Film Independent, the non-profit arts organization that produces the Spirit Awards, the LA Film Festival and Film Independent at LACMA, is pleased to announce the eight directors selected for its 16th annual Directing Lab. The Lab is an intensive eight-week program designed to support emerging independent film directors in prep on their feature films.

Daniel Barnz (Cake, Phoebe in Wonderland), Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Thirteen) and James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour, Smashed) are the 2016 Directing Lab Creative Advisors. Other industry participants include Casting Consultants Meg Morman and Sunday Boling, Producer Joan Scheckel (Executive Producer, Beginners; Consulting Producer, Transparent), founder of the Joan Scheckel Filmmaking Lab and creator of "The Technique", and Editing Advisor, Darrin Navarro, ACE (Talullah, The End of the Tour). The primary focus of the Lab is on working with actors in the rehearsal process.  Under the guidance of the Creative Advisors, Directing Fellows select short scenes from their scripts to workshop and shoot. Film Independent provides Fellows with digital camera and lighting packages and stipends to shoot their scenes, and offers access to experienced casting directors, cinematographers and editors with whom to collaborate and consult. The process creates an opportunity to see the work through from pre- to post-production, and culminates in a group screening for the Advisors, Film Independent Staff and Fellows.

“We are thrilled to welcome this group of visionary directors into the Lab. We look forward to supporting the growth of these storytellers with their current projects and championing their work throughout their careers,” said Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development at Film Independent.

The Directing Lab is provided free to invited filmmakers, and upon completion they become Film Independent Fellows, receiving year-round support, including eligibility for grants and awards, access to Film Independent’s annual film education offerings and a pass to the LA Film Festival. Past Directing Lab Fellows include Sian Heder with Tallulah (2016 Sundance Film Festival), Andrew Ahn with Spa Night (2016 Sundance Film Festival), Sheldon Candis with LUV (2012 Sundance Film Festival), Cherien Dabis with Amreeka (2009 Sundance Film Festival, FIPRESCI Award Winner at 2009 Cannes Film Festival) and Robbie Pickering with Natural Selection (2012 Spirit Award Nominee for Best First Feature, Winner SXSW Grand Jury Prize, Audience Award). Past Film Independent Fellows and their projects can be found in The Time Warner Foundation funded Film Independent Talent Guide at

The Directing Lab is supported by Artist Development Lead Funder The Time Warner Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Directing Lab is one of Film Independent’s Artist Development Programs, which include the Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Screenwriting, Producing and Documentary); Fast Track financing market; our Grants & Awards program and our signature diversity program, Project Involve. For more information on any of the Labs or the projects that have been developed in them, please contact Angela Lee, Artist Development Manager, at 310.432.1262. Additional information and an application form can be found at

The 2016 Directing Lab participants and their projects are:

Clinch (Jules Nurrish – director)
A gifted boxer risks his family and career when he starts an affair with another man.

In the Shadows of the Rainbow (Blaise Godbe Lipman – writer/director)
A strung out 23-year-old Club Kid escapes New York City in 1992, venturing home to a rural pot commune to make amends with the people who raised her. She soon discovers the hippy paradise she left as a child has grown fanatical, and her estranged family hides peculiar secrets behind cult-like dogma.

Midwestern (Danny Jacobs & Darren Grodsky – co-writers/directors)
After the Social Security Administration mistakenly declares him dead, failed travel agent Harry Pfeiffer attempts to save his crumbling marriage and restart his life by collecting the life insurance, only to wind up in a labyrinth of murder and corruption that he is ill equipped to handle.

Rita Mahtoubian Is Not A Terrorist (Roja Gashtili & Julia Lerman – co-writers/directors)
When Iranian­born Rita Mahtoubian sets out to change her life from ordinary to extraordinary she accidentally captures the attention of a homeland security agent in this fractured, fresh comedy about romance, terrorism and trying to be a better person.

Skin Deep (Maggie Kiley – director)
In Skin Deep, two teenage girls cast a spell that makes them incrementally more attractive. The catch? It only works when they hurt people. As the never-ending quest for beauty consumes them, these two best friends will maim, mutilate, and mangle their way to perfection. And only one of them will be left standing.

Up With The Joneses (Rani DeMuth – writer/director/producer)
When an eccentric mother leaves her family to pursue a career in performance art, the family all struggles to find meaning in their lives; especially when the mom returns home.

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 LA Film Festival, showcasing the best of American and international cinema and the Film Independent at LACMA, 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