They might need to reconfigure the lodging situation for this January’s 2018 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab Fellows as there are perhaps a record breaking sixteen scribes for the twelve projects that’ll be workshopped and then ceremoniously tossed in some fireplace. Known for supporting countless number of indie projects that began on paper and end up collecting trophyware once theatrically released, among the better known entities in this year’s group we have Bulgarian helmer Maya Vitkova who debuted Viktoria at Sundance in 2014 (read review), we have Little Rock based Amman Abbasi who broke into the fest last year with NEXT section opener Dayveon (read review) and finally, Filmmaker Mag 25 personality Beth de Araújo whose Josephine – is a project we’re already anticipating. We’ll be keeping tabs on all these projects/folks. The projects and fellows selected for the 2018 January Screenwriters Lab are:
Afrika (Bulgaria) / Maya Vitkova (writer/director): Afrika weaves together the stories of a family over the course of one year, a fantastical journey of love and loss, across three generations.
Maya Vitkova is a director, screenwriter, and producer, whose debut film, Viktoria, was the first Bulgarian feature in competition at the Sundance Film Festival. The film played at more than 70 international festivals, including Rotterdam, Karlovy Vary, Busan, AFI Fest and BFI London, and received praise from the Hollywood Reporter, IndieWire, Vogue Magazine and other publications. The New Yorker listed it at number 4 of the best films of 2016, and named Maya Vitkova one of the five best directors in the world. Vitkova was chosen as a European Film Promotion’s “Producer on the Move” in Cannes and is an EAVE 2017 graduate.
Broadway (Greece) / Christos Massalas (writer/director): A band of young street performers and pickpockets find an unlikely home in an abandoned mall in Athens. The balance of their makeshift family is threatened when a former member of their group returns after being released from prison.
Born in Greece, Christos Massalas is a graduate of the London Film School. His short films have received awards from around the world and have screened at international film festivals including Cannes, Locarno, AFI Fest, Guanajuato, BFI, and Nouveau Cinéma, among others. His latest short film Copa-Loca is nominated for the European Film Academy Award. Broadway will be his feature directorial debut.
Doha (U.S.A. / Morocco) / Eimi Imanishi (writer/director): Disheartened by her deportation from Europe, Mariam is forced to return home to Western Sahara. Adrift in the very place that’s supposed to be her home, she searches for the means to assert agency over her own life.
Eimi Imanishi is a Japanese American filmmaker. She earned her BFA at the Slade School of Art, University College London where she majored in sculpture. She has directed two award-winning short films, Battalion to My Beat and One Up, that have played at numerous festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival and Clermont Ferrand.
The Huntress (U.S.A. / Mexico) / Suzanne Andrews Correa (writer/director): In Juarez, Mexico, where violence against women goes unnoticed and unpunished, an unlikely heroine emerges to seek justice. This project is the recipient of the Feature Film Program Latina Fellowship.
Suzanne Andrews Correa is a Mexican American director and screenwriter based in New York City. A recent MFA graduate of the Film Program at Columbia University, she has worked in the industry for almost a decade as a member of IATSE. Her latest short, La Casa de Beatriz, premiered at the 2017 Morelia International Film Festival and received awards from the Princess Grace Foundation and Directors Guild of America. The Huntress will be her feature directorial debut.
Josephine (U.S.A.) / Beth de Araújo (writer/director): After accidentally witnessing a rape in Golden Gate Park, eight-year-old Josephine is plunged into a maelstrom of fear and paranoia. Surrounded by adults helpless to assuage her and unable to understand her, she acts out with increasing violence, searching for any way to regain control of her own safety. This project is the recipient of the Asian American Fellowship.
Beth de Araújo is a Los Angeles-based writer and director recently featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film. In 2017, her feature screenplay Josephine participated in IFP No Borders and was a recipient of the SFFILM Rainin Filmmaking Grant. Araújo has directed two episodes of television for Lifetime Movie Network and is currently in post on two short films, one of which she shot through the AFI Directing Workshop for Women. Josephine will mark her feature directorial debut.
Katie Wright (U.S.A.) / C. Wrenn Ball (writer): Just as the Wright Brothers are about to capitalize on the invention of their airplane, Orville is badly injured in a public crash, and sister Katie unexpectedly emerges to lead their business. Fighting resistance from businessmen, society, and even her own brothers, she strives to keep the family together and claim her place as part of their legacy. Based on the forgotten true story. This project is the recipient of the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship.
Hailing from North Carolina, C. Wrenn Ball exchanged life in the Southeast for work as an assistant on network television. He directed web series pilots in Los Angeles before completing an MFA at USC’s John Wells Division of Writing for Screen and Television. Obsessed by the twang and rhythm of life, Ball is constantly merging his Southern sensibilities with feature and television writing.
Let’s Not Get Crazy (U.S.A.) / Joey Ally (co-writer/director) and Catie Ally (co-writer): It’s the night before Christmas, and two estranged sisters are about to do something crazy to help their mom get sane.
