The Athena Film Festival Writers Lab is a three-day creative development workshop for emerging women and non-binary writers, providing storytellers with creative guidance, training, industry access, and a valuable, supportive network. Applicants must submit a project that includes a woman or women characters in a leadership role or position at the center of the story. Eligible writers have not had a tv script or feature-length screenplay produced within the past 10 years. The labs are held in partnership with the Stephens College MFA in TV and Screenwriting.
Bryce Norbitz is the Program Director for the screenwriting lab, and we’ve partnered with the Stephens College MFA in Television for the TV lab.
2022 November Virtual Lab Writers
A Vindication by Monica McCarthy
A Vindication is a dark comedy historical miniseries about the real-life story of the “mother of feminism,” Mary Wollstonecraft. Set in late 1700s England, with both the American and French Revolutions as backdrops, Mary’s “revolution of manners” focused on her pursuit of the rights of equal education for girls, all while attempting to overcome her own lessons of heartbreak, depression, and a patriarchy that just won’t quit. Oh, and she’s also the mother to another Mary you may have heard of: Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein (the focus for Season 2).
She Rides in the Smoking Car by Barbara Nunberg
Berlin-based correspondent, Dorothy Thompson, scores the first foreign press interview with Hitler in 1931 but then dismisses him as an inconsequential, “little man.” As the Nazi menace grows, she tries to redeem her mistake with hard-hitting stories and is sent back home when the Nazis take power. Obsessed with rallying America into the fight against fascism, she uses her journalist megaphone to counter the xenophobic America First movement, but her fervor wrecks her marriage and poisons her relationship with her only child.
Spring in September by Randi Barros
A 48-year old immigration lawyer who wants to save the world must first save herself when her husband dies in a freak accident. Overnight she becomes a single mom, in debt, and with a big surprise nine months away.
L’Amazone by Josalynn Smith
L’Amazone is an original series based on the life of famed ex-pat and lesbian intellectual, Natalie Clifford Barney.
Wzro. Menelik by Anna Marano
At the turn of the 19th Century, the Ethiopian Empire is faced with multiple challenges on several fronts. Emperor Menelik is trying to keep up between internal developments and international retaliations. Will he heed his corrupted consort and ex-wife or will his plans lean towards his wife’s suggestions? Empress Taitu, is Woizero Menelik, she is dextrously navigating the management of a female spy network, gathering invaluable intel on treaties and also negotiating deals which ultimately ensure the region’s unity. The story culminates with the famous Battle of Adwa in which the region’s independence escapes from the forces of colonisation, unlike the rest of the continent.
Dandelion The Messenger of My Grandma Batul by Azadeh Nikzadeh
Dandelion is a true story of an Iranian filmmaker/graduate student in New York, Azi, who is about to finish an autobiographical film on her childhood under the political oppression of the Iranian regime with her Israeli boyfriend, Ron. When Azi finds out her father back home is dying, she is warned that if she releases the film, she’ll no longer be welcome back home. Azi censors her movie to keep the regime happy. But her plans fall apart when her family cannot find the chemotherapy medicine for her father due to corruption and political games.
Filthy by Lisa Cole
In a small-minded midwestern town, CASS, 13, prepares to sign a ‘purity pledge’ to remain a virgin until marriage. But on the eve of the ceremony, slated to happen before family and friends from her Evangelical church, Cass experiences her first orgasm and a sexual awakening erupts pitting natural hormonal desire against the threat of eternal damnation.
Wall of Lies by Mary Beth Warner
When Audrey Anderson, a Washington Post reporter, is assigned to cover a suspicious death at an automated factory in Germany, she discovers a treacherous world of secrecy and conspiracy, filled with corrupt corporate executives, echoes of the Cold War, and a connection closer to home than she would have ever dreamed.
2022 Virtual Lab Writers
AWE by Kristen A. Golden
No horizon is too far for polar explorer Ann Bancroft, already the first woman to trek to the North Pole. Based on a true story, AWE drops us into Ann’s 1992 quest to lead the first all-women’s expedition across Antarctica. Pulling their sleds 1,700 miles through brutal subzero temperatures and whiteout conditions, Ann and her team must race against time and their critics to complete the trek before the coastal waters freeze, leaving them stranded on the barren continent.
