20th Anniversary Screenwriters Lab

Anne Carey, Peter Hedges, Darius Marder, Dan Steinman, Liz Hannah and Michael H. Weber joined the first ever virtual Screenwriters Lab April 3-5, 2020, to celebrate our 20-year anniversary and to mentor our selected screenwriters and screenplays.

The three selected screenplays for 2020:

  • Mouse, by Kelly O’Sullivan
  • Gracefully, by Adinah Dancyger
  • Esther’s Guide to Sex and Death, by Max Walker-Silverman

“Committed to celebrating 20 years of the HamptonsFilm’s Screenwriters Lab, we were proud to continue the early Spring tradition virtually. We are eternally grateful that our mentors agreed to dedicate their time for the selected screenwriters,” said Anne Chaisson, Executive Director. “In this time of uncertainty, it’s important to continue to help each other thrive creatively.”

“Since the Lab’s inception 20 years ago, over fifty screenplays have been developed at our lab with many being produced and premiering and winning awards at Festivals such as Sundance, Cannes, SXSW and more, and screening theatrically around the world,” said David Nugent, Artistic Director of HamptonsFilm. “This year’s selected artists bring three unique and personal stories about characters falling in love, confronting death, and finding a path forward. We are so excited to go on their journey with them.”

This year’s mentors include:

  • Peter Hedges, Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter and author, screenwriter of ABOUT A BOY, DAN IN REAL LIFE, BEN IS BACK, WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN, PIECES OF APRIL, and A MAP OF THE WORLD
  • Darius Marder, screenwriter of THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES and SOUND OF METAL
  • Anne Carey, producer of the Academy Award-nominated CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME? and 20TH CENTURY WOMEN

And on Saturday afternoon, Dan Steinman (Co-President and COO of 30 West), Michael H. Weber (Oscar nominated co-writer of THE DISASTER ARTIST and 500 DAYS OF SUMMER), and Liz Hannah (writer of THE POST and LONG SHOT) joined the group for a virtual happy hour and discussion about the state of the industry amidst the global pandemic.

Read a first-person account from Artistic Director David Nugent

Full bios of all Lab participants are included below.



Screenwriter: Kelly O’Sullivan
When seventeen-year old Minnie’s best friend Ally is killed in an accident, she struggles to find an identity of her own, and forms a complicated friendship with Ally’s grieving mother.

Kelly O’Sullivan is a writer, director, and actor based in Chicago, IL. Her first feature screenplay, SAINT FRANCES, won the South by Southwest Audience Award and a Special Jury Recognition for Breakthrough Voice. As an actor, she starred in SAINT FRANCES and multiple other independent films, as well as appearing in theatre productions at Steppenwolf and The Goodman. She is proudly represented by WME.

Kelly is the 2020 Melissa Mathison recipient, which will provide a live screenplay reading of her script in 2021.

Watch Kelly’s film SAINT FRANCES, our #NowShowing pick for April 6!

“The Screenwriters Lab gave me two of the things that screenwriters most crave: Honest, insightful feedback from creatives working at an incredibly high level in their field, and dedicated time devoted solely to bettering our scripts. Both feedback and time can be a struggle to secure; the Screenwriters Lab gifts them in plenty. I walked away with a better understanding of the story I was currently telling, and how to get closer to my vision. The array of mentors and industry guests provided insight into both the creative process and the professional process of getting our films made. And because this Lab coincided with the Covid-19 quarantine, it gave me the permission and motivation to continue to work, which was a huge gift in itself. There’s no doubt that this Lab has made and will continue to make my script stronger, and I know the guidance I received will have a positive impact on all my future scripts.”


Screenwriter: Adinah Dancyger
Set in New York City in the early ’90s, Gracefully is the story of two people whose daily encounters in a deli develop into an unexpected romance.

Adinah Dancyger is a Korean-Polish, first-generation American filmmaker from New York City. She holds B.A. in Film from Bard College, and her short films have traveled the film festival circuit internationally: MOVING (Slamdance 2020, Grand Jury Award For Narrative Short Film; NYFF 2019); CHEER UP BABY (Sundance Film Festival 2018; NYFF 2017), CHOPPING ONIONS (Berlinale 2015; Hamptons International Film Festival 2015). Dancyger is a fellow of the 2017 New York Film Festival’s Artist Academy.

“The Lab restored a sense of courage, excitement and perspective that has been difficult to hold onto given current affairs (and the inherent difficulty of the act of writing). To be in the presence of such talented, passionate and kind mentors was simply a gift. Something has clicked in this highly concentrated weekend of conversations and group talks. The script void is beginning to patch up in a spiritual way, an energy I feel is needed to manifest the possibilities for this project moving forward.”

