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Meet the Diverse Participants of the Sundance Screenwriters Intensive 2015

Meet the Diverse Participants of the Sundance Screenwriters Intensive 2015

Despite the numerous opportunities out there, most aspiring
filmmakers looking for support and mentorship know that the Sundance
Institute’s January Screenwriters Lab and June Directing Lab have been two of
the most important talent development initiatives in the independent film world
for over 30 years. The great quality of the projects that have been
workshopped and propelled through these programs have given us some of the
most iconic films and filmmakers in recent memory.

But the institute’s commitment to provide opportunities for
new voices that represent an eclectic array of background and experiences goes
even further with other, lesser known, initiatives that have the potential to
become turning points in the artists’ careers. Of these, one of the most exciting
programs is the
Screenwriters Intensive, which is part the Sundance Institute’s Diversity
Initiative. This is of course a resource that is not only valuable, but
crucial as we try to become a more inclusive society that is appreciative and
welcoming of stories that exist beyond the mainstream, homogenous noise.

The Screenwriters Intensive is a 1 1/2 day workshop for writers
whose work has been encountered by the institute as part of their outreach for
the Labs and which they find especially promising. The writers of 10 projects take
part in a program whose elements include a hands-on writing workshop led by
creative advisor Joan Tewkesbury (“Nashville”), a screening of a recent
Sundance film followed by a candid conversation with the filmmaker, a reception
with Sundance staff and the extended Sundance community, and one-on-one
meetings with two creative advisors to get feedback on their script. With the
Intensive, the Sundance Institute aims to present participants with creative
tools that they can take back to their own work, provide a space for dialogue
and information sharing about the creative process of making a film (and all of
the joys and challenges therein), and foster community among storytellers and
an ongoing connection with Sundance.

This year the film screened was Rick
Famuyiwa
’s “Dope,” which premiered earlier this year in Park City and won a
Special Jury Prize for Editing. Following the screening Famuyiwa shared
anecdotes about the film’s production and the perseverance needed to stand by
the core values of his project in spite of outside opposition. Later that
evening, during a casual and highly interactive reception, the fellows had the
chance to discuss their latest breakthroughs and newly found questions regarding
their personal projects with the institute’s staff and other members of the
independent film community. Chatting with them, and having witnessed some of
the poignant exercises Ms. Tewkesbury uses in the past, there is not doubt
in my mind that this was a groundbreaking experience for the entire group.

The following morning the fellows returned to the institute’s
L.A offices to have on-on-one conversations with two advisors from a group of
talented and achieved professionals that included Kyle
Patrick Alvarez (“The Stanford Prison Expriemnt”), Patricia Cardoso (“Real
Women Have Curves“),the  aforementioned director Rick Famuyiwa (“Dope”), Deena Goldstone (“Identity
Theft”), Tanya Hamilton (“Night Catches Us”), Felicia Henderson (“Gossip Girl”), Elgin James (“Little Birds”), Craig Johnson (“The Skeleton
Twins”), Kyle Killen (“The Beaver”), Adam Bhala Lough (“Bomb the System”), Joan
Tewkesbury herself, and Ligiah Villalobos (“Under the Same Moon”). 

The Screenwriters Intensive fellows come from uniquely different backgrounds, and their projects bring original stories that are sure to showcase new and inventive perspectives on the world. Get to know them and their stories as they are on their way to giving us a great batch of new independent films.

To learn more about the Sundance Institute’s programs visit HERE

TARA ANAISE

Project: “Bombay Stories”


Tara Anaïse is an award-winning writer/director whose first feature, “Dark Mountain,” was released by
Gravitas Ventures in August of 2014. Other recent work includes the upcoming thriller “Housekeeping,” on
which she’s a producer, and which is set to be released by Lions Gate in late March of 2015. Her short
films have screened at festivals worldwide. Tara is currently developing several new projects, including a
post-apocalyptic road movie with a female lead who drives a muscle car and kicks a**, and a romantic
drama set in Mumbai in both 1968 and the present day that’s loosely based on her own family’s history.
She holds an MFA in film production from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic
Arts and a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania. She can make a mean pumpkin mezcal
cocktail and according to an Amazonian curandero, her spirit animal is the black jaguar. She lives and
works in Los Angeles

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

“Bombay Stories” is a drama centered around an Indian man returning to the city of his birth after decades of living abroad. When tragedy strikes, he
recalls the summer of 1968—at that time, he was twenty-one and having a heartbreaking affair with a married woman right before leaving Bombay, and his
entire family, behind for his new home in New York. It’s a story about the complexities of familial relationships and the question of whether or not it’s
possible to return home.

