Sections Development

Vetted Material: Screenwriting Labs

Screenwriting labs for independent creators not only support the development of a script, they can act as a career launchpad for the writers. With writers that have faced systemic barriers to access, especially those without agency representation, selection for these labs can help them, and their scripts, to get noticed.

People sharing written work with one another
A cast and crew on set

The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program (FFP) has championed leading independent filmmakers of the past 40 years whose distinctive films have engaged audiences worldwide. Embracing each artist’s unique vision, the program encourages a rigorous, in-depth creative process while focusing on original and deeply resonant storytelling. The Institute’s guiding values of risk-taking, community, and freedom of expression have broadened the FFP to include American and international artists in a more meaningful and vibrant dialogue across cultural, political, and geographic boundaries. For years, the program has provided year-round support to the next generation of filmmakers from development through distribution, becoming a global model for supporting artists everywhere.

Multiple times each year, the Institute releases lists of its fellows and lab participant via trade media and the Sundance website. The FFP page of the Sundance site also highlights past participants to increase discoverability.

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The Writers Lab is the only program in the world devoted exclusively to script development for women-identifying writers over 40. The Lab is presented by co-founders Elizabeth Kaiden and Nitza Wilon, with New York Women in Film & television, and in collaboration with the Writers Guild of America, East, with in-kind support from The Black List, Cinequest, Falco Ink, Film Fatales, Filmarket Hub, Final Draft, Population Media Center, and Roadmap Writers.

Recent participants are listed on the Writers Lab site.

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Still from Dead Pigs (2017), figure on motorcycle


The Gotham Labs work to ensure that talented emerging voices receive the support, resources, and industry exposure necessary to reach audiences and industry decision makers. Through a holistic approach, which includes intensive workshop, networking, and mentorship opportunities, we support fiction film, documentary film, and TV series creators from the early stages of development all the way to reaching audiences with completed projects.

In addition to in-depth lab programming throughout the year, Lab Fellows are invited to pitch their projects and participate in the annual Gotham Week Project Market in September. Each year at the Project Market, Lab Fellows have access to curated meetings with key industry professionals including sales and talent agents, distributors, festival programmers, and more who can move their projects and careers forward.

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The Outfest Screenwriting Lab was established in 1997 as a screenwriting contest, and has since become the cornerstone of the organization’s education and creative development programming. It will this year provide 10 LGBTQIA+ screenwriters with one-on-one mentorship from top industry showrunners, executives, and writers who will offer professional development, scriptwriting support and insight into the latest trends within the industry, having supported eight scribes in 2021.

The week-long intensive lab will take place virtually in October and will thus be accessible to storytellers across the globe, with applications opening today. Outfest is expanding access to its program with support from Netflix, by waiving submission fees for all applicants and providing grants to help financially support each of the selected screenwriters.

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Several people onstage reading form scripts at Outfest


Achieving equal cultural representation within our media narratives requires a representative number of skilled storytellers. The WIF Writing Labs, held in partnership with key collaborator and industry benchmarker The Black List, are designed to equip new television and screenwriters with knowledge to build and sustain their careers. These programs provide participants with support in craft, professional development, and networking toward advancing their livelihoods.

The Black List and WIF will invite six promising non-professional screenwriters who are of underrepresented genders (women, NB/GNC, and/or trans, and others) to participate in a one-year residency. Over the kickoff weekend, writers participating in the Residency will workshop one feature screenplay through one-on-one sessions with screenwriting mentors and in peer workshops. Throughout the following 12 months, writers will be supported through additional events as well as arranged meetings with representation, production companies, and fellow writers to elevate their projects and career trajectories. Participants should expect these events to be held in person in Los Angeles. Writers will also be invited to exclusive Black List and WIF events through the end of June 2023.

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