Daniel Byers '22 Takes Home Jury Prize at Austin Film Festival

Josephine Simonian
November 22, 2023

Daniel Byers '22 recently won the Austin Film Festival Jury Prize for Horror, for his feature screenplay Paradise. The screenplay was selected from over 11,000 submissions this year and tells the story of a young mother who, when her husband vanishes in a mine, must fight against a coal company to save both him and her family home. Down that mountain hollow she discovers a monster as old as greed itself—and it's about to get out.

Daniel Byers is a writer and director with a passion for horror, science fiction, and fantasy. His directorial debut Eradication has twice been featured in The New York Times and was released as a Tubi Channel Original in June of 2022. An ICVFX Unreal Fellow, he has made multiple films using virtual production LED wall technology. He graduated from Columbia University's MFA film program in 2022. Byers has also worked extensively in documentary, with projects in over 60 countries ranging from trapping snow leopards in the wilds of the Hindu Kush to tracking cartels through the Honduran rainforest. His latest wildlife film, Aguilucho: Dance of the Harpy Eagle (2021), played at SXSW and DocNYC and won the Wild Animal Award at the British Documentary Film Festival. 

Another alumni project, Yasmine/Jasmine by Yossera Bouchtia '19, was also a finalist in the competition. The limited series follows 24-year-old Jasmine, a first-generation immigrant who suffers from an inexpressible existential grief related to her distant homeland of North Africa. Jasmine falls into a deep state of shock after her mother unexpectedly dies, which subsequently triggers intense and horrifying visions of a doppelgänger ghost named Yasmine, who relentlessly disrupts Jasmine’s American life.

Bouchtia is committed to challenging stereotypes, dispelling misconceptions and shedding light on hidden truths while bridging the gap between the eastern and western worlds. Prior to Columbia where she graduated in Directing, she did a BS in Psychology and a BA in Cinema from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). Her narrative short films have been screened at the Salento International Film Festival, LA Shorts Fest, Flickers Rhode Island International Film Festival, FilmShop Breakthrough Series, and Women’s International Film Festival in Salé, Morocco.Yasmine/Jasmine was also selected by the Cine Qua Non Lab for the Storylines 2020 program, the Torino Film Lab Next TV 2021 program and the 2021 Gotham TV Series Lab.