The Athena List is an annual script competition that selects exceptional scripts with women leaders at the heart of the story. As the central program in the Athena Film Festival’s Creative Development Program, The Athena List’s goal is to raise the profile of the scripts and the writers within the industry with the purpose of getting these movies made and elevating their careers to the next level.
Athena List Successes
- Athena List finalist, Little Pink House, written and directed by Courtney Balaker and starring Catherine Keener, opened the 2017 festival and was released in the spring of 2018.
- Athena List winner, On the Basis of Sex, based on the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, written by Daniel Stiepelman and directed by Mimi Leder and starring Felicity Jones as a young RBG, was released on December 25, 2018.
- Athena List winner Clemency written and directed by Chinonye Chukwu starring Alfre Woodard and Aldis Hodge won the Grand Jury Prize at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
- 2014 Athena List winner Lilly which is about Lilly Ledbetter and her fight for fair pay is in production with Patrica Clarkson playing Lilly. Rachel Feldman is directing the film she co-wrote with Adam Prince.
- Athena List finalists The Artemis Protocol by Shamim Sarif, which was turned into a novel, is now being adapted for Television by Village Roadshow Entertainment Group.
The 2022 Athena List Winners
Sunflower: The Fannie Lou Hamer Story by Aunjanue Ellis
Fannie Lou Hamer, a sharecropper, in the 1960s in a Mississippi that led the nation in recorded lynchings, single-handedly changed the Democratic Party from being a haven and incubator for Klansmen and Confederates to being the party of Barack Obama and Kamala Harris. Before Stacey Abrams, there was a short, stocky, gold-toothed woman from Ruleville, Mississippi named Fannie Lou Hamer.
The Gatekeeper by Jennifer Vanderbes
A historical drama based on the story of Frances Kelsey – the FDA medical reviewer who in the early 1960s fought a major pharmaceutical firm to keep the drug thalidomide off the American market. The script is based on Vanderbes’ own non-fiction book, The Gatekeeper, to be published by Random House in 2022.
Ray of Life by Kate Sheffield
When writer/biologist Rachel Carson’s love of nature brings her literary success, she finds love with a married woman. While hiding this unspeakable truth in postwar America, she takes on the military industrial complex by alerting the world to its poisons through her book, Silent Spring, seeding the environmental movement. As she fights this public battle to save lives, few know of the private one she must endure to save her own.
2022 Athena List Finalists
The Language of Wolves by Nan Schmid
A female reporter inherits a fallen comrade’s dog. When she takes the dog on a woodsy cabin getaway, she discovers a resort allowing trophy killing and struggles to expose it. Then the owner takes aim at her, the dog and a pair of newly abandoned wolf pups.
PLAÇAGE by G. Michelle Robinson
A single-minded, bi-racial woman rejects her life of privilege in 1820s New Orleans, to spark adventure and purpose in the burgeoning Missouri territories, but finds The Mississippi easier to navigate than the racial divide of the West.
Adult Bat Mitzvah by Rachel McKay Steele
Rose, a struggling post college comedian/personal assistant is heckled during her comedy routine. With her Judaism questioned – Rose shockingly proclaims she is the real deal and she WILL have an adult Bat Mitzvah! Due to an exhaustive work schedule, the only Bat Mitzvah class Rose can attend is filled with a raucous group of 7th graders. As she forms a bond with one of the pre-teens, Rose realizes her classmates aren’t the only ones with some growing up to do. Based on a true experience, ADULT BAT MITZVAH is a romantic comedy about Judaism, and spoiler alert, Judaism gets the girl!
Tidal Disruption by Kiran Deol
Audrey is a quiet, nail-biting overachieving perfectionist and first year graduate student, in the cutthroat, male dominated world of astronomy. She attends Rose Tech, a premier STEM science institution and lands a coveted position on the research team of the charming, charismatic, and National Science Award winning superstar professor, Richard Crane. He offers a singular and exciting opportunity – to serve as Audrey’s advisor for her submission to the Stellar Astronomy and Astrophysics Conference (SAAC) – a place that makes and breaks careers. But as time goes on, a push-pull energy between Crane and Audrey begins. Is it chemistry? Camaraderie? Unwanted advances? Or is Audrey just a socially anxious introvert who misreads and exaggerates social cues?
The 2020 Athena List Winners
Auto High by Nina Kentsis
Needing money to attend her dream school, a high school girl with a knack for mechanics risks everything to enter the underworld of New York street racing.
Good Chance [Formerly Mother-Daughter] by Tricia Lee
A church-going, undocumented Asian woman who has a strained relationship with her daughter, forms an unlikely friendship with a transgender teenager who dials the wrong number.
Noor By Nijla Mu’min
Caught in the throes of grief following her brother’s unsolved murder outside of a Brooklyn bodega, a black woman develops an unexpected physical connection to the Arab man who works there. A surrender to lust and a search for truth lead their worlds to collide.
