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, Samantha Alvarez, an independent documentary and narrative filmmaker born and raised in the Bronx with six years of camera operating and video editing experience. Alvarez started her career as a multidisciplinary teaching artist. She now works as a video freelancer and recently won the 2022 NYWIFT Outstanding Woman Content Creator at the Nova Frontier Film Festival for her short mixed media documentary, "In the Body." We sat down with her to discuss her latest film, her career, and her inspirations.READ MORE
An alarmingly disproportionate number of Black women are failed every year by the U.S. maternal health system – and it is a crisis that has been largely ignored thus far. In the Sundance 2022 documentary Aftershock, Directors Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee follow the bereaved partners of two of these women as they fight for justice and build communities of support, bonding especially with other surviving Black fathers. The story is presented within the historical context of racism throughout the U.S. healthcare system, and the deadly tendency to ignore or minimize Black women’s pain and concerns.
NYWIFT Member Paula Eiselt spoke to us about how she and Lewis Lee approached this harrowing topic, and why community activists are the natural heroes of her creative work.
NYWIFT member Jen Heck returns to Sundance this year as part of a special retrospective celebrating the 40th anniversary of the festival’s short film program that welcomes back past Sundance projects. Heck wrote and associate produced the comedic short Hold Up, in which a robber is after more than just money during an NYC convenience store hold up. It originally premiered at Sundance in 2006 and has strong ties to the NYWIFT community, as it was directed by member Madeleine Olnek and features Muse Awards host Nancy Giles in one of the three starring roles.
Jen discusses her Sundance experiences both traditional (i.e. sleeping on the floor in Park City) and virtual, as well as her current projects.
Learning the ins and outs of corporate sponsorship for your film projects can seem daunting, but Kim Skildum-Reid lays out all best practice principles to help you create a compelling pitch.READ MORE