HIFF Screenwriters Lab: 2017 Selections & Mentors

HIFF is proud to announce the mentors and screenwriters for the 17th Annual Screenwriters Lab, which takes place April 7-9 in East Hampton and Sag Harbor. The Lab pairs up-and-coming screenwriters with established screenwriters, directors and producers for a series of one-on-one mentoring sessions.


“Our focus on fostering up-and-coming talent in the HIFF community is at the forefront of our festival’s mission, and our Screenwriters Lab is one of our most valued events,” said David Nugent, Artistic Director of the Hamptons International Film Festival. “In the last four years, four projects from our Lab have gone on to be produced, all by female filmmakers, which is particularly exciting to us.”

In between one-on-one mentor sessions, the group traveled to the Ross School on Saturday afternoon for a Master Class in screenwriting from former mentor and festival juror Michael H. Weber (500 DAYS OF SUMMER).

At the annual celebratory dinner, hosted generously by our board members, it was announced that Annabelle Attanasio’s MICKEY AND THE BEAR is this year’s beneficiary of the Melissa Mathison Fund.

The weekend wrapped with one final session that allowed each writer to discuss his or her screenplay with the whole group. The insightful conversation was lovely way to end the Lab. Thanks to all our mentors and participants for a fantastic weekend!

The three selected screenplays for 2017 were Annabelle Attanasio’s MICKEY AND THE BEAR, Jess dela Merced’s CHICKENSHIT, and Andrew Semans’s RESURRECTION. Find full bios of all Lab participants below.

This year’s mentors included Robin Swicord, Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter of THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON and MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA; David Siegel, whose films include THE DEEP END, BEE SEASON, and WHAT MAISIE KNEW; and Ted Griffin, whose credits include OCEAN’S ELEVENTHE WOLF OF WALL STREET (producer), and several TV series.

The Fault in Our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort

The Fault in Our Stars, starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort

HIFF also once again featured a screenwriting Master Class, open to the public, with last year’s mentor and acclaimed screenwriter Michael H. Weber, whose screenplays include THE FAULT IN OUR STARS and (500) DAYS OF SUMMER. Weber will take participants through all the stages of a critically acclaimed project, from the writing phase to script changes to the final edited picture. Weber will use clips and personal experience to detail all that goes into writing a script for every type of audience, specifically focusing on taking a script from book to screen. This is a special opportunity to hear from one of the most talented writers working in film today. The Master Class will take place at 6:00PM on Saturday, April 8 at the Ross School in East Hampton. Read more about Weber.

This year’s Lab once again enjoyed the support of the Melissa Mathison Fund, which is primarily focused on fostering female writers in the industry and their continued development. In 2017, Annabelle Attanasio’s MICKEY AND THE BEAR received support from the fund. Following the Lab, Attanasio will further develop her connection to key industry contacts through a selected screenplay reading (by established actors) at an exclusive event in the fall.

“We look forward to having our Lab participants come to the East End for the opportunity to develop their craft under the guidance of our talented mentors, and to build relationships within the industry,” said Anne Chaisson, Executive Director of the Hamptons International Film Festival. “We could not have done this without the support of the Melissa Mathison Fund, and are so thankful for everyone involved in this year’s Screenwriters Lab.”


Without further ado, we’re delighted to announce the projects selected and introduce this year’s mentors. The three selected screenplays for 2017:


by Annabelle Attanasio

In rural Montana, a scrappy, conscientious teenage girl seeks independence from her controlling father, whom she’s taken care of since her mother’s death. Upon finding refuge in a worldly stranger, she must decide whether to remain loyal to her father, or to leave him behind to pursue her own life.

Annabelle Attanasio​ is an​ actress and filmmaker based​ in Brooklyn. Her short FRANKIE KEEPS TALKING recently had its world premiere at SBIFF, and will screen at MIFF and NFFTY in the coming months. FRANKIE is a feminist farce about the severity of frustration a woman feels when she goes on a date with a man who never stops talking. Attanasio’s notable acting credits include “The Knick” (Cinemax), BARRY (Netflix) and ​a (current) series regular role on “Bull” (CBS). Attanasio is represented by Rhonda Price at The Gersh Agency and Jen Konawal at Washington Square Films.


by Jess dela Merced

With the help of a ragtag group of boys, 11-year-old Phoenix sets out on a dangerous mission to save her Detroit neighborhood from arsonists and to prove herself to her father.

