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Screenwriters and Mentors Announced for the Hamptons International Film Festival Screenwriters’ Lab

Screenwriters and Mentors Announced for the Hamptons International Film Festival Screenwriters' Lab

The Hamptons International Film Festival has announced its selections for the 13th annual Screenwriters’ Lab. The five winning screenwriters (for a total of four screenplays) are Christina Choe, for “Nancy”; Michael Sladek, for “Phantom Limbs”; Ben Nabors and Michael Tyburski, for “Palimpsest,” and Evan Schwartz, for “Televisionaries.”

The festival has also revealed the industry mentors with whom these screenwriters will work closely to develop their scripts. They are Jamal Joseph, Lawrence Konner, Robert Siegel, and Susan Stover. 

Taking place April 11-13 at the Maidstone Hotel in East Hampton, the weekend workshop gives screenwriters the opportunity to advance their screenplays via meeting with veteran screenwriters, directors, and producers, in addition to members of the local artistic community, HIFF board, and friends of the Festival. The most recent Screenwriters’ Lab success story is the 2013 festival favorite “Short Term 12,” written by past participant Destin Cretton. 

“The Screenwriters’ Lab is central to our mission as an organization as it mixes a diverse range of talent from the industry with a new wave of artists that are sure to shape the landscape in the future,” Artistic Director, David Nugent said in a statement.

The HIFF will take place October 9-13, during which the chosen screenwriters will continue to work with their scripts and showcase select scenes with readings by established actors. (Interested filmmakers should note that the festival is still accepting entries.)

Please find below further information on the participating screenplays and mentors. 

2014 Screenwriters’ Lab Participants, Screenplays and Project Descriptions

1) Christina Choe – Nancy

Nancy, a 40-year old serial imposter lives at home with her abusive, elderly mother. Desperate for love, she creates a fake blog and catfishes a lover, until her hoaxes cause epic and tragic consequences. Christina Choe is an award winning filmmaker working in both narrative and documentary. She has received funding from New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA), Jerome Foundation, and Canada Arts Council for her projects. Her feature script, Guess Who’s Coming For Kimchee was selected as the winner of the 2007 CAPE New Writers Award for Best Feature Screenplay, IFP Week Emerging Narrative Program, and a finalist for the 2008 Bluecat Screenwriting Competition. 

Her short films, The Queen, FLOW, and I am John Wayne, have screened at film festivals around the world including Telluride, SXSW, Slamdance (Grand Jury Prize for Best Short), Los Angeles Film Festival, Aspen Shorts Fest, Palm Springs Shorts Fest, Rooftop Films, and featured on VICE.com, Hammer to Nail and Vimeo Staff Picks. In 2012, she was invited to the Berlinale Talent Campus and a residency at The MacDowell Colony. In 2013, she was selected as one of two fellows for the HBO/DGA Directing Fellowship shadowing directors on GIRLS, Boardwalk Empire and Looking. She recently received an M.F.A from Columbia University for writing/directing, and is in development for her first feature, Nancy, which was selected for Emerging Storytellers at IFP Project Forum, a finalist for the 2013/14 Venice Biennale College Cinema Program, and the 2014 Hamptons International Film Festival Screenwriter’s Lab.

2) Michael Sladek – Phantom Limbs

Eleven years after their father’s violent death and their mother’s disappearance, two emotionally wounded sisters undertake separate journeys, seeking to unravel the central mystery of their lives. Based on the beloved first novel by New York Times lauded author Timothy Schaffert. Michael Sladek is an award-winning filmmaker whose recent works include the documentary feature BAM150 (BAM, Ovation, Cinema Guild, Tribeca), the acclaimed docu-comedy Con Artist (The Group Entertainment, Ovation, New Yorker Films, Tribeca, Rome), the animated short We Live on Your Street (Slamdance: Jury & Anarchy Awards), and the narrative dark comedy feature Devils Are Dreaming (Dances With Films: Jury Award). A 2013 Acker Award recipient, Sladek is currently in development on Phantom Limbs, a feature adaptation of Timothy Schaffert’s novel, as well as a feature adaptation of Alan Kaufman’s dark comedy memoir Jew Boy

He currently serves as New York Rep for SAGIndie. Under the auspices of his company Plug Ugly Films, Sladek has made multiple shorts, music videos, and web series for commercial clients. He has worked as a freelance writer as well as a filmmaker and talent coordinator for Tribeca Film Festival and MTV News, and as personal assistant to author Jamaica Kincaid. Also an actor and stage director, Sladek grew up in the live theater, studied theater and actor training in college, and is a member of SAG-AFTRA. 

