Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards and Los Angeles Film Festival, is pleased to announce the screenwriters selected for its 16th annual Screenwriting Lab. The Screenwriting Lab is an intensive four-week program designed to help writers improve their craft, and take their current scripts to the next level in a nurturing yet challenging creative environment. During the Lab Fellows participate in individualized story sessions, are advised on the craft and business of screenwriting, and are also introduced to established screenwriters, producers and film professionals who serve as guest speakers and creative advisors. This year’s creative advisors include James Ponsoldt (Smashed, The Spectacular Now), Kirsten Smith (Legally Blonde) and Jeff Stockwell (Bridge to Terabithia, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys). Guest speakers include Damien Chazelle (Whiplash, The Last Exorcism Part II) and Richard Levine (Boss, Nip/Tuck, Masters of Sex).

“We are very pleased to welcome these talented writers into the 2014 Screenwriting Lab,” said Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development at Film Independent. “We look forward to nurturing these bold, innovative storytellers through the life-cycle of their films and supporting their careers.”

For the third year, Film Independent will present the Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television Screenwriting Fellowship. Out of the 12 fellows selected, LMU SFTV alumnus Andrew Bluestone will be awarded a $10,000 grant to develop his script, Pills, through the Screenwriting Lab.

The Screenwriting Lab is provided free to invited screenwriters, who upon acceptance become Film Independent Fellows, receiving year-round support, including access to Film Independent’s annual film education offerings and the Los Angeles Film Festival. In addition, Fellows are eligible to join the Independent Writers Caucus of the Writers Guild of America, West. Recent projects developed through the Lab include Robbie Pickering’s Natural Selection, which garnered multiple awards at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival, Beth Schacter’s Normal Adolescent Behavior, Scott Prendergast’s Kabluey, Philip Flores’ and Max Doty’s The Wheeler Boys, Suzi Yoonessi’s Dear Lemon Lima, Erin Cassidy and Bruce Pavalon’s We Are the Mods, and Minh Nguyen-Vo’s Buffalo Boy, which was Vietnam’s entry to the 2006 Academy Awards.

Film Independent’s Screenwriting Lab is supported by lead funder Time Warner Foundation. Sponsors include Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television, National Endowment for the Arts, The Writer’s Guild of America, West and Final Draft. The Screenwriting Lab is one of Film Independent’s Artist Development Programs, which include a Producing Lab each fall, a Directing Lab in the winter, and a Documentary Lab in the spring. For more information on any of the Labs or the projects that have been developed in them, please contact Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development, at 310.432.1275.  Additional information and an application form can be found at

The 2014 Screenwriters Lab participants and their projects are:

1. At First - Anna, a woman recovering from the death of her girlfriend, and Sam, a transgender man guarding his own secrets, throw themselves into one long night together through the vibrant and diverse L.A. neighborhood of Echo Park, figuring out what it means to love and be loved, without the fantasy of ever after.

Vera Miao was born in Guam, to working class immigrants from Taiwan. Her family ended up in New York, where film and television were her babysitters, and where she graduated from Barnard College. Early political activism led to a great career in the nonprofit, social justice sector. But in 2006, Miao made a heart-based decision and came full circle to film and television, to stories, that shaped her into the person that she is today. In NYC, Miao attended the Atlantic Theater Company's Professional Conservatory program, founded by David Mamet and William H. Macy. In 2008, in the midst of the historic writer's strike and months before the collapse of the global economy, Miao moved to Los Angeles, where she continues to pursue acting, writing, and filmmaking. She is most proud of the apocalyptic road trip feature, Best Friends Forever that she co-wrote, produced and co-starred in. Best Friends Forever premiered at Slamdance in 2013, and is widely available on Cable/VOD, iTunes, Amazon, Google, and Vudu and DVD. Miao also wrote, produced and starred in a queer webseries, Mission: Rebound, about the comedic misadventures of two friends.

2. Dizzy Izzy - After a much-publicized breakdown, former child star Izzy Love returns to her small Kentucky hometown to rebuild her life. While her mother shoves Izzy back in the spotlight via a trash-tastic reality show, Izzy begins a secret romance that could topple her mother's plans.

Jonathan Parks-Ramage is a New York based writer/producer. He has developed and produced series, specials, and pilots for clients as diverse as SundanceTV, Disney Channel, ESPN, Showtime, BET and Vh1. Favorite projects include the Emmy Award-Winning documentary series Citizen Active, and Fight Camp 360: Fedor vs. Rogers for Showtime. He also worked for a time as a writer’s assistant to Pulitzer Prize-winning author and screenwriter Michael Cunningham (The Hours).

Marla Mindelle is a writer/producer/Broadway actress best known for originating the role of Sister Mary Robert in the Broadway musical Sister Act. She most recently starred in the new Broadway production of Cinderella as stepsister Gabrielle. Other shows include South Pacific, Spelling Bee, and Wild Party.

