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 theColumbia 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)

Nora May / Manager (3 Arts Entertainment)

Ramfis Myrthil / Producer (The Broken Ones, Cicada)

Brad Petrigala / Agent (Brillstein Entertainment Partners)

Headshot of Daniel Pfeffer

  Brujería (Screenplay)

  by Daniel Pfeffer ’18

  

 

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).

 

In Brujeríabudding 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.

 

Headshot of Cyril Aris

  It’s a Sad and Beautiful World (Screenplay)

  by Cyril Aris ’17

  

 

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.

 

Headshot of Andy Fortenbacher

  The Hearers (Resonance) (Screenplay)

  by 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.

 

In The Hearers, 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.  

 

Headshot of Ben Leonberg

 Ben Leonberg

  Good Boy (Screenplay)

  by Ben Leonberg ’15 & 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.

 

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. Good Boy 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.

 

Headshot of Alex Cannon

Alex Cannon

  Good Boy (Screenplay)

  by Ben Leonberg ’15 & Alex Cannon ’17

  

 

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.

 

Headshot of Harriet Beaney

  Number One (Teleplay)

  by 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.

 

In Number One, 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.

 

Headshot of Rachel James

  Toni/Tony (Screenplay)

  by 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.

 

Toni/Tony is set in 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.

 

Headshot of Frank Graziano

  The Double (Teleplay)

  by Frank Grazianoz ’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.

 
The Double, during 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.

"The Blue List completely changed my career trajectory. As a result of being named to the Blue List, I got a manager and sold my feature script. I currently have three feature scripts in development and hope to make another sale in the near future."

Casey Schroen '12, Screenwriter and Blue List 2014 winner