The Cricket

Sundance picks projects for filmmaker and New Frontier Labs

First Published      Last Updated May 12 2017 11:03 am

Thirteen independent film projects have been picked for the 2017 Sundance Institute Directors and Screenwriters Labs, representing not only U.S. filmmakers but works from Cuba, Chile, Kenya and the United Kingdom.

The labs — running May 29 to June 22 at Robert Redford's Sundance resort in Provo Canyon — give filmmakers a chance to workshop their scripts, shooting and editing scenes with real film crews and professional actors, and receiving advice from industry veterans.

The line-up of advisors for this year's labs is led by Redford, and includes actors Joan Darling, Ed Harris and Octavia Spencer, and directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris ("Little Miss Sunshine"), Karyn Kusama ("The Invitation"), Keith Gordon ("Mother Night"), Rick Famuyiwa ("Dope"), Ira Sachs ("Love Is Strange") and many others. Overseeing the labs are Michelle Satter, founding director of Sundance's Feature Film Program, and labs director Ilyse McKimmie.

Eight projects have been chosen for the Directors Lab, which runs the full three weeks, and five more will come in for the Screenwriters Lab in the final week.

Sundance also recently announced the six projects that will take part in the institute's New Frontier Story Lab, running May 17-22 at the Sundance resort.

Here are the projects, with synopses provided by Sundance. (All projects are U.S.-based, unless otherwise noted):


Directors Lab projects

• "The 40-Year-Old Version" • "'The 40-Year Old Version' tells the story of a down-on-her-luck New York playwright who decides that the only way to salvage her artistic voice is to become a rapper...at age 40." Writer-director Radha Blank has written for the TV series "The Get Down" and "Empire," and performs hip-hop comedy as emcee RadhaMUSprime.

• "After Love" (U.K.) • "When Mary is suddenly widowed after decades of marriage to her Pakistani husband, she discovers he has a secret family living just across the English Channel in Calais. As she sets out to meet her husband's mistress, Mary navigates her new reality and the Muslim faith she embraced for her husband many years ago." Writer-director Aleem Khan, who lives in London and is of English-Pakistani heritage, has won awards for his short films "Diana" and "Three Brothers."

• "The Cow That Sang a Song About the Future" (Chile) • "In rural Chile, a herd of cattle suddenly and mysteriously falls dead, a deceased woman inexplicably returns home, and an estranged family reunites with its oppressive patriarch to face up to their own complicated history together." Writer-director Francisca Alegria's "And the Whole Sky Fit in the Dead Cow's Eye" was named Best International Fiction Short at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

• "Monsters and Men" • "After capturing an illegal act of police violence on his cellphone, a Brooklyn street hustler sets off a series of events that inexorably alters the lives of a local police officer and a star high-school athlete." Writer-director Reinaldo Marcus Green is a New York native, whose short "Stone Cars" premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival; his short "Stop" premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

• "Selah and the Spades" • "Once upon a time, a girl named Selah ruled Pontomic High School's most merciless gang: The Spades. Captivated by the pleasures and dangers of power, Selah is both charming and callous when deciding who to keep close and who to ruin." Writer-director Tayarisha Poe, a filmmaker and photographer from West Philadelphia who received Sundance's Knight Fellowship in 2016, is adapting this screenplay from a multi-media project she created in 2014.

• "Social Justice Warrior" • "A privileged white college sophomore clashes with her history professor and throws her university into chaos when she attempts to turn the entire campus into a safe space free from offensive language." Co-writer and director Brett Weiner is co-creator of the web series "Honest Trailers," has made short films for the New York Times digital series "Verbatim," and produced and directed projects for ABC Digital, including the sketch-comedy show "Paper Dolls" and the "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." companion piece "Declassified." Co-writer Emma Fletcher has written for "Parks and Recreation" and Amazon's "Red Oaks."

• "Stupid Happy" • "New York City, 1993: Dysfunctional, codependent sisters Rachel and Jackie believe they are orphans after the death of their father, only to find out the mother they thought died when they were young is not just alive, but the star of their favorite soap." Co-writer and director Hannah Pearl Utt and co-writer Jen Tullock created the digital series "Disengaged," and co-wrote the short "Partners," which premiered at Sundance in 2016.

• "The Wall at the End of the Road" • "At the height of the Superbug Era in near-future South Carolina, a young disinfectant technician must put his dreams on hold after a mysterious outbreak coincides with the return of his estranged father. When the situation escalates and his town is quarantined, he must negotiate the emotional and political fallout in a fight for his family's survival." Writer-director Grainger David's short film "The Chair" won the jury prize at SXSW, and screened in competition at Cannes.


Screenwriters Lab projects:

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