Screenwriting labs are a great resource for screenwriters to not only grow their craft but make important connections to fellow writers and industry pros, as well. It’s a great experience screenwriters of all stripes should have at some point in their journey.
However, if you find yourself wanting to participate in a lab but can’t find answers to the many burning lab-related questions you have, we’ve put together a guide that explains everything you’ll ever want to know about screenwriting labs, from what they provide, which screenwriting labs are the most popular, and how to choose the one that’s right for you.
Table of Contents
What Is a Screenwriting Lab?
So, what is a screenwriting lab, anyway?
Screenwriting labs are educational programs that allow writers to workshop their screenplays while developing different skills that will help them as professional screenwriters, such as pitching or working in a television writers’ room. Working with accomplished showrunners, executives, and industry professionals, screenwriting lab participants get access to one-on-one story meetings, craft workshops, studio or representation meetings, and simulated writers’ rooms. Together, these meetings provide an elevated creative strategy for artists’ material from key industry players in positions to advance their projects.
Every screenwriting lab or program is different, but for the most part, they are all designed to do a few important things:
- Connect you with fellow writers
- Expand your network of professional relationships
- Help improve your writing, usually a specific piece of writing or script
- Set you up for success as a writer
The WeScreenplay Labs help develop entry scripts, coordinate note-giving sessions with peers, host specific workshops, and introduce writers to industry professionals.
Screenwriting labs typically condense their formatting instruction into a few days. WeScreenplay Labs meet over three to four days packed with meetings, educational forums, and writing exercises. Sundance adds an additional 8-10 weeks of pre-lab development before Fellows attend their in-person six-day Episodic lab, including a series of virtual workshops to better prepare Fellows to make the most of their time on the Mountain.
Most screenwriting labs will also offer a continuum of support once the lab has finished. Sundance, for example, offers Fellows the following:
A unique attribute of Sundance Institute Labs is the high-touch mentoring and support our Fellows receive long after the Lab has been completed. This allows Fellows to fully realize the potential of their work, hone their skills in a dynamic and supportive environment, and position themselves for the best possible outcomes for their projects. It includes ongoing creative and strategic advice from the Episodic team and Advisors and targeted introductions to agents, managers, writers, producers, and executives.
Who Are Screenwriting Labs For?
Unlike masterclasses or screenwriting courses, Screenwriting Labs are designed as a platform for refining existing skills rather than for beginner writers. They are geared towards writers who have already honed their craft and possess strong writing abilities. The purpose of a lab is to polish these skills and prepare the writer for a job in the entertainment industry that meets union standards. Due to their rigorous nature, acceptance into a Screenwriting Lab is highly competitive.
There are ways to be strategic about submitting to screenwriting labs. Many labs focus on a particular area of interest or design their lab for a certain type of writer, such as Sundance’s Episodic Lab for episodic content on cable and online platforms and their Feature Film lab, which helps independent filmmakers focus on original and deeply resonant storytelling.
WeScreenplay also has a TV Lab, Feature Lab, a Shorts Film Lab, and a Diverse Voices Lab to help elevate stories told from perspectives often underrepresented in film and TV today. This includes writers of color, women writers, writers with disabilities, writers over 40, writers in the LGBTQ+ community, and other voices Hollywood has historically ignored.
Read More: What To Look For in a Screenwriting Lab
Stowe Story Labs is a nonprofit dedicated to bringing top emerging screenwriters, filmmakers, and creative producers from around the world together with seasoned industry professionals to help get film and TV projects made and seen. In their Narrative Labs, screenwriters, filmmakers, and creative producers from around the world gather for a 4-day lab focused on story, pitching and packaging, the development process, production, and finance and distribution.
When you submit to a lab, you will most likely submit a particular script you will concentrate on and a package with items like your bio, brand statement, letter of interest, and essay questions. By knowing what makes you special as a writer and how that informs your script, you can find a lab specifically seeking you and your project.
The Difference Between Screenwriting Labs and Competitions
Screenwriting labs and competitions are two effective avenues aspiring screenwriters can take to develop their craft and launch their careers. However, even though they’re both valuable opportunities, the approach, expectations, and outcomes differ.
