Bayard RustinHere are the screenwriters who have been selected for the Film Independent 17th annual Screenwriting Lab – an intensive 4-week program designed to help writers improve their craft, and take their current scripts to the next level in a nurturing and challenging creative environment. 

Lab Fellows will participate in individualized 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. 

“We are thrilled to welcome this diverse group of artists into the Film Independent community. Each of these writers possesses a distinctive vision and authenticity in their work that we are proud to support,” said Jennifer Kushner, Director of Artist Development at Film Independent.

This year’s creative advisors include Maya Forbes ("Infinitely Polar Bear"), Ligiah Villalobos ("Under the Same Moon") and David N. Weiss ("Shrek 2"). Guest Speakers include past Film Independent Fellows Ana Lily Amirpour ("A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night") and Siân Heder ("Orange is the New Black").

Of note among this year’s selected fellows is Q.Terah Jackson’s "Rustin," a 2014 WGA Feature Access Project honoree, which centers on the life of Martin Luther King Jr.’s strategic advisor, Bayard Rustin, who was open about his homosexuality, which he was persecuted for, all while continuing to fight for equality. An expert organizer, Rustin met the young civil rights leader King in the 1950s and began working with King as a strategist in 1955. He assisted King with the boycott of segregated buses in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956. But most famously, Rustin was a key figure in the organization of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which King delivered his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech on August 28, 1963. Jackson’s script focuses on that specific period in Rustin’s life.

You might recall a short film I posted on this blog in July of this year, which was part of PBS’ 2015 Online Film Festival lineup, titled "Counter," from director Nicholas Bouier, which was written by the aforementioned Q. Terah Jackson.

"Counter," a Project Involve short film, centers on a younger Rustin, conducting a solo sit-in at a diner in 1942 Indianapolis.

The 11-minute short film is embedded at the bottom of this post if you missed it.

First, here is the full list of 2015 Film Independent Screenwriting Lab participants and their projects: 

– Title: "Dealing with Dad"

Writer, Director: Tom Huang

Logline: Dealing with Dad follows the story of a slightly dysfunctional family dealing with the clinical depression of their Dad… whom everybody happens to hate.

– Title: "Fieras"

Writer, Producer: Linda Yvette Chávez

Logline: Lucy, once Mexico’s pre­teen dancing queen, but now an immigrant mother with empty nest syndrome, rallies her sisters, Tere and Cati, together to give their ailing mother a reason to live by dancing in their local church talent show.

– Title: "Jaya"

Writer, Director: Puja Maewal

Logline: Young Jaya survives Mumbai’s unforgiving streets by posing as a boy and living as a thief, but when she encounters a wealthy businessman who may be the father who abandoned her, she sets out to reclaim her identity.

– Title: "The Midwestern"

Writer, Directors: Darren Grodsky & Danny Jacobs

Logline: After the Social Security Administration mistakenly declares him dead, failed travel agent Harry Pfeiffer tries to save his crumbling marriage and restart his life by collecting the life insurance. But doing so leads him into a labyrinth of murder and corruption that Harry is ill equipped to handle.

– Title: "Rustin"

Writer: Q. Terah Jackson

Logline: Working in the political shadows of a young Dr. King, Bayard Rustin endures personal and public attacks for being gay in order to orchestrate the March on Washington of 1963.

– Title: "The Short History of the Long Road"

Writer, Director, Producer: Ani Simon-Kennedy

Logline: After her father’s sudden death, teenage Nola becomes the sole owner of the van she was raised in. Through unlikely friendships forged on the road, she discovers a new way to motor a life.

Check out the Rustin short film below: