Tuesday, April 16, 2024


L-R: Jhanvi Motla (Photo Credit: Alan Torres), Juan Paulo Laserna (Photo Credit: Ivan Durovic), Mary Dauterman (Photo Credit: Kirill Goltsov), MG Evangelista (Photo Credit: Haley Min Young Kreofsky), Naomi Iwamoto (Photo Credit: Heyjin Jun), Omer Ben Shachar (Photo Credit: Dan Haimovich), Thomas Kivney (Photo Credit: Mitali Dave)


Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, announced the seven screenwriters selected for its twenty-sixth annual Screenwriting Lab. Omer Ben Shachar, Mary Dauterman, MG Evangelista, Naomi Iwamoto, Thomas Kivney, Juan Paulo Laserna, and Jhanvi Motla, were chosen for this intensive program, which is designed to provide individualized story and career development for screenwriters with fiction feature screenplays. 

The visionary writers in this year's program boldly tackle stories spanning genres and bring a nuanced understanding of the complexities of their character’s lives and worlds. “We are honored to provide the tools and support necessary for these exceptional filmmakers to propel their projects and careers forward,” said Dea Vazquez, Associate Director of Fiction Programs. 
Throughout the program, Fellows will workshop their projects under the guidance of creative advisors Javier Fuentes-León, Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, Jessica Sharzer, Jeff Stockwell and Christopher Makoto Yogi. Additional guest speakers and advisors include Ruth Atkinson, Danielle Renfrew Behrens, Bridget Savage Cole, Lauren Craniotes, Ellie Foumbi, Priyanka Kapoor, Danielle Krudy, Amanda Marshall, Josh Peters, Jon Schumacher, Ellen Shanman, Lauren Shelton and Caddy Vanasirikul.
Past Screenwriting Lab projects include Billy Luther’s Frybread Face and Me, winner of the Best Narrative Feature at the 2023 Urbanworld Film Festival, nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film and currently on Netflix; Academy Award winner Chloé Zhao’s feature debut Songs My Brothers Taught Me; Andrew Ahn’s Spirit Award-winning debut Spa Night37 Seconds by HIKARI, which won the Panorama Audience Award and CICAE Art Cinema Jury Prize at the 2019 Berlinale Film Festival and is now on Netflix; Ani Simon Kennedy’s A Short History of the Long Road, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival and received a Special Jury Mention for Best Screenplay, and Kate Marks’ The Cow of Queens, which was a 2020 recipient of the prestigious Nichols Fellowship.
Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve, Documentary Producing Lab, Documentary Story Lab, Episodic Lab, Episodic Directing Intensive, Screenwriting Lab, Producing Lab, Fast Track finance market, and Fiscal Sponsorship, as well as through grants and awards that provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.
The Film Independent Screenwriting Lab is supported by Final Draft.

The 2024 Screenwriting Lab participants and their projects are:

Burning Well
Writer/Director: MG Evangelista
Logline: In a re-imagining of the Prodigal Son story, on receiving news of his mother’s illness, a young trans man returns home to mend complicated relationships and rediscover what love and family really mean.

Not My Name
Writer/Director: Juan Paulo Laserna
Logline: 1996 - As Colombia descends into bloody insurgent warfare, a family must travel on a perilous country road to visit their ailing grandfather. Their fear of kidnapping forces them to rely on their youngest child to conceal their fake identities, exposing him to the reality of war.

Writer/Director: Naomi Iwamoto
Logline: A coming of age story that follows an ambitious teen with a drug habit who learns how to grieve and love her mom.

Role Play
Writer/Director: Omer Ben Shachar
Writer: Thomas Kivney
Logline: A struggling actor agrees to help a powerful casting director boost her newly-out son’s confidence by posing as the most supportive guy on Grindr. But as he starts developing feelings for her son, they all realize that even the most well-conceived plot can’t protect you from the realities of love.

The Manager’s Wife
Writer/Director: Jhanvi Motla
Logline: Reunited with her husband Abhi after nearly two years at his newly acquired motel, Nitya arrives in California only to discover dark secrets about her new life that threaten to unravel their marriage.

Thirty Grand
Writer/Director: Mary Dauterman
Logline: Two Gap employees discover a bag of cash in a dressing room at the top of their shift on Black Friday. All hell breaks loose.

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