TIFF introduces Writers' Studio class of 2023

media release

March 1, 2023

TIFF introduces Writers' Studio class of 2023

TORONTO — TIFF is delighted to announce the 2023 TIFF Writers’ Studio participants. Now in its 12th year, Writers’ Studio is a collaborative, five-day intensive lab offering Canadian and international screenwriters and writer-directors a space to consolidate skills, exchange ideas, and navigate challenges, while participating in workshops, artist talks, peer-to-peer mentorships, and one-on-one project development consultations guided by industry experts. Writers’ Studio will take place March 20–24, 2023, at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

With more than 200 submissions from around the world, TIFF is proud to announce that the following writers have been selected: Teyama Alkamli, Berkley Brady, Harry Cepka, Luis De Filippis, Idil Ibrahim, Aaron Lucas, Nesaru Tchaas, and Farida Zahran. Five participants from the 2023 class will also be awarded a grant generously supported by CHANEL to further the development of their feature-length script. The selected participants are Teyama Alkamli, Berkley Brady, Luis De Filippis, Idil Ibrahim, and Farida Zahran.

“Programmes like the Writers’ Studio help spark the next generation of storytellers, both in Canada and internationally,” said Anita Lee, Chief Programming Officer, TIFF. “At TIFF, we are committed to providing professional development and access to the industry, with leading experts to foster new talent. We see the big impact every year.”

This year’s lab will support the development of feature-film scripts through dedicated one-on-one discussions with international story consultants Andrew Ahn, Trey Ellis, Christina Lazaridi, and Kirsten "Kiwi" Smith. Additionally, the participants will engage in daily artist talks and workshops facilitated by renowned filmmakers and industry experts including Ashley Comeau, Brad Fraser, Marilyn McCallum, and Anthony Shim. From the Canadian Film Centre’s CBC Actors Conservatory, alumni including Getenesh Berhe, Vivien Endicott-Douglas, and Araya Mengesha will join for a full-day table read of the projects in development.

As a major supporter of Share Her Journey, the CHANEL Women Writers’ Network provides funding to advance the careers of women and non-binary participants and alumni of TIFF Writers’ Studio. The multi-year program, launched in 2021, includes additional access to script consultants and established screenwriters, peer-to-peer sessions with emerging filmmakers, and a talent summit that allows writers to showcase their work to producers and other industry insiders. CHANEL’s participation extends and enriches TIFF’s support for writers and writer-directors by facilitating the acceleration and development of their projects and by offering opportunities to connect with a diverse network of mentors and peers.

TIFF’s Talent Development programmes are produced by Jane Kim, Industry Programming Producer, and Anita Tavakol, Talent Development Manager, and supported in part by TIFF’s Share Her Journey initiative. Now a permanent initiative, Share Her Journey began in 2017 as a five-year campaign and commitment to address gender parity and to champion women in front of and behind the camera through TIFF’s Festival and year-round initiatives.

Now in its second year, the Renee Perlmutter Memorial Fellowship for Literary Adaptation will provide one writer focusing on adapting literary work for the screen with an additional grant toward developing their project. This year’s recipient is Berkley Brady, who is working on an adaptation of the novel The Summer of Bitter and Sweet by Jen Ferguson.

Notable TIFF Studio alumni include filmmakers Cory Bowles (Black Cop), Romeo Candido (Another Life), Tracey Deer (Beans), Martin Edralin (Islands), Lisa Jackson (Indictment: The Crimes of Shelly Chartier), Molly McGlynn (Mary Goes Round), Fawzia Mirza (Noor & Layla), Jasmin Mozaffari (Firecrackers), Sanja Živković (Easy Land), Silvina Schnicer (Carajita), and Taratoa Stappard (Taumanu). Following their involvement in TIFF Studio, many of these filmmakers have gone on to present their films at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Berlinale, and SXSW.