Esther’s Guide to Sex and Death

Screenwriter: Max Walker-Silverman
Esther’s Guide to Sex and Death is a neo-noir dark comedy about a homicide detective who retires to a small town where she struggles to care for her mother, catch a murderer, and meet a new man.

Max Walker-Silverman grew up in rural Colorado and is a thesis student at NYU’s Graduate Film Program. Having worked as a cowhand, literary editor, and community organizer, he now tells stories about kindness in the American West. His films have received the Kodak Vision Award, the Wasserman Directing Award, a National Board of Review Student Award, the Panavision New Filmmaker Grant, and a Vimeo Staff Pick. He lives and works in the Rocky Mountains.

“It’s hard to say what’s more valuable: to be shown a path forwards or to be given the courage to walk it. Neither means much without the other, I suppose, so thank the lord the lab gifted both. This is mentorship and is finest and most generous. My deepest gratitude to HamptonsFilm for rounding up such a wise and caring gang. Be proud, y’all. This is a special thing.”


Peter Hedges

Peter Hedges’ first novel What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was the basis for the 1993 film, which he also wrote. Hedges’ screenplay adaptations include Jane Hamilton’s A MAP OF THE WORLD and Nick Hornby’s ABOUT A BOY (Academy Award® nomination). Hedges wrote and directed PIECES OF APRIL (2003), directed and co-wrote DAN IN REAL LIFE (2007), and wrote and directed THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (2012). Most recently, he wrote, directed, and produced BEN IS BACK (2018), starring Julia Roberts and Lucas Hedges. Hedges grew up in West Des Moines, Iowa. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife, the poet Susan Bruce.

Darius Marder

Darius Marder is a writer and director whose first feature film LOOT was awarded the Best Documentary prize at the 2008 Los Angeles Film Festival; was nominated for five Cinema Eye Awards; and earned him a Spirit Award nomination for the “Truer than Fiction” prize. Marder then co-wrote the narrative feature ‘THE PLACE BEYOND THE PINES in 2012 with Derek Cianfrance and Ben Coccio. The original screenplay won them the Penn Literary award in 2014. In 2015, Marder and Cianfrance also co-adapted the Pulitzer Prize Finalist book Empire Of The Summer Moon by Sam Gwyne for Warner Brothers Entertainment, to go into production in 2020. Darius shot his first narrative feature, called SOUND OF METAL, in 2018, which he co-wrote with his brother Abraham Marder. It stars Riz Ahmed, Olivia Cooke, Lauren Ridloff and Matthieu Amalric, and premiered at The Toronto International Film Festival in 2019. It has since been bought by Amazon Studios, won best film at the Zürich International Film Festival, and will release theatrically in 2020. Marder lives in Brooklyn, NY. He has two sons and a half-blind rescue dog. He is currently writing the second narrative feature he will direct.

Anne Carey

Anne Carey is President of Production at Archer Gray, a hybrid production, finance and venture company based in New York City. Carey’s notable recent film credits include the Netflix film LOST GIRLS, directed by Liz Garbus and written by Michael Werwie, which recently premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival; CAN YOU EVER FORGIVE ME?, directed by Marielle Heller, written by Nicole Holofcener and Jeff Whitty and starring Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant, with BAFTA nominations and Academy Award nominations across the board; Academy Award-nominated 20th CENTURY WOMEN, written and directed by Mike Mills, starring Annette Bening; Marielle Heller’s THE DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, starring Kristen Wiig and Alexander Skarsgard; and MR. HOLMES, directed by Bill Condon, starring Ian McKellen and Laura Linney.

The 2020 Lab was presented with generous support from Mary Solomon/GS Gives.

Highlights over the past 19 years have included Michael Tyburski and Ben Nabors’ THE SOUND OF SILENCE, starring Peter Sarsgaard and Rashida Jones, which premiered at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival; Ísold Uggadóttir’s AND BREATHE NORMALLY and Christina Choe’s NANCY, which both premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and received awards for Directing and Acting, respectively; Destin Daniel Cretton’s SHORT TERM 12, starring Academy Award®-winning actors Brie Larson and Rami Malek, which won the Grand Jury and Audience Award at SXSW in 2013; Justin Schwartz’s THE DISCOVERERS, starring Griffin Dunne, which made its world premiere at HIFF 2012; Sara Colangelo’s LITTLE ACCIDENTS, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, starring Elizabeth Banks and Chloe Sevigny, and Claudia Myers’s FORT BLISS, starring Michelle Monaghan and Ron Livingston, which was released in 2014.

Learn more about the HIFF Screenwriters Lab.