The Athena Film Festival hosts writers labs for both screen and television writers. The lab is a creative development workshop for emerging women writers. We provide storytellers with training, skills, and a valuable, supportive network. Participants will have multiple one-on-one mentoring sessions with experienced screenwriters and industry experts, as well as participate in peer-to-peer sessions.
This year, we’ve brought on Bryce Norbitz as the Program Director for the screenwriting lab, and we’ve once again partnered with the Stephens College MFA in Television for the TV lab.
Submissions are open June 1, 2021 to July 8, 2021.
The Athena Film Festival at Barnard College Virtual Writers Lab will take place remotely on September 20 – 22, 2021.
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.