Lab is Sponsored by Lifetime

 Three-Day Virtual Lab currently taking place through September 22, 2021


The Athena Film Festival (AFF), a joint partnership between Barnard College’s Athena Center for Leadership and the initiative Women and Hollywood has announced the participants for its 9th Writers Lab, and second virtual one, sponsored by Lifetime. The lab is hosted in partnership with the Stephens College Master of Fine Arts Program in Television. Bryce Norbitz is the Program Director for the Screenwriting Lab.  The lab is currently running through September 22, 2021.

Seventeen emerging women and non-binary writers, 75% of whom identify as people of color, have been selected to work with each other and industry professionals to develop and polish their projects.

The lab provides burgeoning women storytellers with training, skills, and a robust supportive network so they can advance their projects and careers. The program includes one-on-one mentorship sessions with industry professionals, peer-to-peer and group workshops, and an Industry Day with panels on select topics. This year’s Industry Day will focus on how to handle the different types of pitch meetings writers will need to participate in; understanding the ins and outs of representation, and learning about the writers process for both film and tv writers, and will feature a keynote conversation with filmmaker, screenwriter and tv producer Maria Maggenti.

The Athena Film Festival at Barnard College celebrates extraordinary stories of fierce and fearless women leaders from around the world. For more than a decade, Athena has been showcasing diverse and dynamic stories of women leaders, curating conversations, and inspiring audiences with a new understanding of what leadership looks like. As the only film festival specifically focused on women’s leadership, Athena provides a forum for dialogue about gender and social justice and an opportunity to showcase what it means to be a powerful woman today, inspiring women and girls in the process.

The Artemis Rising Foundation, and its CEO Regina K. Scully, is the festival’s founding sponsor.


2021 Athena Film Festival at Barnard College Virtual Writers Lab Participants


Blue Veil by Shireen Alihaji
In the wake of 9/11 and after losing her mother, Amina, a Muslim teenager and her father move to a small town in pursuit of an “American Dream.” With inescapable Islamophobia, dreams and nightmares become an indistinguishable reality, until Amina discovers her mother’s record collection.

Book of Genevieve by Kelsie Mason Ramos
Eager to live a life outside of her Catholic upbringing, a young woman soon realizes in order to find her dream queer community, she will have to leave the only world she’s ever known behind.

Bound by Ice by Nancy Kates
Based on a true story, Bound by Ice is a feature dramatic thriller set in 1959-60, pitting Lucy Bledsoe, a gutsy lesbian scientist, against McCarthy-era government agents. When she stumbles on a misguided nuclear plan with dire environmental consequences, Lucy is forced to choose between her job, her forbidden love, and the truth, however impossible.

Laylayon by Nic Yulo
When a pragmatic retired nurse is forced to relocate her American-born family to her ancestral home in a cursed village buried deep within the Philippine jungle, she discovers that she must face the ghosts of her past or risk losing her children forever.

Liars by Alicia Louzoun-Heilser
A tech entrepreneur sells her advanced lie detection technology to a politician accused of sexual misconduct but soon discovers truth is more complicated than data.

 Scarce by Mrittika Sarin
After discovering that the water supply of an underprivileged community has been stolen, a cynical software engineer fights to right this injustice — even as it draws her into conflict with her idealistic son.

Tabitha Drowning by Anu Sukhdial
A high-strung, high-tech executive breaks the glass ceiling and becomes CEO, only to discover that her boss/mentor may be a serial sexual harasser.

What We Carry by Karl-Mary Akre
A bright-eyed bride emigrates from the Ivory Coast to reunite with her husband, but begins to crumble under the all-consuming belief that her new home in America is being terrorized by supernatural forces

Screenwriting Mentors include:
Lauren Chen
Rebecca Choi
Shaula Evans
Jenny Halper
Maryam Keshavarz



Brightest Stars by Ruth Hernandez
The Harvard Computers were a team of women hired to process astronomical data at the Harvard Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts at the turn of the 20th century. They sacrificed much to contribute to the male dominated world of Astronomy. After years of hardship and half pay, they made great discoveries and achieved fame and yet they continued to struggle to find their place in a society that frowned upon women working in Academia.


Moonshiner by Kristina Zacharias
A mixed-race teetotaler in Prohibition-era Appalachia becomes a bootlegger when her Ne’er-do-well husband gambles away the land they’ve held for generations.

Morien and the Black Knights by Dani Milton
The Moorish knight, Morien, sets out for Britain to capture one of King Arthur’s knights as a matter of family honor. But a calamitous turn of events instead strands Morien in… Timbuktu, and on the hunt for the Holy Grail across Africa. A fresh take on the obscure,13th century tale.