So, what are some important differences between screenwriting labs and competitions?
A screenwriting competition is designed to elevate the best scripts, get them read by industry professionals, and help writers build momentum and credibility. Most competitions come with a monetary award, which can help pay the bills or go towards funding if a writer plans to produce their project themselves.
They are usually judged by anonymous readers at the entry levels and then notable industry pros, including showrunners, writers, agents, managers, or producers, as the final judges. One-on-one meetings with those pros are also part of the package, which helps winners begin to build their networks.
A screenwriting lab is designed to help launch a sample or a career. They’re all different, but they generally consist of interactive, hands-on workshops, industry meetings, and mentorships designed to elevate craft and business techniques for writers while bolstering their network. In short, they are all designed to help improve your writing and set you up for writing success. The WeScreenplay Labs do this by developing the entry scripts, coordinating notes-giving sessions with peers, hosting specific workshops, and introducing writers to professionals in the industry.
So a competition gets your script out there, while a lab is for education, hands-on work, and meetings.
There are a few other types of programs to be aware of, most notably screenwriting fellowships and screenwriting retreats. A fellowship is like a much longer, more in-depth lab. The Disney TV Writing Fellowship is a prestigious example — it is a full-time paid program that lasts nearly a full year. On the other hand, most screenwriting labs last a few days or weeks.
Screenwriting retreats are similar to creative vacations. They offer writers a place to stay while they write and tend to have group activities such as writing exercises or time to share and give feedback.
Unique Benefits of Screenwriting Labs
What’s the point of entering screenwriting labs? The benefits! Let’s go over a few of the most exciting ones.
Community Building and Networking
Building a writing community is deeply important for your screenwriting career. In your community, you’ll have accountability partners to keep you motivated, peers to keep you informed about upcoming opportunities, teachers and mentors to help you improve your skills, and readers to provide trustworthy feedback on your scripts. Additionally, you’ll have reps to guide your career and introduce you to industry professionals and colleagues to help you find job opportunities.
Connecting with peers and industry professionals through a screenwriting lab is a great way to deepen an authentic relationship.
Workshopping Ideas With Fellow Writers
Many screenwriting labs have specific time modules for providing notes and feedback to other writers. Providing feedback is a vital skill to learn as a writer. It’s how you contribute to your community. It also teaches you to think critically about screenwriting. Learning how to receive feedback and apply it to your own scripts is also a beneficial skill. Not only will you put these skills into action during a lab, but you’ll also meet more people you can trust to read your scripts.
It’s very tempting to want to reach up the ladder and get the attention of someone who is already established with the hopes that they will launch your career. Still, it’s so important to foster relationships laterally. Your employment opportunities will come from your peers who are rising with you — and you’ll get to do the same for them.
Television and episodic labs also often have writers’ room modules that teach you how to break a script with a team, write collaboratively, and what the process of ideation to production looks like. It prepares you for that first job in the room, so you know what to expect and can bring first-hand experience on day one.
Screenwriting labs help to further the careers of their participants by introducing them to film industry veterans who can offer guidance on both the craft and business of screenwriting. Various guest speakers may screen and discuss their own films and offer career insights, go over branding and bios, or oversee pitch events that offer further opportunities for individualized feedback and discussion with industry executives.
From pitching masterclasses to simulated writers’ rooms to curriculums on financing, production, and distribution, labs go beyond screenwriting.
Writers also get personalized access to producers, literary reps, and studio executives looking for mutual industry partnerships. These kinds of meetings open doors that emerging writers simply don’t have access to. It can take years or luck to build these kinds of relationships — but if you have written an excellent sample and you know how to present yourself, you can get into a lab that will jumpstart that timeline.
Many screenwriting labs pair participants with creative advisors or mentors, with whom they’ll further work one-on-one and in group sessions to develop their projects throughout the program. Not only will the mentorship continue throughout the lab, but often long after. Many finalists and semi-finalists are also offered career-enhancing opportunities or introductions.