3) Ben Nabors and 4) Michael Tyburski – Palimpsest

Based on the Sundance award-winning short film, Palimpsest examines the subtle forces at play in our urban lives. Peter, a successful House Tuner who calibrates the sounds, colors, and smells of interior spaces for optimal living, meets Ellen, a client whose problem he cannot solve. Peter’s failure forces him to call his own grandiose theories about human behavior into question. Ben Nabors is a filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. In 2010, he founded {group theory}, a collaboration-­driven production studio that creates documentaries, scripted narratives, commercials, and commissioned content. His debut feature film William and the Windmill, a documentary about William Kamkwamba, a young windmill inventor from Malawi, won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2013 South by Southwest Film Festival. He also co-wrote and produced the Special Jury Prize short film winner Palimpsest, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013. Last year, Filmmaker Magazine named Ben amongst the “25 New Faces of Independent Film”.  In 2014, GOOD Magazine recognized him as a “GOOD 100”.

He has received filmmaking grants from Participant Pictures, The Tribeca Institute, The Fledgling Fund, and the True/False Film Festival.  Current projects include The Happy Film, a feature-­length documentary about graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister and his pursuit of happiness through a series of self-experiments, Brooklyn Farmer and a feature documentary about the making of the Broadway show Spider­-Man: Turn Off The Dark. He is also developing Palimpsest, his first scripted work, into a feature film. He loves what he does. View his work at www.grouptheory.com.

Michael Tyburski was raised in the harsh winters of northern Vermont, where his upbringing helped him develop a discipline for filmmaking at an early age. He studied the Moving Image Arts in Florence, Italy and Santa Fe, New Mexico, where his work was chosen to screen at the Director’s Guild of America in Los Angeles. As an award-winning filmmaker in Brooklyn, New York, he directs commercials, documentaries and short films. His work has screened around the world, including the Sundance Film Festival where his short film Palimpsest won a Special Jury Award. In 2013 Filmmaker Magazine named him one of the “25 New Faces of Independent Film”.

5) Evan Schwartz- Televisionaries

Based on a true story, Televisionaries is an inspirational drama about genius, deceit and the controversial birth of the most influential invention of our time. The tale unfolds as an epic battle of wits between two equally passionate figures, as an idealist inventor faces off against a shrewd media tycoon for control over a world-changing new technology. Evan I. Schwartz is the author of five books about innovation and the human imagination, including The Last Lone Inventor: A Tale of Genius, Deceit, and the Birth of Television (HarperCollins), which inspired the screenplay for Televisionaries. He is also the author of Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story, a narrative about the origins of a cultural icon, The Wizard of Oz. Evan is a former editor at BusinessWeek and MIT’s Technology Review. His feature in WIRED about space junk was selected for the 2011 Best American Science and Nature Writing series. He is currently director of storytelling for the innovation consulting firm Innosight.

2014 Screenwriters’ Lab Mentors

1)  Jamal Joseph is a Professor of Professional Practice and the former Chair of Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program.  As an artist/activist he has worked in film, theater, spoken word, music and books. He has written and directed for Starz, HBO, Fox TV, New Line Cinema, Warner Bros., and A&E. His produced screenplays include Ali: An American Hero (Fox), New York Undercover (Fox), Knights of the South Bronx (A&E), and The Many Trials of Tammy B. (Nickelodeon). He wrote and directed Drive By: A Love Story, Da Zone, and the docudrama Hughes Dreams Harlem (PBS.)  His memoir Panther Baby based on his experiences as a youth in the Black Panther Party has been recently published by Algonquin Books.  He has also the author of  Tupac Legacy an interactive biography about Tupac Shakur. Jamal is the Co-Founder and Artistic Director of IMPACT, a Harlem-based youth theatre company, and executive director of New Heritage Films, a not-for-profit organization that provides training and opportunities for minority filmmakers.  He has received a Cine Golden Eagle, a Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame Award, a Union Square Award and a best song Oscar nomination for the film August Rush.

