You’re Invited to the Melissa Mathison Screenplay Reading: ‘HIGHER’

Please join us in
New York City for a
staged reading of selected scenes from
2019 HamptonsFilm Screenwriters Lab Participant

Kirsten Tan’s

Monday, January 13 
(Reading 7-7:45; reception to follow)
Foley Gallery | 59 Orchard Street
New York, NY

Space is limited.

Trapped within a residential apartment building by a mysterious flood, residents fight for survival and resources, setting off five absurdist, interwoven short stories that grapple with morality, truth and justice.

Melissa Mathison Fund

Kirsten Tan was selected to receive support from the 2019 Melissa Mathison Fund, established in 2016 and named for the late Hollywood screenwriter of iconic films such as E.T. THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL.

The Fund ​supports HIFF’s annual Screenwriters Lab, and in particular, is instrumental in ensuring that female voices are showcased.​ ​This reading is a direct result of receiving this fund, and will take Kirsten one step further in her film’s production.

Support women in film with a donation.


Screenwriter: Kirsten Tan

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 the Sundance Film Festival 2017. The film went on to receive a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, the VPRO Big Screen Award at Rotterdam, the Best International Film Award at Zurich Film Festival and the Audience Award at Innsbruck International Film festival. To date, it has screened at over 50 film festivals including BFI London, Melbourne, Munich and Busan and 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 DAHDI have collectively received over ten international awards. ELLA, a fashion film she directed for Giorgio Armani, was included in the permanent film collection of MoMA in New York City. A Sundance Institute and Cinereach Film Fellow, she earned her MFA at NYU Graduate Film School, where she received the Tisch School of the Arts Fellowship.


Michael Aronov won the Tony Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Play for his work in the celebrated Broadway production of Oslo. He was recently seen starring alongside Carla Gugino in the HBO/Cinemax series JETT. Previously Michael shared the big screen with Sir Ben Kingsley and Oscar Isaac in MGM’s OPERATION FINALE. He played opposite Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini in the Fox Searchlight feature THE DROP, and will soon be seen in the upcoming feature film DREAMLAND with Gary Oldman.

Micah Stock can be seen starring as a series regular on Nat Geo’s The Right Stuff and in the Netflix original series Bonding, which premiered at CannesSeries. He also recently appeared in Showtime’s limited series Escape at Dannemora opposite Patricia Arquette for director Ben Stiller. He starred in director Paul Downs Colaizzo’s feature BRITTANY RUNS A MARATHON opposite Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins and Lil Rel Howery, which premiered in competition at Sundance last January. Micah was nominated for a Tony in 2015 for his Broadway debut in the hit revival of Terrence McNally’s It’s Only a Play opposite Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane for director Jack O’Brien. The following season, he re-teamed with O’Brien and Lane for the 2017 Broadway revival of The Front Page. Micah is also an impressive singer.

Kathryn Erbe is best known to television audiences from her starring role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent, as well as her recurring roles on Oz, Homicide: Life On The Street, The Sinner, How To Get Away With Murder, Pose, The Gifted, and City On A Hill. Her film credits include WHAT ABOUT BOB?, RICH IN LOVE, THE ADDICTION, KISS OF DEATH, DREAM WITH THE FISHES, STIR OF ECHOES, MISTRESS AMERICA, ASSASSINATION NATION, and NO ALTERNATIVE, and the upcoming RED PILL and THE GOOD HOUSE. Erbe made her Broadway debut in The Grapes of Wrath and has also been seen in A Month In The Country, The Father, and The Speed Of Darkness, for which she received a Tony Award nomination. Her off-Broadway credits include Yosemite, Ode to Joy, AZAK, Checkers, Nikolai and the Others; Steppenwolf credits include Curse of the Starving Class, My Thing of Love, A Streetcar Named Desire; and the recent acclaimed run of Something Clean at Roundabout Underground. She is an ensemble member of the Atlantic Theater Company and Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Her work with Theatre Of War Productions is what she is most proud of.

