HIFF Screenwriters Lab Sets Precedent


The Hamptons International Film Festival just made history.

For the first time in 18 years, all three up-and-coming voices in the annual Screenwriters Lab belong to women — an unprecedented move that falls in line with recent social movements unfolding across the country.

“We make it a priority to support new writers in establishing their careers with the guidance of experienced storytellers from the industry,” David Nugent, artistic director of the Hamptons International Film Festival, said in a press release. “We are thrilled to once again guide fresh voices and continue to diversify the narratives coming to the screen every year. We are even more proud that for the first time ever we have three female screenwriters who will participate in the Lab.”

From April 6 to 8, the screenwriters — Esra Saydam, Anu Valia and Aemilia Scott — will be paired with established directors, producers and screenwriters for a weekend of one-on-one mentoring sessions on their screenplays: “The Mesopotamian,” “We Strangers” and “Birthday Suit,” respectively.

This year’s mentors include Sabrina Dhawan, screenwriter of “Monsoon Wedding,” which received a Golden Globe nod and won the ‘Leon D’Oro’ at the Venice Film Festival; James V. Hart, screenwriter of “Hook,” “Bram Stoker’s Dracula,” “Epic,” “Contrast,” “August Rush” and more; and Alec Sokolow, screenwriter of “Toy Story,” which also received a Golden Globe nomination, as well as “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Garfield,” “Goodbye Lover” and “I Am Jane Doe.”

James V. Hart will lead this year’s screenwriting master class on Saturday, April 7, at 6 p.m. at the Ross School in East Hampton, which is open to the public. Hart will use his HartChart — a story-mapping tool for writers working in television, film, novels, plays and other literary forms — to take participants through all the stages of the creative process.

Funding for this year’s Lab is with support from the Melissa Mathison Fund, established in 2016 and named for the late screenwriter, that strives to foster female writers in the industry and their continued development. Three former Lab alumni projects from female filmmakers — “Nancy” by Christina Choe, “And Breathe Normally” by Ísold Uggadóttir and “Dead Pigs” by Cathy Yan — all made their world premieres at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival, and received awards in screenwriting, directing and acting.

“The HIFF Lab continues to serve as a significant launching pad for writers looking to start a promising journey with their narratives, as evidenced by recent alumni,” Anne Chaisson, executive director of the Hamptons International Film Festival, said in a press release. “As always we are extremely grateful to the Melissa Mathison Fund for their support of the Lab’s mission and encouraging new voices in the industry.”

For more information, please visit hamptonsfilmfest.org.