HIFF 2016 Screenwriters Lab: Inaugural Melissa Mathison Fund, Master Class

HIFF is proud to announce the inaugural Melissa Mathison Fund, named for the late Hollywood screenwriter, which will support the 16th Annual Screenwriters Lab next month. In addition, the Lab will present its first ever public event: a Master Class with Oscar®-winning screenwriter Alexander Dinelaris.


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

The annual Screenwriters Lab which pairs emerging screenwriters with established screenwriters, directors and producers for a collaborative weekend of one-on-one mentoring sessions, will be held April 8-10, 2016, in East Hampton.

Melissa Mathison Fund

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.


Master Class

In addition to the new Fund, HIFF also announces a screenwriting Master Class from Alexander Dinelaris, a mentor at the 2015 Screenwriters Lab and the winner of the Academy Award® for Best Screenplay for BIRDMAN: OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE. For the first time, the public will be invited to experience this feature of the Lab.

Dinelaris will take participants through all the stages of a critically acclaimed project, from the original writing phase to how a film’s script changes and morphs through to the final edited picture. Dinelaris will use film clips to detail all that goes into writing an Oscar-winning script such as BIRDMAN. Don’t miss this special opportunity to hear from one of the most talented writers working in film! The Master Class will take place at 5:30 pm on Saturday, April 9, in East Hampton. (Exact location TBA.)

“Alex was one of the most exciting parts of last year’s Lab. His passion, insight, and tales of working on the most celebrated film of last year had us all enthralled. We at HIFF wanted our audiences to have the chance to hear from him as well, and our first Master Class will allow that to happen,” explained HIFF Artistic Director David Nugent.

Since its inception, over fifty screenplays have taken part in the 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.

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 24th 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.

Learn more about the Screenwriters Lab.


Alex Dinelaris is an Academy Award and Golden Globe winner for the screenplay of BIRDMAN (OR THE UNEXPECTED VIRTUE OF IGNORANCE). This year, he was a co-producer of THE REVENANT. He is the show runner, co-creator and executive producer of the upcoming series The One Percent for the Starz network, starring Ed Helms, Hilary Swank and Ed Harris. His feature film THE YEAR OF THE MONARCHS is currently in development with Mandalay Entertainment. Dinelaris is also the author of the hit Broadway musical On Your Feet!, the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan. Other recent work includes The Bodyguard musical for the West End and his plays Red Dog Howls (New York Theater Workshop), Still Life (Manhattan Class Company), The Chaos Theories (Shotgun Theater) and In This, Our Time. Dinelaris is a proud member of the Writers Guild and the Dramatists Guild.