MPI Announces Filmmakers Selected for Its Short Film Lab

April 8, 2021

Today the Moving Picture Institute is announcing the thirteen filmmakers that were chosen for its 2021 Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab. The MPI Lab provides filmmakers with hands-on training and mentoring to take their initial film concepts through the process of developing, producing, and releasing a short film. Filmmakers accepted into the program receive fellowship grants and participate in MPI Screenwriting and Directing Workshops. Those with the most promising scripts have the opportunity for their project to be produced as an MPI Original Film with a budget of up to $75,000. 

Filmmakers are split into comedy and drama screenwriting workshops. Toby-Fell Holden serves as the instructor for the two dramatic workshops. He is a graduate of Columbia’s Film MFA program. His short Balcony won a Crystal Bear at the 66th Berlinale and was long-listed for the Academy Awards. Little Shadow, his thesis film, was long-listed for a BAFTA and nominated by the Casting Society of America for an Artios. The Bragg Brothers lead the comedy workshop. Austin and Meredith Bragg’s short film A Piece of Cake from MPI’s 2019 Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab was nominated for Best Narrative Short at the Tribeca Film Festival. The comedy short starring Rich Sommer (GLOW, Mad Men) also won Best Comedy and the Audience Choice Award in Comedy at the Indy Shorts International Film Festival and the Wedgie Award for Best Comedy at the Edmonton International Film Festival. Previously their comedy web series The Defenders of Stan was bought by Warner Bros. Television, and they co-wrote the half-hour pilot. Their work for Reason TV garnered them a National Magazine Award nomination and numerous first place finishes from the LA Press Club. 

MPI’s senior vice president Lana Link oversees all the Lab workshops. Her producer credits include narrative shorts such as A Piece of Cake and Gringa; feature documentaries Incarcerating US and Los Ultimos Frikis; and feature narrative Miss Virginia starring Uzo Aduba. She is currently producing MPI’s forthcoming documentary Project Home: 3D Printing the Future and narrative features Freedom Hair: The Melony Armstrong Story, The Kemba Smith Story, and Pinball: The Man Who Saved the Game. Lana earned a certificate in independent producing from UCLA Extension. She is also an associate member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences.

“This Lab marked our most competitive applicant pool ever. We are thrilled to collaborate with this extraordinary group of creatives on their thought-provoking and compelling projects,” said Lana. 

Below are the 2021 MPI Short Film Creative Development and Production Lab filmmakers and projects:


J.D. Shields is an award-winning writer/director and a filmmaker in the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women where her forthcoming project Blue Hour is supported by the Women in Film Production Program. She previously participated in the HBO Access Writing and Women in Film INSIGHT fellowships and was the recipient of the 2019 HUMANITAS College Drama Prize. J.D. is an alumna of Project Involve where as Screenwriting Fellow she penned the award-winning short film Wednesday, which is currently available on HBO. J.D. received her MFA in screenwriting and directing from Columbia University.

When an innocuous game of charades is derailed by “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” filmmakers and best friends Charlie and Leo contemplate the implications of selective memory and the suppression of the film “Song of the South.” Inspired, they film a documentary of their remaking of the controversial classic, using the recollections of its most ardent fans.


Ingrid Haas is a Canadian actor turned writer/director. She made her directorial debut last year with the award-winning SXSW short film Still Wylde. Her Wondery podcast The Moment was voted one of the top podcasts of 2019 by The Atlantic. An Upright Citizens Brigade alumnus, Ingrid has written for NBC Universal, Netflix, E!, CBC, and VICE and is currently in development with her debut feature. Ingrid is a Canadian Comedy Award recipient for lead actress in a film and can be seen in national commercials as “mustard bottle” and “yoghurt mom.”

The Pink
It’s one woman’s first time at a coworking space and she’s a fish out of water. How far will she go to fit in?


Albert Fernandez began his journey in the entertainment industry through acting in commercials at just fifteen years old. He became the first generation in his family to attend college, studying Film & TV Production at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. While working at the White House, he won a speechwriting competition where he had the honor of introducing now President Joe Biden. The Producers Guild of America and CBS have selected him for their respective diversity workshops. Albert proudly serves as an ambassador to the Ghetto Film School, as a delegate to the NEXUS Global Youth Summit, and with the Latinos In Media & Arts Coalition (L.I.M.A.)

When a presidential nominee takes a DNA test to qualify for the debates, he learns of a son he fathered from a college classmate he raped. That son Penn Reyes, now eighteen and living in a dystopian New York City, must dodge his new-found father’s hitmen and seek out an elusive resistance group that teaches him to take the reins and hopefully change what America has become.


Jeremy Michael Cohen is a writer and director. His 2017 script George appeared on the Black List, and John Wells (Shameless, West Wing) is attached to produce. He has also appeared on the Hit List and the Young and Hungry List. His 2018 feature film debut Yinz was a microbudget project bought and distributed by Gravitas. Jeremy came up in the production world before writing full-time. He’s directed and produced millions of dollars of short and branded content for major clients, including Amazon, DiGiorno, Honda, Toyota, and Reebok. Earlier in his career, he produced and/or First Assistant Directed nine independent films. Jeremy earned his MFA in film production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. He’s repped by Varun Monga at the Kaplan-Stahler Agency and Eric Williams and Evan Anglin at Zero Gravity Management.

Unidentified Male
When a leader amongst Somali immigrants agrees to become an interpreter for the FBI agents that are spying on his community, he’s faced with an impossible decision as he hears his own voice on a surveillance recording. This short is based on a true story.


