2023 Screenwriters Lab Mentors + Participants

The 23rd Annual Screenwriters Lab (April 14-16, 2023), paired rising screenwriters with established screenwriters, directors, and creative-producers for a weekend of one-on-one mentoring sessions.

David Hinojosa (BODIES, BODIES, BODIES; PAST LIVES), Ekwa Msangi (FAREWELL AMOR), and Samuel D. Hunter (THE WHALE) mentored emerging screenwriters.

The three screenplays selected for 2023:

Theory of Colors, by Shehrezad Maher
Blue Boy, by Tyler Riggs
Arc, by Keisha Rae WitherspoonJason Fitzroy Jeffers

“It is with great honor and excitement that we are able to help foster emerging talent through the intimate one-on-one mentorship program provided within our Screenwriters Lab for the 23rd year in a row,” said HamptonsFilm Artistic Director David Nugent. “We look forward to hosting our talented slate of writers and mentors as part of our year-round programming here at HamptonsFilm.”

• • Full bios of all Lab participants are included below.

This year’s Lab is funded with support from​ the Melissa Mathison Fund. Established in 2016 and ​named for the late, beloved Oscar®-nominated screenwriter, the Fund strives to foster the continued development of female writers in the industry. In 2023, Shehrezad Maher and her project Theory of Colors will receive support from the Fund, which also provides a live screenplay reading of the work in NYC.

Previous recipients include Farida Zahran‘s The Leftover Ladies, Lana Wilson’s Back Seat, Kelly O’Sullivan’s Mouse, Kirsten Tan’s Higher, Aemilia Scott’s The Birthday Suit, Annabelle Attanasio’s Mickey And The Bear, and Cathy Yan’s Dead Pigs.


Theory of Colors

Screenwriter: Shehrezad Maher
During preparations to sell their home where a tragic loss occurred many years ago, a disaffected teenager tries to reconstruct her past while an unlikely memory shadows her father. As one pursues and another flees closure, continuing as spectators of their own lives becomes increasingly untenable.

Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Shehrezad Maher has screened her films at institutions and festivals such as Visions du Réel, RIDM, the LA Film Forum, Anthology Film Archives, UnionDocs, and Experiments in Cinema. Her work has been reviewed by publications such as Sight & Sound, Afterimage, POV Magazine, and Scroll, among others. Her feature film script, “Theory of Colors,” was selected for Filmshop’s works-in-progress workshop (Spring ’23), made the second round of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab, and was a finalist for the Athena Film Festival Writers Lab. She is currently a nominee for the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage Fellowship program. She studied visual arts at Bennington College and earned an MFA from Yale University, where she was awarded the Blair Dickinson Memorial Prize.

Blue Boy

Screenwriter: Tyler Riggs
Insecure New Jersey bodybuilder Joey Rossi, aka Joey Muscles Marinara, has always been too small to qualify for Nationals, but when he starts abusing steroids in a last-ditch effort to go pro, he risks destroying every relationship he has while making a fool of himself every step of the way.

Tyler Riggs grew up outside of Tampa, Florida. At 21, he moved to New York and began his acting training under William Esper. After graduating from the Esper Studio, Riggs headed west to Los Angeles, where he started booking roles in low-budget features. It wasn’t until he wrote and produced his first short film that he realized his interests lie behind the camera. After producing and starring alongside Rachel Brosnahan in the award-winning indie feature BOOMTOWN, Riggs directed his first feature, GOD’S WAITING ROOM, which premiered at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, where its lead actor, Matthew Leone, won Best Actor. His second feature, PEACE IN THE VALLEY, premiered at the 2022 Tribeca Film Festival and had its international premiere at Deauville Film Festival in France. BLUE BOY, the short film adapted from Riggs’ feature screenplay, had its world premiere in 2023 at the prestigious Clermont-Ferrand Short Film Festival.



Keisha Rae Witherspoon and Jason Fitzroy Jeffers
As a major hurricane looms, an alienated young hustler seeking answers about his mother’s disappearance finds solace in a mysterious woman who seizes his town promising extraterrestrial salvation.

Keisha Rae Witherspoon is a Miami-born filmmaker and artist whose work elevates unseen, unheralded black life and concern for the natural environment. Her most recent short film “T” screened at BlackStar Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and Berlinale, where it won the 2020 Golden Bear for Best Short Film. “T” and her experimental short “1968<2018>2068” are currently streaming on The Criterion Channel. Keisha was one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film” in 2020, is a 2022 USA Fellow, and is the inaugural recipient of the Lynn Shelton “Of a Certain Age” grant. She is co-founder and former creative director of Third Horizon Film Festival. Keisha is currently working on her feature-length directorial debut.

