By Katie Chambers
The Writers Lab, presented by New York Women in Film & Television (NYWIFT) and IRIS and funded by Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey, pairs twelve women screenwriters over the age of 40 for a weekend of one-on-one mentoring and script development with accomplished film industry leaders. One of this September’s participating writers may be on the path to becoming one of those leaders herself: Vigil Chime has been awarded the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for her script Bring Back Girl, about a Nigerian teen kidnapped by Boko Haram – the same project she took to The Writers Lab.
Chime was born in Nigeria, grew up in Houston, and resides in New York City, where she earned an MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University. She has written, directed and produced five independent films, including The Color of Rage (2016), which received recognition in numerous local and international film festivals. Chime has also published two novels. Currently, she is an Adjunct at the Manhattan Educational Opportunity Center in Harlem, where she teaches literacy to adult learners.
Chime discussed her most recent success.
Congratulations on the Nicholl Fellowship win! You’re joining the ranks of some very prestigious screenwriters. How are you feeling?
As of this moment, I don’t really know how I’m feeling. I’m also very acutely aware I have no idea how big this award is. For example, people say this is a life-altering event, that my life moving forward will change, that I now will have a career in the film industry. I wake up every day since the announcement of the winners and feel the same. I still go to my teaching job, prepare my son for school. I can only attribute this feeling to having been encased in rejection after rejection over the years. One wears it like a jacket. I guess it is taking time to peel off the coat!
Tell us about your experience at The Writers Lab.
I was so relaxed, comparing it to a slumber party… It felt great. All the women were so helpful, everybody wanting to assist everybody else in whatever way possible. For example, I was given referrals to agents, lawyers and managers – none of which I had upon arrival.
Welcome to NYWIFT, Amy Tiong! Amy is a director, writer, and production coordinator whose stories bring underrepresented voices to the forefront. She directs both narrative films and documentaries, which received recognition from Bustle, NBCNews, PictureStart, Coverfly, and the NAACP. The vulnerability in her work empowers others and shines a light on topics such as disordered eating, grief, and sibling love. Amy tells us about working on a microbudget project during pandemic times, collaborating with friends and her new horror immigration feature film, When You’re Ready to Go. Read all about it here!READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Shiqin Gao! Shiqin is an award-winning NYC-based filmmaker whose versatile range includes but is not limited to directing, editing, sound recording, and producing. Learn more about Shiqin as we chat about her distinct style, the genesis of some of her most intimate projects, and her collaborations with some rockstars and other remarkable artists.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, Priya Mishra! Priya is an award-winning screenwriter and director. She wrote, directed, and co-produced her debut short film Bath Bomb in 2019. Currently, Bath Bomb and Only Business, the second film she directed, are both having successful runs on the festival circuit. A queer second-generation Indian immigrant, and a girl who lost her mom during her junior year of college, Priya’s work centers love, grief, acceptance, social-critique, and embracing your anger. Priya hopes that her work will make audiences feel more connected with other human beings, more angry at the state of the world, and more willing to improve it by embracing vulnerability and kindness. Priya spoke to us about identity, wildly fun times on set, and exploring grief through her creative work.READ MORE
Welcome to NYWIFT, new member Edna Luise Biesold! Edna is a German-born and New York-based filmmaker who honed her craft at NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a special focus on cinematography. She received the Franz Wieser Grant from ARRI as DP for the fantasy short film The Molok. She co-wrote and co-directed The Color of Time, and is presently developing 3 Monkeys, a screenplay which earned her a Creative Career Design Fellowship from NYU's Production Lab in 2022. Most recently, Sunscreen, her first film in ASL, has won her a Best Narrative Short award at 1904 Deaf Film Festival and the NYWIFT Award for Excellence in Directing at the 2022 SOHO International Film Festival. Edna spoke to us about her favorite collaborators, the challenges of lighting 16-foot tall puppets, and exploring the subtleties of communication throughout her work.READ MORE