Prestigious screenwriting labs are an investment into the future of storytelling, so the programmers often maintain an open door and a directory of their writers. When staffing opportunities come up, they can be hired from within a lab or that directory. It’s deeply personalized, so the network of people within a lab knows each others’ strengths and can recommend each other for hiring or opportunities.
What Do Writers Say About Screenwriting Labs
You will be pretty hard-pressed to find a writer who doesn’t have incredible things to say about their lab experiences. Writing can feel lonely and daunting — a lab creates community, provides guidance, and bolsters confidence in potentially career-changing ways.
Many of WeScreenplay’s past lab participants shared their thoughts after going through their respective screenwriting labs. Here’s what 2022 WeScreenplay Diverse Voices participant Christopher Isenegger said about his lab experience:
Getting Crucial One-On-One Meetings
What I was really impressed with and surprised by was the number of one-on-one meetings that were curated for us and our work. These were meetings I couldn’t have gotten on my own.
Eye-Opening Insight into the Film/TV Industry
Desdemona Chiang, who went through the same lab, shared:
“I think I already knew this before the lab, but this week really hit it home: the industry is so vast. Watching something on TV is watching the final product of something that went through so many steps to get there. When we met with a rep from Sony, I became so much more aware of the number of steps it takes to get a project from its conception to the screen. It gave me perspective about how challenging the business is.”
Building Your Career Through Authentic Connections
It’s important for writers to remember that you can’t just chase trends because everything you see on TV began development years ago. Knowing the industry and staying true to the stories you want to tell will keep your work authentic and your goals realistic and strategic. Desdemona added:
“If my project appeals to one person, that could be enough to move it forward. One authentic connection can help shape a project and help it appeal to more people.”
Mentors That Go Above and Beyond
A benefit of an interactive lab like this is that the writers get a lot of face time with the industry pros that come in — from one-on-one sessions to general to group meetings. It allows for creating authentic connections. WeScreenplay Lab alum Jillian Ibarra shared:
“I appreciated the honesty from the mentors. So many of them offered to read our scripts — something they didn’t have to do because they’re really busy and usually don’t read scripts from unrepresented writers.”
The connections you make, the information you learn, and the work you do on your project will undoubtedly elevate your confidence in yourself as a writer and professional while setting you up for future success.
Then there are the location-specific screenwriting labs, such as Sundance Labs, which bring writers up to “the mountain” where the Sundance Film Festival takes place. For many filmmakers, Sundance is the epitome of festival screenings — to work out there is a pretty special opportunity.
What To Expect When Participating in a Lab
Director of the Sundance Episodic Lab Jandiz Cardoso probably said it best: “Expect to work hard.”
Basic Structure and Activities
Every lab is different in structure and activities, so it can be difficult to know what you’re walking into. However, most of them include meetings, classes, workshops, and writing sessions.
Sundance participants get two months of prep work ahead of the lab and spend six days deeply embedded in meetings, writing sessions, and educational classes. In the 2022 WeScreenplay TV Writers Lab, eight writers attended five days of workshops that included twenty-nine meetings, four group workshops, and two notes sessions.
Stay Awake and Hydrated
Corey Dashaun, a Sundance Episodic Fellow, encouraged attendees to load up on coffee in the morning and hydrate during the day. It will take a lot more energy than you might think, whether the lab is virtual or in person. From workshopping your script to meeting new people, providing notes for fellow participants, learning new concepts, and chatting during meals…it’s a lot.
Expect to Talk (and Laugh) A Lot
The purpose of a screenwriting lab isn’t just to learn and grow your career — it’s to make lifelong friends and creative partners. So, be prepared, on day one, to talk and share and laugh a lot!
WeScreenplay TV Lab participant Allyn Rachel said:
“It was so – wholesome is the wrong word. It was wonderful. Everybody was so kind and excited and invested. We laughed a lot. And we just all showed up…having been so isolated — as everybody else has been for years at this point — it was just so nice to be in an environment with really enthusiastic peers…It was just so immediately positive. And it only got more so as it went on.”
Mock Writers Rooms
Participating in a mock writers’ room is a great benefit of a television or episodic lab. Learning how a team of people breaks episodes and seasons, divides the writing itself, and punches up scripts is invaluable for anyone hoping to staff. Anything you can do to gain experience before your first day on the job will make you much more hireable and useful when it’s time to do the work.
