Applications for the 2022 Film Independent Producing Lab and Fast Track film financing market are now open. And look, you don’t have to our word for it that these are great programs. For this guest post, we asked dual 2021 Producing Lab and Fast Track Fellow Lysette Urus to share her experiences and discuss the path to Wild Animal, her current feature project.
There’s little known of the pathway for an independent producer. So much of the journey requires taking a leap of faith. In 2019, I began networking with writers and directors in hopes of discovering my first narrative feature. One afternoon, while cruising LinkedIn of all places, I came across a profile for a director I saw potential in. As fate would have it, that person was Joseph Marconi, the writer and director of the feature I will usher through as my first independent project, Wild Animal.
Years before, I entered producing through physical production, working my way up to line producer on commercial and documentary sets. Here I acquired a valuable and necessary foundation for producing films. However, it was not until Film Independent that I could bridge the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be.
In 2021, I was selected to participate in the Film Independent Producing Lab cohort with four other talented and like-minded producers with projects at different phases of development. This allowed us to reflect and meditate on the many angles of getting a film made. The cohort was a “Breakfast Club” of producers with diverse strengths and perspectives. My background was in line producing, others had backgrounds in post-production, entertainment law, international production or were writers/directors themselves (you know who you are!)
For me, the Producing Lab was like a spa for producers. For two weeks, we retreated into a safe space led by our enduring leaders, Angela Lee and Rebecca Katz, where we interacted and learned from a milieu of talented guest speakers. We’d make our rounds with the finance spa, legal spa, creative spa and so much more.
I can’t stress enough just how valuable the Film Independent community is for emerging artists, but especially for producers. It’s a rare opportunity to enjoy the type of attentiveness in growing our careers, usually reserved for writers and directors.
There were days in the Producing Lab where I felt like I was cracking the door and peering into a studio executive meeting. We did two storytelling workshops with producer Sheila Hanahan Taylor. She spoke with us about storytelling through the prism of a producer’s brain; How to work with your directors on creative, how to approach your marketing strategy and how to make sure you’re tapping into your audience were among some of the lessons. We’re playing a really long game as producers. The Producing Lab taught me not only the importance of working on your end goals while you’re still building, but how.
The Lab also provided support through mentorship. Each project is the focus of a session led by your mentor. It was an incredible value to receive this kind of specialized attention from the group. It also allowed us to be in the driver’s seat, ensuring our project specific needs were addressed. We were additionally given an opportunity to meet with our mentors one on one after the lab concluded and continue our relationships.
It’s been invaluable having access and support from such a community. The Producing Lab emphasizes our role as a creator and how to advocate for ourselves. In addition to all the wonderful producorial spa treatments I mentioned earlier, the Lab was anchored around fine tuning a pitch for each of our projects. Every day, we practiced our pitch and received peer and professional feedback. It was incredible to track our improvement over the two weeks. With each day, we found more power and conviction in our stories. Not just the stories of our films, but our stories as individuals, as producers and why our contributions are integral.
The pitch sessions proved to be immediately useful when my director and I participated in Film Independent’s Fast Track Finance Market the following month. Fast Track is a speed-dating event of meetings where you have only 15 minutes to introduce yourselves and pitch your project. Sixty meetings in three days. I began with cursory knowledge of who we’d meet and three days later had the foundation to build relationships with executives from some of the leading companies in the industry.
Months later, while I’m still in the process of raising funds to shoot Wild Animal, the project has only strengthened since my participation in the lab and Fast Track. After Fast Track, we ended up partnering with a well-known production company that has brought my project to new heights. Still, I cherish the support of Film Independent to help navigate the pitfalls of indie filmmaking. It is safe to say, I’ll never be the same.
Watch your project blossom and apply now.
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