Fifteen emerging storytellers from Chile, India, Kenya, Tunisia and the U.S. will convene digitally for Sundance Institute’s January Screenwriters Lab, and among them is a promising filmmaker from Chicago. McKenzie Chinn has been selected to the Sundance Institute’s 2021 class of Screenwriting Lab Fellows. The Fellows will work to further develop twelve original projects, in collaboration with an experienced group of Creative Advisors.
This honor arrives on the heels Geena Davis’s Bentonville Film Foundation selecting Chinn as the inaugural recipient of a $25,000 grant. Click here for more about the historic Bentonville grant.
As for the 2021 Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellows, Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, declared, “At this time of unprecedented change, we’re so fortunate to virtually gather this inclusive group of bold and vibrant filmmakers and Advisors for a week of story meetings, craft workshops, and life-long creative relationships that have long been a hallmark of our Labs. We strongly believe that storytellers have the power to reimagine and rewrite the future, and we’re excited to launch this next generation of filmmakers with a year-round support system beginning with the January Lab.”
What’s Next for McKenzie
This honor from the Sundance Institute will serve as a catalyst for production of Chinn’s short film A REAL ONE, which will be her narrative directorial debut. In it, two teenage best friends living on Chicago’s south side face consequences after an illicit secret is discovered. After the short, Chinn and her team plan to develop the story into a feature.
“A REAL ONE speaks to the ways in which many of our youth, especially young women, are not granted the social support structures that should protect them and allow them to reach their greatest potential,” Chinn told SCREEN. “When we aren’t given what we need to thrive, we find ways to cultivate it – for better or for worse – within our communities and friendships. The teen girls in A REAL ONE do just that. It’s a microcosmic story about survival and the saving grace of friendship.”
Looking Ahead to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab
Under the leadership of Michelle Satter (Founding Director, Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, as mentioned above) and the Sundance Screenwriting Lab’s Deputy Director Ilyse McKimmie, the Fellows will collaborate with an esteemed group of Creative Advisors. Among the Advisors is Chicago screenwriter and Steppenwolf ensemble member Tarell Alvin McCraney, who received an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for MOONLIGHT. Alongside McCraney are Artistic Director Scott Frank, Ritesh Batra, Andrea Berloff, Rodrigo Garcia, Amanda Idoko, Doug McGrath, Walter Mosley, Jessie Nelson, Nicole Perlman, Howard Rodman, Elena Soarez, Dana Stevens, Robin Swicord, Joan Tewkesbury, Bill Wheeler, and Tyger Williams.
Check back with SCREEN for updates as McKenzie continues her journey with the Sundance Institute and heads into production on her directorial debut, A REAL ONE.