Armando Riesco. TV: The Chi, Queen of the South, Bull, Power, The Family, Vinyl, Blue Bloods. Film: SENECA, ADULT WORLD, 7E, BROOKLYN’S FINEST, CHE, NATIONAL TREASURE, GARDEN STATE, WORLD TRADE CENTER, FEVER PITCH, BELLA, 25th HOUR. Off-Broadway: The Fundamentals (Steppenwolf Theater Company), Junk (La Jolla Playhouse), Toast (Public Theater); Happiest Song Plays Last (Lortel Award nomination – Outstanding Lead Actor) and Water by the Spoonful (Second Stage); Sonia Flew (SPF); Four (MTC). Regional: La Jolla Playhouse, Goodman, Wilma, Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, About Face Theater. Education: B.S. from Northwestern University.

Nikolai Tsankov started acting as a child in Eastern Europe. He was a member of the Bulgarian National Theatre and had starred in numerous features for TV and the big screen produced in Bulgaria, Russia, and Germany. After immigrating to the U.S., Nikolai continued to act in TV, film, and stage productions across the country. With the advent of the Internet and personal computing, he fell in love with technology and began a new journey in the digital world. Nikolai virtually stopped acting for almost 15 years and built a successful career as a Data Network Engineer with companies such as I.B.M. and Google. In 2016, Nikolai felt compelled to return to New York and acting with much passion and appreciation. He is proud of his successful acting comeback and enjoys working on the sets of various film and TV productions such as The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot (with Sam Elliott and Ron Livingston), the last seasons of the TV series The Americans and Mr. Robot, as well as the upcoming features Crabs in a Bucket (with Bruce Dern and Jeremy Piven) and Confetti (with Helen Slater and Amy Irving).

Gemma Massot is half Cuban, half English. She got her BA at The Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC and continued on into their repertory year. She started her career guest starring in TV shows such as The Mentalist, Revenge, and 90210. Most recently she can be seen in Hulu’s Looming Tower and independent features such as UNINTENDED, LITTLE FAITH, and LIBERATI: A CALL TO SPY. She is repped by Authentic Talent & Literary Management.

Owen Laheen is an Irish actress, born in Dublin and raised in the south of France. She was most recently invited to be an Artist in Residence with La MaMa Theatre in Umbria, Italy, and received her BFA in Acting from SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Theatre Arts in New York. Owen is represented by The Krasny Office.


Susan Shopmaker has over 20 years of feature film credits to her name. In 2018 she won the Casting Society of America’s Artios Award for Eliza Hittman’s BEACH RATS and previously won an Artios Award for Sean Durkin’s acclaimed Sundance drama MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE (HIFF 2011). She also cast Durkin’s THE NEST, which will premiere at Sundance 2020. Susan cast Paul Schrader’s FIRST REFORMED (2018) and is currently casting Schrader’s THE CARD COUNTER (2020); John Cameron Mitchell’s HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH and SHORTBUS; John Slattery’s GOD’S POCKET; Andrew Neel’s KING KELLY & GOAT; and Michel Franco’s CHRONIC (Cannes 2015 Award Winner), and is currently casting Franco’s DRIFTWOOD. Television Credits: Terence Nance’s Random Acts Of Flyness and Netflix’s upcoming Grand Army.

Lois Drabkin is a Casting Director who has worked extensively on a range of projects, including: the Sundance premieres NANCY (HamptonsFilm Screenwriters Lab 2013), LISTEN UP PHILIP, RESTLESS CITY, NIGHT CATCHES US, and THE MISSING PERSON; the Independent Spirit Award acting-nominated features COLEWELL (Karen Allen), NANCY (Andrea Riseborough) and GLASS CHIN (Marin Ireland); and the future releases of Indiewire Young Filmmaker to Watch Jack Fessenden’s FOXHOLE; ALL THE LITTLE THINGS WE KILL, with Elizabeth Marvel; and FARAWAY EYES, with Christina Ricci and Andy Karl. Additional credits include the first season of the Emmy-winning Showtime documentary series investigating climate change, Years of Living Dangerously, and as part of the casting teams for Steven Spielberg’s WAR OF THE WORLDS, the acclaimed HBO series The Wire, and Michael Mann’s PUBLIC ENEMIES. A member of the Casting Society of America, Lois has been nominated for five Artios Awards for Outstanding Casting.

The HIFF annual Screenwriters Lab, celebrating 20 years in 2020 (April 3-5), pairs emerging screenwriters with established screenwriters, directors and producers for a collaborative weekend of one-on-one mentoring sessions each spring in the Hamptons.