Columbia Announces 2020 Blue List Winners
March 17, 2020
New York, NY March 13, 2020—Celebrating its seventh year of connecting talented alumni with the film industry, the Columbia Blue List represents the finest unproduced screenplays and television pilots written by recent graduates of the Columbia University School of the Arts graduate Film Program.
The 2020 Blue List
It's a Sad and Beautiful World, Screenplay written by Cyril Aris ’17
Number One, Teleplay written by Harriet Beaney ’18
The Hearers (formerly Resonance), Screenplay written by Andy Fortenbacher ’15
The Double, Teleplay written by Frank Graziano ’19
Toni/Tony, Screenplay written by Rachel James ’17
Good Boy, Screenplay written by Ben Leonberg ’15 and Alex Cannon ’17
Brujeria, Screenplay written by Daniel Pfeffer ’18
The 2020 Industry Panel
Peter Benedek / Agent (UTA)
Kelly Edwards / SVP, Talent Development (WarnerMedia Entertainment)
Jenette Kahn / Producer (Gran Torino)
Ramfis Myrthil / Producer (The Broken Ones, Cicada)
Nora May / Manager (3 Arts Entertainment)
Brad Petrigala / Agent (Brillstein Entertainment Partners)
"I have been consistently surprised at the high level of writing that I have judged the past two years. I have been on the Nicholl Fellowships committee of the Motion Picture Academy to judge scripts and I can say that the Blue List entries I have read are in a class with the best Academy scripts."
Jonathan Sanger, film producer and returning Blue List industry judge
Script Title: Brujería
Writer: Daniel Pfeffer
Daniel Fermín Pfeffer is an award winning Mexican-American screenwriter, director, and producer from Ithaca, New York. He attended Brooklyn College and NYU Tisch School of the Arts for Film and TV production. After earning his BFA, he went on to work in the film industry under various capacities. Daniel strives to use captivating narrative by creating socially conscious films, which speak to the human condition and to audiences worldwide. Mr. Pfeffer has an MFA in Screenwriting and Directing from the prestigious film program at Columbia University's School of the Arts. Daniel's first feature, I’ll See You Around is an expansion of his short, While I Was Gone which screened at LA Film Festival, Dallas International Film Festival, Flickers Rhode Island, Palm Springs Short Fest, and won the Domestic Student Award at Denver Film Festival. I'll See You Around had its world premiere in August of 2019 at the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival (produced by the Latino Film Institute).
Budding photographer and aspiring college student, Ana Flores, daughter of Mexican immigrants, navigates an Upstate New York majority-white town, and discovers dark secrets about the community around her. After Ana finds a missing Mexican boy with mysterious scars, suspicions lead her down a dark path to Ms. Vinch, her school principal, and dangerously close to a wider conspiracy. Only with her mother, Elvira’s, traditional potions will she save her family.
Script Title: It’s a Sad and Beautiful World
Writer: Cyril Aris
Cyril Aris is a Lebanese Director & Screenwriter and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences®. His feature documentary, The Swing (2018), premiered in Karlovy Vary and won awards in El-Gouna, Rome, London, Budapest and Tunisia, with the Hollywood reporter calling it an "intimate and moving […] meditation on truth, love and lies in the face of illness and death." His fiction short The President’s Visit (2017), premiered in Toronto (TIFF) and won awards in Dubai, Nashville, and the National Board of Review.
Aris holds an MFA from Columbia University and is in development for ‘It’s a Sad and Beautiful World’, recipient of a development grant from the Mitteldeutsche Medienförderun in Germany, selected at the TIFF Filmmaker Lab, the Nantucket Screenwriter Colony, the CineGouna platform in Egypt, a residency at the Cité des Arts in Paris, and won the ART award at the Beirut Cinema Platform.
It’s a Sad and Beautiful World explores the love story and improbable romance between two antagonistic forces of nature with opposite approaches to life: Nino, a warmhearted idealist, and Soraya, a wounded cynic, throughout their childhood, adulthood and married life, set against the backdrop of Lebanon’s tumultuous history and its bittersweet milestones over the past 40 years.
Script Title: The Hearers (Resonance)
Writer: Andy Fortenbacher ’15
Andy Fortenbacher is a Los Angeles based writer, director, and producer. He has built a portfolio of 17 short films as a director and has worked as a producer on over 200 commercials, 3 feature-length films, several short films, music videos, and documentaries.
