Congrats to the thirteen projects taken on for this summer’s Sundance Institute annual Directors and Screenwriters Labs, which is held May 28 – June 28 at Robert Redford’s Sundance Resort in Utah. Countries represented include the United States, Italy, Romania, Australia, Algeria, France, Chile and the UK. Sundance’s Michelle Satter states: “Our Directors and Screenwriters Labs are a creative hotbed for innovation and collaboration, and we appreciate the opportunity to work with emerging artists on the leading edge of independent filmmaking.”
Gyula Gazdag serves as the artistic director of the Directors Lab, while the creative advisors for both labs include a who’s who of Hollywood and indie talent: Gregg Araki, Michael Arndt, Andrea Arnold, John August, Ramin Bahrani, Walter Bernstein, Mark Boal, Scott Z. Burns, Sebastian Cordero, Joan Darling, Caleb Deschanel, Suzy Elmiger, Robert Elswit, Billy Goldenberg, Deena Goldstone, Affonso Gonçalves, Ed Harris, Michael Hoffman, Azazel Jacobs, Christine Lahti, Kasi Lemmons, Peter Medak, John Cameron Mitchell, Walter Mosley, Jessie Nelson, Jeff Nichols, Robert Redford, Jennifer Salt, Susan Shilliday, Stewart Stern, Wesley Strick, Joan Tewkesbury, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Bill Wheeler, Tyger Williams and Doug Wright.
The participating projects are listed below, along with further details on the labs.
Directors Lab Fellows work with an accomplished group of Creative Advisors, professional actors and production crews to shoot and edit key scenes from their screenplays. Through this intense, hands-on process, the Fellows workshop their scripts, collaborate with actors and find a visual storytelling language for their films in an environment where experimentation and risk-taking is encouraged. Fellows also join in the week-long Screenwriters Lab with five additional projects to participate in individualized story sessions under the guidance of established screenwriters.
Projects supported through the Directors or Screenwriters Labs receive continued tailored support from the Feature Film Program, which can include ongoing creative and strategic advice, significant production and postproduction resources, a Screenplay Reading Series, a Work in Progress Screening Initiative and direct financial support through project-specific grants and artist fellowships.
The projects and participants selected for the 2012 June Directors Lab (May 28 – June 22) are:
Jonas Carpignano (writer/director) / A Chjàna (U.S.A./Italy): After leaving his native Burkina Faso in search of a better life, Ayiva makes the perilous journey to Italy; though he finds compatriots along the way, they are unprepared for the intolerance facing immigrants in their newly-claimed home.
Jonas Carpignano is a filmmaker based in New York City and Rome. His short films have been shown in film festivals around the world including Venice, SXSW and New Directors/New Films. His latest short film, A Chjàna, won the Controcampo Award for Best Short Film at the 68th Venice Film Festival and was awarded a Nastro D’ Argento Special Mention from the Association of Italian Film Critics (SNGCI). Carpignano is currently an MFA candidate at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
Ioana Uricaru (writer/director) / After the Wedding (U.S.A./Romania): Mara, a Romanian immigrant with a young son, discovers her recent marriage to an American resident is not enough to secure their place in the country. As she learns more about the system, an unfamiliar culture, and her husband, she must decide how far she will go to preserve her new family.
Born and raised in Romania, Ioana Uricaru relocated to Los Angeles in 2001. She co-directed and co-edited the omnibus feature Tales From the Golden Age, which was an official selection at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, and her short film Stopover had its world premiere at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The project After the Wedding has been developed at the Residence de la Cinefondation, a program of the Cannes Film Festival.
Carson Mell (writer/director) / Ajax (U.S.A.): In this dark comedy, a band of alcoholic astronauts and a young woman adrift in outer space become at odds with one another after discovering the purpose of their mysterious mission.
An Arizona native, Carson Mell moved to Los Angeles in 2002 to work in film and television. His short films have screened several times at Sundance and several other festivals, and his short fiction has been published in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern and Electric Literature.
Jody Lee Lipes (co-writer/director) and Jeff Peixoto (co-writer) / Confederacy (U.S.A.): Kentucky Territory, 1858. When Asa Candler joins the religious society of Shakers, uncovering their dark secrets forces him to confront his own buried sin.