Over It by Joy Goodwin
Sick of the superhero workplace bullshit, two female superheroes — a working mom and her Millennial trainee — go rogue to stop a villain, changing their squad forever.
What the Eyes Don’t See by Cherien Dabis
The true story of Iraqi American pediatrician Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha who blew the whistle on local and state government officials for exposing tens of thousands of Flint, Michigan residents to disastrous levels of toxic lead in the water.
2020 Athena List Finalists
Bell by Dyana Winkler & Darcy Brislin
The untold story of famed inventor Alexander Graham Bell and his deaf wife Mabel, whose marriage changed history, for better and for much worse.
Redwood Summer by Rangeley Wallace
An environmental lawyer follows her husband to Alabama for his career, abandoning her successful work in Washington D.C. Once there, she takes on an environmental case that reunites her with a long lost love.
Stampede by Sontenish Myers
Set on a southern plantation in the 1800s, a young slave girl has telekinetic powers she cannot control. Circumstances escalate when she’s separated from her mother to be a house girl, in close quarters with the mercurial Master’s wife.
The 2019 Athena List Winners
Hedy by Giovanni Porta
Famed actress and inventor, Hedy Lamarr, escapes her overbearing Austrian husband and travels to the US where she storms Hollywood, all while struggling to convince the U.S. Military that her Secret Communications invention will help them win World War II. Her invention would be the basis for Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and GPS.
Out of My Mind by Daniel Stiepleman
Melody Brooks (11) is inquisitive, intelligent and eager for friends. She also has Cerebral Palsy. Now, for the first time, she’s leaving the dull security of special ed. for a “mainstream” fifth-grade classroom. Though she cannot speak, Melody Brooks will need to find her voice – to demand the respect she deserves. Based on the best selling YA novel by Sharon Draper.
Roe v. Wade by Jennifer Majka
Roe v. Wade charts the extraordinary journey of Sarah Weddington, a 26-year-old, small-town Texas lawyer who, in her first solo court case, ushered through the biggest U.S. Supreme Court decision of the century – legalizing abortion.
The Defining Moment by Margaret Nagle
At a breaking point in their marriage the Governor of New York, Franklin Roosevelt doesn’t tell his wife, Eleanor, he’s going to run for President. When she finds out from the New York Times she files for a divorce. Franklin discovers the only way to bring his wife back is to let her go be with another lover, a woman named Lorena Hickok. When Franklin is elected president all three of them move into the White House. Against the backdrop of the Great Depression and the creation of the New Deal Eleanor is confronted with who she is and who she wants to be in relationship to her husband, the President of the United States.
2019 Athena List Finalists
The Fastest Girl in the World by Katherine Hayes
Blood and Moonlight by J.M.R. Serrato
Collision of Duty by Jermaine Jones
Cleo by Marilyn Fu
2019 Athena List Judges
Julie Ann Armstrong
The 2018 Athena List Winners
True North by Katherine Ruppe
True North is an atmospheric, psychological thriller about the haunted survivor of an attempted double murder who has never faced her horrific past — until a parole hearing reveals her attacker may not be guilty, and the real killer could be closer than she thinks.
Throw Like A Girl By Lori Bell Leahy
In order to her inspire her young son, Michelle Green, an African American single mother of two visits a Negro League Baseball shop. To her surprise, she meets Mamie Johnson who shares, true life story of her love of baseball as a pitcher, being one of three women who played professionally in the Negro League.
Saving Esperanza by Betty Sullivan
Based on a true story, a woman mourning a miscarriage goes to Mexico on business, where she rescues a dying child after her mother is killed by local thugs. Then she smuggles the girl across the border into the U.S. to save her life.
WHITE by A. Sayeeda Moreno
In a burning hot near future, climate change has both devastated the planet and turned melanin into the world’s most valuable commodity. When Nuyorican beauty LUNA has her newborn ripped from her arms just moments after giving birth, she is thrust into the merciless world of melanin harvesting to save her daughter, her community, and spark a revolution.
2018 Athena List Finalists
Stick With It by Phillip Catherwood
Wingman Lost by Mikayla Daniels
The Sound of Darkness by Melody Cooper
The Title by Sarah Callies
2018 Athena List Judges
Maurício Mota – co-president of Wise Entertainment – Producer of Hulu’s East Los High
Margaret Nagle – screenwriter, TV writer and producer – Boardwalk Empire, Red Band Society
Inkoo Kang – critic and culture writer – Slate, The Atlantic, Wired
Monique Keller – marketing & distribution manager – Amazon Studios
Rebecca McCarthy – partnerships & promotions manager – Amazon Studios
The 2017 Athena List Winners
Claude by Hannah Patterson
Jersey, The Channel Islands, World War II. Vehemently opposed to any form of oppression, Surrealist artists and lovers Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore mount their own resistance movement when the Germans invade. Composing notes encouraging soldiers to rise up against Nazism, they disguise themselves as old women and disseminate them throughout the island. They continue their operation for four years, while the Germans mount a hunt for the perpetrators. They’re eventually caught and sentenced to death. Expecting every day to be taken out and shot, they are miraculously released when the allies liberate the island.