Balancing Acts by Erica Rose
A theatre director on the brink of success begins a toxic, co-dependent relationship with her actress muse in order to cope and avoid the onset of debilitating, hidden, and incurable migraines.
God Help the Gayes (They’re Getting Divorced) by Huriyyah Muhammad
God Help the Gayes (They’re Getting Divorced), is a dramedy about two women going through an incredibly difficult period in their marriage and development as human beings, while society at large offers their opinions on whether they should even have the right to be married at all. As the world awaits a new ruling from the Supreme Court that could potentially reverse marriage equality across the country, local celebrities Rosa and Pamela Gaye are thrust into the limelight when news leaks of their potential divorce. With their rights in jeopardy and their allies in a frenzy, they comically commit to four ‘love it or lose it’ sessions with Dr. Francis, a dubiously intentioned marriage guru. Through it all, they must make a choice that despite the obstacles to keep on living, keep growing, keep loving – unconditionally. But will they choose to do it together? God Help the Gayes (They’re Getting Divorced)…aren’t they?
HAVANA by Zoe Simone
Mia, a Cuban audiologist now living in Miami, returns to her home country to aid the CIA in investigating the sonic “Havana Syndrome” attacks occurring at the U.S. embassy. Based on true events.
In My Father’s House by Abbesi Akhamie
Anna is a Nigerian-American woman who travels to Nigeria for the first time in hopes of reconnecting with her estranged father after the death her mother. When her father mysteriously disappears on the eve of his wedding, Anna goes in search of him with her father’s driver Bode. Unexpectedly, this journey leads her to new self-discovery and acceptance.
Mz. Movies by Lulenoxx
In the summer of 2001, Ami, an awkward preteen, spends her summer trying to catalog every film available at her local video rental store. Little does she know, this queer owned business is a gathering place for the local riot grrrl community, where Ami is able to discover herself and find a chosen family.
Goodnight Nobody by Anna Holmes
What does it mean to be an artist? A woman? A partner and lover? And how does a woman navigate these and other identities in a society in which women are expected to marry young, become mother to many, and subsume their own artistic and sexual desires in a search for (and in service of) outdated ideas of femininity? Set in 1930s and 40s New York, Goodnight Nobody explores all these ideas and more through the real-life story of Margaret Wise Brown, the bestselling, wild and wooly author and poet who, influenced by works of modernist literature and painting, elevated children’s literature to an art form.
Public Health by Myra Aquino
A disgraced surgeon is forced to take on a temporary job at the decrepit Public Health Department of West Palm Beach, Florida, and must figure out how to get her old job back. –PUBLIC HEALTH is a half-hour comedy television series about Judy, an arrogant, competitive surgeon who– after a humiliating public incident– is fired from her hospital and forced to take on a job in the much-maligned Public Health Department of West Palm Beach, Florida. From there, she meets her colleagues— a motley crew of misguided, incompetent workers— who she must lead and guide in order to improve the department’s reputation, and therefore her own. She does all this in order to get her old job back as a successful orthopedic surgeon at a prestigious hospital in Miami. In the course of the TV pilot and the rest of the series, the department gets caught in a number of public health-related shenanigans, but Judy ultimately learns what it means to be a leader and a team player, and what it means to compromise and work with the community in order to improve health outcomes at a population level. Along the way, she develops meaningful friendships with her co-workers and learns to love herself for who she is, and not for her status or her intelligence.
Push It! by Mirella Christou
Push It! is the story of an under-the-radar women’s rights activist who fights an uphill battle with heavy personal costs to finance and orchestrate the creation of the revolutionary birth control pill. It is based on true events.
Silent Women by Christine Garver
In Hollywood’s infancy, 1915, a relentless female director vies for power, social change, and artistic triumph as she attempts to outrun the encroaching male domination of the industry.
UNACCEPTABLE by Oanh-Nhi Nguyen
A 33-year-old Vietnamese-American woman feels unfulfilled and learns to befriend her anger to discover her life purpose.