It’s very loosely inspired by my own family’s history—my father’s side fled Sindh during the Partition of India in 1947 and rebuilt their lives in Mumbai
(which at the time was called Bombay). Then my father left Mumbai (of his own volition) for the U.S. And then I fled the east coast for Los Angeles. I like
to say I come from a long line of fleers.

The project is in the development stage. Currently working on a rewrite of the script and I’m planning on directing.

Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

Don’t take the easy way out. There are certain things I know about my characters and I can write them easily and I can write them well. But the most
interesting aspects of a character come from the places we know the least. Don’t be afraid to go down the path that’s half in shadow, this is the kind of
exploration that leads to the heart of the thing. I’ll definitely be using Joan’s writing exercises to further develop all of my characters. I’ve never
done anything like what we did during her seminar. She had us make lists of things drawn from our own personal experiences – three times in your life
you’ve known something was wrong but did it anyway, three places to which you never want to return, three times you’ve felt lost, and so on—and then take
one item from each list, put the items on our protagonist, and quickly write a short story about the whole thing. It’s a concrete way to use instances from
one’s own life to get to the root of the character.


Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional
in the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

Going into day two was exciting but nerve-wracking. I woke up at 5am wondering how my advisors were going to react to my script (I tend to expect the
worst.) Luckily, no one ripped my script up into tiny pieces and threw it back at me. Adam and Tanya were both really great. They had good things to say
about the script, along with insightful suggestions for improving it, which I’m going to explore in the next draft. We talked about the writing process. We
talked about production. We talked about navigating the industry. Getting advice from two talented, experienced filmmakers who’d been through this many
times before was incredibly helpful, not just for this project, but for my career as a filmmaker as well.





Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

The first thing I’m going to do is take some time to really get at the heart of each and every character. Then I’ll tackle the rewrite and when the script
is ready, I’ll reach out to producers.


SHELBY

FARRELL

Project: “Deidra and Laney Rob A Train”

Shelby Farrell is a screenwriter from Memphis, Tennessee. She is a graduate of Emory University where she was awarded the KIKAG screenwriter award and the
American Film Institute Conservatory where she finished an MFA in screenwriting. She was recently featured in the Tracking Board’s 2014 Young and Hungry
List. She currently writes interactive games for Pocket Gems and is in preproduction for her feature “Deidra and Laney Rob A Train.” She is repped by Gersh
and Principato-Young.

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

Deidra and Laney Rob A Train” is a dramedy about two teenage sisters who start robbing freight trains to support their family after their mother goes to
jail. This script was my thesis screenplay for AFI and was featured on the Tracking Board’s 2014 Young and Hungry List. Sydney Freeland (Sundance Alumni,
Drunktown’s Finest“) is attached to direct. Currently our reps are approaching select producers with the project, and we are really excited to see where it
goes from here.


Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

All of the writers and I were pushed to find inspiration from our own past experiences during writing exercises. Through this process, I think we all
realized that our screenplays are more autobiographical than we perhaps wanted to believe. Not that I’ve ever robbed a train, but I could.


Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional
in the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

Having professional advisors is always a blessing. Their feedback was especially useful in this stage because so many people I work with have read
multiple drafts. Having fresh eyes on the script really gave me a new perspective. Also since the advisors are independent filmmakers and Sundance alums
they really know what we are going through at this stage of development. I also got great advice on what’s coming in the next few months as we get this
story off the page.




Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

As far as this project goes, I feel like the script is in a really good place, but I also know that rewrites never end, and I’m excited to use the notes I
received for future drafts. I’m also planning on using the writing exercises we learned in Joan Tewkesbury’s workshop as I develop my newer projects. Joan
taught us some character development tools that can be applied to any project in any stage.