Give and Receive Feedback
Expect to give and receive feedback. Expect to have your plans and “darlings” questioned. Expect to grow. Expect to experience the joy of working alongside other writers who understand the toils and triumphs of this business and industry. And really, really, really expect to work full time and need some decompression time when it’s over and you return back to your home and regular schedule.
What To Look For in a Screenwriting Lab
There are so many screenwriting labs out there but not all of them are going to be worth your time, energy, and money. Let’s go over a few things you should consider before choosing one.
Screenwriting labs can be an avenue to gain traction, deepen your skills, and open doors. Still, with so many out there, it’s critical to be discerning about where to spend your money and be honest with yourself about why you’re submitting to that particular lab.
There are a lot of companies that want easy money from you, so it’s important to do your research. Some film festivals like Sundance or the Athena Film Festival have screenwriting competitions — these are well-respected places where placements might mean something when you’re looking for reps or employment.
Many submission forms come with an option for coverage. Ask your network for recommendations — did entrants feel their feedback or coverage was fair? Was the entry fee reasonable? How was the customer service? WeScreenplay provides free coverage to every entrant. Slamdance has given feedback to screenwriters who impressed the judges but didn’t advance to place. These personal touches demonstrate when a company is sincerely trying to provide career assistance for writers.
How Does It Pertain to You and Your Story?
Some screenwriting labs are designed for all screenwriters in general, but some specifically cater to more specific aspects of writing, whether it’s a certain genre or format, or to the needs and unique qualities of people from specific communities.
If you have a TV pilot, then it’s clear that you want to submit to a TV or episodic lab rather than features or documentary lab. (Alternately, it should be obvious that if you want to get into an episodic lab, you will need to write an episodic sample — your one-person show probably isn’t gonna cut it.)
WeScreenplay offers several screenwriting labs based on format, including Short Script, TV Pilot, and Features.
But you can go further by looking for screenwriting labs created for specific people or projects. For example, the WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Lab seeks to help elevate stories that are told from perspectives that are often underrepresented in film and TV today, including writers of color, women writers, writers with disabilities, writers over 40, writers in the LGBTQ+ community, and any other voices that Hollywood has ignored.
The Writers Lab at the Athena Film Festival is a three-day creative development workshop for emerging women and non-binary writers, providing storytellers with creative guidance, training, industry access, and a valuable, supportive network. Applicants must submit a project that includes a woman or women characters in a leadership role or position at the story’s center.
The 1497 Features Lab is designed to elevate and develop screenplays by writers of South Asian descent. The Ojalá Ignition Lab is committed to empowering Latine creators by offering a nurturing artistic space to hone their voice.
If you are a writer from an underserved community, chances are there is a lab or program out there designed to lift you up and elevate your career. If your screenplay is unique or about a topic that mainstream programs have neglected, there might be a lab for you, so do your research and seek out those opportunities and communities.
Your Specific Needs
If you have producers and names attached to your script, it may be different from the kind of development the Sundance Episodic Lab is designed to provide. You may need a production/financing/distribution lab. Maybe you aren’t able to travel, and you’re looking for a virtual lab. Maybe your screenplay is solid, but you need to meet industry professionals and literary representatives to help you get it into the hands of a buyer. Just because a lab is prestigious doesn’t mean it’s the right fit for you.
Don’t waste your time or money on entry fees and submit essays for something that won’t actually help you meet your goals.
Most Well-Known Screenwriting Labs
We have compiled a comprehensive list of verified screenwriting labs below — please note that all summary details should be reviewed in full on the official screenwriting lab program website as changes to the program requirements and submission schedules occur every year.
Film Independent Screenwriting Lab
Previous Application Dates: July – September
Format & Eligibility: The Screenwriting Lab is a two-week workshop in the first quarter of the year designed to provide individualized story and career development for emerging screenwriters with a fiction feature screenplay.