Jody Lee Lipes’ directing credits include season one of HBO’s Girls; NY Export: Opus Jazz, a scripted adaptation of a Jerome Robbins’ ballet that aired on PBS and won an Audience Award at SXSW; and verité documentary Brock Enright: Good Times Will Never Be the Same. Lipes is also an Independent Spirit Award-nominated director of photography, chosen as one of Variety’s 10 Cinematographers to Watch in 2011. His DP credits include Martha Marcy May Marlene, Tiny Furniture, and Afterschool.
Marielle Heller (writer/director) / The Diary of a Teenage Girl (U.S.A.): In the haze of 1970’s San Francisco, a teenage artist with a brutally honest perspective tries to navigate her way through an affair with her mother’s boyfriend. Adapted from the graphic novel by Phoebe Gloeckner.
Marielle Heller is a New York based screenwriter, actor and playwright. Her theatrical production of The Diary of a Teenage Girl premiered in New York City in 2010 at 3LD in association with New Georges. Along with writing partner Cailin Goldberg-Meehan, Heller has written a pilot for ABC titled The Big Apple, and is developing a number of features, including one with the Mark Gordon Company. As an actor, she has performed in theatre all over the world, including at Berkeley Rep, The Barbican in London, Birmingham Rep, Soho Rep, San Diego Rep, and Magic Theater.
Chloé Zhao (writer/director) / Lee (U.S.A.): As his two best friends plan to leave for college, a Lakota teen wonders if his future on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is pre-ordained when a tragedy forces him to take dangerous action to protect his family.
Chloé Zhao is an MFA thesis candidate at NYU’s Graduate Film Program. Her short film Daughters premiered at the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival and won Best Student Live Action Short at the Palm Springs International ShortFest. She was raised in China and England and currently lives in Brooklyn.
Ariel Kleiman (co-writer/director) and Sarah Cyngler (co-writer) / Partisan (Australia): Partisan is a provocative fable about 11-year-old Alexander, who, raised to see the world through his parent’s eyes, is starting to think for himself.
Ariel Kleiman’s short film Young Love screened at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival, where it won an Honorable Mention in Short Filmmaking. His next short film, Deeper Than Yesterday, had its world premiere at Cannes Film Festival’s Critics Week and was awarded the Kodak Discovery Award for Best Short Film and the Petit Rail d’Or. It has since gone on to win over 20 awards at film festivals all over the world, including the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, where it was awarded the Jury Prize in International Filmmaking. Kleiman was also the recipient of the Qantas Spirit of Youth Award for Filmmaking and the Rising Talent Award at the 2010 Inside Film Awards.
Sarah Cyngler has collaborated with writer/director Ariel Kleiman on over 15 productions in the role of producer, writer, production and costume designer. Theirs is a unique collaboration in which the two work closely together from early in development and pre-production all the way through to post-production and distribution. She also works with other directors as a production and costume designer on films, commercials, and music videos.
Karim Bensalah (writer/director) / Red Olive Tree (Algeria/France): Plagued by divided loyalties following the French-Algerian war, the recently deceased Ahmed miraculously arises to lead his bickering French family to his homeland, in a mysterious trip where they grapple with the consequences of the choices he made in life and allow him to find peace in death.
Karim Bensalah was born in Algeria. After spending his childhood in Algeria, Brazil, Haiti and Senegal, he went to study social sciences and philosophy in France. He next attended the London Film School. Bensalah directed the short Fatima’s Secret, then a segment of the feature film Paris La Métisse along with 15 other young directors. He has also directed the short films Chibanis and Construction(s) with the group Collectif Tribudom, and works as an actor in films and theatre.
The projects and participants joining Directors Lab Fellows for the 2012 June Screenwriters Lab (June 23-28) are:
Cutter Hodierne (writer/director) / Fishing Without Nets (U.S.A.): A naïve and desperate young Somali man is coerced to join a band of local pirates as they embark upon a hijacking, but instead of the riches he was promised, he finds mayhem and chaos as his reward.
Just before Cutter Hodierne was born, his parents sold everything they owned, quit their jobs, and bought a 32 foot cutter-rigged sailboat, for which he is named. Accordingly, Hodierne spent the first three years of his life sailing in the South Pacific Ocean. At age 22, he toured the world with U2 on the biggest rock tour in music history, serving as their ‘filmmaker on the road’, shooting online content, and directing pieces for U2: 360° at the Rose Bowl. At age 24, Hodierne traveled to East Africa to direct the short film Fishing Without Nets, which won the Grand Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.