Fortenbacher has a MFA in film directing from Columbia University (2015) and his graduate thesis film, MOTHS, was a Student Academy Awards semi-finalist. Additionally, he spent 6 years working as a member of the International Cinematographers Guild (IATSE Local 600) and also has an extensive background in post-production. His technical proficiency produces a highly visual and auditory style that enhances his ability to tell his stories.
After a troubled psychiatrist begins to hear a mysterious low-frequency hum that is indiscernible to others, he is forced to confront a long-buried inner darkness and discovers an unstoppable evil threat to humanity.
Script Title: Good Boy
Writer: Ben Leonberg ’15 and Alex Cannon ’17
Ben Leonberg is a filmmaker and creative director for virtual reality. Despite living in NYC, most of his projects feature the great outdoors. When he isn’t pushing the boundaries of storytelling in new mediums like VR, Ben is making genre films enhanced by his affinity for special effects. His work has played all over the world, earned recognition at SXSW, and won an honoree Webby.
Alex Cannon has been making talkies since his dreadful all-boys Catholic high school days. His projects have been featured in SXSW, FantasticFest, and the IFC Center in New York, among others. He has created work for SPIN, Puma, and Vox. While attending Columbia’s MFA Film Program, Alex received the Lewis Cole Award for Excellence in Screenwriting & Directing, the Zaki Gordon Award for Screenwriting, the Sloan Feature Screenplay Award, and Faculty Selects.
In the first act of every horror movie, there’s always a dog who knows better; he refuses to go into the haunted house, senses evil forces in the woods, and usually winds up in pieces in front of his family. This is that dog’s movie – a grounded, paranormal thriller with the world’s most relatable unknown actor as the star. No talking pets, just terrifying scares.
Script Title: Number One
Writer: Harriet Beaney ’18
Harriet Beaney is a screenwriter from Sheffield, UK. She recently won a silver prize for a half-hour TV pilot at the PAGE screenwriting contest. Two of her screenplays reached Faculty Selects in the 2019 Columbia University Film Festival where she won the Zaki Gordon Memorial Award for Excellence in Screenwriting and the Best Comedy Teleplay Award. She graduated with a degree in English Literature from Cambridge University in 2014.
A rising pop star is in an accidental hit-and-run. Her jealous childhood friend knows her secret and uses it to get everything she wants, and more.
Script Title: Toni/Tony
Writer: Rachel James ’17
Rachel James is a California bred, NYC based screenwriter, director, and content creator. Her work often subverts genre paradigms, infusing unexpected humor, horror, and heart to tell an array of character driven narratives -- all connected by themes of social justice, female aggression, and feminine power. Rachel was recently named to the Tracking Board’s Young & Hungry list. Her horror feature The Swells, currently optioned with Assemble Media, made the 2019 Black List and The Hit List. Her feature script Big Bad Wolves was a semi-finalist for the Academy Nicholls Fellowship. She currently serves as Associate Director of the Media Center at Barnard College, and works as a freelance podcast producer and screenwriter. Rachel received her MFA in Screenwriting from Columbia University Film School and holds a BFA in Film/Video from California Institute of the Arts.
East L.A. - 1999 - 15-year-old skateboarding tomboy Toni’s best friend is her dad, the drug-addled and charismatic Tony (38). When Toni starts making friends her own age, the duo is forced to confront the impossibility of forging identities outside of their complicated codependency.
Script Title: The Double
Writer: Frank Graziano ’19
Frank Graziano is a New York-based writer and director whose films explore stories of the contemporary American city in a visceral neorealist style. He is the creator and director of Feel My Pain - a documentary series that follows four of New York’s most notorious gangsters of the 1990s as they prepare to perform a stage play about their lives. Frank is also the co-writer of MURINA, the feature film debut of writer-director Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, his writing partner and primary creative collaborator. Frank's 2019 short film STING - produced with Kusijanovic and actor Meeko Gattuso - was inspired by his photographic survey of high-traffic heroin neighborhoods in the Bronx. Both serve as the basis for The Double, an eight-part drama set in the same world.
He holds an MFA in Directing from Columbia University, and a bachelors in journalism from Loyola University in Baltimore.
In the South Bronx's current heroin war, a high stakes NYPD buy-and-bust operation revolves around a civilian volunteer: a white 28-year-old construction worker undercover as his recently deceased heroin addict twin. But what begins as a single night of revenge for his brother's overdose becomes a crusade for his own redemption.