HIFF Screenwriters Lab: 2019 Selections & Mentors

HIFF is proud to announce the mentors and screenwriters for the 19th Annual Screenwriters Lab, which takes place April 5-7, 2019. The Lab pairs rising screenwriters with established and knowledgeable screenwriters, directors, and producers for a weekend of one-on-one mentoring sessions.

The three selected screenplays for 2019 are Barbara Cigarroa’s EL OTRO LADO (THE OTHER SIDE), Sontenish MyersSTAMPEDE, and Kirsten Tan’s HIGHER.

This year’s mentors are Michael H. Weber, screenwriter of THE DISASTER ARTIST, for which he received an Academy Award® nomination, THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, and THE SPECTACULAR NOWCaroline Kaplan, producer of EN EL SÉPTIMO DÍA and executive producer of SORRY TO BOTHER YOU; and Bill Collage, screenwriter of ASSASSIN’S CREED and the DIVERGENT series.

“Over the years, our annual Screenwriters Lab has become a wonderful opportunity for writers to explore the possibilities of their work and receive guidance from some of the industry’s most prolific storytellers,” said David Nugent, Artistic Director of the Hamptons International Film Festival.

Full bios of all Lab participants are included below.

Jenkins Taylor 650HIFF will once again feature a screenwriting Master Class, open to the public, with acclaimed screenwriters Tamara Jenkins and Jim Taylor. They will take participants through all the stages of the creative process, from the writing phase to script changes to the final edited picture, and will use clips and personal experience to detail all that goes into writing a script for every type of audience. Join us at 6:00 pm on Saturday, April 6 at the Ross School in East Hampton. The public is invited! Tickets are on sale now.

Terms of Endearment 1 650During the Lab weekend HIFF will also present a special screening of TERMS OF ENDEARMENT on Friday, April 5, at Bay Street Theater, with a post-screening conversation between David Nugent and Alec Baldwin. Tickets are on sale now.

This year’s Lab will once again enjoy the support of the Melissa Mathison Fund, which is focused on fostering the continued development of female writers in the industry. After the lab, one screenwriter will further develop her connection to key industry contacts through a selected screenplay reading (by established actors) at an exclusive event later this year.


Without further ado, we’re delighted to announce the projects selected and introduce this year’s mentors. The three selected screenplays for 2019:

Barbara Cigarroa 300x400El Otro Lado (The Other Side)

Screenwriter: Barbara Cigarroa

Logline: Set in Brownsville, Texas, during the child migration crisis, Lucy, a low-income Mexican American teen, is confronted with her own need for escape when her father decides to sponsor two undocumented minors for money.

Barbara Cigarroa holds an MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University and a BA in English from Yale. A storyteller, with a passion for social-justice activism and Hispanic narratives, Barbara’s work has been recognized world-wide on the festival circuit, and through individual grants and awards from organizations including the Kellogg Foundation, Lincoln Center, and Sundance Institute. Barbara was selected for the 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, where she was the awarded the Latinx Fellowship with her project EL OTRO LADO (THE OTHER SIDE), which was also featured at IFP’s 2018 No Borders Co-Production Market. Her short film DIOS NUNCA MUERE (GOD NEVER DIES) had its world premiere at the 2018 New York Film Festival, and concurrently she was invited to be a member of the 2018 NYFF Artist Academy. Her previous work, MARTA ROSA, was an official selection at dozens of international film festivals, including Austin, New Orleans, and Palm Springs, where it won Panavision’s “Best North American” short. Prior to moving to New York, Barbara volunteered as a documentary filmmaker in South Texas and Central America for non-profit companies focused on fighting for underprivileged community’s rights. Before this, Barbara mentored under renowned documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles.

Sontenish Myers Headshot 300x400Stampede

Screenwriter: Sontenish Myers

Logline: Set on a southern plantation in the 1800s, a young slave girl named Lena has telekinetic powers she cannot yet control. Circumstances escalate when she’s separated from her mother to be a house girl, in close quarters with the mercurial Master’s wife: Elizabeth.