Mosaic Blues by Francine Daniels
After a deathbed promise to her mother to unite her four sisters, a devout Catholic woman attempts to heal their family relationship only to discover that she must also navigate their matriarch’s nefarious legacy that bonds them together in sinister ways they each seek to escape.

Renaissance Girls by Carmen Brie
At the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance, the new President of a small Negro women’s college struggles to save the school and maintain relevancy amidst the challenging social and racial climate of a post-WWI America.

Sketch by Debra Kirschner
A 20-year-old art student with an uncanny ability to draw and paint other people’s private thoughts, often by accident, becomes a sketch artist at a new agency that investigates backlogs of rape kits. This work inspires her to look inward, face suppressed memories from her own past, and discover that she’s been painting clues to her own childhood trauma.

Strega Inc. by Julia Blauvelt
After a third patient mysteriously dies on her operating table, a brilliant young surgeon reconnects with her estranged and eccentric grandmother, only to discover that she is rightful heir to the family’s business of stregoneria; Italian witch-medicine.

The New Classic by Laren D’Errico
Caught between her two passions and finding no harmony within the long-established conventions of either one, Margaret, a young half-engineer-half-violinist, must fight to find her place in her uninspiring high school and struggling family… and for the once in a lifetime chance to study at the electronic music conservatory that could be her perfect fit.

The Seer by Noemi Villela-Dean
Long after the demise of the patriarchy, a female warrior helps lead a faction of powerful women in a new society where traditional gender roles no longer exist while fighting the rising forces of darkness trying to change their way of life.

TV Mentors include:
Dawn Comer Jefferson
Shannon Dobson
Rashaan Dozier-Escalante
Jule Selbo
Jon Vandergriff
Rashaan Dozier-Escalante


The Athena Film Festival at Barnard College is dedicated to increasing the representation of women in the industry. Over the past eleven years, the Athena Film Festival at Barnard College has established itself as the premier festival dedicated to celebrating and elevating women’s leadership. Our festival highlights films showcasing women’s leadership from underexplored perspectives; women leading in all places and spaces who are resisting and refuting preconceived notions of all they can be and do.

Through our Creative Development Program, we are fostering a community of women who support and nurture each other and, collectively, are changing the industry and the stories we see on screen. Since our founding, the festival has grown beyond a four-day in person event to include these year-round initiatives that are advancing women storytellers and women-centric stories. Together, we are advancing a new vision of leadership – with women at the forefront.

The Athena Film Festival is a joint project of Barnard College’s Athena Center for Leadership and Women and Hollywood. The festival’s founding sponsor is the Artemis Rising Foundation and its CEO Regina K. Scully.


The Athena Center for Leadership at Barnard College is a catalyst for the education, development, and advancement of inspired and courageous women leaders.


Women and Hollywood educates, advocates, and agitates for gender parity across the entertainment industry. Over the last 14 years, it has grown to be one of the most respected initiatives focused on women’s issues and popular culture, and its founder, Melissa Silverstein, has become a well-respected leader on the subject.


Barnard provides a singular educational experience, as a world-renowned college focused on excellence across the arts and sciences, with all the academic resources of Columbia University and the City of New York as an extended classroom. Founded in 1889, Barnard was one of the few colleges in the nation where women could receive the same rigorous and challenging education available to men. Today, Barnard is one of the most selective academic institutions in the country and remains devoted to empowering extraordinary women to become even more exceptional.


Artemis Rising Foundation is dedicated to supporting projects that transform our culture through media, education, and the arts. Founder & CEO: Regina K. Scully.


Lab Partner
The mission of the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting is to bring more female and underrepresented voices into mainstream media. We are a low residency program which means students come from all over the country for a 10 day Workshop in Hollywood (at the Jim Henson Studios) and then complete their semester coursework back in their own homes online, which suits working mothers and others who want to create a body of work to present to agents before moving to Los Angeles. MFA candidates are matched with mentors – all working writers and members of the Writers Guild of America – to complete 5 scripts in two years while all the while studying film history with a female gaze. Our graduates have a remarkable record of success, having written on shows such as “Ramy,” “13 Reasons Why,” “Seal Team” and Lena Dunham’s “Generations” on HBOMax.


Lab Sponsor
Lifetime is a premier entertainment destination for women dedicated to offering the highest quality original programming spanning scripted series, nonfiction series and movies.  In 2015, Lifetime® launched Broad FocusTM, a major global initiative dedicated to supporting and hiring female directors, writers and producers to make its content which totals over 450 original hours. Lifetime, Lifetime Movies, Lifetime Real Women and Lifetime Digital are part of Lifetime Entertainment Services, LLC, a subsidiary of A+E Networks. Lifetime operates in over 110 territories globally.