2023 TIFF Writers’ Studio participant biographies:

Portrait of Teyama Alkamli
Teyama Alkamli (Canada)
My Name is Jala
Teyama Alkamli is an award-winning Syrian Canadian writer, director, and producer living in Toronto. She is an alumna of DocNomads, the European Mobile Film School, Hot Docs Emerging Filmmaker Lab, and the Canadian Film Centre's Director Lab, and is a current TIFF Talent Accelerator participant. Her latest work, Hockey Mom, was awarded Best Documentary Program at the 2021 Canadian Screen Awards.

Portrait of Berkley Brady
Berkley Brady (Canada)
The Summer of Bitter and Sweet
Berkley Brady is a writer-director based out of Calgary. She has written for television and short films. Her feature debut was the film Dark Nature (2022). She holds an MFA in film, with a concentration in directing, from Columbia University in New York City.

Portrait of Harry Cepka
Harry Cepka (Canada)
The Good Life
Harry Cepka is a Canadian writer and director currently living in New York. His first feature film, Raf, premiered at TIFF in 2019 and went on to win numerous awards. His latest feature film project, The Good Life, was a participant in the Berlin-based JETS 2021 feature-film development program.

Portrait of Luis De Filippis
Luis De Filippis (Canada, Italy)
Luis De Filippis is a Canadian Italian filmmaker whose work has played at international film festivals. Her films include the short For Nonna Anna (2017), which received a Sundance Special Jury Prize; and her debut feature Something You Said Last Night (2022), which received the TIFF Changemaker Award presented by the Shawn Mendes Foundation, the Sebastiáne Award at the San Sebastián film festival, and the IFFR Youth Jury Award.

Portrait of Idil Ibrahim
Idil Ibrahim (USA)
From a Crooked Rib
Idil Ibrahim is an award-winning writer, director, and producer whose work has been featured at some of the top domestic and international film festivals and on television. She is a recipient of Extraordinary Women Awards held by the 92nd Street Y; was selected as one of the “Okay 100 Women” by Okay Africa; and is a director for Queen Latifah’s Queen Collective, a widen the screen initiative from Tribeca Studios, Flavor Unit, and P&G.

Portrait of Aaron Lucas
Aaron Lucas (Australia, Germany)
Aaron Lucas is an Australian German writer-director based between Sydney and Berlin. In 2022, his feature-length documentary I’ll Be Frank won First Prize Hearts Minds Soul Award at the Rhode Island International Film Festival. He was selected to participate in the TIFF Filmmakers Lab with his project in development Luna.

Portrait of Nesaru Tchaas
Nesaru Tchaas (USA)
White Rabbits
A writer-director whose films explore the meanings people ascribe to their outsider status, Nesaru Tchaas is a multiracial-Black filmmaker based in Los Angeles and New York. He is a TIFF Filmmaker Lab participant, Princess Grace Award recipient in Film, and Sundance Institute Uprise Grantee. His short Some Still Search (2022) is Oscar-qualified.

Portrait of Farida Zahran
Farida Zahran (Egypt)
The Leftover Ladies
Farida Zahran is an Egyptian writer-director based in Brooklyn. Most recently, she wrote on the acclaimed TV series Ramy (A24 & Hulu). Her short film, Youth, premiered at SXSW in 2019 and won an Oscar-qualifying award at Palm Springs. Zahran is a graduate of NYU’s Graduate Film Program.

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About TIFF
TIFF is a not-for-profit cultural organization with a mission to transform the way people see the world through film. An international leader in film culture, TIFF projects include the annual Toronto International Film Festival®in September; TIFF Lightbox, which features five cinemas, learning and entertainment facilities; and the innovative national distribution program Film Circuit. The organization generates an annual economic impact of $200 million CAD. TIFF Lightbox is generously supported by contributors including the Province of Ontario, the Government of Canada, the City of Toronto, the Reitman family (Ivan Reitman, Agi Mandel, and Susan Michaels), The Daniels Corporation, and RBC. For more information, visit tiff.net.

TIFF is generously supported by Major Sponsors RBC and Visa, and Major Supporters: the Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, and City of Toronto.

TIFF Industry Programming is generously supported by Major Supporters Ontario Creates and Telefilm Canada.

TIFF’s Talent Development programmes are supported in part by Share Her Journey, which is committed to increasing the participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera.

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