Support the Melissa Mathison Award

Established in 2016, the Melissa Mathison Award is named for the late Hollywood screenwriter. The Award 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 each spring. In particular, the Award is instrumental in ensuring that female voices are showcased for years to come.


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 award 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 Award.


Following the Lab, The Melissa Mathison Award-winning Screenwriter(s) continue their connection to key industry contacts through selected screenplay readings (by established actors) at an exclusive event in the fall. 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.