JARED FRIEDER
Project: “Three Months”



Jared Frieder is a graduate of the Columbia University fiction writing program and his stories can be
found in The Collective Press and The Newer York. His screenplay, “Three Months,” has taken the top
screenwriting prizes at the Austin Film Festival, the Screencraft Comedy Screenplay Contest, and the Big
Bear International Film Festival Screenplay Contest. “Three Months” was also chosen for the 2014 Outfest
Screenwriting Lab and was the featured script on The Black List online last November. He is currently
developing his animated half-hour pilot, “Marathoners,” with Bento Box Entertainment. He was accepted
to USC’s Screenwriting MFA on the Edward Volpe Endowed Scholarship before leaving to work on the
ABC Family drama, “Chasing Life.”

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

My project, “Three Months,” tells the coming-of-age story of Caleb Kahn, a queer Ziggy Stardust-loving teenager from Miami who is exposed to HIV the weekend
of his high school graduation and has to wait three months to be tested for the disease. It’s a comedy, it’s a love story, it’s a tale of resilience, and
it’s a deconstruction of how people in crisis sludge through great periods of waiting. The screenplay has been a passion project of mine and I am very
grateful to the Austin Film Festival Screenplay Competition, the Screencraft Comedy Screenplay Contest, and the Big Bear International Film Festival
Screenplay Contest for awarding “Three Months” their respective grand prizes. I’ve also been spoiled by the Outfest Screenwriting Lab and the Sundance
Intensive for allowing the script to be workshopped with their brilliant advisors (and some of my all-time heroes.)

After Austin, one of the festival judges (screenwriting phenom, producing master, and all around baller, Oren Uziel) came on board to help bring the script
to the screen, along with my management company, HAVEN Entertainment. We’re in the beginning stages of seeing this story come alive and it’s pretty much
the most exciting thing that has ever happened to me.


Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

The most important lesson I learned from the Intensive’s first day is that Joan Tewkesbury is my spirit animal. The second most important lesson I learned
from Ms. Tewkesbury (sweetly nicknamed Tewks by the generous souls of Sundance) is that I tend to use jokes as a means of concealing truth and authenticity
(something my protagonist does as well. Let’s just say I was channeling.) She helped me crack the comedy facade and delve deeper into character, getting in
touch with Caleb’s fears, insecurities, and dreams. I’m confident that Tewk’s direction will not only take Caleb and “Three Months” to the next level, but
also elevate my storytelling in the future. And for that, I will forever be in Ms. Tewkesbury’s debt.

Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional in
the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

Sitting down with Kyle Killen was intimidating at first (he’s a certifiable story genius who wrote “The Beaver” and created shows like “Lone Star.”) But Kyle
tapped into my protagonist in ways that previous advisors couldn’t. He helped me dissect Caleb, bringing out deeper layers of his character. We then
discussed and determined the most effective way of braiding these emotional undercurrents into the narrative. It’s safe to say that my mind was blown.

Kyle Alvarez (esteemed director and fast friend) took a different approach and guided me through “Three Months” from a director’s perspective, helping me
think about casting, locations, and how aspects of the script would translate on screen. Having mentors come at the project from different angles was
really enlightening. Again, I feel incredibly spoiled and grateful.


Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

Post-Intensive, I’m taking another pass at “Three Months” (because apparently you’re never done writing, or that’s what they keep telling me.) I’m stoked to
take my Sundance notes and weave them through the script where I see fit. Then it’s off to the producers for feedback and hopefully the hunt for a director
and cast will commence. Also, there will be thank you notes. Lots and lots of thank you notes: to Sundance, to Tewks, to the Kyles, and to the universe for
giving me this opportunity.



DAVID J. LEE

Project: “Found”

David J. Lee spent years as an IT professional who dreamed of becoming a performer. He finally made
the leap and began working as a professional actor who curiously kept getting offers to direct. Finally he
gave in, dropped it all, and proceeded to pursue his MFA in Film Production at USC where, of course,
everyone became more interested in his writing. Dave received USC’s First Film Screenwriting Award in
2013, and his thesis script, “Found,” was a top 50 Academy Nicholl semi-finalist. His university-produced
short, “Paulie,” directed by Andrew Nackman, went on to win the Best Film, Audience Award, and Best
Writer prizes at the 2014 NBC Universal Short Cuts Festival. Dave was a 2014 CAPE New Writers Fellow;
he is working on the feature version of “Paulie” while making eyes at the TV world.

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

My feature film script is a crime thriller called “Found”. It’s the story of a night worker at a storage facility whose odd, illicit habit of breaking into
storage lockers – and her talent for understanding people’s lives through their belongings – force her into action when she discovers evidence of a child
abduction in one of the units.

