EXCLUSIVE: Outfest has launched its annual Outfest Screenwriting Lab and selected eight scripts that advance the visibility of LGBTQIA+ storytelling. This year’s fellows include Johnny Alvarez, Courtney & Hillary Andujar, Carlton Daniel Jr., Gary Jaffe, Raul Martin, Damon Royster, Cody Stickels & Kea Trevett, and Leandro Tadashi.
The Outfest Screenwriting Lab was established as a screenwriting contest in 1997 and has since become the cornerstone of Outfest’s education and mentoring program, Outfest Forward. Because this year’s Lab will take place virtually, it provided Outfest the ability to accept their largest cohort to date and extended the time frame of the Lab to five days. Fellows will meet with top industry showrunners, executives, and writers who will offer professional development and discuss trends within the industry.
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The Lab roster of LGBTQIA+ industry leaders include showrunners LaToya Morgan (Into the Badlands, Shameless), Derek Simonds (The Sinner), and M Dickson (Hoops, Disenchanted), alongside writers Mikko Alanne (The Long Road Home), Shantira Jackson (Saved By The Bell, The Amber Ruffin Show), Abby McEnany (Work in Progress), Micah Schraft (Mrs. America, Jessica Jones), and Tracey Scott Wilson (The Morning Show, The Americans). Executives David Ruby, Anni Weisband, Manny Jaquez, Kyle Schmitz, and Mallory Schwartz are also slated to speak during the lab.
Outfest has tapped some of their most accomplished alumnus as mentors this year including Jared Frieder (Three Months), Javier Fuentes-León (Contracorriente, Distrito Salvaje), Fola Goke-Pariola (Paper Girls), Silas Howard (Pose), Naomi Iwamoto (Connecting, Twenties), Jorge Molina, George Northy (G.B.F., Charmed), Jen Richards (Her Story), Valerie Stadler, and Zackery Alexzander Stephens (Q-Force). They will provide one-on-one mentorship alongside LGBTQIA+ showrunners Gabe Liedman (Pen15, Q-Force), Moisés Zamora (Selena: The Series), Keisha Zollar (Astronomy Club: The Sketch Show), Alvaro Rodriguez (Machete, Seis Manos) and writers Aziza Barnes (Teenage Bounty Hunters, Snowfall), Guy Branum (Talk Show: The Game Show, The Mindy Project), Rhys Ernst (Adam), Chloe Keenan (Q-Force, Connecting), Marcos Luevanos (Love, Victor, Rutherford Falls), Brittani Nichols (A Black Lady Sketch Show, Take My Wife), Adrian Salpeter (Story of a Girl), Guinevere Turner (American Psycho, The L Word), Michael Urban (Saved!).
The Lab was developed this year by Outfest Board members Neil Landau, Cora Olson, and Valerie Stadler along with Outfest Screenwriting Lab alumni Zackery Alexzander Stephens, Outfest Deputy Director Kerri Stoughton-Jackson, and Outfest Forward Coordinator Sari Navarro.
Read the bios of the Fellows and loglines for their scripts below.
Written by Damon Royster
Damon, a pompous, pretentious, and newly out gay man attempts to make himself romantically ready for Mr. Right by using his Grindr app and meeting up with Mr. Right-Now.
Damon Royster lives in Chicago, IL. He has studied comedy writing at The Second City and the iO theater. Damon is on faculty at The Second City now for writing and Improv. He was a 2017 recipient of Second City’s prestigious Bob Curry Fellowship. And a featured performer and writer in the 2017 NBC Universal Break Out Festival. He is currently on the writing staff for the card game: Cards Against Humanity. Writing credits include: AppQueen (the web series); and Love, Factually (performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. 2018-2019).
Written by Raul Martin Romero
Bears is a grounded, character-driven, half- hour dramedy that follows a multicultural couple in search of their own definition of marriage and the in and outs of bear culture.
