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By Film Threat Staff | May 31, 2001

Executive Director Dawn Hudson announced today the selected participants for the 2001 IFP/West Spring Screenwriters Lab. IFP/West’s Screenwriters Lab is an intensive program designed to help 10 independent screenwriters improve their craft and develop their own unique voice as writers. Sponsored by the Writers Guild of America, west, the lab will begin its seven-week run on May 21 with Lee David Zlotoff, writer/director of “Spitfire Grill,” as the lab instructor.
“As we see the success of our past Screenwriter Lab participants, we get more excited with each new class of selected writers,” said Hudson.
Lee David Zlotoff, writer/director/producer, returns as this year’s Lab instructor, after a successful Fall run of the lab. Zlotoff’s “Spitfire Grill” was winner of the Audience Award for best dramatic feature at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival. He also was the creator of “MacGyver,” and has worked on many television series including “Remington Steele” and “Hill Street Blues.” He is currently working on three feature films: “Electra” with Sony Pictures, “Ghume” with Castle Rock, and “Snitch” with Starz!/Encore.
In addition to seminars, the Lab facilitates one-on-one meetings between participants and advisors — writers, producers, and development executives — who will read their scripts and give them notes. Past advisors include Sherman Alexie (Smoke Signals), Mary Sweeney (“The Straight Story”), Tamra Davis (“Skipped Parts”), Michael Tolkin (“The Player”), Michael Almereyda (“Hamlet”), Tommy O¹Haver (“Billy¹s Hollywood Screen Kiss”), Alexander Payne (“Election”), Keith Gordon (“Waking the Dead”), Lisa Krueger (“Committed”), and Neil LaBute (“Nurse Betty”).
The IFP/West Screenwriters Lab participants were chosen based on the strength of screenwriter¹s submitted script and application. Over 162 submissions were narrowed down to 25 semi-finalists by a group of 11 executive readers consisting of IFP/West Board Members, screenwriters, and other film professionals. The IFP/West Executive staff then selected the 10 finalists. The 2001 Spring participants and their projects are:
Christopher Anderson, The Fourth Beatitude ^ During the Great Depression, a poor black farmer sees his family’s salvation in the form of a house sold through the Sears catalogue.
Gabrielle Burton, Country of the Mind ^ The true story of the Donner party, a large group of families who headed West to settle in California in 1846 and met with a challenge beyond their worst fears.
Mary Feuer, Water ^ When a small town is scheduled to be flooded to make a reservoir, a morbidly curious 17-year-old girl conspires with her gravedigger beau to open her father’s coffin before it is reburied in a new cemetery. Set against the backdrop of little-known historical events, Water is a meditation on loss and the fragility of memory.
Deborah Goodwin, Cherry’s ^ A funeral brings three generations of African American women together for the first time in a decade. Rebellious 22-year-old Nathalie, her stoic mother Emma, and devious Grandma Cherry must face up to the family past, thick with secrets and betrayals, and haunted by the ever-present ghost of a murdered sister.
Hal Haberman, The Failures ^ It started when Lilly embalmed the school mascot, crashed her father’s car into her mother’s tombstone and ended up trying to help William off himself‹and from there things get a little complicated. The Failures is a sad little romantic comedy about a group of hopeless f-ck ups.
Gerald Jones, The Big Idea ^ Set in 1945, The Big Idea is the story of Milton Reynolds, inventor of the ballpoint pen, and his relationship with his son Jim, who has to deal with his father’s outrageous schemes and sudden success.
Jesse Lawler, Naked At School ^ An injured high school athlete tries to regain his popularity by blackmailing a lecherous teacher. Soon his newfound power opens all the wrong doors.
Kamala Lopez-Dawson, The Contract ^ A romantic comedy about Darcy, a lawyer who uses her considerable skills to rid her life of emotional entanglements. She draws up “the contract,” a legally binding document that regulates every aspect of a sexual relationship. Things are going great until Steve leaves, Mark signs on, and legislating love quickly gets sticky.
Kenyetta Smith, Prepping Keisha ^ When nerdy Keisha, an African-American student at Rick James High, gets into a prestigious East Coast prep school, she sees a chance to reinvent herself and discover what it’s like to be popular — by passing herself off as Diana Ross’s daughter.
David Vernon, The Mostly Unfashionable Social Life of Ethan Green ^ Romantically ambivalent Ethan Green constantly nukes his chances of happiness, breaking up with every man who threatens to fall in love with him. His hilariously ineffective attempts to reconcile with one beau spawn a series of disasters — but true love wins the day. Based on the gay comic strip by Eric Orner.
For more information on the IFP/West Screenwriters lab and its participants, contact Lab Administrator Josh Welsh at 310/475-4379 ext. 53.

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