer/Director: Adam Meeks
- Logline: Mandated to a drug court recovery program, a young man in rural Ohio tests the boundaries his sobriety.
Chloé Hung is a Chinese-Canadian playwright, TV writer and screenwriter. In TV, she has written on Queen Sugar (OWN Network), Cherish the Day (OWN Network), The Watchful Eye (Freeform), and has developed for Netflix. In film, Chloé has been a Blacklist screenwriters lab fellow and Women In Film Production program fellow as writer/director of the short film Signal. Her latest short film, Gem & Shaz was produced in association with the Harold Greenberg Fund and Bell Media, and will premiere on the Canadian streaming service Crave. Chloé’s plays include All Our Yesterdays (Toronto Fringe Festival, Next Stage Theatre Festival), Issei, He Say (New Jersey Repertory Company World Premiere, The Kennedy Center/NNPN MFA workshop), Three Women of Swatow (Tarragon Theatre World Premiere, RBC Emerging Playwrights Award, CBC’s PlayMe Podcast), Model Minority (AyeDefy Reading Series, Banff Playwrights Lab, Moving Arts MADlab), Alien of Extraordinary Ability (Geffen Theatre’s Writers Room). Her plays have been workshopped in Toronto, New York, Washington DC, Banff, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles.
Nat Moonhill (they/them) is an award-winning screenwriter and director based in LA. From 2009-2016 with their collaborator Veronica Moonhill, they ran Skin Horse Theater, a New Orleans based experimental theater company which toured across the US. Their award-winning work has been presented by OUT Fest, New Orleans Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, NoBudge, Deep Focus, Contemporary Art Center New Orleans, New Orleans Museum of Art, Fischer Center for the Performing Arts, Prospect 1, Catch, FringeArts Philly, New Orleans Fringe Festival, Mount Tremper Arts, PARSE Gallery, DUST, The Front Gallery, FORGE Festival, The Off Center and more. Nat was awarded the Grand Prize in the 2021 Creative Screenwriting competition for their original pilot, Bartleby and Clo Forever. The Moonhills are currently attached to direct Hammond Castle a fantasy film from screenwriter Naomi McDougall Jones. Coming up in December 2023, they go into production on a short film based on a Leonora Carrington story of queer defiance called The Debutante.
Veronica Moonhill is a writer, director,\ and performance artist based in LA. From 2009-2016 she and her collaborator Nat Moonhill ran Skin Horse Theater, an award-winning New Orleans based experimental theater company. They then moved to LA and began making films. Their award-winning work has been presented by OUT Fest, New Orleans Film Festival, Maryland Film Festival, No Budge, Deep Focus, Contemporary Art Center New Orleans, New Orleans Museum of Art, Fischer Center for the Performing Arts, Prospect 1, Catch, Fringe Arts Philly, New Orleans Fringe Festival, Mount Tremper Arts, Parse Gallery, DUST, The Front Gallery, Forge Festival, The Off Center and more. They are currently attached to direct Hammond Castle a feminist fantasy film from screenwriter Naomi McDougall Jones. Recently, Veronica was associate producer on Sony Pictures’ Where the Crawdads Sing and the Apple+ series The Last Thing He Told Me.
Karina Dandashi is a Syrian American Muslim filmmaker born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA. Her films explore nuances in identity through the intersection of family, religion and culture in Southwest Asian and North African (SWANA) and Muslim communities in America. Her work has been featured in numerous Oscar-Qualifying festivals around the U.S. and her latest short Cousins was recently acquired by The New Yorker. Her feature debut Out of Water was accepted into the Film Independent Producers Lab in 2022. Karina was a 2020 Creative Culture Fellow at The Jacob Burns Film Center and a 2021 Sundance Ignite Fellow. She was featured in Marie Claire’s inaugural Creators Issue as one of the “Top 21 Creators to Watch” in 2022.
Bri Brooks is a Los Angeles-based writer/director and cinematographer. Originally hailing from Baltimore, Bri got an industry start working as a union lighting technician on local productions, such as House of Cards, Lincoln and Wonder Woman 1984. Chasing the dream of being a writer/director, Bri transplanted to the West Coast and received an MFA in production at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. While there, they were selected to direct a thesis film funded by the opportunity—a prestigious opportunity given to only six students per year. That film, The Waste Land, premiered at the Camerimage Film Festival, a world-renowned for showcasing the best in cinematography. The Girl of the Shining Snow is Bri’s third spec feature.
Thais Drassinower is a Peruvian filmmaker based in Los Angeles. She holds an MFA in Film Directing from Columbia University, is a Warner Bros. Discovery Tomorrow’s Filmmakers Today alumni and a BAFTA Newcomer Fellow. Her first short film, Memories of the Sea, was an official selection at various international festivals including Palm Springs Shortfest and Aspen Shortsfest. It was chosen “Best of the Fest” at the New York Internationals Childrens Film Festival and was showcased on a tour across America. It had its broadcast premiere on the acclaimed KQED’s “Film School Shorts” series in May, 2019. Her second short Baby was a semifinalist for the 45th Student Academy Awards. It won the “Adrienne Shelly Foundation Award for Best Female Director” and has screened at various international film festivals. Her third short The Catch won the Peruvian Ministry of Culture National Award and was nominated for “Best Student Short” at Tribeca Film Festival. Thais is currently developing her directorial debut The Girl of The Shining Snow which recently received the Peruvian Ministry of Culture Film Development Funds Award.
Richard Van is a San Francisco-based filmmaker of Vietnamese descent. One of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” Richard works both in fiction and documentary often looking at familial interactions within different cultural contexts and dealing with issues of memory, masculinity, childhood and representation. He holds an MFA in Film Directing from the California Institute of the Arts as well as a BA in Philosophy from University of California, Berkeley. His CalArts thesis film HIẾU, a comedy-drama about a dysfunctional Vietnamese-American family, premiered at the 2019 Festival de Cannes for its Cinéfondation Selection, where it won Deuxième Prix.
Adam Meeks is a Brooklyn-based filmmaker and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. His short film Union County premiered in competition at the 70th Berlinale, and continued on to screen at the Champs-Élysées Film Festival, Palm Springs International ShortFest, Maryland Film Festival and numerous others. It was also featured on Le Cinéma Club, Short of the Week, NoBudge and as a Vimeo Staff Pick. His short personal documentary Bitterroot premiered at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival and is currently on the festival circuit. He is a 2019 Creative Culture Fellow at the Jacob Burns Film Center and a 2021 Yaddo Artist-in-Residence. He currently works as the Senior Video Producer at Jazz at Lincoln Center, and is in development on his first feature film—an expansion of Union County.
Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique, independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve, Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting), the Fast Track finance market and Fiscal Sponsorship, as well as through Grants and Awards that provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.
Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve; Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting); Fast Track finance market and Fiscal Sponsorship, as well as through grants and awards that provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.
The Film Independent Screenwriting Lab is supported by Final Draft, and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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