The summer edition of Sundance Institute’s growing Directors and Screenwriters Labs takes place May 25 through June 25 at the Sundance Resort in Utah. Projects and participants selected for the 2015 June Directors and Screenwriters Labs hail from the United States, Brazil, China, France, Georgia and the United Kingdom.
Under Sundance Institute Feature Film Program heads Michelle Satter and Gyula Gazdag, directors will work intensively with creative advisors, professional actors and production crews to shoot and edit key scenes from their scripts. Directors Lab fellows will then join five additional projects for the week-long Screenwriters Lab in an immersive environment geared toward innovation and risk-taking.
The Labs have launched many hot indie writers and directors including Marielle Heller, Robert Eggers, Ryan Coogler, Haifaa Al Mansour and Benh Zeitlin. This year, notable entrants including Oscar-nominated doc director Dan Krauss’ feature film version of “The Kill Team,” Fernando Coimbra’s follow-up to “A Wolf at the Door,” as well as a surfeit of female-driven projects. One trend we’re seeing is documentary filmmakers foraying into feature film.
Artists and projects selected for the 2015 Directors Lab (May 25 – June 18):
Bart Layton (writer/director) / “American Animals” (UK):
Combining elements of documentary and drama, this
existential heist movie is the improbable but entirely true story of a group of well-read university students who plot
an escape from middle America by planning the perfect robbery. Along the way reality and fiction become blurred
as they attempt to live deeper and deeper inside a movie version of their lives.
Bart Layton is a multi award-winning British director, producer and executive producer. He is the co-principal and
creative director of leading British production company, RAW. His first feature documentary film, “The Imposter,” received great critical acclaim since its debut at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. The film became one of the
most successful documentaries of all time and picked up numerous prestigious awards.
Yung Chang (writer/director) / “Eggplant” (China/Canada):
A neo-noir love story set in China, Eggplant follows a
mysterious woman who cons countryside bachelors for their money and a wedding photographer escaping a
troubled life in Taiwan. When they meet in a collision of fate, the past quickly confronts the present in an
explosion of events as these two Chinese millenials struggle to find a meaningful existence in a society fixated on
money, materialism and duty.
Yung Chang, based between China and Canada, is known for his feature documentaries including “Up the Yangtze” (2008).
Olivia Newman (writer/director) / “First Match” (U.S.A.):
Hardened by years in foster care, a teenage girl from
Brooklyn’s Brownsville neighborhood decides that joining the all-boys high school wrestling team is the only way
back to her estranged father.
Olivia Newman received her MFA in film from Columbia University and has written, directed and produced award-
winning short films in the U.S.A., France and Serbia. Her films have screened at dozens of festivals internationally
including the New York Film Festival, Aspen Shortsfest and Palm Springs International Shortsfest, and aired
nationally on PBS and internationally on ShortsHD.
Christopher Makoto Yogi (writer/director) / “I Was a Simple Man” (U.S.A.):
Like marionettes on a stage, the ghosts of an elderly man’s past haunt the countryside in this tale of a Hawai’i family dealing with the death of their patriarch.
Christopher Makoto Yogi was born in Honolulu, Hawai‘i and raised on the ocean. His most recent short film, “Makoto: or, Honesty” is a documentary about the death of his father. Yogi also has extensive experience editing documentaries for film and television. He is a graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA program and participated in the Visual Communications’ Armed with a Camera fellowship.
Nia DaCosta (writer/director) / “Little Woods” (U.S.A.):
For years, Ollie has illicitly helped the struggling fellow residents of her North Dakota oil boomtown access Canadian health care and meds. When the authorities catch on, she plans to abandon her crusade, only to be dragged in even deeper by her foster sister’s desperate plea for help.
Nia DaCosta is a writer/director based in New York City. She has written and directed projects for stage, film and new media platforms including the playlet “Kingdom Come” at the Leicester Square Theatre in London and the documentary “Shark Loves the Amazon.”
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre (writer/director) / “Mustang” (France):
Roman Coleman is halfway through an 11- year sentence for attempted murder when he is offered the chance to participate in a rehabilitation program that trains inmates to break captured wild mustangs. Based on a real-life program, “Mustang” is a portrait of one man’s unique connection to these wild animals and his complex struggle to control his own ferocity.
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre is a French actress, producer and director living in Paris. She has worked as an actress with directors including Raoul Ruiz, Luc Besson, Julian Schnabel, Pascal Thomas, Jean Michel Ribes, Danielle Thompson and Rani Massalha. Her first short film as a writer/director, “Atlantic Avenue,” won prizes at the Nantucket Film Festival, Milwaukee Film Festival, and the Tenerife International Film Festival, and also screened at the Tribeca Film Festival, Clermont Ferrand and the Palm Springs International Film Festival, among others.
