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MFA in Film

MFA in Film Student Nancy Bannon Accepted for NYWIFT Intensive Workshop

nancy bannonDecember 2, 2016—Out of a highly qualified field of seriously motivated competition, Stony Brook Southampton/Killer Films MFA in Film student Nancy Bannon has been selected for an intensive yearlong New York Women in Film and Television workshop, "From Script to Pre-Production (FS2P)."

The goal of the FS2P workshop, running from January to June 2017, is to help women make their first narrative feature films. The FS2P workshop, which accepts a maximum of six to eight applicants, presents a curriculum that organizes the process of building presentations, provides mentorship and guest experts, and enables participants to work together as a group, helping one another through the challenging experience of getting a first feature film made.

"This is a very exciting endeavor," Bannon said upon being notified of her acceptance into the NYWIFT workshop on November 15. "I'm passionate about so many things: the chance to work with NYWIFT and the other directors in the program; the project I'll develop and its creative potential; and, finally, the real possibility of bringing this story and this world to life."

"Nancy's selection for this amazing workshop is an impressive achievement," MFA in Film Associate Director Magdalene Brandeis said this week, "especially because the NYWIFT workshop aligns perfectly with the Stony Brook Southampton/Klller Films MFA in Film dedication to teaching students not only how to make films, but how to get films made."

"Nancy made a short section of this film as her first year production," Brandeis noted. "She was clear about how she saw the characters, what they wore, who they hated, how they lived. Since then she's been working with one of our professors, Jennie Allen, on the longer piece. It's been wonderful for us to watch this project grow within the Stony Brook MFA in Film program."

The NYWIFT workshop is aimed at women who are ready to make features. Each filmmaker accepted has written and directed at least one narrative short that demonstrates her competence as a director. All have also written a feature length narrative script that's ready for production and can be made on a low budget, preferably in New York State.

Nancy Bannon short film
A scene from Nancy Bannon's short film, Blood.

As part of an independent study in the Stony Brook Southampton/Killer Films MFA in Film program in the fall semester, Bannon has been working on her feature script with MFA faculty member Jennie Allen in Manhattan. "She is dedicated and diligent for sure," Allen said of Bannon, noting that she has "a willingness to go deep and ask hard questions of her material on every level."

The working title of the script Bannon is developing in the MFA in Film program—and will be taking to the NYWIFT workshop—is Blood. The writer and director said this week that Blood tells the story of "two Rust Belt rogue brothers unearthing deeply buried trauma, vulnerability and heartache between them, and the battle to drag it to the surface."

The film "asks about a brutal masculinity, small-town, Rust Belt America, injured and bewildered men and the women who love them, and family, sacrifice, authenticity and wholeness."

The project's first incarnation, Bannon said, was a live performance piece. "Then I shot a short film in April of this year" that she is completing post-production on now, she said, "and I have been revisiting the feature script over the past few years. I'm ready to dive into both the creative and producing aspects of bringing it to life and am very grateful for the guidance NYWIFT's program offers."

By the time she completes the workshop, Bannon will have created loglines, synopses, pitches and lookbooks, enabling her to "sell" her project. She will have researched tax havens, developed preliminary budgets and created top sheets: her "numbers" will have been vetted. Bannon will also have a website and a social media presence, ensuring that her "audience" and potential backers are poised to receive updates on her project as it advances.

According to NYWIFT, after completing the workshop, Bannon will be ready to meet producers and investors. And knowing that she's been through the rigors of FS2P, investors can be assured that her project is solid.

MFA in Film faculty member Simone Pero pointed out that while other organizations in the U.S. offer labs and workshops, they are typically short, usually four or five days duration, or perhaps a week or two. FS2P is a six-month workshop, which is free for the applicants selected.

Fewer than 4 percent of Hollywood films are directed by women, according to NYWIFT, and fewer than 11 percent are written by women. The situation is so dire that the ACLU has called for an investigation of gender discrimination in the film industry.

Responding to this statistical imbalance, the revered actor Meryl Streep, a NYWIFT member and activist, put it this way: "It's not like the film schools aren't graduating thousands of young women. They're going to festivals, they're winning prizes, their films are seen and they disappear. So then do our stories. My story is disappearing, and I can't allow it, on behalf of my daughters and also my son."

Nancy Bannon is a performer, writer, and director. Enrolled in the MFA in Film program since fall 2015, she has earned recognition for her original feature screenplays from the Sundance Screenwriters Lab (second round qualifier 2013, 2015), Francis Ford Coppola's Zoetrope Studios (quarterfinalist), Slamdance Film Festival (grand prize finalist) and Boston Film Festival's Script to Screen program, among others. Her screenplays have also been optioned by production companies.

Bannon has written and directed four short films, all with an emphasis on performance. Screeners of her shorts have been requested by MoMA's New Directors/New Films selection committee, Creative Minds group and various festival programmers.

A graduate of The Juilliard School, Bannon was the recipient of three Princess Grace Awards and a New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Award. She has served on the faculties of SUNY Purchase and Rutgers University and teaches Actors Process at the Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory in Washington, D.C.