Yellow Cloud by Micole Williams
Explore how an instinctive and passionate Native American student at a Historically Black College & University emerges as a detective determined to solve a scandalous mystery hovering over a small Texas town.
2021 Virtual Lab Writers
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.
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.
2020 Virtual Lab Writers
African Dogs Don’t Choke by Jane Barr
When a first-generation African American high school student is the sole Black kid in a class studying Huckleberry Finn, she uses the opportunity to raise her status with the popular crowd.
forward by Mary Ann Anane
After moving to a working-class part of the Hamptons, a Latina teen cleaning for the elite explores identity and love in the shadow of gentrification and inevitable loss.
Malpelo by Victoria Rivera
A solitary free-diver makes the perilous voyage to the remote island of Malpelo in Colombia to investigate the troubling disappearance of hammerhead sharks, with a crew of men who prove to be as dangerous as the predators she’s studying.
Phantom by Jennifer Noonan *Alfred P. Sloan Fellow*
A double amputee combat veteran returns from Afghanistan and faces a new battle she must wage to regain herself.
Ray of Life by Kate Sheffield *Alfred P. Sloan Fellow*
When biologist Rachel Carson earns literary success with her seminal book Silent Spring, she fights the efforts of the military industrial complex to silence her, seeding the modern environmental movement.
Shrimp by Nicole Jones
Decades after her birth in the depths of the Great Salt Lake to a doomed polygamist girl, an introverted woman with supernatural abilities must decide if she will venture into the world and share her unique powers.
The Firefly in the Jar by Deboleena Maitra
A nine-year-old maid in Kolkata, India, draws on her own tenacity and a little magic to realize her dream of going to school.
We Are Golden by Keri Lee
When a misanthropic housesitter discovers a colony of mutant rats that threatens humanity, she approaches the ensuing battle like she approaches life: stoned, armed, and angry.
#adulting by Naa Adei Mante
A straight-laced engineer tries to shed her neurotic tendencies to chase her creative dreams. She and her friends navigate the struggles of adulthood while all striving to find success in DC.
Black Sands by Shahnaz Mahmud
Set in the desolate sands of Saudi Arabia, oil discovery creates a new world order. As the Americans enter into its vast lands, a conflict of culture emerges as each seeks power on the world stage in the prelude to World War II. Adventure, intrigue, forbidden passion and ultimately betrayal transpire in the depths of the Black Sands.
Crumb Bums by Leslie A. Nipkow
A young female boxer comes of age contending with gender and sexuality as she fights for her place among the city’s top male sports journalists, while American athletes lead the 60s civil rights revolution. What if you were trans before there was a word for it?
Make It Happen by Akil Kumarasamy & Mona Kareem
Make it Happen is a show that tells a spectrum of immigrant stories from brown America, with a cast of young characters in their twenties and thirties navigating a diverse yet hectic place like New York City.
Plan C by Shanice Williamson
A young woman reroutes her mission to save the world and reclaims her dream of becoming a psychologist while working in a mental hospital.
Speak Easy by Sydney Haven
Three women in a small town during Prohibition set up a speakeasy in the basement of their local church.
Two-Dimensional by Sam Mallari
A half-hour, half-animated comedy about a Filipino mother who is extremely overprotective over her teenage son with cerebral palsy. When her son’s acting career takes off and leaves her feeling sidelined, interdimensional beings suddenly summon her to save the multiverse from imminent danger.
Water by Pamela Winfrey
In a world where water defines class, a young girl from a water desert is forced to befriend a girl who is being raised to be sold to the highest bidder.
2020 Lab Writers NYC Screenwriting Lab
Murph by Leanna Adams
While investigating a rash of opioid overdoses, an eccentric journalist witnesses the suspicious death of an old flame and must scramble to solve both mysteries before becoming a statistic herself.
Pickled (Khsara) Suha Araj
When a Palestinian American astrophysicist finds herself unwed at 30, her family interferes, offering unsolicited opinions and a parade of suitors, forcing her to forge her own path.
Wild Cry Ha Catherine Fordham
In the American Southwest, a woman’s desperate search for her teenage sister and the truck driver who trafficked her erupts in violence when she delivers justice on her own terms.
