HIFF 2019 Screenwriters Lab Weekend Begins Friday, April 5

Participants in the 2019 HIFF Screenwriters Lab
Participants in the 2019 Screenwriters Lab, Photos: Courtesy HIFF

The 2019 Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) Screenwriters Lab will take place over three days next weekend in East Hampton from Friday, April 5 through Sunday, April 7. This spring marks the event’s 19th year of pairing rising screenwriters with established and knowledgeable screenwriters, directors and producers for one-on-one mentoring sessions.

HIFF has selected three screenplays for 2019, including Barbara Cigarroa’s El Otro Lado (The Other Side), Sontenish Myers’ Stampede and Kirsten Tan’s Higher. For the second year in a row, all of the selected lab participants are women. Scroll down for full bios and more.

“Over the years our annual Screenwriters Lab has become a wonderful opportunity for writers to explore the possibilities of their work and receive guidance from some of the industry’s most prolific storytellers,” HIFF Artistic Director David Nugent said of the event.

This year’s mentors include Michael H. Weber, screenwriter of The Disaster Artist, for which he received an Academy Award nomination, The Fault in Our Stars, (500) Days of Summer, and The Spectacular Now; and Caroline Kaplan, who has produced over 70 films, including En Ee Séptimo Día (On the Seventh Day), Sorry to Bother You and Boys Don’t Cry.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Jim Taylor and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Tamara Jenkins will lead this year’s screenwriting Master Class, which is open to the public. Taylor, who won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for oenophile cult classic Sideways, and was nominated for Election, is also known for About Schmidt and Downsizing. Jenkins was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for her film The Savages, and is also known for Private Life and Slums of Beverly Hills. The pair, who worked together recently on Juliet, Naked, will use clips and personal experiences to detail all that goes into writing a script for every type of audience.

The Master Class will take place at 6 p.m. on Saturday, April 6 at the Ross School in East Hampton.

During Lab weekend, HIFF will also present a special screening of Best Picture winner Terms of Endearment on Friday, April 5 at Bay Street Theater, with a post-screening conversation between David Nugent and HIFF Board Co-Chair Alec Baldwin.

Tickets for all public events, including the Master Class and film screening, are available at hamptonsfilmfest.org.

The 27th annual Hamptons International Film Festival will take place over Columbus Day Weekend: October 10–14, 2019. Scroll down for full bios on Screenwriters Lab participants, their screenplays and mentors.


Barbara Cigarroa
Barbara Cigarroa, Courtesy HIFF

“El Otro Lado (The Other Side)” by Barbara Cigarroa
Set in Brownsville, Texas, during the child migration crisis, Lucy, a low-income Mexican American teen, is confronted with her own need for escape when her father decides to sponsor two undocumented minors for money.

Screenwriter Barbara Cigarroa holds an MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University and a BA in English from Yale. A storyteller, with a passion for social-justice activism and Hispanic narratives, Cigarroa’s work has been recognized world-wide on the festival circuit, and through individual grants and awards from organizations including the Kellogg Foundation, Lincoln Center, and Sundance Institute. She was selected for the 2019 Sundance Screenwriters Lab, where she was the awarded the Latinx Fellowship with El Otro Lado (The Other Side), which was also featured at IFP’s 2018 No Borders Co-Production Market. Her short film Dios Nunca Muere (God Never Dies) had its world premiere at the 2018 New York Film Festival, and concurrently she was invited to be a member of the 2018 NYFF Artist Academy. Her previous work, Marta Rosa, was an official selection at dozens of international film festivals, including Austin, New Orleans and Palm Springs, where it won Panavision’s Best North American Short. Prior to moving to New York, Cigarroa volunteered as a documentary filmmaker in South Texas and Central America for non-profit companies focused on fighting for underprivileged community’s rights. Before this, Cigarroa mentored under renowned documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, renowned for his East Hampton-set doc Grey Gardens.

Sontenish Myers
Sontenish Myers, Courtesy HIFF

“Stampede” by Sontenish Myers
Set on a Southern plantation in the 1800s, a young slave girl named Lena has telekinetic powers she cannot yet control. Circumstances escalate when she’s separated from her mother to be a house girl, in close quarters with the mercurial Master’s wife: Elizabeth.