Together, Mindelle and writing partner Jonathan Parks-Ramage wrote and produced The Devil’s Bitch, a musical-comedy web series that would make John Waters blush. It was acquired by and released through the website. The series also received an exclusive pre-release screening at Soho House New York, and was named a “series to watch” by Out Magazine.

3. Hesperia - When 16-year-old Brandon Waters goes missing in the California desert, his older brother Phil will stop at nothing to find out what happened to him, and in the process uncovers the dark secret past of the strange town where Brandon has been squatting.

Heika Burnison was born and raised in Los Angeles and Europe, graduating Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern California with a B.A. in Cinema-Television Critical Studies and Architecture. She then received her Masters in Specialized Journalism from the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, with a focus to visual art and cultural theory. After working for several years as a freelance writer, graphic designer, and Creative Director, Burnison returned to USC for her M.F.A. in Film & Television Production. She currently lives in Los Angeles where she produces and directs a variety of film and multi-media content, including music videos, commercials, and short and feature films. Her 20-minute short film “Calipatria” is currently screening at film festivals in the US and abroad, including the LA Shorts Film Festival and the Oaxaca International Film Festival. Burnison also serves as the Co-Founder and Executive Producer of the boutique LA sound studio White Light Audio Inc.

Mike Ott studied under Thom Andersen at CalArts where he received his MFA degree in Film/Video and began directing music videos for such bands as Pretty Girls Make Graves, The Blood Brothers, and The Cave Singers. Ott’s second feature film, Littlerock, won numerous awards, including the Audience Award at the 2010 AFI Fest, a Gotham Award, and an Independent Spirit Award. His third feature, Pearblossom Hwy, premiered at the 2012 AFI Fest in the US and at the prestigious Viennale in Austria. The film also screened in 2013 at a number of festivals abroad including the International Film Festival Rotterdam, CPHPIX in Denmark, and the Melbourne International Film Festival. Ott just completed the third installment of his Antelope Desert Trilogy, titled Lake Los Angeles. The film had its world premiere at the Los Angeles Film Festival in June 2014 and took home awards for “Best Feature,” “Best Actor,” and “Best Cinematography” at the Las Vegas Film Festival in August 2014. Lake Los Angeles will continue to screen at other festivals around the world later this year. Ott also teaches film directing in the graduate Film & TV Production MFA program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

4. Pills - Susan Hoffman’s world is shaken to its core when she falls in love with Jeff, a charismatic man who breathes new life into her otherwise stagnant routine of caring for her Parkinson’s afflicted husband.

Andrew Bluestone grew up in NYC where he attended the Performing Arts High School (AKA the “Fame School”) and then Vassar College, where he majored in Film and Screenwriting. After spending some time in London and San Francisco working with the special-needs population, Bluestone moved to Los Angeles where he earned an MFA in Screenwriting from Loyola Marymount University. There, he was named Graduate Student of the Year by the School of Film and Television as well as Outstanding Screenwriting Student of 2009. He also studied screenwriting in London through a joint program of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and the Writer’s Guild of Great Britain. Bluestone’s work has placed in numerous reputable screenplay competitions, including Slamdance (top 5), Scriptapolooza (quarterfinalist) and the Rhode Island Film Festival (First place), among other accolades.  His industry experience includes a novel adaptation for the Oscar nominated producer of NO (starring Gael Garcia Bernal), as well a feature option with director Todd Strauss-Schulson (A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas and the upcoming Final Girls.)  

5. The Space Between- An amateur female bodybuilder’s quest to becoming the best is complicated by her bedridden father and financial debt.

Philiane Phang is a ‘recovering lawyer’ who was born in Jamaica where she spent every Saturday watching the only program offered, John Wayne movies. At the imaginative age of 12, she pretended to be a gun-slinging, trash-talking cowboy. Inspired by her love of movies, she wrote her first novel and performed in local productions. Soon thereafter, her family migrated to the United States where she focused on her education. She went on to study business at the University of Florida and law at Rutgers University. Disillusioned with the direction of her life, she moved to New York where she immediately landed a role in an off Broadway play. After several roles, she became dissatisfied with the characters she was being offered and began writing again. She has created both scripted and unscripted shows for new media platform. She wrote and produced her directorial debut, Serena Strong. Phang currently lives in New York.

6. The Sparkle Panthers - To win the prize money that will fix her dad’s house, Alexis, a tomboy gamer, reluctantly agrees to compete in a video game tournament with an all-female team and ends up learning what she’s been missing by avoiding girls her whole life.

