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12 Selected for Meryl Streep-Backed Writers Lab for Women Screenwriters Over 40

12 Selected for Meryl Streep-Backed Writers Lab for Women Screenwriters Over 40

First announced in May of this year, thanks to funding from Meryl Streep, The Writers Lab launched a screenwriting workshop contest specifically for woman screenwriters over 40 years old, to be run by the New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers. 

The Writers Lab was seeking women screenwriters over the age of 40 for a screenwriting workshop at Wiawaka Center for Women on Lake George, NY, that would run from September 18-20, 2015. 

Selected screenwriters will work one-on-one with mentors including Gina Prince-Bythewood ("Beyond the Lights," "The Secret Life of Bees"), Caroline Kaplan ("Time Out of Mind," "Personal Velocity"), Kirsten Smith ("Legally Blonde," "10 Things I Hate About You"), Jessica Bendinger ("Bring It On," "Aquamarine"), Mary Jane Skalski ("Win Win," "The Station Agent"), Lydia Dean Pilcher ("The Lunchbox," "The Reluctant Fundamentalist") and Meg LeFauve ("Inside Out," "The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys"). 

The eligibility requirements included the following: 

– Applicants must be women who were born on or prior to June 1, 1975, and must be US Citizens or Permanent Residents. 

– The Lab seeks submissions from all racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and cultural groups. Submissions must be full-length narrative screenplays in English. (No TV scripts, shorts or documentaries.) 

– The Lab seeks a broad selection of screenplays across all genres of fiction. 

– Scripts by more than one writer will be considered, but all writers must be female, and only one writer can attend The Lab. 

The deadline to apply was June 1, 2015. The entry fee was $25 for members of NYWIFT, other Women in Film chapters and WGA members, and $55 for non-members. 

Now, 2 months since the deadline passed, and a reported 3,500 submissions later, the New York Women in Film & Television and the Iris film collective have announced the 12 screenwriters for the inaugural Meryl Streep Writers Lab.

Of note, a name that immediately stood out to me is Kenyan-born writer/director Peres Owino (above), who you should be familiar with, given that we’ve covered her work on this blog over the last couple of years – specifically, a documentary called "Bound: Africans vs. African-Americans," which examines the complex relationship between Africans and African Americans, including testimonials from all sides, breaking down the seldom-discussed ways that Africans and African Americans view each other, and looks at the cultures’ shared history to foster mutual understanding. We featured the film’s crowdfunding campaign in 2011; it would go on to premiere on the film festival circuit, where it continues to thrive. We reviewed it when it screened at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles in February of this year (read that review here). Isaiah Washington is an executive producer of the film, by the way.

Another writer on this list I’m told is of African descent is Vanessa Carmichael, whose only IMDB-listed credits include working as an intern on Spike Lee’s "Malcolm X," as well as on "The Matrix Reloaded," "The Matrix Revolutions," and "V for Vendetta" as an assistant to the Wachowski siblings. She was also an associate producer a documentary on "The Matrix" films.

Those are the only 2 women on this list I’m aware of who are of African descent; if there are others, I’m sure I’ll be notified by one of you reading this.

The full list of participants and their script titles (no details on the synopsis of each) follow below:

Sarah Bird, "Daughter of a Daughter of a Queen"

Vanessa Carmichael, "The American"

Tracy Charlton, "Raised Up"

Kellen Hertz, "Ashburn"

Anna Hozian, "Anchor Baby"

Lyralen Kaye, "St. John the Divine in Iowa"

Jan Kimbrough, "The Glastonbury Cow Party"

Billie Mason, "The Cargo"

Peres Owino, "Basketweaver"

Gretchen Somerfeld, "Face Value"

Janet Stilson, "Jaguar Trail"

Kim Turner, "It Goes Like This"

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