2) Lawrence Konner has had a long and distinguished career as a screen and television writer.  He has written over twenty five mainstream feature films including, Jewel of the Nile, The Legend of Billie Jean, Flicka, Mighty Joe Young, Planet of the Apes, Mona Lisa Smile, Star Trek 6  and many others.  His writing for television spans decades and includes the shows: Family, Little House on the Prairie, The Sopranos and Boardwalk Empire. He has been nominated for multiple Emmy Awards for writing and producing.

For over twenty years Konner has been teaching the craft of writing for films and television.  He has taught at the UCLA, Vassar and for many years was a Creative Advisor at the Sundance Screenwriters Lab as well as a member of the Selection Committee for the Lab. In 1995, Konner produced and directed a documentary, One Thing I Know, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, screened at the Cannes Film Festival, and won the Special Jury Prize at the U.S.A. Film Festival.  His 2004 Documentary, Persons of Interest, premiered in competition at Sundance and won the Amnesty International Humanitarian Award. Konner was for many years a member of the Board of Directors of The Writers Guild of America and a former Creative Director at the Sundance Institute. He is a member of The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

3) Robert Siegel is a New York-based screenwriter and director. He is the writer of the Darren Aronofsky-directed film The Wrestler, for which Mickey Rourke and Marisa Tomei earned Academy Award nominations. His directorial debut Big Fan was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. He is also the co-writer of DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo, starring Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti and Samuel L. Jackson. Siegel is currently developing a miniseries for the FX television network, executive produced by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways). From 1996 to 2003, Siegel served as editor-in-chief of the satirical publication The Onion, where he won the 1999 Thurber Prize For American Humor and edited the number-one New York Times bestselling book Our Dumb Century. A native of Long Island, NY, he lives near Union Square with his wife and son.

4) Susan Stover has been an independent film producer for over 15 years. She was the recipient of the 1998 Mark Silverman Fellowship, a grant sponsored by the Sundance Film Institute awarded annually to one producer, and the 1999 Ralph Lauren Independent Spirit Producer Award from the FIND, formerly known as IFP/West.  Susan has worked with a number of outstanding independent directors.  She was an Associate Producer of Todd Solondz’s Welcome to the Dollhouse, winner of the 1996 Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, the Associate Producer of Larry Fessenden’s Habit, winner of the 1997 Independent Spirit Award for “Someone to Watch,” and the Associate Producer of Kelly Reichardt’s River of Grass, which premiered at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals.  Susan produced Lisa Cholodenko’s debut feature, High Art, which screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and was an official selection at the 1998 Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes. Susan also produced Ode, a Super 8 movie by Kelly Reichardt, which premiered at the 1999 Venice Film Festival, and Brad Anderson’s Happy Accidents, starring Marisa Tomei and Vincent D’Onofrio, which premiered at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival.  Her other producing credits include Patrick Stettner’s The Business of Strangers, starring Stockard Channing and Julia Stiles, Lisa Cholodenko’s Laurel Canyon, starring Frances McDormand and Christian Bale, and Alex Steyermark’s One Last Thing…, starring Cynthia Nixon and Ethan Hawke. She produced Aram Rappaport’s feature film Syrup, based on the cult novel of the same title, and starring Amber Heard and Kellan Lutz.  Her latest feature, Glass Chin starring Corey Stoll and Billy Crudup, was directed by Noah Buschel (The Missing Person) Projects in development include S.E. Hinton’s collection of short stories, Some of Tim’s Stories, Noah Buschel’s Buddhist project, based on the published memoirs of Maura O’Halloran, Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer-winning Interpreter of Maladies and Elliot Thomson’s Indestructible. Her producing banner, HeadQuarters, is based in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood.     

 In addition to Susan’s film work, she has served as a board member of several national organizations including the IFP (Executive Committee, officer), ChameckiLerner (a modern dance company) and as a trustee to her alma mater, Mary Baldwin College.  Susan also has a law degree from Washington & Lee University and practiced law as a trial lawyer in NYC for many years.

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