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Contact: Alia Quart Khan, Film Independent
Tel: 310.432.1287 or [email protected]

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Tel: 323.645.6800 or [email protected]



Directors Andrea Arnold, Sean Baker, Daniel Barnz, Karyn Kusama and more to participate

LOS ANGELES (January 31, 2017) — Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards, the LA Film Festival and Film Independent at LACMA, is pleased to announce the six directors selected for its 17th annual Directing Lab. The Lab is an intensive eight-week program designed to support emerging independent film directors in prep on their feature films.

Daniel Barnz (Cake, Phoebe in Wonderland) and Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, The Invitation) are the 2017 Directing Lab Creative Advisors. Additional Advisors and guest speakers include: Andrea Arnold (American Honey, Fish Tank); Matt Ross (Captain Fantastic); Sean Baker (Tangerine); Cinematography Advisor James Laxton (Moonlight); Producer Lynette Howell Taylor (Captain Fantastic); Casting Consultants Meg Morman and Sunday Boling; Story Consultant Ruth Atkinson and Acting Coach Advisor Lisa Robertson. Under the guidance of the Creative Advisors, Directing Fellows select scenes from their scripts to workshop and shoot. Film Independent provides Fellows with camera and lighting packages and 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 the Advisors, Film Independent Staff and Fellows.

“We are thrilled to welcome this talented group of filmmakers into the Lab. Today, the role of visual storytellers is more vital than ever. We look forward to supporting the development of these unique and diverse films,” said Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development at Film Independent.

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 Directing Lab Fellows include Sian Heder with Tallulah (starring Ellen Page and Allison Janney), Andrew Ahn with Spa Night (2017 Film Independent Spirit Award Nominee), 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). Past Film Independent Fellows and their projects can be found Film Independent Talent Guide 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 Directing Lab is one of Film Independent’s Artist Development Programs, which include the Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Screenwriting, Producing and Documentary); Fast Track film financing market; our Grants & Awards program and our signature diversity program, Project Involve. For more information on any of the Labs or the projects that have been developed in them, please contact Angela Lee, Artist Development Manager, at 310.432.1262. Additional information and an application form can be found at


The 2017 Directing Lab participants and their projects are:


Addis Abeka, Salome Mulugeta – director

Abeka, a ten year old Ethiopian boy, is driven on a quest to navigate the world on his own to find his brother after he loses his family.


Cantering, HIKARI – writer/director/producer

When Yuma, a naïve paraplegic comic book artist submits her work to an adult comic magazine, she is told to come back once she has sexual experience, which leads to an adventure where she discovers independence, self-expression and a new identity.


College Girl, Joshua Tate – writer/director/producer

While attending a living skills program for adults with intellectual disabilities, a young woman with Down syndrome questions her place in the world in the face of impending motherhood.


Dark Forest, Elena Greenlee – writer/director

A psychiatrist travels to the jungle searching for her troubled brother who’s disappeared from a spiritual retreat serving the psychedelic plant brew ayahuasca. In the complex world of Amazonian shamanism, she encounters unlikely allies and adversaries; and endures mysterious forces that reshape her reality forever.


Grand Prize, Steven Liang – co-writer/director

Grand Prize follows Gia, a shy, determined Black trans girl who must negotiate between the life her mother set out for her, and the fantastical world of Ballroom and competitive Vogue Performance.


Standby, Pamela Ribon – writer/director

A romantic drama set in the aftermath of a missing airplane where two surviving spouses are drawn together in a search for answers. As their opposing viewpoints collide, an unusual and undeniable relationship emerges that forces them to confront their boundaries of love, faith, and fate.



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.