In commercial feature film production, women are stunningly underrepresented, to the tune of 4% of commercial film releases between 2002 and 2014 (as documented in a USC study). Yet, in 2016, we are finding that the most exciting narrative feature film work is coming from independent women directors, including three we are featuring in our festival: Amber Tamblyn, Cheryl Nichols and Celia Rowlson-Hall. In addition to introducing their films, these directors will participate in a panel of emerging and established women directors organized by the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women.

Amber Tamblyn with special guest author Janet Fitch

Paint it Black

Saturday, Nov. 12, 6:10 PM, Sundance Cinemas


Amber Tamblyn

Amber TamblynAmber Tamblyn is a writer, director and actress from Los Angeles. She has received an Emmy, Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award nomination for her work in television and film. In television, Tamblyn starred in the cult classic drama Joan of Arcadia as well as House M.D. Her feature film work includes The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, 127 Hours, Django Unchained and the critically lauded Stephanie Daley. Tamblyn is the author of three books of poetry and prose: Free Stallion (Simon & Schuster), Bang Ditto (Manic D. Press) and most recently the acclaimed best seller Dark Sparkler (Harper Perennial), which explores the lives and deaths of child star actresses and features artwork from such luminaries as Marilyn Manson and David Lynch. Lawrence Ferlinghetti called Free Stallion, “A fine, fruitful gestation of throbbingly nascent sexuality, awakened in young new language.”  Tamblyn is the creator of the annual poetry series, The Drums Inside Your Chest (thedrumsinsideyourchest.com) and co-founded the nonprofit, Write Now Poetry Society (writenowpoets.org). Paint It Black, an adaptation of the Janet Fitch novel by the same name starring two time Oscar nominee Janet McTeer, is the first feature film Tamblyn has directed. She lives in New York with her husband, comedian David Cross.

Janet Fitch

la-et-jc-janet-fitch-tempJanet Fitch is most famously known as the author of the Oprah’s Book Club novel White Oleander, which became a film in 2002. Her third novel, Paint It Black (named after the Rolling Stones song of the same name), was published in September 2006 and is also set for production as a feature film. As an undergraduate at Reed College studying history, Janet was awarded with a student exchange opportunity to Keele University in England to pursue her passion in Russian history. While at Keele, she awoke in the middle of the night on her twenty-first birthday with the revelation she wanted to write fiction. Janet taught fiction at the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California and will continue to teach with that program as it merges with a new MFA Writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is currently working on her latest novel which is due next spring. 


Cheryl Nichols with special guest Judith Ivey


Friday, Nov. 11, 6:15p.m., Sundance Cinemas


Cheryl Nicholscheryl-nichols-by-elizabeth-weingberg

Cheryl Nichols is a three-legged dog, born in Hot Springs, Arkansas. She grew up in Little Elm, Texas and somehow hobbled her way to Los Angeles. She has helmed two feature films in the last year, starring in, co-writing and directing Cortez, and serving as director and story consultant on The Living Worst, currently in post-production. Additionally, a film she produced and starred in, My Good Man Is Gone, received its premiere at the Vancouver International Film Festival in October of last year. She is a graduate of the acting program at the University of Utah.

Judith Ivey

ivey_207finBorn in El Paso, Texas, Judith Ivey was already a prolific Broadway and stage actress when she made her film debut appearance as Steve Martin‘s love interest in Arthur Hiller‘s The Lonely Guy (1984). Ivey won two Tony Awards as Best Featured Actress in a Play for Steaming in 1983 and Hurlyburly in 1985. She was also nominated for Park Your Car in Harvard Yard in 1992 and a revival of The Heiress in 2013. Other Broadway theatre credits include Piaf, Bedroom Farce, Blithe Spirit, Voices in the Dark, and Follies. In 2009-10, she portrayed Amanda in The Glass Menagerie at the Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven, the Roundabout Theatre in New York, and the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. The Variety critic wrote: “the Amanda of Judith Ivey … should assert her stamp on the role for the next 70 years just as Laurette Taylor has owned it for the previous 70.” In 2016 she returned to the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York to perform in Israel Horovitz‘s play Out Of The Mouths Of Babes. Ivey also has over fifteen stage directing credits Off-Broadway and on stages throughout the U.S.

Ivey’s many film credits include Brighton Beach Memoirs, Miles from Home, Compromising Positions, Harry & Son, The Woman in Red, Sister, Sister, In Country, Hello Again, The Lonely Guy, There Goes the Neighborhood, The Devil’s Advocate, What Alice Found, and Flags of Our Fathers. Her best-known television roles include Texan B.J. Poteet in the last season of Designing Women (1986) and the recurring role of Debra Messing‘s mother-in-law Eleanor Markus on Will & Grace (1998).