Sarah Carbiener and Erica Rosbe are currently writing Vaclav & Lena, a feature adaptation of Haley Tanner’s novel about two teenagers who overcome their dark past through their love of magic and Coney Island for the Mazur / Kaplan Company with the support of the Sundance Institute Cinereach Fellowship. As part of the fellowship, they’re workshopping the script with writers John August, Stephen Chbosky, and Audrey Wells. Their first feature Return To Nim’s Island premiered on the Hallmark Channel in March 2013 and in theaters in Australia. Sarah and Erica met at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where they both studied Dramatic Writing and were recognized for excellence in television writing by their department chair and mentor Charlie Rubin (Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Seinfeld). After college, they wrote and produced plays Off-Off-Off Broadway while working as staff writers for Longtail Studios, a video game studio and subsidiary of Ubisoft. In addition to many casual games for handheld devices and the Wii, they wrote Grey’s Anatomy: The Video Game. Yes, it’s a real thing. 

7. Three Faces Of Hunger and Thirst - Based on a true story, Three Faces of Hunger and Thirst depicts the 116 minutes leading up to the assassination of visionary Mexican presidential candidate, Colosio, told from the POVs of three would-be assassins.

HF Crum was born and raised in El Paso, Texas, where he won a Mellon Writing Grant that led him to film school at USC. While still in school Crum was hired by producer Roger Corman to direct low-budget films in Russia, Ukraine, and the Philippines. His latest short film “Juaritos” premiered at the Cartagena Film Festival in 2013. Since then it has played at over three dozen festivals worldwide, including Fantasia, Zinebi, LA Shorts, and HBO’s Urbanworld. Crum's feature length script Three Faces of Hunger and Thirst won Grand Prize in the 2014 BlueCat Screenplay Competition. Before motion pictures, Crum did health and development work in Cuba, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

8. Transformation Awaits -. When a quirky shut-in gets a feisty new neighbor –  a transgender woman in an abusive relationship – the two begin a strange friendship that allows them both to break free.

Rachel Goldberg is an award-winning filmmaker whose most recent film, “Muted,” starring Chandra Wilson (Grey's Anatomy) and Malcolm-Jamal Warner (The Cosby Show) won the HBO Short Film Award at the American Black Film Festival and will air on HBO. The film also received the Director’s Choice Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.  As a participant in AFI's prestigious Directing Workshop for Women, Rachel co-wrote and directed the short film “Neighbors,” which was developed into Transformation Awaits. “Neighbors” has screened at numerous festivals including The Seattle Transgender Film Festival where it garnered Best Narrative Short, and at the Palm Springs International ShortFest, the Nashville Film Festival and the Rhode Island International Film Festival where it won the Alternative Spirit Award.

Rachel was a Film Independent Project Involve Fellow, where she wrote and directed the award-winning "Rosita Lopez for President." Rachel has also directed award-winning music videos, independent television pilots and numerous stage productions. As a playwright, Rachel’s work has been staged on both coasts, and she has been commissioned to write for film and television.

Rachel earned her BA in Theater from the University of Pennsylvania, and her MFA in Directing from the California Institute of the Arts.

9. Up With The Joneses - When an eccentric mother leaves her family to pursue a career in performance art, the family struggles to find meaning in their lives, especially when the mom returns home.

Rani DeMuth is an independent writer/director living in Los Angeles, CA. Her films have screened at over fifty international film festivals and have won awards in every category of filmmaking. She was granted the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s first Art of Film Award for her short film “The Double starring Eric Roberts. “The Double then sold to Shorts International, the UK based distribution company responsible for launching all Oscar Award nominated short films into theaters nationwide.  

Most recently Rani has been directing music videos. Her video for Carina Round’s “Pick up the Phone premiered with Rolling Stone and her video for Indie band Early Winters is scheduled to premiere in September.  Currently Rani is directing Josie Hyde in her award-winning one-woman multimedia show Wind in a Mirror… Ayahuasca Visions.

Rani earned her BFA in experimental film from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and received her MFA in film directing from The UCLA School of Film and Television. At UCLA she received directing accolades including The Princess Grace Award, The Motion Picture Association of America Award, The Edie and Lew Wasserman Award, The DTS Post Sound Award, The Fuji Film Award and a Spotlight Award for excellence in filmmaking. Following graduation Werner Herzog selected Rani to be part of his traveling Rogue Film School. Rani is represented by the Brant Rose Agency.

About Film Independent
Film Independent is a non-profit arts organization that champions independent film and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff, and constituents, is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional, or a film lover.

Film Independent produces the Spirit Awards, the annual celebration honoring artist-driven films and recognizing the finest achievements of American independent filmmakers.  Film Independent also produces the Los Angeles Film Festival, showcasing the best of American and international cinema and the Film Independent at LACMA Film Series, a year-round, weekly program that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.  

With over 250 annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. For more information or to become a member, visit