When New Orleans-based filmmaker Benh Zeitlin’s short film “Glory at Sea” won the Wholphin Award at the South by Southwest film fest in 2008, the Sundance Institute called to see if he was working on a screenplay. The director mentioned “Beats of the Southern Wild,” a play by colleague Lucy Alibar, with whom he plans to direct an adaptation. After submitting a draft to the Screenwriters Lab, he and Alibar were invited to workshop the project shortly before the festival (where many alums’ films screen) in January.
Zeitlin’s script, one of 12 projects at the annual weeklong gathering, was analyzed by five mentors from the industry. A Wesleyan graduate, Zeitlin never received a formal education in filmmaking. “All I knew about screenwriting was how to format it,” he says, but now, “I don’t dread it like I did.” Having completed a second draft, Zeitlin hopes the institute invites him back to workshop the film further in its Directors Lab.