Each Screenwriting Fellow will be paired with a Creative Advisor, with whom they’ll work one-on-one and in group sessions further to develop their project throughout the program. The Screenwriting Lab also helps to further the careers of its Fellows by introducing them to film industry veterans who can offer guidance on both the craft and business of screenwriting. Various guest speakers may screen and discuss their own films and offer career insights, and a final pitch event offers further opportunities for individualized feedback and discussion with industry executives.
Submission Details: Details are available on the submissions page.
Applicants must submit the following materials for consideration:
- A cover letter detailing what drew you to apply to the Screenwriting Lab and why this is the right time for you to participate in the program (500 words max)
- One complete, feature-length screenplay
- An artist statement explaining the genesis of the story, your creative vision, and intentions for the film (750 words max)
- A lookbook (optional)
- A logline (35 words) and synopsis for the film
- Bios of attached key cast and crew, if any – Attachments are not required for consideration
- Project status and history, including any relevant development history, awards received, or labs and/or markets attended with the project
- A narrative directing sample, if you plan on directing the film with which you are applying
1497 Features Lab
Application Details: First quarter of 2023
Format & Eligibility: The 1497 Features Lab is designed to elevate and develop screenplays by writers of South Asian descent while providing career support. They believe in a holistic approach to fostering writers’ creative and career journeys. As a result, each selected Mentee will move through a multi-tiered process: Script Development, Mentorship, and Connect with the Industry. The 2023 Lab will be held in person. To be eligible, applicants must be of South Asian descent, over 18 years of age, must reside in the United States, and have a completed narrative feature script.
Submission Details: All applications must be submitted through Coverfly, which requires applications to be completed in one sitting. Applicants will submit links to past work, an artistic statement, a logline, a script synopsis, and the screenplay’s first ten pages as a PDF. If you are named one of the 10 Finalists, you must submit a full screenplay draft and participate in a virtual interview with 1497.
Sundance Feature Film Labs
January Screenwriters Lab: The Screenwriters Lab supports writers, writers/directors, and writer/director teams developing their first or second fiction feature films. If you previously had more than one fiction feature produced, you are not eligible to apply. International projects must have a director attached.
Screenwriters Intensive: The Screenwriters Intensive supports writers, writers/directors, and writer/director teams from underrepresented communities developing a first-fiction feature screenplay. Typically, the majority of artists selected for the Screenwriters Intensive are U.S.-based, but international artists may be considered.
Directors and Screenwriters Lab: (By Invitation Only) There is no open application available for these Labs, which are typically populated by projects that have already been supported via a prior Institute program such as the Screenwriters Lab, Intensive, or grant. The lab supports first-time fiction feature directors; application to the development track is the best way to put your project into the pipeline of eventual consideration for the Directors and Screenwriters Lab.
Universal Writers Lab
Application Dates: Typically opens and closes in October.
Format & Eligibility: The Universal Writers Program identifies up-and-coming and experienced screenwriters with unique points of view that build upon the Studio’s commitment to telling stories and creating films that reflect the vast diversity of our audiences. The only feature film program sanctioned by the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW), the Program develops storytellers who organically incorporate multicultural and global perspectives in screenwriting. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age before the Program start date, and applicants must be authorized to work in the United States.
Submission Details: Applicants must submit a Universal Writers Program application, an original screenplay, an original treatment for a project other than the submitted screenplay, a release form for submitted material, a current résumé, and a personal essay. Letters of recommendation are not required but are optional.
The Writers Lab NYC
Application Dates: Typically open from January-March.
Format & Eligibility: The Writers Lab is presented by New York Women in Film & Television. The Lab is a four-day writer’s workshop that gives women screenwriters over 40 the opportunity to work intensively on their feature film scripts with the support of established film professionals. The Lab only accepts female writers over the age of 40.
Submission Details: Participants will submit a general application that includes a script logline and genre and a full-length feature narrative script in PDF format, no more than 120 pages long, registered with the WGA or US Copyright Office.
WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Lab
Application Dates: February-April
Format & Eligibility: Diverse Voices is a dynamic virtual screenwriting lab with a proven track record of helping elevate stories told from perspectives often underrepresented in film and TV today; this includes writers of color, women writers, writers with disabilities, writers over 40, writers in the LGBTQ+ community, and any other voices that have historically been ignored by Hollywood.