“Found” was my thesis script at USC and was a top-50 Nicholl semi-finalist in 2013. Prior to being accepted into the 2015 Sundance Intensive, it had been
selected for the 2014 CAPE New Writers Fellowship.


Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

Obviously, at this point I’m many drafts into my script, which means that I’m in a much different mindset than I was when I was originally coming up with
the story. It’s a very analytical, left-brain process. Joan Tewkesbury led us through a series of writing exercises which brought me back to that original
creative place, which helped me get a new perspective on my characters.

I guess if you’re looking for a specific lesson, it would be, “If you need a fresh perspective, don’t be afraid to put your characters in seemingly
irrelevant situations, just to see how they play out, because you’ll be surprised at the relevant places you end up. At the very least, you often end up
learning something new about your characters.”


Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional
in the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

I was amazed and honored at how much time each advisor had put into their notes. Time is gold for these folks, and they gave us so much of it. It seemed
that most of them had received tremendous support from the Sundance Labs or from programs similar to them when they were younger, so they were all there
that day out of a desire to give back.

It’s valuable to receive notes from professionals in that these are folks who have more experience than you and a valuable perspective from having worked
within the system, and I received some fantastic, insightful feedback that day. At the same time, they’re only perspectives. A note from a working
professional may warrant extra consideration, but ultimately, if it doesn’t resonate with you, then it just doesn’t. In the end you weigh those comments
against all the other feedback you’ve received over time.


Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

Keep writing. I’m encouraged by the attention this script has received. When I get it to a place where I’m happy with, then I’ll start looking into getting
it made.

CHANNING GODFREY PEOPLES
Project: “Miss Juneteenth”

Channing Godfrey Peoples received her MFA from USC’s School
of Cinematic Arts. Originally from Texas, she spent her childhood in
community theater and has
been storytelling ever since. Her films are character driven stories
that focus on the resilience of the human spirit, often featuring
African-American
women at a turning point in their lives. At USC, Channing was
awarded funding to direct her documentary, “Carry Me Home”, about the
celebratory aspects of
African-American Funeral Traditions.

Her narrative Thesis Film,
Red”, is a King Family Foundation Recipient, Jury Award Winner for
Directing at the
Directors Guild of America Student Film Awards, Panavision New
Filmmakers Grant Recipient and nominated for Best Short at Pan African
Film Festival and the
Africa Movie Academy Awards. Channing won “Best Director” at the
Nevada International Film Festival and was honored at the Lois Weber
Film Festival in
Texas. She wrote, directed and starred in “Red”, which is currently
on the festival circuit, most recently screening at Champs-Élysées Film
Festival in
Paris, France. Channing served as a Time Warner Artist-in-Residence
at Howard University in Washington DC. She believes in community
involvement and
mentors children interested in the arts. Channing is developing her
first feature film, “Miss Juneteenth.”

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

In Texas, slaves were informed they were free, two long years after
1863’s Emancipation Proclamation declared American slaves free. That day
was June 19
th, 1865, also known as “Juneteenth”. Today, many communities
celebrate the Juneteenth holiday with beauty pageants acknowledging
young African-American
women who are the descendants of slaves. My story,
“Miss Juneteenth,” is about one of these women.

Turquoise Jones is a former beauty queen, “Miss Juneteenth 1999”,
who lost her pageant’s top prize of a college scholarship when an
unplanned pregnancy
lands her back home tending bar at an aging juke joint. Today, she
is a single mother to a teenage girl, who she struggles to keep from
going down the same
wrong path that she took. She has enrolled her disinterested
daughter in this year’s Miss Juneteenth pageant and is fighting to keep
her in it.

The project is in development and is based in my hometown of Fort
Worth, Texas. Neil Creque Williams (“David’s Reverie”) is attached as
Producer.


Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you
took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will
this impact the
future development of your project?

On our first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab, Joan Tewkesbury
lead an incredible writing workshop that challenged me to look deeper
into the
emotional journey of my story. I was seeking a way to take my script
to a deeper emotional level and the workshop certainly aided that
endeavor. The lesson
for me was to connect to my characters through personal experience
and emotion and not be resistant to other possibilities for my story.




Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction
with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a
professional in
the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges
as you?

