The 2020 TFI/A&E IndieFilms StoryLab

Tribeca Film Institute and A&E IndieFilms joined forces once more in early March, to run the 7th TFI/A&E IndieFilms StoryLab! 

While the StoryLab tends to be a three-day program, this edition was cut short due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic impacting the world at large. Despite this setback, TFI and A&E powered through to deliver an abbreviated - but still incisive - day-and-a-half of master classes, filmmaker presentations and individual working sessions. 

The TFI/A&E IndieFilms StoryLab is designed to help position commercially-viable documentaries for the big screen by providing one-on-one mentorship, master class discussions, and case studies for feature length documentary filmmakers. It empowers workshop participants to tackle creative and storytelling issues in the late production / early edit stage - and aids each participating filmmaker in preparing their films for the ensuing film festival circuit.

“For the second year in a row, all of the selected projects are directed by women - and they also thoughtfully explore women-led stories that shed light on women’s agency in society, and the ways in which they fight to chart their own path in life. All four projects have a compelling visual language in their storytelling, yet each film carries a truly distinct style and sensibility being implemented by the storyteller,” said Jose Rodriguez, Director of Documentary Programs at TFI. 

The TFI and A&E teams were joined by filmmaker Nanfu Wang and editor Maya Mumma, as the StoryLab’s Director and Editor Mentors (respectively). On Day 1, Nanfu Wang (HOOLIGAN SPARROW, ONE CHILD NATION) delved into her rigorous process in researching her stories and characters, and addressing the fundamental question as a director: “What is the Story About?”.

On Day 2, Maya Mumma (OJ: MADE IN AMERICA, TRUE JUSTICE: BRYAN STEVENSON’S FIGHT FOR EQUALITY) discussed her approach to compartmentalizing and organizing when it comes to finding the story in the edit - and also talked about juggling and creatively balancing multi character-driven projects, as filmmakers sift through volumes of footage and material.

The four filmmaking teams were also able to take part in individual working sessions with TFI (Jose Rodriguez & Michelle Hamada), A&E’s Christine Kecher and mentors Nanfu Wang and Maya Mumma.

Here are the four participating projects:

BITTERBRUSH
Director: Emelie Mahdavian
Producer: Su Kim 
Logline: In the remote and rugged mountains of the American West, two young women contemplate the future as they work alone herding cattle.

CUSP
Directors & Producers: Parker Hill & Isabel Bethencourt
Logline: In a small Texas town, four wild-spirited teenage girls search for freedom and navigate early adulthood as they each break away from their past traumas. This raw vérité portrait dives down the rarely-seen rabbit hole of modern girlhood, where adolescence clashes with personal agency.

ON THE DIVIDE
Director: Maya Cueva
Co-Director: Leah Galant
Editor: Berenice Chavez
Logline: ON THE DIVIDE follows the story of three Latinx people living in McAllen, Texas who, despite their views, are connected by the most unexpected of places: the last abortion clinic on the U.S./Mexico border. As threats to the clinic and their personal safety mount, our three characters are forced to make decisions they never could have imagined.

SIRENS
Director: Rita Baghdadi
Producer: Camilla Hall
Logline: On the outskirts of Beirut, five defiant young women navigate friendship, identity and a future quickly spiraling out of control in their pursuit of becoming thrash metal rock stars.


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