Raul is a writer of grit, pain, laughter, and fabulousness. His stories are rooted in an obscure childhood north of Madrid where he wandered dark, ancient hallways of a 15th-century castle while his mother mopped the floors for the next day’s tour groups. The experience, both fascinating and terrifying, fueled his wild urge to imagine fantastical worlds. Raul spent his teenage years searching for his voice, both as a person and a writer. Years later, while finishing his English studies, he connected with talented dreamers, writers, and filmmakers. Raul immigrated to the US in 2011 and since then, he has written a variety of short films and TV pilots. He worked as a writers’ PA, showrunner’s assistant (season 2) and script coordinator (season 3) on Vida, STARZ, and was the script coordinator on Ava DuVernay and Colin Kaepernick’s Colin in Black & White, Netflix. He’s currently working with Daniel Barnz and Ben Barnz on an untitled project for HBO Max.
Before the Night Ends
Written by Leandro Tadashi
Hoping to hook up with his neighbor Leo, Diego joins him on a journey from the poor outskirts of São Paulo to an expensive gay club downtown. But Diego doesn’t know that Leo only decided to go out that night to see Rafael, a rich guy he met on Grindr.
Writer and director Leandro Tadashi was born in Manaus, the largest city in the Brazilian Amazon region. He did his undergrad in Film and TV Production at the University of São Paulo and has been awarded several production and development grants that provided funds for his film projects. His short films have been screened in over 300 festivals worldwide, like the Festival de Cinema de Gramado (Brazil) and the Clermont-Ferrand International Short Film Festival (France) In 2015, Leandro finished his MFA in Film & TV Production at the School of Cinematic Arts at USC. In Los Angeles, he directed the short Tomorrow (2014), and co-directed the feature Actors Anonymous (2017). The feature was produced by Elysium Bandini Studios and was based on the book written by James Franco, who also acted in the film.
Written by Carlton Daniel Jr.
After discovering his ability to communicate with the dead, a mortician’s son returns home to salvage the family funeral business while being haunted by both legacy and death.
Indie filmmaker Carlton Daniel JR. (b. Cleveland, OH) is a writer/director/producer currently based in Los Angeles, CA. Reimagining a reality free from injustice and oppression, Daniel seeks to redefine misconceptions of contemporary Black life through his critical lens as a Black, queer artist. In 2016, he earned his M.F.A. in Film and Dramatic Writing from Syracuse University. Daniel’s work explores themes of surrealism, sexuality, class, and Afro-diasporic identity. His award-winning short, Monogamish, screened at over 20 festivals worldwide. Daniel’s most recent short, Homegoing, has screened at festivals including Atlanta, Palm Springs, and Outfest.
Written by Courtney and Hillary Andujar
A teenager casts a spell to bring her fantasy crush to life and inadvertently awakens an evil entity that begins feeding on the girls at her reform school.
Twins Courtney & Hillary Andujar co-write, direct, and design stylish genre films. Influenced by Westerns, giallo films, and classic creature features, they live for narratives that are subversive and show feminist and queer perspectives. Their writing/directing debut, Girls’ Night Out of Body, was at Sitges International Film Festival as part of the horror-comedy anthology Scare Package. They were included in Filmmaker Magazine’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film (2019), have received a grant from the Chimaera Project, and were AMC Shudder Labs Fellows for their feature horror script Lovespell. Films they’ve designed have premiered at TIFF, SXSW, and Fantastic Fest. Recent features include The Wind (dir. Emma Tammi), Girl on the Third Floor (dir. Travis Stevens), the upcoming Pink Skies Ahead (dir. Kelly Oxford), and the Blumhouse/Universal thriller Freaky (dir. Chris Landon), starring Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton.
Written by Johnny Alvarez
Eight sixtysomethings living out their golden years in an otherworldly suburb find their surreal, idiosyncratic way of life threatened by the arrival of a mysterious newcomer with no memories of her past.
