Contact: Greg Longstreet, Film Independent
Tel: 310.432.1287 or


LOS ANGELES (March 19, 2013) — Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, has announced its filmmakers for the 2013 Documentary Lab, an eight week intensive program designed to help filmmakers who are currently in post-production on their feature-length documentary. This year’s Lab Fellows are Milena Pastreich, Heather Lenz, Jillian Schlesinger & Emily McAllister, Francesca Di Amico & Claudia Unger, Aaron Naar, Tracy Droz Tragos & Andrew Droz Palermo, Joe Forte, and Mina T. Son & Sara Newens. The Documentary Lab has two primary focuses: (1) providing creative feedback and story notes to the selected filmmakers; and (2) helping filmmakers strategize the completion, distribution, and marketing of their film.

Projects developed in past Documentary Labs include PJ Raval’s Before You Know It; Hilla Medalia’s Dancing in Jaffa; Nicholas Wrathall’s Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia; Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali Worrall’s Call Me Kuchu; Laura Nix and Julia Meltzer’s The Light In Her Eyes; and Nicole Karsin’s We Women Warriors, among others.

“There is so much great work being done by documentary filmmakers right now, and it’s exciting to see the projects coming out of our Lab being celebrated at festivals and beyond”, said Jennifer Kushner, Film Independent’s Director of Artist Development. “We’re thrilled to welcome the new group of filmmakers, and look forward to seeing their films develop in the program.”

This year’s Lab Mentors are documentary filmmakers Doug Blush (Editor, The Invisible War), Laura Gabbert (No Impact Man), Caroline Libresco (Sunset Story), Jeff Malmberg (Marwencol) and Ondi Timoner (We Live in Public) and include guest speakers Peter Broderick (Marketing and Distribution Consultant), Dan Cogan (Impact Partners), Michael Donaldson (Legal Issues for Documentarians), Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet from Stardom), Tom Putnam and Brenna Sanchez (BURN) and Lucy Walker (Crash Reel).

The documentaries this year’s Fellows are making are:

Title: Birdmen
Director/Producer: Milena Pastreich
Logline: Inner-city men are kept off the streets by their dedication to pigeons that do flips in the air.

Title: KUSAMA: Princess of Polka Dots
Director/Producer: Heather Lenz
Logline: Trailblazer Yayoi Kusama’s turbulent quest to become a world famous artist is documented in KUSAMA: Princess of Polka Dots; as a rival of Warhol in the ‘60s, Kusama battled sexism and racism in America while her hallucinations of polka dots eventually led her to the Tokyo mental institution she has called home for over 30 years.

Title: Maidentrip
Director/Producer: Jillian Schlesinger
Producer: Emily McAllister
Logline: An intimate coming-of-age adventure set against the epic backdrop of the open sea, Maidentrip explores life through the eyes of 14-year-old Laura Dekker on her quest to become the youngest person ever to sail around the world alone.

Title: Mary Woronov, Cult Queen from Warhol to Corman
Director/Producer: Francesca Di Amico
Producer/Cinematographer: Claudia Unger
Logline: The documentary explores the enigma of actress and artist, Mary Woronov and chronicles her colorful career spanning from her work with Andy Warhol to Roger Corman that sealed her reputation as a “Cult Queen”.

Title: Mateo
Director/Producer: Aaron Naar
Logline: Matthew dreamed of pop stardom; instead he went to jail, emerged a mariachi singer and fell in love with a Cuban prostitute.

Title: Rich Hill
Director/Producer: Tracy Droz Tragos
Director/Producer/Cinematographer: Andrew Droz Palermo
Logline: Rich Hill intimately chronicles the turbulent lives of four impoverished boys living in a dying Midwestern town, witnessing their struggles up-close as they yearn to find self-worth and to imagine a brighter future.

Title: Storyteller: the Wonderful, Magical Life of the Man Who Saved Ben Hur
Director/Producer: Joe Forte
Logline: Childless and never married, a real life Forest Gump sorts through the treasures of his life.

Title: Top Spin
Co-Director/Producer: Mina T. Son
Co-Director/Editor: Sara Newens
Logline: Facing steep odds, a group of tenacious American teenagers chase Olympic glory in table tennis – the greatest equalizer in sports, where regardless of size, age, and gender, anyone can win.

The Documentary Lab is one of four Labs offered by Film Independent, which include the Screenwriting Lab, Directing Lab and the Producing Lab. For more information on any of the Labs or the filmmakers that have participated, please contact Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development, at 310.432.1275. Additional information and an application are available at

Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff, and constituents, is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional, or a film lover.

Film Independent produces the Spirit Awards, the annual celebration honoring artist-driven films and recognizing the finest achievements of American independent filmmakers. Film Independent also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival, showcasing the best of American and international cinema and the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, a year-round, weekly program that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.

With over 250 annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry.

For more information or to become a member, visit