Celia Rowlson-Hall


Saturday, Nov. 12, 7:00 PM Sundance Cinemas
Sunday, Nov. 13, 12:15 PM, Sundance Cinemas

Celia Rowlson Hall: Film and Dance

Monday, Nov. 14, 7:00 PM Aurora Picture Show

celia_rowlsonRowlson-Hall began her career as a dancer and choreographer for theater, but caught the film bug after being asked to choreograph a music video for MGMT. Rowlson-Hall began working on a stunning series of short videos in which she performs, including The Audition (2012) and the 2010 piece, Prom Night, in which “she shapeshifts into various female archetypes, from Pamela Anderson to the Virgin Mary,” according to Filmmaker Magazine. Last year, with the release of her first independent feature (MA, screening in the Houston Cinema Arts Festival on November 13) she was named one of Filmmaker’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film.

She has appeared on the cover of Dance Magazine, and has produced numerous pieces of choreography for commercial ventures, including a Lena Dunham/Hamish Bowles video Cover Girl, that played on vogue.com to accompany Dunham’s February 2014 Vogue cover. She also choreographs for HBO’s Girls.

The connection between film and dance is movement, according to Rowlson-Hall. “I think of filmmaking as choreography,” Rowlson-Hall explained to The Huffington Post in a recent article, “because even if it isn’t ‘dance,’ there is so much movement: How does the camera move? What is the quality of the movement? Should the movement be soft, harsh, etc. to best tell the story? How do the performers move? When I begin editing, there is an entirely new set of choreography: What is the pacing, timing, breath? Film is a dance for me.”

AFI Directing Workshop for Women

Screening of three DWW short films followed by a panel discussion

Sunday, Nov. 13, 4:00 PM, Museum of Fine Arts Houston

The AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women (DWW) is dedicated to increasing the number of women working professionally at the highest creative level in film and television. For over 40 years, AFI has offered this tuition-free program, providing filmmakers the mentorship and tools to direct and deliver a short film or series for distribution. DWW is the only program of its kind, with a highly competitive submission process.

DWW offers participants intensive training in narrative filmmaking in an innovative workshop. Each participant is required to complete a short film or series by the end of the program. DWW is open to women with three years or more of professional experience in the arts. The program is tuition-free though participants are responsible for raising the funds for their projects.

Panel participants from the AFI Directing Workshop for Women

Tessa Blake, Panel Moderator and Program Director, AFI Directing Workshop for Women

Tessa Blake is an award-winning filmmaker and television director. An AFI Directing Workshop for o-tessa-blake-facebookWomen alumna, Tessa’s films have premiered at Cannes and SXSW, have won awards at Nantucket Film Festival and the Human Rights Watch Film Festival, have been honored by the Academy, been released theatrically, and have played on Showtime, CBS, CW & Oxygen, PBS & DirecTV. She and her husband Ian Williams also work as a writing team for film and television and have enjoyed script deals with ABC, NBC, FOX and Warner Brothers. As Executive Director of the Directing Workshop for Women, Tessa has innovated several dynamic programs to advance women in the industry, including the recently-announced the FOX BRIDGE PROGRAM, which give alumnae the opportunity to create work in the world of the FOX franchises.

Jean Lee

Writer, director and cinematographer Jean Lee, who is interested in using film as an advocacy tool, headshot_big-copydirected and shot We Do Not Exist, an investigative documentary on Philadelphia’s sex-trafficking industry. In 2010, she won the Jacob Javits Fellowship and began her graduate film studies at New York University Tisch School of Arts Asia located in Singapore. Lee wrote and directed Cahaya in October 2012 in Jakarta, and the film premiered at the DC Shorts Film Festival and at the Berlinale International Film Festival. In October 2013, Lee was accepted into the Sundance Institute’s Screenwriter’s Intensive as a writer/director for her script Kimchi, and the 2014-15 AFI Directing Workshop for Women, where she filmed Tortoise.

Dime Davis

dime-davis_headshotDime Davis is a Texas-bred storyteller, filmmaker and creative. Davis has directed a number of independent projects including short films, music videos and web series. Most notable was her produced pilot, 20 SOMETHING, co-created with her creative partner and written by Davis. With each project, she has strived to remain an activist first, using her craft to help the fight for diversity and equality within cinema and the world. Davis spends her days as a producer for the Ayzenberg Group, writing and directing original content. Additionally, she is currently in post-production on her latest independent project, NIK + ROB

The following HCAF 2016 directors are tentatively scheduled to join the panel discussion:  Celia Rowlson-Hall, Beth B, Cheryl Nichols, and Akosua Adoma Owusu.