The Melissa Mathison Award

Established in 2016, the Melissa Mathison Award is named for the late Hollywood screenwriter. Each year, the Mathison Award is presented to one of the female screenwriters selected for the annual HamptonsFilm 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. For each recipient of the award, HIFF provides access to a casting director and presents a staged reading of her project in New York City.

Recipients of the Melissa Mathison Award

2023: Shehrezad Maher, THEORY OF COLORS
2022: Farida Zahran, THE LEFTOVER LADIES
2021: Lana Wilson, BACK SEAT
2020: Kelly O’Sullivan, MOUSE
2019: Kirsten Tan, HIGHER
2018: Aemilia Scott, THE BIRTHDAY SUIT
2017: Annabelle Attanasio, MICKEY AND THE BEAR (premiered at SXSW 2019)
2016: Cathy Yan, DEAD PIGS (premiered at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival)

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 Award commemorates 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, HamptonsFilm 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 tax-deductible donations of all sizes to the Melissa Mathison Award. Thank you for your generosity!


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. Past actors who have performed in these readings include Academy Award® winner Melissa Leo, Michael Stuhlbarg, Luke Kirby, Harris Yulin, Richard Kind, and Steve Guttenberg.

Learn more about the HamptonsFilm Screenwriters Lab.