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Outfest Announces 2015 Screenwriting Lab Fellows

Outfest Announces 2015 Screenwriting Lab Fellows

Outfest has announced the five fellows and their projects selected for its 2015 Screenwriting Lab. Joanna Benecke, Bretten Hannam, Eliza Lee, Michael Perlman, and Michael Patrick Spillers have been selected for this year’s program. Now in its 13th year, and hosted by Chateau Marmont, the Screenwriting Lab is a program of Outfest Forward, which is supported by Final Draft and DreamWorks Animation.

 “It is inspiring to read the next generation of LGBT storytellers in a time when we have seen so much progress in the transgender community and with marriage equality recognition. I am honored to come from my past work in film development and begin ushering in such diverse and empowering stories that need to be told.” said Director of Programming, Lucy Mukerjee-Brown “This year’s screenplays have shifted to reflect progress and positivity in LGBT lives while still showcasing we have work to do in our fight for gender equality, family acceptance and closing the gap on racial discrimination.”  

What began as a screenwriting competition has expanded to a dynamic three-day, mentor-led workshop sponsored by and held in June at the Chateau Marmont for selected screenwriters, followed by a public reading of their work during the 2015 Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival. The Screenwriting Lab will also include sessions with other industry professionals, structured career development opportunities, and participation in ongoing festival events. This year’s mentors are Don Roos (Boys on the Side, Bounce, Web Therapy), Patrick Tobin (Cake), Guinevere Turner (Go Fish, American Psycho), and Barry Sandler (Making Love), along with special guests Patricia Resnick (9 to 5, Mad Men), Sandy Weinberg (agent, Summit Talent and Literary Agency) and former Outfest Screenwriting Lab Alum, Gideon Raff (Homeland). 

The Screenwriting Lab has generated a host of produced projects and success stories with fellows who have gone on to both audience and critical acclaim at prominent film festivals, including Yen Tan’s Pit Stop (Sundance 2013), George Northy’s G.B.F. (Tribeca 2013), and Doug Spearman’s Hot Guys with Guns (Closing Night, 2013 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival). Other alumni fellows include Gideon Raff, the Emmy award–winning executive producer of Showtime’s Homeland, and Javier Fuentes-Leon (Sundance 2010 Audience Award Winner for Undertow/Contracorriente).  

Outfest will announce the lineup for the 2015 Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival on June 3. 2015.


JOANNA BENECKE (London, UK) is a writer and actor. Born in the UK, she grew up in Sweden, where she acted in TV shows and voiced cartoons before returning to Britain to get her degree in English from the University of Cambridge. As well as pursuing her own projects, she works as a scriptwriter-for-hire, ghostwriter, script doctor, journalist and copywriter, both in the UK and the US. As a scriptwriter she enjoys working in different genres, from comedy to horror to sci-fi — and everything in between. She is the author of two tongue-in-cheek fan books, 100 Reasons to Love Ryan Gosling and Being Benedict Cumberbatch. In 2008-9, she worked as writing assistant to Bernard Rose and was the director’s assistant on his film Mr. Nice. In 2012, she graduated with honors from Royal Holloway, University of London’s MA in Creative Writing. She writes for a variety of publications including DIVA Magazine, the Guardian and Vegan Life Magazine. She has also published short stories and gives academic conference papers.

SO GAY A switcheroo teen comedy about warring teenage sisters – one a Queen Bee with the perfect boyfriend, the other a bullied lesbian outcast – who both wish that the other could understand “what it’s like to be me” They wake to find themselves in a reversed world, where gay is the norm and hetero is the freaky.

 BRETTEN HANNAM (Nova Scotia, Canada) is a Métis writer-director whose films focus primarily on outcasts and outsiders, dealing with themes of identity, tradition, and community. His short, Deep End, was shown at film festivals across the world, including Frameline, BFI Flare, and the Iris Prize in Cardiff. He co-wrote the short film Champagne, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. An avid writer, Hannam is a Fellow of the Praxis Centre for Screenwriters, as well as an alumni of the Canadian Film Centre’s Screenwriting Lab. SPEAK THE WOLF After escaping a juvenile reform camp in the far north, Kyle gets lost in the arctic. He is rescued by Arluk, a young Inuit hunter with a troubled past that overshadows their friendship. As food and shelter run out, they are forced to rely on each other to survive and, in the process, face the painful secrets they’ve been trying to elude.

ELIZA LEE (Vancouver, BC), educated in Canada and the Czech Republic, took a detour to Asia as a cinematography trainee before returning to her first passion: screenwriting. Her feature Maybe Tomorrow, about rock legend Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, is being produced by Michelle Sy (Finding Neverland) and Sophia Chang. Highsmith, was honored at Athena Film Festival 2015 and featured in Entertainment Weekly and Indiewire. She recently graduated from the CAPE 2015 Film and TV Writers Fellowship.

HIGHSMITH The story of famed crime novelist Patricia Highsmith and her downward spiral during the McCarthy era, when she could not put her name to the iconic lesbian novel “The Price of Salt.”

 MICHAEL PERLMAN (NYC, New York) is a writer and director whose play From White Plains is the recipient of a 2013 GLAAD Media Award and was nominated for New York Innovative Theater awards for Outstanding Premiere Production and Outstanding Full-Length Script. In addition, Michael’s one-person show Flying on the Wing was presented at the New York Fringe Festival, where it was the winner of Outstanding Solo Show. Michael is an Artistic Associate with both Fiasco Theater and Fault Line Theatre. He is proud to be a member of SDC, a Drama League Directing Fellow, and he holds a BA from Brown University and an MFA from Brown/Trinity MFA Programs, where has also served on faculty.

FROM WHITE PLAINS When screenwriter Dennis wins a screenwriting Oscar for his film about his best friend’s suicide, he uses his acceptance speech as a way to call out the bully he thinks is responsible, Ethan Rice. “From White Plains” explores the fallout of that speech, and examines how Dennis, Ethan, and those closest to them are affected.

MICHAEL PATRICK SPILLERS (Los Angeles, CA) is a playwright and screenwriter whose plays have been produced throughout the Los Angeles indie theatre scene, including Casa 0101, Company of Angels, and Watts Village Theatre Company. His screenplay FOLLOW (about the intersection between marriage equality and the Black church) is currently in pre-production, to be directed by Melanie Mayron (Jane the Virgin) and starring Frenchie Davis (The Voice). Whittier Blvd began as a one-act play, traveling with the Gay Latino theatre troupe “Brown & Out” to the NYC Fringe Festival, where it was selected as one of IndieTheatreNow’s “Best of FringeNYC 2014”. Michael recently produced and directed Teatro Moz, a sold-out evening of short plays celebrating the unique cult of Latino fandom surrounding Morrissey and The Smiths.

WHITTIER BLVD Andrés is a 17-year-old Latino trans guy, obsessed with the music of Morrissey – and in love with Sheila, the beautiful lead singer of a local ragtag rockabilly band. When his father refuses to provide parental consent for transition therapy, Andrés runs away from home in search of his estranged mother.


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