Clay Jeter (co-writer/director), Will Basanta (co-writer), and Charles Spano (co-writer) / Io (U.S.A.): Sam, a teenaged girl, is one of the last people on a post-cataclysmic Earth. With the final shuttle scheduled to leave the planet, she must decide whether to journey to the launch point and join the rest of humanity, or remain on Earth, a castaway in the only home she has ever known.
Clay Jeter grew up in Tennessee converting abandoned houses into skateparks and organizing extremely dangerous firework-battles in the outskirts of his neighborhood. After working as a freelance director and cinematographer for a few years in Los Angeles, Jeter returned home to the family tobacco farm in Western Kentucky to direct his first narrative feature film. Jess + Moss premiered at Sundance and went on to screen at the Berlinale, among numerous other film festivals in 2011.
Will Basanta became interested in visual media at an early age, and has worked as a writer, producer, and cinematographer on numerous projects of all types. In 2008, he shot Bouncing Cats, a feature documentary about break-dancing in Uganda. His first narrative feature, Jess + Moss, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Last year he spent three months in New Delhi shooting and producing Tomorrow We Disappear, a feature documentary exploring a colony of dislocated Indian magicians.
Charles Spano considers himself a student of the Werner Herzog school of “rogue filmmaking” – an expert at guerrilla tactics, renegade budgeting, and filming in adverse conditions. Spano has studied anthropology, hiked throughout California and the Northeast, bicycled the cobblestone roads of France, backpacked Nicaragua, filmed breakdancers in Uganda, directed in a bulletproof vest (when necessary), and has circumnavigated the globe. He lives in New York City.
Marialy Rivas (co-writer/director) and Camilla Gutierrez (co-writer) / The Princess (Chile): In the isolated Chilean countryside, a young girl negotiates the contradictions between her developing sexuality and her family’s religious sect.
Marialy Rivas is a Chilean director whose work includes features, short films, television, and commercials. Her short film Blokes premiered at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival and went on to screen at several international film festivals including Berlin, Sundance, New York Film Festival, and the Miami International Film Festival, among others. Her debut feature Young and Wild premiered in competition at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the World Cinema Screenwriting Award.
Camila Gutiérrez is a journalist who studied Hispanic Literature at the Universidad de Chile and earned a Masters Degree in Written Journalism at Universidad Católica. Her articles have been published by the Sábado magazine of the El Mercurio newspaper, the Las Últimas Noticias newspaper, and by Gatopardo, a narrative journalism magazine. She is currently working on the staff of The Clinic Online, an online newspaper. Young and Wild, which she co-wrote and which screened at the 2012 Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals, was her first screenplay.
Debbie Tucker-Green (writer/director) / Untitled (U.K.): A contemporary drama set in London following the dynamics of one family trying to stay together.
Debbie Tucker-Green is a writer/director who has written for the stage, radio, television and film.
Eric Flanagan (co-writer/director) and Sam Voutas (co-writer) / White Faced Lies (U.S.A.): Set in contemporary China, where local companies hire white (but not necessarily qualified) Americans to lend them credibility, longtime conman Stanley gets a new assistant who may be more than just a colleague – he thinks Stanley is his long-lost father.
Eric Flanagan began his career in the New York television industry, assisting on productions for both scripted and unscripted content on Bravo and NBC. He was accepted into the inaugural class at Tisch School of the Arts Asia and went on to make a series of short narrative and documentary films. His short film Teleglobal Dreamin’, which he wrote and directed, won a jury award at the 2010 SXSW (South by Southwest), saw festival play at the Clermont-Ferrand, Edinburgh, Aspen, and Palm Springs film festivals, appeared on Wholphin Volume 10 and was sold to the Sundance Channel. He’s currently based in Singapore.
Red Light Revolution, a Chinese feature Sam Voutas wrote and directed, had its US premiere at the 2011 Santa Barbara Film Festival before playing Cinequest, Cleveland, Atlanta, and winning the People’s Choice Award at the Singapore International Film Festival. The film was released theatrically in Canada, the UK, and Singapore, and became a viral sensation in China when it was purchased by Tudou (China’s equivalent to Youtube), racking up a million views in less than a week. That same year, Voutas was accepted into both the Berlinale Talent Campus and Toronto TIFF Talent Lab. Documentaries directed by Voutas have screened on TV stations across Asia including The Biography Channel and NHK (Japan).