Jason Fitzroy Jeffers is a filmmaker from Barbados whose work focuses on giving rooted and nuanced voice to the Caribbean, pockets of subtropical Black life across the American South, and other marginalized, equatorial, Afro-diasporic spaces. He has produced award-winning short films that have screened at festivals such as Sundance Film Festival, BlackStar, and TIFF. More recently, he co-directed the short film DROWNING BY SUNRISE for The Intercept, and produced “T”, the 2020 winner of the Golden Bear for Best Short Film at Berlinale. He is a co-founder and former co-executive director of Third Horizon Film Festival, a showcase of cinema from the Caribbean, its diaspora, and the Global South. Jeffers is a 2023 USA fellow, and prior to his work in film, was a journalist with The Miami Herald and other South Florida publications.


David Hinojosa

David Hinojosa is Founding Partner and Head of Production at 2AM. David spent over a decade at Christine Vachon’s iconic award-winning production company Killer Films. While at Killer, he developed such titles as the Academy Award-winning STILL ALICE and Todd Haynes’ CAROL, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and received six Academy Award nominations. Hinojosa’s producing credits include Janicza Bravo’s ZOLA, Todd Solondz’ WIENER DOG, Josephine Decker’s SHIRLEY, Brady Corbet’s VOX LUX, Miguel Arteta’s BEATRIZ AT DINNER and Paul Schrader’s FIRST REFORMED. Hinojosa’s most recent work includes Halina Reijn’s BODIES BODIES BODIES, Billy Porter’s ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE and Celine Song’s upcoming PAST LIVES. He is Co-Vice Chair of the Producers Guild of America East and Chair of the Independent Producer’s Task Force, and he lectures at New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts Graduate Film Program. Prior to Killer, Hinojosa worked at The Weinstein Company.

Ekwa Msangi

Ekwa Msangi’s award-winning and critically acclaimed feature film FAREWELL AMOR premiered in competition at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, garnering 98% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film won the Sundance Amazon Producer’s Award and the NYWIFT Directing Award, amongst other distinctions, and was bought for distribution by IFC Films for North America, MUBI and Netflix for Worldwide. Previous to that, Ekwa has written and directed several shorts, including the award-winning comedy SOKO SONKO (The Market King), and FAREWELL MEU AMOR, starring Tony Award nominee Sahr Ngauja, and Nana Mensah. For FAREWELL AMOR Ekwa was awarded the NYWIFT Director’s Award, the 2020 Durban International Film Festival award for Best Screenplay, and the 2021 Indie Spirit “Someone To Watch” Award. Recent awards include 2020 Sundance Momentum Fellow, 2020 BAFTA Breakthrough, 2022 USA Artist Fellow, and 2022-2024 ReFrame Rise Director. One of Ekwa’s key goals as an artist is to transform our society’s images and relationships with African cultures, and to empower African filmmakers in telling their stories.

Samuel D. Hunter

Samuel D. Hunter grew up in Moscow, Idaho, and lives in New York City. His full-length plays include The Whale (Drama Desk Award, Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play, GLAAD Media Award, Drama League and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Play), A Case for the Existence of God (New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play), A Bright New Boise (Obie Award, Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), Greater Clements (Drama Desk nomination for Best Play, Outer Critics Circle Honoree), Lewiston/Clarkston (Drama Desk nomination for Best Play), The Few, A Great Wilderness, Rest, Pocatello, The Healing, and The Harvest, among others. The film version of THE WHALE, directed by Darren Aronofsky and starring Brendan Fraser, was nominated for a 2023 BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and received three 2023 Oscar Nominations and two wins. He was also a writer and producer on all four seasons of FX’s Baskets. He is the recipient of a 2014 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, a 2012 Whiting Writers Award and an honorary doctorate from the University of Idaho.His work has been produced Off Broadway in New York City by Lincoln Center Theatre, Playwrights Horizons, LCT3, Signature Theatre, Page 73 Productions, Clubbed Thumb, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. Elsewhere, his work has been produced by Theatre Royal Bath, Dallas Theatre Center, Seattle Rep, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, South Coast Rep, and Victory Gardens, among others. Two published anthologies of his work are available from TCG Books, and a third is forthcoming. He is a member of New Dramatists and a current Resident Playwright at the Signature Theatre in New York City. He holds degrees in playwriting from NYU, The Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and Juilliard.

Highlights of the Screenwriters Lab over the past 22 years have included Andrew SemansRESURRECTION, starring Rebecca Hall and Tim Roth, which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival; Michael Tyburski and Ben NaborsTHE 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 screenwriting, 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 Awards at SXSW in 2013; Justin Schwartz’s THE DISCOVERERS, starring Griffin Dunne, which made its world premiere at HIFF 2012; and Sara Colangelo’s LITTLE ACCIDENTS, which premiered at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, starring Elizabeth Banks and Chloe Sevigny.

Learn more about the HIFF Screenwriters Lab.