Joey Ally is a writer, director, and actor who first realized she wanted to make films while volunteering at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. Her short film Partners screened at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival and can be seen on Vimeo Premieres. Her most recent film, Joy Joy Nails, was made for American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women, premiered at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival, and can be viewed as part of The New Yorker’s “The Screening Room.” She is a fellow of the Tribeca Chanel Women’s Filmmaker Program: Through Her Lens, the Universal Filmed Entertainment Group’s Directors Intensive, and the Fox Filmmakers Lab.
Catie Ally graduated from the New School with honors in Creative Writing and Film Theory. She is between hometowns and careers right now as she makes the move from copywriter in Brooklyn to screenwriter in Seattle. When she’s not packing her entire life into the back of her car, she enjoys small dogs and Chopped reruns. Ally’s lifelong passion for movies is largely thanks to a mother who indulged her love of film from a young age (and took her to see Boogie Nights when she was eight years old.)
Nobody Nothing Nowhere (U.S.A.) / Rachel Wolther (co-writer/co-director) and Alex H. Fischer (co-writer/co-director): Just like everyone she knows, Ruth is a “non-person” in a solipsistic universe built around the only being to truly exist, a congenial Midwestern bachelor named Dave. Tired of serving someone else’s story, she unexpectedly upends the narrative when she has the audacity to demand a life of her own.
Rachel Wolther is a director and producer whose work has screened at the Berlinale, BFI, Rotterdam, and New York Film Festivals, among others. Since 2015, she has directed episodes of GE Podcast Theater’s science fiction series The Message, which was the #1 podcast on iTunes and won numerous awards. Wolther was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Film in 2017, along with her directing partner, Alex Fischer.
Alex H. Fischer is a writer and director with a body of work including music videos, experimental shorts, ads, and funny videos. His longest movie yet, Snowy Bing Bongs Across the North Star Combat Zone (co-directed with Rachel Wolther) premiered at BAM Cinemafest this year.
Silhouette (U.S.A.) / Amman Abbasi (writer/director): Pakistani immigrant Raju is chasing his dreams of success, trying to work his way up the ladder of an unsavory pyramid scheme and pursuing MMA matches for which he is woefully underprepared. But when someone who strikingly resembles him commits a local terrorist act, Raju becomes increasingly isolated and identifies with the perpetrator in progressively unsettling ways.
Amman Abbasi is a Pakistani American writer/director, editor and composer from Little Rock, Arkansas. His first feature film, Dayveon, premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and screened at the 2017 Berlinale. For Dayveon, Abbasi has been nominated for the Someone To Watch Award and the John Cassavetes Award at the 2017 Independent Spirit Awards.
The Sugar Hill Express (U.S.A.) / Christopher Grant (writer/director): Found to be an unfit parent because of her mentally ill husband, a desperate mother steals her children from New York City’s Child Protective Services and goes on a raucous journey to evade the cops and finally find a safe home for her family. Based on a lot of people’s true stories.
Christopher Grant is an African American filmmaker based in New York City. His short film work has won numerous festival awards including screenings in the Showtime Black Filmmaker’s Showcase, the Clark Atlanta Festival, and the Mill Valley Film Festival. After a prolific career as a television producer, Grant has most recently worked as a Creative Director at two of the Discovery Networks: Destination America and The American Heroes Channel. Additionally, he’s received multiple New York Foundation of the Arts Grants for improvisational theater and film production.
Thomas in 10 Dimensions (Norway) / Jakob Rørvik (writer/director): Quantum physicist Thomas believes he is about to crack the code of the universe, but he can’t seem to untangle the mysteries of his own life, even as the people he loves most—his young son, ex-wife, and mother—all try to bring him back to earth.
Norwegian writer/director Jakob Rørvik received his MA from the National Film & Television School in the UK. His award-winning shorts have screened at numerous festivals including Cannes, Cinéfondation, South By Southwest and Aspen Shortsfest. His latest short, Nothing Ever Really Ends, was recently selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick Premiere. He is currently in development on both a television series and Thomas in 10 Dimensions, which will be his feature directorial debut.
Wolf in White Van (U.S.A.) / Andrew Bruntel (director), Ben Collins (co-writer), and Luke Piotrowski (co-writer): Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of 17, Sean Phillips is the sole creator of the The Trace Italian, a turn based, fantasy role-playing game run entirely through the mail. When tragedy strikes two of his young players, Sean is forced to re-examine his self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live. Based on the novel by John Darnielle.
Andrew Bruntel was born and raised in a rural town on the edge of Pennsylvania’s rust belt. After studying experimental filmmaking and design in Baltimore, he moved to Los Angeles to work for Mike Mills at The Directors Bureau. He has since become a director and writer, creating award winning short films, commercials and music videos for artists such as Will Oldham, St. Vincent, No Age, and Liars.
Ben Collins was born in Alabama and spent the first 24 years of his life in the south. Collins and his wife moved to Los Angeles in 2009, where he worked in commercial casting for several years. He co-wrote the film Super Dark Times, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and was released in 2017.
Luke Piotrowski was born and raised in the suburbs of Chicago before moving with his family during his sixth grade year to the suburbs of Atlanta, where he stayed until he was able to make a family of his own and move them to the suburbs of Los Angeles, where he currently resides. Along with Ben Collins, he co-wrote the 2017 feature Super Dark Times