Chris Edgar is a composer and songwriter who has written music for film, theater, TV, and digital series. He has scored award-winning films, including Ghost in the Gun, which won numerous film festival awards for Best Original Score; the movie musical The Breakout: A Rock Opera; and his animated musical Steve’s Quest, which won several awards including the International Academy of Web Television’s Best Animated Series Award and the Best Original Score Award at the HollyWeb Festival. 

Power Day
In a post-nuclear Armageddon world where the state confines people to their homes and compels them to take drugs that make them hibernate, a teenage girl defies the authorities to save her ailing mother.


Jordan Horowitz is an award-winning writer and director with a background in narrative and documentary film. His narrative feature Painless was released theatrically in 2018 and later sold to Showtime Networks. His documentary Angel of Nanjing has won awards at prestigious film festivals around the world and was recently named one of the “38 Movies Guaranteed to Make You Cry Every Time” by Elle magazine. Jordan has also written and directed a number of award-winning short films, documentaries, commercials, branded content, and music videos.

Color Wars
In the near future in order to prevent civil war, society has been divided into two separate yet equal groups—green and yellow. Interacting with those from a different group is strictly forbidden. When two young lovers from opposite groups meet and fall in love, it threatens to destroy the peace that so carefully hangs in the balance.

Joseph Kast is a writer and producer. He has worked with a variety of public intellectuals, including Jonathan Haidt, Nadine Strossen, and Edward Snowden. His short films have been accepted into the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival, Austin Film Festival, IMDb’s Top Shorts, Reason Media Awards, and others. His short film Quota won Atlas Network’s Lights, Camera, Liberty Festival in 2019. His parody short Seize This House won Best Comedy in the 2020 Anthem Film Festival. 

The Viper Problem
Jorgie makes a good living killing vipers for his local government, but when he runs out of snakes to kill, he starts secretly breeding more vipers to keep his gig.


Patrick Lehe is a screenwriter and producer. He received his degree in film production from Ball State University and a masters in screenwriting from Loyola Marymount University. Through MPI’s Hollywood Career Launch Program, Patrick served as a development intern at Adam Scott’s production company Gettin’ Rad Productions. His horror comedy feature Shit Show made the top 5% of highest-rated screenplays on the famed Black List last year. Patrick has written and produced several scripted projects, and his original unscripted concept God Squad was optioned for development by Grandma’s House Entertainment.


James Mackenzie is an alumnus of Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film and Television. His MFA thesis Audrey Makes a Mixtape was recognized on the US BAFTA Student Awards shortlist. As a member of the LMU Film Independent Incubator Lab, he helmed his award-winning first feature American Zealot. He recently brought his web series Tough Love to the Tribeca N.O.W. Creators Market and premiered Three Men Named Mantas, an international co-production shot in Lithuania, at the 2020 Atlanta Film Festival.

When a small town is threatened by a mysterious vandal known as The Seer, one rebellious teen pushes back against the town council’s repressive regulatory measures.


Monica Lucas received her MFA in Writing for Screen and Television from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts. She has her first hour-long pilot in development and has worked as an assistant for writer and executive producer Meredith Stiehm on the upcoming Amazon limited series The Banker’s Wife. Before moving to LA, Monica worked as a political activist in Washington, DC.

A high school valedictorian gets caught with Adderall by her adoptive parents and is immediately sent to a rehabilitation clinic where the methods they use to treat her “addiction” disrupt her entire reality by eroding her sense of self.


Phoebe Nir was received by President Obama at the White House as a Presidential Scholar of the Arts in Writing and had an exhibit of her short fiction at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She was nominated for the prestigious Pushcart Prize for Excellence and won the Adroit Journal’s prize for best short story. Phoebe’s play Eco Village recently had an acclaimed off-Broadway run at the Theater at Saint Clement’s Church and is in development for a film adaptation. As a singer/songwriter, she recorded two EPs with True Groove Records and was a featured musical artist at SXSW, opening for legendary rock band Modern English. She graduated from Brown University in 2014 with a degree in writing for performance and recently completed her MA from NYU in drama therapy.

The Fillmore Middle School for Girls Presents “King Richard III”
A conniving 12-year-old draws inspiration from King Richard III as she orchestrates a Socialist coup and takes over her school play.

Calvin Tran graduated from NYU’s Tisch Film & TV Production program. He has previously worked at ABC News, VICE, and DECON-Mass Appeal. Calvin is the co-founder of NODEHAUS and Dolphinger Memetics, working in digital media. He has been connected with MPI since high school and awarded the MPI Freedom in Film Grant in 2016 for his post-WWII short film Bizone.

Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up
Just as his family decides to sell their family farm to start a better life elsewhere, Andrew discovers a rare and beautiful bird on their property. Learning the bird is endangered, he must decide whether to make the bird’s presence known to the Feds at the cost of collapsing the sale of their farm, or to shoot, shovel, and shut up.


Edward Worthy is an award-winning screenwriter and director. Edward studied film as an undergraduate student at the University of Southern Mississippi and attended graduate film school at Florida State University. Edward now works as a full-time assistant editor at Wondros, a creative agency and production company founded by Jesse Dylan. His most recent short film Crescent screened at more than 20 film festivals. His feature screenplay for the same film has placed in numerous screenplay competitions and was selected to be a part of the 2019 Stowe Story Labs. His most recent short screenplay Rear won the Screenwriting Discovery Award for Best Short Script at the Rhode Island Film Festival and is a finalist in the WeScreenplay Diverse Voices screenwriting competition.

When a teacher leaves bruises on a child, an objecting mother unintentionally starts a debate on the use of school corporal punishment in her southern black community.

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