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Filmmaker Labs FAQ

What are the Filmmaker Labs?
The Filmmaker Labs are intensive programs for writers, directors, and producers working in independent film. Film Independent holds one Directors Lab, one Screenwriters Lab, one Producers Lab, and one Documentary Lab each year in Los Angeles. The Labs are customarily held at the Film Independent offices and meet two to three evenings per week. We accept a maximum of ten projects into each Lab. Accepted filmmakers become Film Independent Fellows.

The primary goal of the Filmmaker Labs is to help independent filmmakers develop as creative producers, directors, and screenwriters and to help selected filmmakers move their current projects forward. Film Independent also introduces the filmmakers to people in the industry who can advise them on their projects as well as their ongoing professional development.

When are the Labs?
The Directors Lab takes place in the winter, the Documentary Lab takes place in the spring, the Screenwriters Lab takes place in the summer, and the Producers Lab takes place in the fall. Actual dates may vary and are determined several weeks before the start of each Lab.

What is the schedule of the Lab?
The Labs usually meet two to three evenings a week, typically on Mondays and Thursdays from 7:00 to 10:00 pm. Additionally, Directors Lab Fellows shoot scenes from their feature scripts and these shoots generally take place on weekends. Producers Lab Fellows receive a complimentary pass to the Filmmaker Forum, which runs concurrently at the end of October. Participants of the Directors Lab receive a complimentary pass to the Directors Close-up, which runs concurrently in the spring.

What is the most important thing you look for in an application?
The first thing we look at is the screenplay: we are looking for well-written, original, feature-length screenplays that would make compelling independent films.

Aside from having a good script, what do you look for in the applicants?
We are looking for filmmakers who are talented and serious about working in independent film. We are open to first time filmmakers, as well as people with significant prior experience in the film industry. If you have never made a film before, it is important that you convey as much about yourself in your application as you can, i.e. why you want to make your film, what your artistic sensibility is, what you have been doing that will inform your work as a writer, director, or producer, etc.

In the Producers Lab, our ideal candidate is someone who is actively pursuing a career as an independent creative producer as opposed to someone who is, at heart, a director who is choosing to produce his or her own film simply in order to get it made. That said, we do sometimes accept writer-director-producers into the program. It really depends on the material and who the other applicants are that cycle.

May I apply with a script that is adapted from a novel or other source material?
Yes. However, you or your producer must have the rights to the source material.

May I apply with a short film or TV pilot?
No. Only feature length film projects will be accepted.

What kinds of projects are eligible for the Documentary Lab?
In order to be eligible for the Documentary Lab you must be the director, director-producer team, or director-editor team of a feature length or hour long documentary. We only accept projects that are works-in-progress, that have for the most part completed the bulk of production, and are well into the post-production process with either an assembly or rough cut.

Must I be a member of Film Independent in order to apply to the Labs?
No. The Labs are open to anyone, but discounted application fees apply for Film Independent members.

When will you notify applicants of acceptance or non-acceptance?
All applicants will be notified by email at least three weeks prior to the Lab start date.

How much do the Labs cost?
There is a non-refundable application fee for each Lab. We give discounted rates for Film Independent members. The fees are: $45 for Film Independent members and $65 for non-members. If you are accepted into the program, there is no additional cost, i.e. there is no tuition fee.

May I apply as a team?
Yes. We have accepted several writing teams in the Screenwriters Lab, producing teams in the Producers Lab, and director-producer teams in the Documentary Lab. We have never had a team in the Directors Lab, but would not rule it out. If a team is accepted into the Lab, both members of the team would be expected to fully participate in the program.

May I apply with more than one project?
Yes, you may apply with multiple projects. You must submit a separate application and fee for each project.

May I apply to more than one program with the same project?

May I reapply with a project that was not accepted in the past?
You may reapply with the same project, however, it is best if there has been significant progress on the project since you last applied, i.e. a rewrite, and/or cast or crew attachments. If your project has not been accepted to a given program two or three times, it is likely that we do not respond to the material and we recommend applying with a new project.

If a script is accepted into one Lab, is it disqualified from being accepted into one of the other Labs?
No. We have had a number of projects go through two or even three of our Labs, sometimes with the same person attached, sometimes with different people (for example, the writer-director goes through the Screenwriters and Directors Lab, and then someone else takes it through the Producers Lab).

Does it help if I get my application in early?
No. We don’t make any selection for any of the Labs until we have read all the applications, so there is no real benefit to getting your materials in early. We strongly recommend that you get your scripts in the best possible shape before applying.

May I drop off the application in person?
We use an online application system and do accept hard copy submissions. However, you may drop off supplemental materials such as the DVD of the director’s prior work with the receptionist at FIND. Film Independent is open from 10am to 7pm M-F. Be sure to clearly label your materials with your name, project title, and application ID#.

May I submit a reel or other materials with my application?
Yes. Applicants to the Directors Lab, Producers Lab, Documentary Lab, and Fast Track are encouraged to submit materials on DVD or as a link to view work online. We do not request work samples for the Screenwriters Lab.

What do you want to see in a work sample?
We will look at short films, music videos, directors’ reels, and any other materials that you feel support your application. We ask that you submit what you feel is your best work. In general we prefer to see a complete piece rather than a reel or compilation.

I am a first time director and do not have a reel. Am I still eligible to apply for the Directors Lab?
Yes. The Directors Lab is open to first time directors with very strong feature scripts. The more information you give us about yourself and what experience, other than directing, you feel you have to bring to your project as a filmmaker, the better.  Do you have a background as a photographer, painter, writer, actor? Have you worked in theater? Have you worked as an executive in the entertainment industry? Do you have a production background? If you are a first time director, we will want to know as much about your prior professional and creative experience as possible.

Do I have to be a citizen or permanent resident of the U.S. to apply?
No. We accept projects from any country as well as all parts of the U.S. Unfortunately, we do not have a travel stipend for participants coming from outside of Los Angeles, so anyone coming to Los Angeles for the Labs would have to find their own accommodations.

Do I have to be a resident of Los Angeles to participate in the Labs?
No. But, selected Fellows must reside in the Los Angeles vicinity for the duration of the program.

Is there any financial stipend available for candidates who do not live in Los Angeles but would like to participate in the Labs?
Unfortunately, we are unable to offer financial assistance, travel, or accommodations, for out of town participants.


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