Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, announced the filmmakers and film projects for its 10th annual Directors Lab, sponsored by Kodak.  Taking place in Los Angeles from now until the end of March, the Directors Lab is an intensive nine-week program designed to assist directors with strong, original voices develop new narrative feature films, improve their craft, and advance their filmmaking careers in a nurturing yet challenging creative environment.  This year’s Lab Mentors include Keith Gordon (The Singing Detective, Waking the Dead), Karyn Kusama (Jennifer’s Body, Girl Fight), and Jeremy Podeswa (The Pacific, Fugitive Pieces).

“It’s an honor to have such accomplished directors as Keith, Karyn, and Jeremy helming this year’s Lab,” said Josh Welsh, Film Independent’s Director of Talent Development.  “We have an exceptionally strong group of projects, and we look forward to seeing them develop further over the course of the program.”

In the Directors Lab, filmmakers are provided a cash stipend for their projects and access to production resources provided by New Hat.  Under the tutelage of the Lab Mentors, filmmakers learn to work with actors, collaborate with cinematographers and crew, refine scripts and shoot scenes from their projects.  They are also introduced to established directors and film professionals who serve as one-on-one Advisors throughout the nine weeks.  The Lab is provided free to accepted filmmakers, and upon completion, they become Film Independent Fellows, receiving year-round support including access to Film Independent’s annual educational offerings, on-staff Filmmaker Advisor, and the Los Angeles Film Festival.

Recent projects developed through the Directors Lab include Robbie Pickering’s Natural Selection, which is premiering in competition at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival, Cherien Dabis’ Amreeka, Tina Mabry’s Mississippi Damned, and Scott Prendergast’s Kabluey. 

Deadlines coming up for some of Film Independent’s other Talent Development programs include Fast Track (February 28), Screenwriter’s Lab (March 28), Project:Involve (April 25), and Producers Lab (July 11).  To apply for these programs, please visit

The 2011 Directors Lab filmmakers and their projects are:

1. Free Ride – Based on a true story, Free Ride is a captivating tale about a single mother and her two daughters trying to survive and make a life for themselves amidst the mother’s rise in the glamorous Florida drug trade in the late 1970’s. 

Shana Sosin is a writer/director and was tapped right out of college to serve as Executive Director of the Music Video Production Association, the premiere trade association that represents music video production in the United States.  From 1999-2004, she oversaw the establishment of union contracts as well as Executive Produced the annual MVPA Awards where she worked with the top creative minds in the industry including Spike Jonze, David Fincher and Michel Gondry.  In this period, she also Executive Produced the Director’s Cuts Film Festival, the cutting edge film festival of short films by the top music video directors that soon became the poaching ground for the next big feature director. After leaving the MVPA, Sosin produced several short film projects, including The Stranger, which won the Eastman Kodak New Filmmaker Award. She also honed her acting and comedic voice by performing with Tim Robbins’ world renowned ensemble, The Actors’ Gang, in Los Angeles where she toured as the only female in George Orwell’s 1984. Recently, Sosin was put in charge of programming and producing the Robbins’ curated WTF?! Festival, and has been focusing on her writing and directing.  She received a grant to write and direct a short film to be included in an anthology about women, by women.  Her script, Free Ride, based on her life story, is being produced by Susan Dynner (Brick).

2. Hey, Hey Johnny – When Will Kennedy finds a dead body outside his bedroom window, the search for the anonymous boy’s identity forces him to become a new man.  As the mystery unfurls, Will discovers what it means to be alive, what it means to be in love, and what it means to lose both. 

Nicolas Citton is a writer/director who recently completed his studies at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program. While in school, he co-created the comedy series, This Space for Rent, which was developed with the National Screen Institute of Canada and the Canadian Broadcasting Company.  The show aired on CBC Television, and was nominated for numerous awards.  This past year, Citton’s feature, That Burning Feeling, was selected for The Canadian Film Centre’s Comedy Lab and developed alongside Just for Laughs Canada. The project is currently in pre-production with a Summer 2011 start date.  Recently, Nicolas has completed a television pilot with Rachel Dratch and Breakthru Films, for Planet Green. Nicolas has several television and film projects presently in development.

3. Poppies and Olives – An Israeli-Palestinian lesbian love triangle unfolds when Layla arrives to spread her mother’s ashes in the ancient Arab-Israeli port city of Jaffa.

Deb Shoval is a writer/director and her first short film AWOL, recently premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, where she was also awarded the Women in Film/Calm Down Productions Grant. Her first feature film project, Poppies and Olives, was chosen as an Emerging Narrative Script for the IFP Market and received a Film Independent Producers Lab Fellowship and a grant for research from the Leeway Foundation. Shoval is currently completing her thesis work for an MFA in Film Directing at Columbia University, where she received a Columbia Women in Film (CWIF) Fellowship in 2009-2010.  She was chosen for the 2011 Berlin Talent Campus.  For her work as a playwright and theater director, Shoval has received grant funding from The Sparkplug Foundation, The Fund for Wild Nature, The Fund for New Technologies and The Leeway Foundation. She was recently named one of the “Heeb Hundred,” Heeb Magazine’s “hundred people you need to know about.”

4. The Stones – In modern-day Tehran, a progressive youth-culture exists underground, but when a gay Iranian/American boy visits his motherland for the first time, he quickly learns the high price of rebellion in the hard-line Islamic regime.

Ana Lily Amirpour is a writer/director/producer who made her first film at the age of twelve: a horror movie starring the guests of a slumber party.  She comes from a varied background in the arts, including painting, sculpting, and playing bass and singing in a rock band.  Her feature-length script The Stones was grand prize winner of the 2007 Bluecat Screenwriting Competition, participant in the 2010 Film Independent Fast Track and 2009 Tribeca All Access programs, and winner of the 2009 Adrienne Shelly Fellowship.  She has directed award-winning short films and music videos, and will direct The Stones as her debut feature film in 2011.  In 2008, her short film, Six and a Half screened at festivals worldwide including Slamdance, Nashville, Brooklyn, and Milan, and was a Golden Ace winner at the Las Vegas International Film Festival.  Her 2009 short film True Love, a comedy about sex and relationships, won the Audience Award at the 2010 Milan International Film Festival; and her most recent film, Ketab ‘The Book’, which is an excerpt from The Stones, screened at the 2010 Tribeca All Access program.  Amirpour received the Dini Ostrov Award in Comedy Writing in 2008 and is most recently a participant of the Talent Campus at Berlinale.  She finished her MFA in 2009 at the UCLA School of Film and Television and is co-founder of Los Angeles based production company, Say Ahh… Productions, creators of cutting-edge film, TV, music video, and web content.

5. Working Man – After suffering an inconsolable loss, an aging factory worker seeks solace by returning to his old factory job despite the fact that the plant has closed.  The man gains an unexpected ally, is reluctantly elevated to local celebrity status and is forced to confront his haunting past. 

Robert Jury has written feature film screenplays for Twentieth Century Fox, Walt Disney Studios, and HBO Films.  Jury is a past winner of the Walt Disney Studios Writers’ Fellowship and a member of the Writers Guild of America, West.  He has worked in feature development for production companies with deals at Touchstone Pictures and Warner Brothers.  He was a freelance segment producer for ESPN and BET, a production coordinator for Universal Studios Florida and a stage manager for ABC Sports.  His screenplay, Working Man, was selected for the 2010 Film Independent Screenwriters Lab.  Jury grew up on a farm in Iowa and graduated from the University of Florida in Gainesville.

[via press release ]

Subscribe for Blog Updates

Sign up for our latest updates.