Sixteen fellows with a dozen projects (out of 3,400 submissions) will be headed to the mythic bunk beds and cabin life of Utah just prior to the upcoming Sundance Film Festival. Here their words on paper will be tested, tried and nurtured with valuable input from the likes of Michelle Satter, Ilyse McKimmie, Jessie Nelson and creative advisors Ritesh Batra, Linda Yvette Chávez, Scott Frank, Phil Hay, Marielle Heller, Walter Mosley, Nicole Perlman, Kemp Powers, Dee Rees, Howard Rodman, Dana Stevens, Joan Tewkesbury, Bill Wheeler, Tyger Williams, Virgil Williams, and Doug Wright. This year’s Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab folks include: Nikesh Shukla & Himesh Patel (Brown Baby), Kaitlin Fontana & Franchesca Ramsey (COVER GIRL), Sylvia Khoury (Heather), Jane Casey Modderno (Here for the Weekend), Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs (High Steel), Kristine Gerolaga (Lamok), Francesca Canepa & Miguel Ángel Papalini (La Otra Orilla), Diana Peralta (No Love Lost), Christian Moldes (Quince Kings), Hanna Gray Organschi (Rubber Hut), Sara Crow & David Rafailedes (Satoshi), and Claire Fowler (Toad). Several of these screenwriters will end up going to the Directors’ Lab later in the year. The Sundance Institute have also announced eight projects that will take part of the online screenwriters intensive. Here are the projects and screenwriter bios:
Kaitlin Fontana and Franchesca Ramsey (Co-Writers) with COVER GIRL (U.S.A.): COVER GIRL is based on the true story of Darine Stern, the first Black woman to grace the cover of Playboy. But it’s more than that: It’s the story of a woman choosing herself.
Sylvia Khoury (Writer-Director) with Heather (U.S.A.): Recently widowed Lebanese housewife Fadia, 60, dares to pursue her dream of acting by serving as a standardized patient for a medical student to practice interacting with. When she realizes that Heather, the white character she portrays, commands more respect than she does, Fadia begins to play at being Heather in her everyday life.
Jane Casey Modderno (Writer-Director) with Here for the Weekend (U.S.A.): A thirsty rom-com about Cherry, a transgender Palm Springs resort manager, and her seduction of a hot, flirtatious guest with the power to make her fashion world dreams come true. But as Cherry hustles for a ticket out, she threatens to destroy the wonderfully messy, uber-queer family she’s built at home. Recipient of the Sundance Institute Comedy Fellowship.
Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs (Writer-Director) with High Steel (Canada / U.S.A.): A Mohawk man splits his time between his reservation with his family and Manhattan, where he ironworks 40 stories above the ground. When he falls in love with a white woman in the city, his identity is challenged and he must keep his double life a secret or risk losing everything.
Kristine Gerolaga (Writer-Director) with Lamok (Philippines / U.S.A.): A Filipino woman determined to avenge the death of her daughter following a botched abortion finds her worldview dramatically altered after she is cursed to transform nightly into a fetus-eating creature known as the manananggal. Recipient of the Sundance Institute Horror Fellowship.
Francesca Canepa (Co-Writer-Director) and Miguel Ángel Papalini (Co-Writer) with La Otra Orilla (Peru): Through the canals of a floating neighborhood in the Peruvian Amazon, Belén, a 12-year-old mother, struggles to belong to the world that has been taken from her. Drifting down the river, carrying her son in her arms, the rain will awaken in her an irresistible desire for freedom.
Diana Peralta (Writer-Director) with No Love Lost (U.S.A.): When a troubled young woman brings her new husband home to meet the family, her devoted but insular sisters reveal the extremes they will go to protect one another.
Christian Moldes (Writer) with Quince Kings (U.S.A.): Sebastian and Freddy, undocumented immigrant brothers, infiltrate as many quinceñeras as they can to assimilate and provide for their destitute family in El Paso, Texas. They find themselves at odds with one another when Sebastian falls for the mayor’s daughter, Regina, a privileged young woman with a lot to lose.
Hanna Gray Organschi (Writer-Director) with Rubber Hut (U.S.A.): Rhode Island, 1992. An entrepreneurial ex–Pan Am stewardess opens a drive-thru condom shop in her Italian Catholic town. Overnight, Emanuella DelVecchio becomes the local lightning rod, a radical hero to the neighborhood teens and an unlikely threat to her tight-knit community.
Sara Crow (Co-Writer, Co-Director) and David Rafailedes (Co-Writer, Co-Director) with Satoshi (U.S.A.): The potentially true story of a teenage anime-obsessed hacktivist who, after losing her scholarship to Stanford, returns home to Arizona to become the mysterious inventor of a new digital currency called Bitcoin. Recipient of the Sundance Institute | Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship.
Claire Fowler (Writer-Director) with Toad (U.K.): After seeing a disturbing accusation online, a woman living far away from home and ostracized from her strikingly successful twin brother begins to piece together memories of the teen theater experience that came between them.
The following artists’ projects were selected for the 2024 Screenwriters Intensive:
Rebecca Iliana Kahn (Writer-Director) with ¡Ay Bendito! (U.S.A.): Puerto Rico, 1955. After preventing her best friend’s coerced sterilization, a broke and desperate nurse is recruited to conduct experimental human trials of the first birth control drug. But as women in her community clamor for the pill, she wrestles with her conscience when unusual side effects emerge.
Courtney Loo (Writer-Director) with Bangbang Teahouse (U.S.A.): Hayley and Mimi — an Asian American music duo — stop at absolutely nothing to convince their label to release their long-awaited album over a raucous, self-destructive 48 hours in New York City.
Sarah Mokh (Writer-Director) with Diary of a Muslim Cynic (U.S.A.): Desperate to escape her midwest small town in the aftermath of a tragedy, a teen girl’s pursuits of love, school, and big city dreams are upended by the ghosts of her past and mystical encounters.
Eirini Vianelli (Co-Writer-Director) and Andrew Gilchrist (Co-Writer) with Human Negligence (Greece): As a devastating fire ravages the countryside, four generations of women struggle to navigate their toxic and abusive relationships after they’re forced to evacuate the family home following an emergency government mandate.
Nolam Plaas (Writer-Director) with pecan. (U.S.A.): Junie, a boy from Cancer Alley, Louisiana, is on the precipice of becoming a man. Influenced by his religious yet promiscuous uncle, his peers, and newfound access to porn, Junie attempts to maintain an intimate relationship with his girlfriend, Monique, but his quest for manhood may compromise all that they’ve cultivated.
Amy Adler (Writer, Co-Director) and Ekiwah Adler-Beléndez (Co-Director) with Rag Dolls (U.S.A.): A young Mexican American woman living with cerebral palsy seeks independence from her overprotective mother. When she falls in love with a woman who also uses a wheelchair, she faces the emotional and physical challenges of letting go of the only life she has ever known.
Arthur Elias Gay (Co-Writer-Director) and Rali Chaouni (Co-Writer) with When the Goats Came (New Zealand): Cyrus and his adoptive mother, Flora, return to their hometown in New Zealand in search of Cyrus’ long-lost father. However, when the real motive behind Flora’s desire to return is revealed, the two must reconcile the resentments they hold for a life they never had and accept each other’s love.
Lindsey Villarreal (Writer-Director) with Woman Hollering (U.S.A.): After she and her brother are abandoned and forced to move in with her estranged aunt and cousin, a young girl in South Texas fears the uncertainty of her burgeoning adulthood. Little does she know that her imminent transformation will not be into womanhood, but rather into a half owl, half witch called The Lechuza. Recipient of the Sundance Institute Horror Fellowship.