Mark Kindred (writer/director) / “Rogue” (U.S.A.):
An ex-cop gone rogue wages unconventional warfare on the institutional forces that wronged him. Inspired by true events.
Mark F. Kindred grew up as an immigrant in the projects of Boston. He earned his bachelor degree in philosophy at Harvard University and has lived and traveled all over the world. He is currently a graduate thesis student at the NYU Tisch School of the Arts.
Brent Green (co-writer/director), Michael McGinley (co-writer) and Thyra Heder (co-writer) / “Untitled Loveless Fable” (U.S.A.):
In this stop-motion animated film, a young boy begins inventing strange, hand-made machines to ease his mother’s hard labor and bring joy to her monotonous life, but his ambitions quickly grow. When his most daring invention backfires and changes life on Earth forever, his neighbors struggle to understand whether he has done them harm or shown them what they have been missing.
Working in the hills of rural Pennsylvania, Brent Green is a self-taught filmmaker, storyteller and visual artist whose films have screened, often with live musical accompaniment, at the Rotterdam Film Festival, the Sundance Film Festival, the San Francisco Film Society, MoMA, The J. Paul Getty Museum, The Walker Art Center, The Hammer Museum, as well as at warehouses, galleries and rooftops across the globe.
Artists and projects joining the Directors Lab Fellows for the 2015 June Screenwriters Lab (June 20-25) are:
Frances Bodomo (writer/director) / “Afronauts” (Zambia/U.S.A.):
Just after Zambian Independence in 1964, an ingenious group of villagers builds a homemade rocket in a wild bid to join the Space Race. As the launch date approaches, their astronaut—17-year-old albino Matha Mwambwa—must decide if getting into their precarious rocket vindicates her traumatic past or just makes her a glorified human sacrifice. Inspired by true events.
Frances Bodomo grew up in Ghana, Norway, and Hong Kong before moving to New York City to study film at Columbia University (BA) and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (MFA). Her two short films have played fests including Sundance, the Berlinale, Telluride, and SXSW.
Mariam Bakacho Khatchvani (co-writer/director), Vladimer Katcharava (co-writer/producer) and Irakli Solomanashvili (co-writer) / “Dede” (Georgia):
As Georgia fights for its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a young woman struggles to make a life in the remote, isolated villages high in the Caucusus Mountains, where ancient patriarchal laws threaten to separate her from her daughter.
Born in Ushguli, Georgia, Mariam Bakacho Khatchvani directed the short film “Dinola,” which was nominated for a European Film Award and screened at several international film festivals including Clermont-Ferrand and Hong Kong. Dede will be her feature debut. Vladimer Katcharava was born in Tbilisi, Georgia. He recently was a producer on the feature “President,” directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2014 and went on to screen at a myriad of international film festivals. Irakli Solomanashvili is a Georgian writer known for films including “Bolo Gaseirneba.”
Fernando Coimbra (writer/director) / “The Hanged” (Brazil):
A family dispute upsets the ruling order in Rio de Janeiro’s underworld, triggering a bloody escalation of betrayals and double crosses. Set in the unique world of traditional Brazilian gambling syndicates, “The Hanged” is a dark comedic tale of greed and trust which illuminates the moment at which even the closest relationships can’t survive.
Fernando Coimbra majored in Cinema at the University of São Paulo (ECA-USP). He has written and directed nine short films. His first feature, “A Wolf at the Door,” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2013. The film won the Horizons Award at the San Sebastian International Film Festival and won awards at many other international film festivals including Havana, Miami, Guadalajara, Marseille and Rio de Janeiro.
Dan Krauss (writer/director) / “The Kill Team” (U.S.A.):
Based on the true story of an American soldier forced to choose between his conscience and his survival when members of his platoon carry out a scheme to murder Afghan civilians.
Dan Krauss is an Academy Award-nominated documentary director. His most recent feature documentary, “The Kill Team” won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival, the Truer than Fiction Independent Spirit Award, and a nomination from the Director’s Guild of America. Krauss earned his Master’s Degree from UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he is presently a lecturer in documentary film and television production.
Boots Riley (writer/director) / “Sorry to Bother You” (U.S.A.):
A black telemarketer with self-esteem issues discovers a magical key to business success, propelling him to the upper echelons of the hierarchy just as his activist comrades are rising up against unjust labor practices. When he uncovers the macabre secret of his corporate overlords, he must decide whether to stand up or sell out.
Boots Riley studied film at San Francisco State University before ending his studies in favor of a major label recording deal for his band, “The Coup.” He directed a music video for The Coup’s “Me And Jesus The Pimp In A ’79 Granada Last Night,” upon which the novel Too Beautiful For Words was based. He has never won an award for artistic achievement, but has decided that being the only musical artist whose surveillance was uncovered via Wikileaks is just as good as an Oscar or a Grammy.