Born and raised in North County St. Louis, Johnny Alvarez is a queer writer/filmmaker and second-generation Cuban American. He is a graduate of Columbia College Chicago’s film and television programs and currently resides in Los Angeles. In 2020, he was selected as a Sundance Episodic Lab Fellow with his original pilot script Somewhere Else. His short film Vicotry Boulevard premiered at the 2018 Outfest Film Festival and went on to play at festivals in Chicago, Seattle, North Carolina, and elsewhere. His short documentary Tu Calle, Nuestro Estrado, shot on location in Cochabamba, Bolivia, premiered at the 2017 My Hero International Film Festival. He is an alumnus of OutSet: The Young Filmmakers Project and Actuality Media’s Documentary Outreach Program. Johnny also writes short fiction and essays. His work has been published in LEVEL, Plenitude Magazine, The Hunger Journal, and Quiet Lightning.
Last Summer with Ira
Written by Gary Jaffe
Westchester, 1991. Closeted teenager Daniel Rosen travels the bumpy road to self-acceptance when his estranged gay uncle Ira comes home, dying of complications from HIV/AIDS.
Originally from Austin, Gary is a Brooklyn-based writer/director of film and theatre. His first short film Sunset premiered at the Palm Springs International ShortFest 2017 and now has over 200K views on YouTube. His second short Next Level Shit premiered at Outfest 2019 and continues to play in festivals around the world. His most recent short Last Summer With Uncle Ira premiered at Outfest 2020 as a proof of concept for his first feature, Last Summwith Ira. His theatre work has appeared around the country, including plays Diaspora TX and Song to the Moon and the musical At First Sight. In Austin, he was Artistic Director of Tutto Theatre Company, during which time he received the B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Director for The Dudleys: A Family Game and the Austin Critics’ Table Award for Best Drama for Spirits to Enforce. BA: Yale University.
The Wedding Date
Written by Cody Stickels and Kea Trevett
In a last attempt to avoid an uncomfortable set up, trans guy Caleb drags his BFF Roxy to his sister’s Tennessee wedding as his fake date, where they struggle to keep the lie under wraps amidst surprising new feelings for each other.
Born and raised in the sandhills of West Texas, Cody (he/him/they/them) fell in love with New York City at a young age. As a LGBTQ filmmaker, they depict characters that portray the nuanced nature of queer identity. For Cody, the greatest power of cinema is the ability to share personal stories that facilitate imagination, hope, and love.
His past work has screened at festivals including Frameline, Inside Out, Woodstock, Chicago Reeling, and Newfest Film Festivals, and garnered awards at Austin Gay and Lesbian, Clexacon Film Festival, and North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festivals. His most recent film, A Night at Switch n’ Play, won the audience award for Best Documentary at NYC’s Newfest Film Festival in 2019. Cody currently lives in Brooklyn and owns a cat.
Kea Trevett (she/hers) is a Brooklyn based actor, writer, teaching artist, intersectional feminist and proud plant mom. As an actor, Kea’s NY theater credits include Roundabout, Classic Stage Company, The Sheen Center, The Barrow Group, The Lark, Ars Nova, Ensemble Studio Theater, Cherry Lane, Page 73, and Lincoln Center. Other favorites include Joy, written and directed by Katie Cappiello, and Antigone in the World directed by Greg Mosher. Kea has worked on-camera in film, commercials, and TV, credits include Fosse/Verdon, Mordeo Season One, and over a dozen independent films which have screened at festivals across the country and abroad, including Frameline, Newfest, Outfest, Atlanta Film Festival, LA Shorts, Chicago Reeling, Clexacon, Hollyshorts, and Iris Prize. Kea is a co-founder of The Apocalyptic Shakespeare Project, an initiative to keep theater education in underfunded NYC public schools, she teaches Theater in Performance and Playwriting at TFANA, and is a Story Pirate.
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