Sontenish Myers is a writer-director based in Harlem, NY. She is is a graduate and adjunct professor of NYU’s Graduate Film program. Sontenish has written and directed 4 short films to date. In her work, racial identity, womanhood, power dynamics, and the heroic journey are often explored. She is particularly interested in doing so across genres, from dramas, science fiction/fantasy, to dark comedies. Her most recent short film, CROSS MY HEART, follows an American teen who upon visiting her family in Jamaica, discovers a secret that changes the way she sees the people she loves. The film made its North American Premiere at Seattle International Film Festival. Sontenish was also awarded the Alexis Award for Best Emerging Student Filmmaker at Palm Springs International Shortfest for CROSS MY HEART, which was also included in Refinery29’s list of The Most Exciting Woman-Directed Films At 2018’s Palm Springs Shortfest. CROSS MY HEART won the Vimeo Staff Pick Award at Hampton International Film Festival for its “outstanding performances from its two young leads and a nuanced directorial approach.” Sontenish is an IFP Marcie Bloom Fellow in Film, and is developing her first feature film Stampede.

Kirsten Tan 300x400Higher

Screenwriter: Kirsten Tan

Logline: As a mysterious flood rises floor by floor through a metropolitan apartment building, its residents fight for survival and resources, setting off an absurdist satire of interlocking short stories grappling with morality, truth and justice.

Kirsten Tan is a New York-based Singaporean filmmaker whose debut feature POP AYE premiered as the Opening Night film of the World Cinema Dramatic competition at Sundance 2017. The film went on to receive a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, the VPRO Big Screen Award at Rotterdam and the Best International Film Award at Zurich Film Festival. To date, it has screened at over 50 film festivals including BFI London, Melbourne, Munich, Busan and was released by Kino Lorber. POP AYE was invited to represent Singapore in the Foreign Film Category at the Oscars. Prior to completing POP AYE, she made a series of short films. Her shorts 10 MINUTES LATER, FONZI, SINK, COLD NOODLES, and DADHI have collectively received over ten international awards. A Cinereach Film Fellow, she earned her MFA at NYU Graduate Film School where she received the Tisch School of the Arts Fellowship.


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

Caroline_Kaplan_Square-788x788.jpgCaroline Kaplan

Caroline Kaplan is the Director of Film and Creative Programs at Cinereach, a Film Foundation and Production Company based in New York. She manages direct support of filmmakers, including artistic and project development, and oversees the organization’s various programs including the Fellowship Program and Creative Initiatives. She also serves as producer on select Cinereach productions and co-productions including Boots Riley’s SORRY TO BOTHER YOU and the upcoming MARCEL THE SHELL movie. Caroline is also an independent film producer. Recent films include Oren Moverman’s TIME OUT OF MIND, Joseph Cedar’s NORMAN, Jim McKay’s EN EL SEPTIMO DIA and Kent Jones’ upcoming DIANE. Prior to that she was the head of Production and Acquisitions at IFC Entertainment. She was also a founding partner of InDigEnt, the pioneering digital production company. Her film credits at IFC include: OUR SONG, MR. DEATH, WAKING LIFE, MONSOON WEDDING, TADPOLE, PIECES OF APRIL, PERSONAL VELOCITY, ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW, and BOYHOOD. Prior to IFC Entertainment, she was the Senior Vice President of Original Programming for the Independent Film Channel and the Bravo Channel as well as a founder of the Independent Film Channel. Her television credits include: Errol Morris’ First Person, A Decade Under the Influence, Dinner for Five, The Typewriter, The Rifle and the Movie Camera and Werner Herzog’s My Best Fiend. She began her career in the Documentary department of HBO.


Michael Weber Headshot 300x400Michael H. Weber

Michael H. Weber is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and award-winning independent film producer. With Scott Neustadter, he adapted THE DISASTER ARTIST, which was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards. Their other writing credits include THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, (500) DAYS OF SUMMER, THE SPECTACULAR NOW, PAPER TOWNS and OUR SOULS AT NIGHT. Weber graduated the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2000. Born in New York City, he currently lives in Manhattan.


Bill Collage 300x400BILL COLLAGE

Bill Collage has written on more the 50 films, all for major studios. Credits combine for over a billion dollars of worldwide box office, including ASSASSIN’S CREED, DIVERGENT Series: ALLEGIANT, TRANSPORTER REFUELED, EXODUS: GOD & KINGS, TOWER HEIST, ACCEPTED and more. He has worked with directors Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Zheng Yimou, Luc Besson, Darren Aronofsky, and Cary Fukunaga, among many others. His upcoming films include DEVIL IN THE GROVE (Dir. Anton Corbijn) and AFTERBURN (Dir. Jung Byung-gil).

Highlights since the Lab’s inception include 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