Shelter is the dramatic story of Petra. An incarcerated convict who, through a prison work release program, begins a job working at an animal shelter. While keeping to herself, cleaning cleaning cages, making the meal rounds feeding the abandoned animals, she takes a liking to one small canine, who’s list of problems somewhat mirrors her own.  Determined to rehabilitate the poor dog to the point where he can become adoptable, Petra is blindsided by the cold nature of time simply running out.

The short film was written and directed by R.J. Danial Hanna and stars Clea DuVall and April Grace.  Hanna’s film was adapted from a feature film screenplay of the same name, which is currently being packaged with Hanna to direct and DuVall to reprise her role as Petra. This feature screenplay was a semi-finalist for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Shelter was produced in the inaugural season of the SmashCut Film Lab (then known as the Liberty Lab for Film), and debuted at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science’s Pickford Theater in October of 2014.  The film has since been selected to screen at multiple film festivals, winning several awards along the way.

R.J. Daniel Hanna

R.J. Daniel Hanna


Daniel is a Toronto-born, Arkansas-raised writer-director living in Los Angeles. Hanna sharpened his filmmaking tools on commercial projects for Coca-Cola and Subway while getting his MFA at the USC, but his true passion is character-driven independent cinema.

Hanna received a grant from non-profit Taliesin Nexus to direct a short film Shelter about a female prison inmate volunteering in an animal shelter. The short stars Clea DuVall (Argo, Zodiac) and April Grace (Magnolia,Whiplash).  A feature version is being developed with DuVall to star, the screenplay recently becoming a semi-finalist for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship.

Hanna also brings an editors eye to his scripts and sets. Films he has edited have received awards from The Emmy Foundation, the DGA, BAFTA, the Clios, the USC Editing Faculty, and the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media.  Hanna is represented by The Gersh Agency and Kaplan/Perrone Entertainment.