Filmmaker Labs

Film Independent Artist Development promotes unique, independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work.

Filmmaker Labs

  • Directing Lab, an eight week program for directors prepping independent feature films. It runs in Los Angeles in February and March.
  • Screenwriting Lab, an intensive, four week workshop designed to facilitate each writer’s unique voice through the development of a single feature project. The lab meets two to three evenings a week in Los Angeles every spring.
  • Producing Lab, an in-depth four week program that helps filmmakers develop skills as creative, independent producers. It is held in the fall in Los Angeles.
  • Documentary Lab, an intensive five week program designed to help filmmakers who are currently in post-production on their feature-length documentary films. The lab meets in Los Angeles in April.
  • Episodic Lab, an intensive four-to-five week workshop where, through personalized feedback, Fellows will gain the tools needed to revise and refine their pilots and navigate a changing industry landscape. The lab meets in Los Angeles in September and October.

Filmmaker Labs, like all Film Independent Artist Development programs, are offered at no cost to participants (beyond an application fee and requisite purchase of Film Independent Membership) and are open to all filmmakers, regardless of educational background or previous accomplishment. Film Independent Fellows receive year-round support, including access to the Film Independent Forum, Directors Close-Up and the LA Film Festival.


In addition to Labs, Film Independent’s Artist Development programs encompass a wide range of initiatives that help filmmakers push their projects forward, including:

  • Fast Track, a film financing market that takes place each year during the LA Film Festival
  • Fiscal Sponsorship opens the door to nonprofit funding for independent filmmakers and media artists, allowing them to seek grants and solicit donations for their project
  • Global Media Makers, an innovative mentoring initiative that connects visual storytellers from around the world with leading U.S. entertainment professionals
  • Grants & Awards, helping filmmakers advance their current projects and recognize professional accomplishments in independent film
  • Project Involve, Film Independent’s signature diversity program, which for 22 years has helped launch the careers of artists from communities underrepresented in film


With each program, we welcome a new cohort of Fellows into the community of Film Independent alumni whose voices and visions will continue to break ground in filmed entertainment. In 2015, 140 Fellows screened their work at the world’s most prestigious festivals and 58 shot television shows or digital series. Continuing our commitment to diversity, 73 percent of Film Independent’s Fellows were from communities underrepresented in the film industry, and 52 percent were women.

Among the many celebrated Film Independent Fellows are:

Ana Lily Amirpour (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night)
Effie Brown (Dear White People, Rocket Science)
Jon Chu (Step Up 2: The Streets, G.I. Joe: Retaliation)
Cherien Dabis (Amreeka, May in the Summer)
Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo (Rich Hill)
Ruben Fleischer (Gangster Squad, Zombieland)
Courtney Hunt (Frozen River)
Kahlil Joseph (Double Conscience, Until The Quiet Comes)
Robbie Pickering (Natural Selection)
James Ponsoldt (Smashed, The End of the Tour)
Justin Simien (Dear White People)
Jill Soloway (TransparentAfternoon Delight)
Marah Strauch (Sunshine Superman)
Malik Vitthal (Imperial Dreams)
Harry Yoon (The Revenant)
Chloé Zhao (Songs My Brothers Taught Me)

A comprehensive list of recent Film Independent Fellows and their projects can be viewed in our online Talent Guide.

Creative Advisors and Mentors

As the organization behind the LA Film Festival and the Film Independent Spirit Awards, our deep and long-standing roots in the film community afford us unparalleled access to mentors, speakers and advisors for our Artist Development programs.

Past Creative Advisors and Mentors include:

Lindsay Doran (Sense and Sensibility, Stranger than Fiction)
Ava DuVernay (Selma)
Laura Gabbert (City of Gold)
Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, Nine Lives)
Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight, Thirteen)
Nicole Holofcener (Enough Said, Friends with Money)
Karyn Kusama (Girlfight, Jennifer’s Body)
Alix Madigan-Yorkin (Winter’s Bone)
Eddie Schmidt (This Film Is Not Yet Rated, Troubadours)
Cathy Schulman (Crash, The Illusionist)
Robin Swicord (Memoirs of a Geisha, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
Ron Yerxa (Little Miss Sunshine)