Tags: / /

Programs Thu 2.22.2024

Invaluable Lessons: A Filmmaker’s Perspective on Film Independent’s Episodic Workshop

Thinking of applying to our 2024 Episodic Directing Intensive? The non-Member deadline to apply is coming up: Monday, March 4 (the extended deadline for Film Independent Members is Monday, March 18). In this special guest post, we asked 2022 participant and Project Involve Fellow Winter Dunn to share her experiences. Lights, camera, action!


For anyone who’s made the leap to the City of Angels from somewhere else, the road can be quite a solitary one. I made my way here from New York armed with a Theater degree and a burning desire to bring to life the stories that danced in my imagination. The looming question for me was whether others would connect with the vivid images I was so passionate about, and if I’d ever find the right collaborators to turn my internal cinematic visions into external reality. In the midst of this uncertainty, I crossed paths with Film Independent, and from that point forward, my journey took a whole new turn.I had the privilege of directing the short film, Dear Mama… through Film Independent’s Project Involve program. And, to my pleasant surprise, the film not only had a successful run but continues to grace festivals across the country and won an NAACP Image Award (I’m still blown away by it). I thought that would be the key to unlocking the doors to the various rooms I aspired to enter. While not entirely wrong, I soon realized I needed more training and hands-on experience before tackling my loftiest goals. One of the most daunting aspirations on my list was directing episodic television–a realm that demanded a different set of skills and experiences compared to directing short films.

Dunn on the set of ‘Dear Mama…’

As this reality sank in, I did what I do best–I reached out to my network. Lo and behold, I discovered that Film Independent hosts an Episodic Directing Intensive. I applied as fast as I could, and the acceptance email felt like another significant step toward my overarching goals. Describing the invaluable nature of the experience is a challenge. Learning a new skill set in this industry can often be overwhelming, leaving you questioning your own capabilities. However, with Film Independent, that sense of self-doubt never crept in. The intensive not only provided practical insights into television production but also brought in a stellar lineup of showrunners, directors, and executives eager to share their wisdom with our cohort. Trust me when I say, my notebook was brimming with notes. I knew this firsthand experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I wasn’t about to miss a single detail.

That well-worn notebook remains a constant companion as I navigate meetings with networks and production companies, all enthusiastic about the prospect of my first episode. That’s the magic of Film Independent–they lead with open hearts while commanding immense respect in the industry. It’s this unique combination that attracts top-tier talent willing to generously share their wealth of knowledge. Through this journey, I’ve acquired a handful of incredible mentors, some of whom I’ve had the privilege to shadow, while others continue to provide invaluable advice. Simultaneously, I’ve cultivated a community of peers, each extremely talented in their own right. It reminds me of that initial year in LA, attempting to carve out my niche, seeking companions to share the journey with. It’s exciting to know that I have a community I can tap into not only for guidance but also for genuine friendship.

Shooting ‘Junebug’

Post-intensive, my network blossomed, leading me to participate in some of the most prestigious episodic fellowships. Currently, I find myself in meetings with showrunners and executives, fighting to secure that first episode in this post-strike landscape. While my journey is ongoing, I attribute a significant portion of it to my introduction to Film Independent and the Artist Development Labs. I am genuinely grateful for this family of filmmakers by my side. So, to Film Independent, thank you for your unwavering support. And to my fellow filmmakers contemplating whether to apply–do it! You never know what opportunities lie on the other side.

About the author: Hailing from Gary, Indiana, Winter Dunn is an award-winning filmmaker dedicated to amplifying universal narratives through the lens of BIPOC voices. Her short film Dear Mama… premiered at SXSW and received an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Short Film (Live Action). Her film Junebug premiered at the American Black Film Festival, made its television debut on Fox Soul, and currently streams on IssaRaePresents/Hoorae. Beyond film, Dunn directs diverse digital content formats, including web series and editorial videos. Winter’s digital direction for Vanity Fair, Vogue, Architectural Digest, Anonymous Content, Meta, and others showcase stars like Viola Davis, Sarah Paulson, Lena Waithe, Kim Kardashian, Billie Eilish, and more. A graduate of the Chicago Academy for the Arts, Dunn holds a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre from Fordham University Lincoln Center.

Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve; Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting); Fast Track finance market and Fiscal Sponsorship, as well as through grants and awards that provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.

Keep up with Film Independent…

Tags: / /