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Go behind the scenes to learn from Sundance Advisors in our Conversations from the Labs series. This collection of videos will deepen your understanding of all the creative disciplines that are supported through our Labs including Feature Film Directing and Writing, TV Writing, Emerging Media, Documentary, Producing, Film Music, and Theater.

In this video, screenwriters and multi-media artists Jon Raymond, Maya Daisy Hawke, Melissa Painter and J.R. Cole share their approach to building character, emotion and story in their work. In reviewing curated clips, we learn ways of introducing characters and the concept of building them from the inside out. They discuss how and when to introduce backstories, so that characters are developed to resonate with the audience. The panelists also recount how they locate themselves in their work and characters and the vital role feedback plays in their creative process.

Other conversations in the series include those with editor Dylan Tichenor, actor/director Ed Harris, writer/director Karyn Kusama, writer/director/producer Kasi Lemmons, cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt, and others.

Writer / Producer
Joe Robert Cole is a writer committed to crafting smart, rich, character-driven journeys in addition to creating tent-pole, world-renowned projects. Along with Ryan Coogler, Cole co-wrote the Academy Award-nominated BLACK PANTHER. He recently completed the Netflix feature ALL DAY AND A NIGHT, an Oakland-based drama that centers on a young man who committed a homicide and is dealing with the consequences, starring Ashton Sanders (“Moonlight”) and Jeffrey Wright. more...
London, UK
Maya Daisy Hawke is an editor and experimental filmmaker. Her current project, UNFATED YET, a live online video installation, was first presented in March 2020 by First Look at Museum of the Moving Image and the Sundance Documentary Film Program. The next iteration is upcoming at LACMA. She is the creator of the interactive social media video novels, BOX OF BIRDS (2016) and CURRENCY OF DESPAIR (2014), both Facebook based. She was co-director of LITTLE ETHIOPIA, a love story between two editors, told as a live documentary, which was performed at the Sundance Film Festival, Frames of Representation and First Look (2018-19). Maya is the editor of over a dozen feature length documentary films, including CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (2010) and FREEDOM FIELDS(2018). Also the BBC television series HOUSE OF ASSAD: A DANGEROUS DYNASTY (2018), and MOON LANDING LIVE (2019) for UK Channel 4. She is an editorial consultant on feature documentaries internationally; an advisor at the Sundance Edit and Story Lab 2018; an advisor at the Sundance New Frontier Story Lab 2019; and a Sundance Nonfiction Directors Residency Fellow in 2018. She trained polo ponies in Singapore as a teenager and worked for Apple in the 2000s making commercials. She is from Christchurch, New Zealand and now lives in London, England. more...
Melissa Painter heads MAP Lab. She has deep experience in narrative design, augmented and virtual reality, content strategy, interaction design, storytelling, both cinematic and live, and in leading large and small teams in creative collaboration. Painter is an award-winning filmmaker and author. She has been selected as a Fellow of both the Sundance Screenwriters Lab and Sundance Directors Lab, and as a mentor of Sundance’s New Frontiers Lab. She has directed three feature films, and over 150 short form documentaries focused on innovation, education, and social justice. more...
Jon Raymond is the author of the novels THE HALF-LIFE, RAIN DRAGON, and FREEBIRD, and the story collection Livability, winner of the Oregon Book Award. He's also published a collection of writings about visual art called The Community. He's collaborated with director Kelly Reichardt on five films—OLD JOY, WENDY AND LUCY, MEEK'S CUTOFF, NIGHT MOVES, and FIRST COW—and was nominated for an Emmy for his work on the HBO miniseries MILDRED PIERCE. more...

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