Sontenish Myers is a writer-director based in Harlem. She is is a graduate and adjunct professor of NYU’s Graduate Film program. Myers has written and directed four short films to date. Racial identity, womanhood, power dynamics and the heroic journey are often explored in her work. Myers is particularly interested in following this exploration across genres, from dramas to science fiction/fantasy, to dark comedies. Her most recent short film, Cross My Heart, follows an American teen who, upon visiting her family in Jamaica, discovers a secret that changes the way she sees the people she loves. The film made its North American premiere at Seattle International Film Festival. Myers was also awarded the Alexis Award for Best Emerging Student Filmmaker at Palm Springs International Shortfest for Cross My Heart, which was included in Refinery29’s list of The Most Exciting Woman-Directed Films at 2018’s Palm Springs Shortfest. Cross My Heart won the Vimeo Staff Pick Award at Hampton International Film Festival for its “outstanding performances from its two young leads and a nuanced directorial approach.” She is an IFP Marcie Bloom Fellow in Film, and is developing her first feature film Stampede. 

Kristen Tan
Kristen Tan, Courtesy HIFF

“Higher” by Kirsten Tan
As a mysterious flood rises floor by floor through a metropolitan apartment building, its residents fight for survival and resources, setting off an absurdist satire of interlocking short stories grappling with morality, truth and justice.

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 Sundance in 2017. The film went on to receive a Special Jury Prize at Sundance, the VPRO Big Screen Award at Rotterdam and the Best International Film Award at Zurich Film Festival. To date, it has screened at more than 50 film festivals, including BFI London, Melbourne, Munich and Busan, and it was released by Kino Lorber. Pop Aye was invited to represent Singapore in the Foreign Film Category at the Oscars. Prior to completing the film, she made a series of shorts. Her short films 10 Minutes Later, Fonzi, Sink, Cold Noodles and Dahdi have collectively received more than 10 international awards. A Cinereach Film Fellow, she earned her MFA at NYU Graduate Film School where she received the Tisch School of the Arts Fellowship.


Michael H. Weber
Michael H. Weber, Courtesy HIFF

Michael H. Weber is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and award-winning independent film producer. With Scott Neustadter, he adapted The Disaster Artist, which was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 90th Academy Awards. Their other writing credits includeThe Fault in Our Stars, (500) Days of Summer, and The Spectacular Now, Paper Towns and Our Souls at Night. Weber graduated the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in 2000. He currently lives in Manhattan, the city of his birth.

Caroline Kaplan
Caroline Kaplan, Courtesy HIFF

Caroline Kaplan is the Director of Film and Creative Programs at Cinereach, a Film Foundation and Production Company based in New York. She manages direct support of filmmakers, including artistic and project development, and oversees the organization’s various programs including the Fellowship Program and Creative Initiatives. She also serves as producer on select Cinereach productions and co-productions including Boots Riley’s Sorry To Bother You and the upcoming Marcel The Shell movie. Caroline is also an independent film producer. Recent films include Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind, Joseph Cedar’s Norman, Jim McKay’s En El Septimo Dia and Kent Jones’ upcoming Diane. Prior to that she was the head of Production and Acquisitions at IFC Entertainment. She was also a founding partner of InDigEnt, the pioneering digital production company. Her film credits at IFC include: Our Song, Mr. Death, Waking Life, Monsoon Wedding, Tadpole, Pieces of April, Personal Velocity, Me and You and Everyone We Know and Boyhood. Prior to IFC Entertainment, she was the Senior Vice President of Original Programming for the Independent Film Channel (IFC) and Bravo, as well as a founder of the IFC. Her television credits include: Errol Morris’ First Person, A Decade Under the Influence, Dinner for Five, The Typewriter, The Rifle and the Movie Camera and Werner Herzog’s My Best Fiend. She began her career in the Documentary department at HBO.

Tamara Jenkins
Tamara Jenkins, Courtesy HIFF

Tamara Jenkins is the writer-director of Private LifeThe Savages and Slums of Beverly Hills. She received a Best Screenplay Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, an Independent Spirit Award and an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, among other honors. Jenkins currently teaches directing in the Graduate Film program at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she also received her MFA. She lives in New York City with her husband the screenwriter Jim Taylor and their daughter Mia.

Jim Taylor
Jim Taylor, Courtesy HIFF

Jim Taylor was born and raised in Seattle, and received a BA from Pomona College and an MFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Taylor is the long-time collaborator of writer/director Alexander Payne. Among the screenplays they have co-authored are ElectionAbout Schmidt, Sideways and Downsizing. For his and Payne’s work on these scripts, the duo have been honored with two Golden Globes, two Writers Guild Awards and one Academy Award. Taylor is married to and sometimes writes with Tamara Jenkins. Their most recent collaboration is an adaptation of the Nick Hornby novel, Juliet, Naked.

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