What We See Angel Hobbs
In a future when mandatory implants control perception, a professional surrogate mother pursues a terrifying truth behind the technology, despite the government’s efforts to stop her.
Electable Liann Kaye
When Quinn Chin becomes the mastermind behind her crush’s high school presidential campaign, she stumbles upon someone much better for the job – Herself.
Leader Natasha Sanchez
A magnetic student body president challenges school culture when she invites an unpopular transfer into her trusted inner circle.
Standard Error Barbara Soares
A brilliant Brazilian programmer tasked with bringing self-driving cars to her home country faces impossible ethical challenges when deep-seated corruption threatens to derail the project.
All the Stars She Bears So Young Shelly Yo
A fiery biotechnologist, competing to be Korea’s first female astronaut in the nationally televised astronaut program, steps into a world of immeasurable physical and mental pressures.
2019 LA Screenplay Participants
After the Jump by Marquette Jones
When a law student’s life comes crashing down, she decides to jump off a bridge – but an intrigued bystander offers an alternative.
Auto High by Nina Kentsis
Needing money to attend her dream school, a young girl with a knack for mechanics risks everything to enter the underworld of New York street racing.
Brave Woman by Melissa Duge Spiers
A Native American girl overcomes abuse and abandonment to find family, future, and a very special horse in the vicious, dangerous world of Indian Relay.
Daughters Lost to the Desert by A.M. Sanchez
In Juarez, Mexico, a protective mother seeks justice for her youngest daughter’s murder amidst systemic corruption and accusations of being a murderous vigilante herself.
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 teen.
North to the Future by Cassidy Louwerse
After her husband is murdered, an Alaskan Native struggles to reconnect with her identity and daughter in a politically divided town.
Sins of My Father by Jane Therese
A young mother in Ireland grapples with the love she has for her father after bringing charges of abuse against him.
The Minder of Dying Men by Mary Elder
Set amidst the chaos and carnage of the Crimean War, a mathematical genius fights to pursue her own idea of meaning and gender. Her name was Florence Nightingale.
2019 LA Television Participants
The War Girls by Alyssa Ross
The War Girls is a one-hour episodic about two women working as war correspondents in 1990s Bosnia. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the longest siege in modern history, The War Girls is about the devastating cost and powerful attraction of war. Most of all, it’s a story of friendship — and love.
Spinster Punks by Rachel Cohn
A group of never married friends who met at the reject table of a wedding 25 years earlier navigate the trials, tribulations and badassery of middle age together.
The Education of Ebony Stone by Crystal Garland
A single mother is recruited to aid an underground radical network in 1980s America.
Night Witches by Nic Yulo
When Germany betrays their Russian armistice and all men are fighting at the front, a group of civilian female fighter pilots must defend their home against the invading Nazi forces.
Stripped by Marisa Forrest
After being disbarred, a hotshot Houston attorney returns to her hometown and learns that she has inherited a strip club.
Badlands by Lisa Scott
After a Navy psychologist’s counseling fails to keep an active-duty serviceman from going ballistic and gunning down several innocent people before killing himself, she is sent on assignment to an Indian Reservation to fix their teen suicide epidemic; a serious problem that takes much longer than her two-week deadline.
Back to Then by Keri Ferencz
When she loses all memories of her adult life, Carly Stevens is forced confront the woman she’s become and decides she must go BACK TO THEN to rectify the mistakes that took her away from the life she planned to live.
Legacy by Kellen Hertz
After a violent act of vandalism unsettles prestigious Cabot University, former homicide detective (now college cop) MEM BOYLE investigates its link to a 27 year old campus murder … and unearths a conspiracy of silence that stretches all the way to the White House.
Skinderella by Amy Banks
In a world she’s never been exposed to, a girl nicknamed Skinderella must retain her Native identity as she searches for the true definition of family.
Thirst by Horton Emory
It’s life as usual in a mid-Missouri bottling plant, until nuclear war strikes America and the night shift is left to fend for themselves.
