The Black List and Women in Film’s inaugural Feature Lab has its participants and mentors. Each writer in the weeklong residential lab will workshop one screenplay through a peer workshop and one-on-one sessions with professional screenwriting mentors. They also will attend a series of events and screenings that will further expose them to the realities of a life as a professional screenwriter.

The participating writers and their scripts are Déjà Bernhardt (Half Angels), Debbie Castanha (The Drought), Jessica Ellis (Operation Cheesecake), Natasha Lewin (Freedom Rides), Lise Pyres (Banner Hero) and Cat Youell (Tussaud). Read their bios below.


Participants’ scripts will be hosted by the Black List website following the lab, and participants will have their final scripts read by industry executives.

The lab’s mentors and special guests include Amy Baer, Tonia Davis, Dana Fox, Maryam Keshavarz, Graham Moore, Amanda Silver, Kiwi Smith, Scott Myers, Lindsay Doran, Aline Brosh McKenna and Franklin Leonard.

The lab is supported by Verizon’s go90.

Here are brief bios of the lab writers, provided by the Black List and Women in Film:

About the Participants

Traveling between her disparate homes in Bali, Indonesia and Austin, Texas, Déjà Bernhardt draws upon her mixed heritage finding inspiration to tell both narrative and documentary stories. Her films have screened in over 30 festivals globally and her 35mm graduate school film, The Midwife’s Husband (2012), was nominated for a Student Academy Award.

Debbie Castanha lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she began screenwriting after mastering tardy notes to teachers and Christmas letters about her amazing family (who she’d leave in a heartbeat to pursue her screenwriting dreams). She is passionate about character-driven stories, and her script The Water Tower was a quarterfinalist in the 2017 Nicholl Fellowship.

Jessica Ellis is an AFI graduate and writer/director of upcoming feature What Lies West. Jessica also worked as a story editor for digital series Local Air, and can be found screaming about television regularly on Twitter at @baddestmamajama.

Natasha Lewin is the Chief Writing Officer for Zuckerberg Media—a multimedia production company founded by the creator of DOT and Facebook Live, Randi Zuckerberg. In 2017, Natasha won the Hollywood Fringe Diversity Scholarship and took home the Short + Sweet Award for her play Chatter.

Texan Lise Pyles learned screenwriting while living in the Outback, after an article she’d written for Air&Space/Smithsonian Magazine seemed best suited as a movie. Now a Nicholl and AFF semi-finalist, she remains dedicated to screenwriting with her third feature script in the works.

Having grown up a sheltered only child in Orlando, FL, obsessed with Turner Classic Movies, Cat Youell paved her way to USC‘s School of Cinematic Arts where she completed her MFA in Film Production. A writer, director, and producer, Cat loves exploring the world and discovering little known true stories, particularly those about strong female characters with a dark twist.