Jess dela Merced is a Filipino-American writer/director from San Francisco. She is currently a director in the Disney ABC directing program. Last year, she was named as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film and a NYFF Artist Academy fellow. She holds an MFA from the NYU Grad Film Program, where she received the 2012 Spike Lee Fellowship as well as the Lorraine Hansberry Arts, Performance, and Media Award. Her award-winning thesis film HYPEBEASTS, written under the mentorship of Spike Lee, aired on PBS. From 2014-2015 Jess was a San Francisco Film Society FilmHouse screenwriting resident and one of IFP’s Emerging Storytellers. Her feature script “Chickenshit” is a winner of NYU’s 2016 Purple List and a San Francisco Film Society grant recipient.


by Andrew Semans

Sometimes all it takes to be a truly great mother is to stalk and kill an older gentleman in Manhattan.

Andrew Semans is a filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. NANCY, PLEASE, his debut feature as writer/director, premiered at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival and was distributed theatrically by Factory 25. NANCY received a strong critical response and currently boasts a 100% “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Previously, Andrew wrote and directed a handful of acclaimed short films.

lab mentors 2017

Michael H. Weber, Robin Swicord, David Siegel


This year’s mentors were another eclectic and talented group:

Robin Swicord

Robin Swicord is primarily known for her work as a screenwriter for MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (Satellite Award for best screenplay), LITTLE WOMEN (co-producer, Writers Guild award nomination), MATILDA (co-written and co-produced with Nicholas Kazan), the cult comedy SHAG (shared), THE PEREZ FAMILY, and PRACTICAL MAGIC (shared). She has written two plays that were produced off-Broadway (“Last Days at the Dixie Girl Café” and “Criminal Minds,” both published by Samuel French).

In 2009 Swicord received an Oscar® nomination for her contribution to THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, a project Swicord originated and worked on for more than a decade.

Swicord made her feature-directing debut with Sony Classics’ THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB, for which Swicord also wrote the screenplay adaptation. She also wrote and directed WAKEFIELD (HIFF 2016), starring Bryan Cranston and Jennifer Garner, which will be released theatrically by IFC in May 2017.

Swicord is currently a Governor for the Writers Branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and chairs the Academy’s prestigious Nicholl Screenwriting Fellowship.

David Siegel

David Siegel was born in Brooklyn, New York, but spent most of his youth in Southern California. He received a BA in Architecture at UC Berkeley before pursuing an MFA in Photography and Painting at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Siegel began working with Scott McGhee in San Francisco, completing their first feature, SUTURE, in 1994. Since then, they have made THE DEEP END (2001), BEE SEASON (2005), UNCERTAINTY (2008), and WHAT MAISIE KNEW (2013).

Ted Griffin

As a screenwriter, Ted Griffin’s credits include the 2001 remake of OCEAN’S ELEVEN, MATCHSTICK MEN (with brother Nick Griffin), RAVENOUS, and TOWER HEIST (with Jeff Nathanson).

His producing credits include MATCHSTICK MEN, the Oscar®-nominated UP IN THE AIR, Martin Scorsese’s Fran Lebowitz documentary PUBLIC SPEAKING, Walt Disney’s PROM, and the Oscar®-nominated THE WOLF OF WALL STREET.

He conceived and appeared in the CLIO-winning commercial “The Key to Reserva” and wrote the Dolce-Gabbana ad “Street of Dreams,” both directed by Mr. Scorsese. In television, he created, executive produced (with Shawn Ryan) and directed episodes of “Terriers” for FX, and has directed episodes of “Mad Dogs” and “Patriot” for Amazon. He lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.

Learn more about the HIFF Screenwriters Lab