New York Women in Film and Television expands script development lab for screenwriters older than 40

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Filmmaker Pamela Gray has been named one of the mentors for the New York Women in Film & Television’s 2021 The Writers Lab. [Courtesy photo]

The New York Women in Film & Television’s Writers Lab recently announced an expanded class of 16 participants for 2021 for its script development lab for women screenwriters older than 40.

Accepting pilots as well as features for the first time since launching in 2015, The Writers Lab will build a virtual experience for nine feature writers and seven pilot writers in 2021, its seventh year. Due to COVID-19, this fall’s lab is being presented virtually Oct. 14-17.

Billed as the world’s only lab devoted exclusively to script development for women writers over the age of 40, The Writers Lab is produced by co-founders Elizabeth Kaiden and Nitza Wilon and New York Women in Film & Television. It is  supported by Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Oprah Winfrey and the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation, according to a news release.

Mentors and guest speakers confirmed for the 2021 lab include Pamela Gray (“A Walk on the Moon”), Priya Amritraj (Hyde Park Entertainment), Susan Cartsonis (“What Women Want”),  Amy Fox (“The Connors”), Lisa Jones (“Disappearing Acts”), Jennifer Levine (Untitled Entertainment), Mary Jane Skalski (“Hello I Must Be Going”), Robin Swicord (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), Frida Torresblanco (“Pan’s Labyrinth”), Pat Verducci (“True Crime”), Tracey Scott Wilson (“The Americans”), Jamie Zelermyer (New York Women in Film & Television board president and former Focus Features VP).

The 2021 lab will focus its programming on providing tools and strategies for talented writers to develop their projects and navigate the ever-shifting landscape of professional opportunities. Also in 2021, the lab expands support for its alumni and its entire pool of applicants, offering more than $5,000 in rewards to applicants who placed, and augmenting its online resources and virtual programming with additional podcasts and video recordings.

Partners include the Writers Guild of America, East, The Black List, Falco Ink, Film Fatales, Filmarket Hub, Final Draft, Population Media Center, Roadmap Writers, and Untamed Stories.

Amidst the global pandemic, submissions to The Writers Lab for women over 40 went up by 30%, according to the news release.

“We were astounded by the submissions, which are stronger every year – not just the increased volume, which tells us that women have been writing in lockdown, but also the depth and breadth of their creativity in cinematically depicting today’s twisted, glorious world,” said Kaiden in a statement.

Submissions of genre scripts, particularly sci-fi and horror, were higher this year, as well as stories focused on politics, scientific innovation, sex work and human trafficking and religion.

“Even during times of crisis, unique opportunities do exist,” said New York Women in Film & Television Executive Director Cynthia Lopez in a statement. “Shaped by the current civil rights movement, media companies and creative talent are radically reimagining how to create and distribute work. The Writers Lab, as always, is adapting to trends and the demands of the industry. We are thrilled that, even during Pandemic 2.0, women writers, directors and showrunners will be working together to support diverse creative talent.”

The 16 participants of The Writers Lab 2021 are:

FEATURES
Katherine Andrews & Virginia Abramovich, “Lil” (sci-fi)
Tracey Bradley, “Yardbird” (drama)
Wilandrea Blair, “Lolo” (comedy)
Susan Chiu, “Agree to Disagree” (comedy)
Joy Goodwin, “Over It” (action)
Krystyna Łoboda, “Gig” (sci-fi)
Tasha Moore, “Man Called Buffalo” (drama)
Monika Moreno-Lapp, “Whirlwind” (drama)
Irina Rodriguez, “The Countess” (historical)

ONE-HOUR PILOTS
Jennifer Dunn, “Birdsong” (drama)
Margaux Froley, “Kat and Mouse” (drama)
Kimberlea Kressal, “Scorched Earth” (drama)
Amanda Parham, “Signals” (sci-fi)
Danielle Autumn Stratton, “The Rez” (drama) –  Population Media Center Award Recipient

HALF-HOUR PILOTS
Wendy Dann, “The Jury” (drama)
Desdemona Chiang, “Made in USA” (drama)

“We are delighted to offer support for Danielle Autumn Stratton’s ‘The Rez,’ which deftly and bravely addresses the serious issue of missing indigenous women, and which aligns with our organization’s mission to tell diverse stories supporting female empowerment and equality,” said Lisa Caruso, Head of U.S. Content for Population Media Center, in a statement.

The Writers Lab is putting together an expanded roster of influential, experienced filmmakers to mentor participants in development sessions, panels and story-breaking workshops. Mentors confirmed for 2021 include:

Priya Amritraj (Hyde Park Entertainment)
Susan Cartsonis (“What Women Want,” “Where the Heart Is,” “The Duff,” “Carrie Pilby”)
Amy Fox (“The Connors,” “Equity”)
Pamela Gray (“A Walk on the Moon,” “Music of the Heart,” “Conviction”)
Lisa Jones (“Disappearing Acts,” “The Wedding”)
Jennifer Levine (Untitled Entertainment)
Mary Jane Skalski (“Hello I Must Be Going,” “The Visitor,” “The Station Agent”)
Robin Swicord (“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Memoirs of a Geisha”)
Frida Torresblanco (“Pan’s Labyrinth,” “Disobedience”)
Pat Verducci (Disney/Pixar, “True Crime,” “Smoked:)
Tracey Scott Wilson (“The Americans,” “Respect”)
Jamie Zelermyer (Focus Features, “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Before/During/After”)
Amber Sealey (“No Man of God”)

The Writers Lab is dedicated to developing narrative scripted content written by diverse women older than the age of 40. With industry veterans, the lab elevates the work of women screenwriters in their prime through mentorship, advocacy and exposure. Alumni have been staffed in writers rooms, signed with managers and agents, landed deals and moved their scripts into production. In addition to the flagship U.S. Lab, labs are now offered for women writers over age 40 in the UK and Ireland. For more information, go to thewriterslab.nyc/us-lab.

The New York Women in Film & Television advocates for equality in the moving image industry and supports women in every stage of their careers. The nonprofit organization is part of a network of 50 women in film chapters worldwide, representing more than 15,000 members. For more information, visit www.nywift.org.

-BAM

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