The advisors were incredible and I am in awe of their insight and
accomplishments. I was delighted to receive feedback from professionals
whose work I have
long admired. They provided constructive feedback and challenged me
to think of the script in new ways. I also enjoyed exchanging ideas with
the other
fellows at the Intensive and I was delighted to be surrounded by
such diverse talent.


Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some
of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your
project?

I am now revisiting the script with a renewed intensity. I will be directing my film,
“Miss Juneteenth,” so my producer, Neil Creque Williams and I have identified our
locations and begun preliminary casting. Our next step is crowdfunding
and to continue to
apply for support.


MAYA PEREZ

Project: “Umwana”

Maya Perez is a screenwriter and fiction writer. She is a consulting producer for the Emmy Award- winning television series “On Story: Presented by Austin Film Festival,” now entering its fifth season on PBS, and co-editor of the book On Story: Screenwriters and Their Craft (University of Texas Press, October 2013). She holds a Bachelor of Arts from Vassar College and is a Michener fellow at the University of Texas at Austin. She grew up in Kenya, Zambia, and the United States and lives in Austin, Texas.

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

My project is a feature script, “Umwana,” a domestic drama about an American teen who goes to rural Zambia to meet and live with her father and his family.
More foreign to her than the cultural differences is the experience of being a member of a family.


Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

It was great to be reminded of the importance of specificity when depicting characters, and also, how to pull from personal experience without making your
characters reflections of yourself. In the workshop we were assigned numerous writing exercises and, though initially intimidating, it was stimulating to
be assured there’s no limit to the new stories we can quickly craft from scratch. We often think of time as the enemy, in that we don’t have enough of it
in which to do the work. But sometimes I think I give myself too much time. Some of my better, more visceral writing has been generated under the gun, so
to speak.


Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional
in the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

One of my advisors hit me with a barrage of questions as soon as I sat down – What is Cassie feeling here? What does Joseph look like? Is it what she
expected? What if this happened? What if that happened? So many questions that I started doubting the story’s weight altogether. But she kept on and
wouldn’t let up, so I just wrote them all down until I finally had an answer and then another and eventually realized I know exactly what this story and
these characters are about. I had to be sort of beaten down and thrown off balance in order to find the railing. It was terrific. Another advisor – who
fortunately came right after – grabbed my shoulders and said he would stalk me until I made this film. He offered to make introductions to agents,
managers, producers, and to be there for every draft and question I might have along the way. It was an invaluable experience, to sit down with these
talented, professional writers who had read my script so closely and had such constructive questions and encouragement. It felt as though they were as
invested in its success as I am.

Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

My proposed new opening to the script was met with enthusiasm, so I’ll make that change, do another revision on the script, and then submit it for the
Screenwriters Lab. It was a finalist last year, so hopefully it will go through this year and I’ll be able to take advantage of a full week at the Lab to
prepare it for production. One of my advisors generously sent me the look book he’s using for his current project, and I’m making one of those for “Umwana” as well as researching what shooting on location in Zambia will entail.

RODRIGO REYES
Project: “Charlie”


Rodrigo Reyes was born in Mexico City in 1983. Supported by the Mexican Ministry of Film, his acclaimed 2012 feature documentary “Purgatorio” featured visceral and intimate portraits of the US- Mexico border. The film premiered in competition at the 2013 Los Angeles Film Festival and Guadalajara International Film Festival, touring more than 40 festivals including MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight, and winning several jury prizes including the Michael Moore Award for Best Documentary at the Ann Arbor Film Festival. “Purgatorio” has been released theatrically on over 100 screens throughout Mexico, touring Latin America, Spain, and over 30 American cities. In 2013 Filmmaker Magazine named Rodrigo one of 25 New Faces of Independent Film, and in 2014 he was awarded the Tribeca Film Institute Heineken Voices Grant for his upcoming documentary “Sanson And Me,” as well as the Canon Filmmaker Award for his hybrid peach picker portrait “Lupe Under The Sun,” currently in post-production. Rodrigo attended UC San Diego, as well as colleges in Madrid and Mexico City, earning a degree in International Studies. He currently lives in California’s Central Valley where he works as an interpreter in the California Superior Court.

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

“Charlie” is a story about a mother and son living in the heartland of America, who hide a dark secret that is tearing them apart, threatening them with
destruction. It’s a twisted, existential fairy-tale that tackles estrangement, loneliness and violence in a unique way. Aside from Sundance, the film has
received the support of NALIP’s Latino Media Market.


Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

I was surprised by some of the tools used in the labs. There was an element of tapping into the subconscious using semi-dada techniques that really clicked
with me. The key was coming in with an open mind.

Before the Labs, I felt the project was close to a final draft. That has since been atomized and torn apart at the hinges, which is fantastic, actually.
The Intensive helped me pull away from the rut I didn’t know I was in and look at my script with a naked, honest perspective.


Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional
in the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

Often as independent filmmakers we feel threatened by the industry, their perspectives are senses as criticisms instead of critiques. The Lab did a great
job of inviting you to a conversation, not a lecture or a dictate. I felt I could take the advice that honestly connected with me and integrate it with my
script, while also fielding key questions to the advisors in a safe space.


Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

It’s all in my hands now. I have to integrate the conversations, critiques and perspectives gleaned from this process into a new draft.


LUKE URIAH SLENDEBROEK


Project: “Sophia/Gordita”

Luke Uriah Slendebroek is a graduate of the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television MFA directing program. While at UCLA, Luke’s films have been awarded The Hollywood Foreign Press Award, The Four Sister’s Award, The Carroll Sax Award in Motion Picture and Television Production, the Edie and Lew Wasserman Film Production Fellowship, and two Motion Picture Association of America Awards. Luke has directed a short documentary for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and he has directed a short film for the Oscar-winning producer and director Robert “Bobby” Moresco as part of an interdisciplinary collaboration at UCLA. He has also directed a number of industrial films for Fortune 500 companies. Luke’s films favor the underdogs, involve fantastical worlds, and tend to explore that brief period between childhood and adulthood.

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

“Sophia/Gordita” is a coming of age western based on the incredible true story of teenage madam that served the migrant farming communities of the midwest.

Aleksandar Marinovich has stepped on board to help produce the film. Currently we are raising money to finance the film with a goal of shooting in
September, 2016.


Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

The Sundance Intensive was an amazing and immersive experience. The writing techniques I learned during the two days will be crucial as I dive into the
next draft of my screenplay entitled “Sophia/Gordita”. Through this workshop, I feel confident to tackle the issues of my screenplay and to dig deeper into
motivations that drive my lead character, Sophia.


Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional
in the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

Patricia Cardoso and Ligiah Villalobos were incredibly generous to offer their guidence and direction on my screenplay “Sophia/Gordita”. Their feedback,
although at times challenging, pushed me to dig deeper into the character of Sophia. What really drives her to make the choices in act one that sends her
life into a downward spiral during the subsequent acts? As I work through these issues, the outcome will hopefully be a character that no one has ever seen
before on the screen, an anti-hero for a new generation.


Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

I plan on doing another rewrite utilizing the tools and techniques I learned from the Intensive. After the next draft, I will get more feedback from my
producer and my film collective, Vices of Reason. Once I get a draft that I’m comfortable with, I’m going to get the script in the hands of anyone that’s
willing to read it as well as continue to raise money to finance the film.


VIVIAN TSE

Project: “These Animals”

Vivian Tse is a filmmaker making both narrative and documentary films. She was a Colonist at the 2013 Nantucket Screenwriting Colony with her feature
script “Joe Boy,” which was also selected for the 2014 IFP Transatlantic Partners Program. Tse participated in the 2014 POV Hackathon with the
transmedia documentary film “The Angola Project.” Originally from San Francisco, she graduated from the University of Southern California.


Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

“These Animals” is the story of an astronaut’s last year on Earth after she agrees to crew a one-way mission to Mars. It’s about what the last year of
someone’s life would be like if she made a decision with stakes that high, what happens to her family and the people around her, the people she loves and
who love her.

We’re currently in the development stage, trying to put the financing together. Sundance and the A3 foundation was kind enough to give us a grant. And
we’re in post on a short version of the project which we shot late last year.


Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

It took a bit of processing but the most rewarding lesson, or at least the one that stuck with me most, was using yourself to dig deeper into your
character’s journey. Which sounds obvious and certainly its something you’re already doing as a writer with everything you write, but you can always go
deeper. learning that there is always more to dig up, more of you to add, which is horrifying and invigorating at the same time.


Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional
in the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

The advisors were amazing. They’re very passionate – it’s great. i found it invaluable, even when I didn’t agree with the notes. it lets you know how
people are reading, understanding and thinking about your story. their perspective was so helpful and it helps to look at my characters and my story in a
new way. writing can be very isolating so it’s always great to talk to someone who is doing what you’re doing. and they share their war stories, telling
you to reimagine a scene because they did something similar and it went to shit so don’t forget to think about this or that, or that space ships are
expensive so maybe try to stay out of a ship as a location. i don’t have any space ships in the film but you get my point.


Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

A re-write for one, casting, financing the rest of the film. Keep pushing forward, hustling, like everyone does, until you make your film.


DIEGO VELASCO & CAROLINA PAIZ

Project: “Los Invadidos”

Diego Velasco and Carolina Paiz, a husband and wife writing team, are currently working on “Los Invadidos,” a thriller which Velasco will
also direct.

Writer/director Diego Velasco was born in the US and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. Diego’s short, “Cédula Ciudadano,” got him invited into the Fox Searchlab program after winning the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival. In 2003, Diego moved to Los Angeles and formed Open Studios with his wife, a production company meant to make the films they wanted to see in the world. In 2010, Diego made his feature debut with “La Hora Cero” (The Zero Hour). Set in Caracas during the 24-hours of a controversial medical strike, the film followed La Parca, a tattooed hit-man, as he takes an elite hospital hostage in an attempt to save his wounded girlfriend and her child. The film became the highest grossing Venezuelan film of its time. It has won over 35 awards at International festivals and secured distribution in five continents. Currently it has been optioned for an English language remake. In November of 2011, Diego was featured as one the Ten Mover and Reshapers of Latin American Cinema by Variety Magazine.

Growing up in Guatemala during the civil war, Carolina Paiz spent much of her time indoors, reading and watching television, escapes which later provided the foundation for her career as a writer for film and TV. At 15, she left Guatemala for Kent, a boarding school in Connecticut, where she was the first non- native English speaker to be awarded the Robert S. Hillyard award for her achievements in creative writing. Carolina went on to study English and Latin American Studies at Tulane University. The short stories she wrote there were later published by the Caribbean Writer. One of these, Sleep Comes Suddenly, was honored with the Canute A. Brodhurst Award. In 2006, she landed a position as a staff writer on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” She later went on to write on NBC’s “Lipstick Jungle,” CBS’s “The Defenders,” FOX’s “Gang Related” and currently, FOX’s “Runner.” She also developed a series for FOX, “Queen Of the South,” based on the hugely successful Spanish novel. Between television projects, Carolina co- wrote and produced the Venezuelan feature “La Hora Cero,” the highest grossing Venezuelan film in history.

Describe your project briefly and at what stage in the creative process it is. 

The film follows a couple that has just lost their only child and now find themselves on different sides of the spiritual debate. They’re forced to face
their problems when they inherit a remote farm in the Venezuelan plains. Hoping for a new start, they soon learn the farm has been invaded by squatters and
that there’s more to reality than what you can see…

Briefly tell us about the most important or rewarding lesson you took from the first day of the Screenwriters Intensive Lab. How will this impact the
future development of your project?

The first day was revelatory. By doing exhaustive and highly personal writing exercises that we then shared with the entire class, we both realized that we
hadn’t fully tapped into our own fears and desires in writing the characters in our feature. We realized there was far more of us in these characters than
we’d anticipated and that embracing that would actually deepen them. Rewriting the script now, the characters have come to life by simply putting ourselves
in their shoes.

Tell me about your experience during day two and your interaction with the advisors. How important was it for you to get feedback from a professional in
the field that has gone through some of the same creative challenges as you?

Our advisors were completely different and had very different points of view on the script, yet both sets of notes complimented each other quite well at
the end of the day. Their points of view were enlightening. We had exhausted our resources by asking for notes from every trusted friend and colleague that
we knew, and we’d gotten to the point we were afraid they’d stop taking our calls for fear that we’d make them read the script again. We were desperate for
fresh eyes from people that didn’t know us, didn’t know the project, and had no emotional stake in any of it. But what made it truly amazing was the fact
that we got to dive in with such skilled writers, and such generous people, and that they truly took the time to give us deep and insightful notes.

Now that you’ve gone through this learning experience, what are some of the next steps you will be taking as you continue to develop your project?

We are currently rewriting the script as per what we’ve learned and hope to begin our search for financing soon!

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