Clemency by Chinonye Chukwu
Years of carrying out executions has taken a toll on prison warden, Bernadine Williams. The emotional wedge in her marriage grows. Memories of a recently botched execution plague her daily. As she prepares to execute death row inmate, Anthony Woods, Bernadine’s contentions with her job exacerbate with public outcries of his innocence. When the courts deny Anthony’s final appeal, he loses hope and ends communication with his family, friends and supporters. In response, Bernadine develops a desire to reconnect him with the people he has cut off. Along the way, she confronts her own isolation and bonds with the man she is sanctioned to kill.
Mrs. Christie by Jamie Dawson
In WWI-era England, young nurse Agatha Christie (years before becoming the best-selling mystery novelist of all time) turns sleuth after one of her patients – a Belgian soldier – winds up murdered. The script is a fictional origin story based on numerous facts from Christie’s life, with references to characters and stories she will eventually become (in) famous for.
Scott by Anna Rose Moore
After her best friend dies, a success-driven lawyer is left with an unwinnable case – a female inmate’s accusations of rape by her prison guards. She soon uncovers a massive systemic scandal of sexual abuse by prison staff and the network used to cover it up.
2017 Athena List Finalists
The Artemis Protocol by Shamim Sarif
Beyond the Painted Line by Theresa Tierney and Eileen Tierney
Magnus by Ayesha Nizhoni
The Third Rule by Sehaj Sethi
Undercurrent by Dee Chilton
2017 Athena List Judges
Patrick Harrison, Director of New York Programs and Membership at the AMPAS
Denise Hewitt, Founder of Scriptd
Rachael Horovitz, Academy-Award nominated Producer Moneyball
Julia Rapaport, Senior Development, Productions and Acquisitions Executive Amazon Studios
The 2016 Athena List
* Featured in ET Weekly
A Noble Affair by Anil Baral and Kathryn Maughan
As Marie Curie is nominated for a Nobel Prize, her affair with a married man creates a scandal that ruins her reputation and becomes the obstacle to the prize that will prove her a scientist in her own right.
In the Land of Fire and Ice by David MacGregor
When a high-powered Kuwaiti CEO is betrayed at the investment bank she founded, it reignites her passion for activism, and her desire to make the world a better place also opens her up to the possibility of a better life.
Ride the Wind by Denise Meyers
The story of Bessie Stringfield, the first African American woman inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame and the only female military dispatch rider in World War II.
Virginia by Bess Wohl
About Virginia Hill, moll to multiple gangsters like Ben “Bugsy” Siegel and the business mastermind behind the mob’s move into marijuana and drug smuggling.
Athena List Finalists
Lonely Hunter by Sarah Schulman
Lucky 13 by Denise Meyers
Muted by Brandi Ford
Oil & Water by Alfred Thomas Catalfo & Morgan Webster Dudley
The 2015 Athena List
Dickey Chapelle by Margaret Nagle
Tells the story of a war photographer known as “The Patron Saint of the Marines” who captured photos from the front lines from Iwo Jima to Vietnam.
A Beautiful Lie (formerly Highsmith) by Eliza Lee
The story of famed crime novelist and Barnard alumna, Patricia Highsmith, and her spiral into alcoholism during the McCarthy era, when she could not put her name to the iconic lesbian novel, The Price of Salt.
The Burning Season by Jenny Halper
Based on a short story by Laura Van Den Berg, this is the story of a female scientist and her teenage daughter’s obsessive quest to save endangered lemurs.
Athena List Finalists
Chisholm by Montserrat Mendez, Armistead Johnson
Little Pink House by Courtney Moorehead Balaker – opened 2017 Athena Film Festival
The Vote (formerly Revolution) by Joanne Parrent
Revolution Now (formerly Victoria of Murray Hill) by Kate Danaher and Kathleen Davison
The 2014 Athena List
On the Basis of Sex by Daniel Stiepleman
The story of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s early years.
Lilly (formerly The Good Years) by Rachel Feldman and Adam Prince
The story of Lilly Ledbetter’s life.
The Sky’s the Limit: The Story of the Mercury 13 by Maria Burton, Gabrielle Burton, Ursula Burton and Jennifer Burton
About the female astronauts who were prepared to go into space but were denied the opportunity because of their gender.
Thirsty by Emily Abt
Thirsty follows the upstart campaign of an audacious attorney as she strives to unseat the incumbent mayor of Oakland.