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Daniel Barnz, Nicole Holofcener, James Ponsoldt and more to mentor

Suggested Tweet: Meet the six new @FilmIndependent Directing Lab Fellows doing their part to fix the representation equation in Hollywood

LOS ANGELES (January 30, 2018) — Film Independent announced today the 6 directors selected for its 18th annual Directing Lab. The Lab is an intensive eight-week program designed to support emerging independent film directors on their feature films. Daniel Barnz (Cake, Phoebe in Wonderland), Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Friends with Money) and James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour, The Spectacular Now) are the 2018 Directing Lab Creative Advisors. Additional Advisors and guest speakers include: Ruth Atkinson, Rodrigo García, Catherine Hardwicke, Alex O’Flinn, Lisa Robertson, Nancy Schreiber, ASC, Emily Schweber and Chloé Zhao.

“At Film Independent, we work year-round to advocate for an inclusive industry and there is still vital work to be done to address gender and diversity representation,” said Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development at Film Independent. “The Directing Lab is an essential part of fixing the representation equation in Hollywood. The talented 2018 Directing Fellows join Lab alumni including Ana Lily Amirpour, Tina Mabry, Andrew Ahn and Sian Heder. Our commitment to ensuring that bold and diverse creators remain at the forefront of visual storytelling is stronger than ever.”

Past Directing Lab Fellows also include Christina Choe with Nancy (2018 Sundance Film Festival), Sheldon Candis with LUV (2012 Sundance Film Festival), Cherien Dabis with Amreeka (2010 Film Independent Spirit Award Nominee, FIPRESCI Award Winner at 2009 Cannes Film Festival) and Robbie Pickering with Natural Selection (2012 Spirit Award Nominee, Winner SXSW Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award).

Under the guidance of established industry professionals who serve as Creative Advisors, Directing Lab Fellows receive script feedback, discuss their visions, and select short scenes from their screenplays to workshop. Each director then casts actors and rehearses their scenes in the Lab before undertaking a mini-production; Film Independent provides Fellows with digital camera, lighting and sound packages and small stipends to shoot their scenes, and offers access to experienced casting directors, cinematographers, and editors with whom to collaborate and consult. The process creates an opportunity to see the work through from pre- to post-production, and culminates in a group screening for fellow Lab participants and Advisors.

The Directing Lab is provided free to invited filmmakers, and upon completion they become Film Independent Fellows, receiving year-round support, including eligibility for grants and awards, access to Film Independent’s annual film education offerings and a pass to the LA Film Festival. Past Film Independent Fellows and their projects can be found Film Independent Talent Guide at

Film Independent Artist Development promotes unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through its Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting), Grants Program which awards over $800K annually to filmmakers, the Fast Track finance market, Fiscal Sponsorship and Project Involve, Film Independent’s signature diversity program, that this year celebrates its 25th anniversary. For more information on any of the Labs or the projects that have been developed in them, please contact Angela Lee, Senior Manager of Artist Development, at 323.556.9362. Additional information and an application form can be found at

The Directing Lab is supported by Artist Development Lead Funder Time Warner Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.


The 2018 Directing Lab participants and their projects are:


Title: DOHA – The Rising Sun

Director/Writer: Eimi Imanishi

Logline: Disheartened by her deportation from Europe, Mariam is forced to return home to Western Sahara. Adrift in the very place that’s supposed to be her home, she searches for the means to assert agency over her own life.


Title: Followers

Director/Writer: Tim Marshall

Logline: A recent widow sees the face of Jesus on her gay Aqua Aerobics instructor’s swimming shorts and sets out to convince him that he is Jesus.


Title: Girl with Child

Director/Writer: Maria Abraham

Logline: Near Quito, Ecuador, teenager Diana escapes from an institution for troubled girls with her toddler. The goal: travel to pick up her younger sister from their abusive childhood home and start a new life. But along the way, Diana ends up down and out and must figure out how to survive with her young son, whom she’s not even sure she wants.


Title: The Hiding House

Director/Writer: Ally Pankiw

Logline: An awkward Canadian teen befriends the mysterious girl next door, and discovers that her new neighbor is actually the “child bride” of a notorious, polygamous FLDS leader wanted by the FBI.


Title: Toughest MoFo in Portland, Oregon

Director: Ryan Velásquez

Logline: A hyper-belligerent teen, sent to live with his estranged brother in Portland, Oregon, struggles to cope with his best friend’s suicide and the very real possibility that he is losing his mind.


Title: Valley of Exile

Director/Writer/Producer: Anna Fahr

Logline: In the arid valley of Eastern Lebanon, two Syrian sisters set out in search of their missing brother uncertain of where their own journey into exile will lead.



Film Independent is the non-profit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling 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 LA Film Festival, showcasing the best of American and international cinema and Film Independent at LACMA, 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.