The Melissa Mathison Fund

HIFF is proud to announce the inaugural Melissa Mathison Fund, named for the late Hollywood screenwriter. The Fund supports the annual HIFF Screenwriters Lab, which pairs emerging screenwriters with established screenwriters, directors and producers for a collaborative weekend of one-on-one mentoring sessions in East Hampton each spring.


Director Steven Spielberg with screenwriter Melissa Mathison on the set of E.T. (

A Hollywood native, Melissa Mathison got her start as assistant to Francis Ford Coppola on both THE GODFATHER, PART II and APOCALYPSE NOW. During the 1980s, she broke out as a screenwriter, winning an Oscar® nomination for Steven Spielberg‘s E.T.: THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL in 1982. She later adapted the classic novel The Indian in the Cupboard for Kennedy-Marshall Productions and would go on to write screenplays for THE ESCAPE ARTIST, a segment in TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE, and Martin Scorsese’s KUNDUN before her untimely death last year. The Melissa Mathison Fund will commemorate Melissa’s amazing body of work.

“By choosing emerging female screenwriters to participate through this fund in Melissa’s name, her legacy will endure for generations to come,” said Anne Chaisson, HIFF Executive Director. “We are so proud to be able to honor her dedication to the craft of screenwriting during our annual Screenwriters Lab.”

HIFF welcomes donations of all sizes to the Melissa Mathison Fund.


Following the Lab, The Melissa Mathison Fund Screenwriter(s) will continue their connection to both important industry contacts and the public by showcasing selected scene readings from their screenplays by established actors at the Annual Hamptons International Film Festival in October. Past actors who have performed in these readings include Academy Award winner Melissa Leo, Michael Stuhlbarg, Harris Yulin, Richard Kind, and Steve Guttenberg.

Since its inception, over fifty screenplays have taken part in the annual HIFF Screenwriters Lab. Writers of the selected screenplays are brought to East Hampton and spend the weekend in a collaborative environment, where they share and discuss their projects. The esteemed mentors—established screenwriters, directors, and producers—advise them on how to develop their scripts and move their projects closer to production. During evening events, the participants meet with members of the local artistic community, HIFF board members, and friends of the Festival.

Learn more about the Screenwriters Lab.