2019 Lab Writers NYC Screenwriting Lab
Activated by Cara Greene Epstein
High achiever Dr. Marla Barkoff is used to being the best, but when she and her son are struck with a mysterious disease, she’s forced to re-examine what is truly best for her patients, her family, and herself.
Driving With Your Eyes Closed by Molly Powers Gallagher
Grappling with the reality of her mother’s terminal illness and her failure to get into college, Hanna and her cousin board a bus on a Hail Mary journey to find her estranged father – with her mom and her math teacher (it’s complicated) hot on their tails.
Fisher by Heather Upton
Inspired by Amy Fisher, a bold teenager in 1990s Long Island plots to murder her boyfriend’s wife. It does not go as planned.
Let ‘Er Buck by Maren Curtis
An ambitious ranch girl finds a community and an identity for herself among a band of rowdy, rabble-rousing, rodeo women who defy social norms in the early 20th century.
Surface by Gemma Crofts and Catherine S. McMullen
As nuclear war rips the world apart, humanity retreats underground, leaving AI to run the war above. Based on the short story The Defenders by Philip K Dick.
The Informat by Ambarien Alqadar
When her father was sentenced to 15 years in solitary confinement for a crime he did not commit, Ayesha grew up parenting her two younger siblings. Failing at the job, she invents a desperate plan to bring him back – becoming an FBI informant.
Trinn Begins by Danielle Milton
A traumatized but hardened woman scrapes up money to move to a safer neighborhood, only to discover sadistic human traffickers are already there. As the conflict builds, she faces a choice: move again – or fight.
Whitney Point by Divya Subramanian
A Muslim-American college student and a self-described redneck find common ground in rural New York State, but their bond is tested by the prejudice that surrounds them.
2019 Lab Mentors
Michael Arndt wrote the screenplays for Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and Toy Story 3 (2010). He also received shared screenplay credit for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013), Oblivion (2013), and Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens (2015). He lives in New York City.
Laurie Collyer is a writer/director living in Brooklyn, NY. A graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, alumnus of the Sundance Screenwriter’s and Director’s labs, and the Cannes Film Festival’s Cinefondation residence for emerging filmmakers, Collyer has been making movies and television for 18 years.
Shinho Lee, is an alumnus of the American Film Institute’s Screenwriting Program. Lee co-wrote The Chaser, directed by Hong-Jin Na; Sayonara Itsuka (Saying Goodbye, One day), based on the bestselling novel by Hitonari Tsuji; adapted While The Women Are Sleeping (the critically acclaimed short story by Javier Marias); and wrote Last September for Terence Chang. Lee’s screenplay The Red Snow was the Grand Prize Winner of The 2003 Harley-Merrill International Screenwriting Award and The 2002 CAPE (Coalition of Asian Pacific in Entertainment) Foundation’s New Writers Award sponsored by The 20th Century FOX. Lee is currently co-writing a sci-fi film with Julie Taymor and developing an action-thriller TV series set in Asia and Europe. He is also an accomplished playwright. He teaches screenwriting in the Dramatic Writing Department, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.
Ligiah Villalobos is a Writer, Producer, Consultant, Educator and Lecturer. She is best known for the independent feature film Under the Same Moon, (La Misma Luna), which she wrote and executive produced. More recently, Villalobos was a Cultural Consultant on the Academy Award-winning Pixar movie, COCO. She is also the recipient of the Humanitas Prize, for writing the Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, Firelight. Villalobos has developed projects for multiple studios and networks, including ABC, NBC, ABC/Family (now Freeform), F/X, Showtime, BET, HBO, and Sesame Street, among others. The latest being, a half-hour pilot for STARZ titled The Dirty Girls Social Club, based on the NY Times bestselling book. Villalobos co-wrote the 2016 Lifetime TV Movie, The Real MVP, based on the life of Kevin Durant’s mother. She was the Head Writer for three seasons on Nick Jr.’s hit children’s show Go, Diego! Go! Villalobos currently sold an animated TV series to the Disney Channel titled Adelita y Señorita and she is writing on two Netflix children’s series, Super Monsters and the upcoming series, StarBeam. She is also a writer and associate producer on the animated feature film Koati, currently in production.