Ellie Foumbi ’17 and So Young Shelly Yo '18

Two Columbia Filmmakers Selected for Tribeca’s 2021 Writing in Unreal Program

BY Angeline Dimambro, November 24, 2021

Alumnae So Young Shelly Yo '18 and Ellie Foumbi ’17 were both chosen to participate in Tribeca’s 2021 Writing in Unreal Program.


Writing in Unreal is a new virtual production program founded by Tribeca and Epic Games to push the boundaries of storytelling. The program aims to open new doors for independent filmmakers to gain firsthand knowledge from Unreal Engine experts on how to use the award-winning engine’s technology, as well as a suite of creative and cutting-edge tools for their own filmmaking process. As part of the program, which took place November 16 - November 18, 2021, selected filmmakers gained access to feature presentations, industry conversations, and case studies with leading experts exploring virtual production from multiple angles.


This year marks the first time that Unreal Engine has been used in a program to support writers. A total of ten projects were selected as part of the new initiative, which pairs the writers and directors with Unreal Engine artists to workshop their scripts using the real-time 3D tool. 


Yo is the writer and director of Smoking Tigers, a feature project that is set in Los Angeles in the early 2000s. Smoking Tigers is a portrait of a lonely 16-year-old Korean American girl named Hayoung who is taken under the wings of three wealthy students she meets at an elite academic boot-camp. As she falls deeper into their world, Hayoung works harder to hide her problematic family and lower-income background from her new friends, only to discover the bittersweet pains of adulthood that will forever shape her life.


So Young Shelly Yo is a first generation Korean-American filmmaker. Her short Moonwalk with Me was a finalist for HBO’s APA Visionaries competition and was granted AT&T’s InspirASIAN Film Award (CAAM). Her most recent short Soft Sounds of Peeling Fruit was chosen for the Rising Voices Program and had its international premiere at the Tribeca Festival. Shelly is a recipient of SFFILM’s Sloan Filmmaker Fellowship, VC Media’s AWC Fellowship and the Athena Screenwriting Lab. Her feature script Smoking Tigers was selected as one of the top scripts for Columbia University’s Blue List and was a finalist for the SFFILM Westridge Grant. She is currently developing her first feature.


Fellow alumna Ellie Foumbi was also selected to participate in the Writing in Unreal Program as the writer and director of Zenith. The feature follows a Black Mennonite who, as she begins to experience symptoms of pregnancy, flees the rural white community she was raised in and ventures into a Black inner-city neighborhood where she discovers a possible trail to her biological mother. 


Ellie Foumbi is an actor/writer/director from Cameroon. She holds an MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts in Directing. Her films have screened at several prestigious film festivals, including the Venice Film Festival, HollyShorts, and Santa Barbara International Film Festival. In addition to participating in New York Film Festival’s Artist Academy, her projects have been supported by the Venice Biennale Cinema College, SFFILM and the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, The Gotham’s No Borders Project Forum, the Film Independent Screenwriting Lab, and the Tribeca Film Institute. Her short film Home was funded by Netflix and premiered on their Youtube platform.


Learn more about Tribeca’s Writing in Unreal Program by watching the video here.