All entrants will receive a page of written feedback on their script from their first round’s judge.
Submission Details: Submit a full-length script via Coverfly.
WeScreenplay Features Lab
Application Dates: October-February
Format & Eligibility: The WeScreenplay Feature Lab exists to help elevate your craft while also providing access to industry pros who can help you develop the skills needed for a career as a screenwriter. The lab will select a minimum of 4 winners to participate in a three-day interactive virtual screenwriting lab that’s like no other.
All entrants will receive a page of written feedback on their script from their first round’s judge.
Submission Details: Submit a full-length script via Coverfly.
Black List / Women in Film Episodic Lab
Previous Application Dates: January 5, 2022 – January 8, 2023.
Format & Eligibility: The Black List and Women In Film will invite six to eight promising non-professional television writers who identify as women to the Lab. You must be competent to contract and over the age of 18. You must not have earned more than $25,000 in the aggregate in connection with any prior television writing work.
Submission Details: Please note applicants can apply through the Black List and/or WIF; however, instructions are different for each platform.
From the Black List submissions, up to 12 writers will be invited, based on the strength of their scripts, to submit a one-page personal statement and professional resume. In addition, WIF will generate its own shortlist of up to 12 writers who submitted directly to WIF. From the total of those 24 submissions, up to 15 writers will be invited to interview. From those interviews, 6-8 writers will be selected by the Black List and WIF to participate in the Lab.
Film Independent Episodic Lab
Previous Application Dates: February (extended deadline)
Format & Eligibility: Designed to support writers with original long-form episodic projects, Film Independent’s Episodic Lab will accept a diverse group of 6–8 writers or writing teams and provide them with critical support and mentorship. Through personalized feedback from experienced showrunners, creative producers, and executives, Fellows will gain the tools to revise and refine their pilots and navigate a changing industry landscape.
The Episodic Lab helps to further the careers of its Fellows by introducing them to industry veterans who can offer guidance on both the craft and business of writing episodic content. Each Fellow will be paired with a Creative Advisor with whom they’ll work one-on-one and in group sessions to develop their project during September. Additionally, guest speakers will screen and discuss their own work to offer insights into the creative process and industry best practices. A final networking and pitch event will offer Fellows the opportunity to introduce themselves and their work to studio and network executives.
Submission Details: Details are available on the submissions page.
- A cover letter introducing yourself and your interest in the Episodic Lab
- One complete, original pilot
- A series logline and pilot synopsis
- A series description describing the story engine and series arc of the show
- Project status and history, including any industry exposure
- A series proposal document that includes brief descriptions of the world of the series and its premise and genre, as well as breakdowns of the show’s primary characters and their first-season arcs
National Hispanic Media Coalition Series Scriptwriters Program
Application Dates: March 2023
Format & Eligibility: Ten diverse Latinx writers nationwide are selected for a 7-week intense writers lab. At the end of the program, these writers will have either a half-hour or hour-long original series pilot, which they will pitch to Industry leaders, beginning with our partners at ABC and NBC. Over the 7-week duration, writers work with a professional writing mentor, meet and speak with professional industry writers, and build a community of Latinx writers. The program is officially conducted virtually. You must be 18 years or older, live in the United States, and must have access to a reliable internet connection to participate in daily video conferencing.
Submission Details: Complete an online application, submit one properly formatted script (half-hour, 1-hour, or features are accepted), logline, resume, bio, and statement of purpose.
The Ojalá Ignition Lab
Application Dates: Typically open from June-July
Format & Eligibility: Established by Universal Content Productions and writer/producer Tanya Saracho (Vida), the Ojalá Ignition Lab is committed to empowering Latine creators by offering a nurturing artistic space to hone their voice. The Lab will serve as a culturally safe creative environment for writers to gain industry insight from established showrunners and producers, all while developing a television pilot script from start to finish. The Lab aims to give development access to TV writers who haven’t yet been staffed or whose careers have been stalled by repeating lower staffing levels, as well as storytellers from other disciplines who desire to enter the television space. Five writers will be selected to write a new original television project from story idea to finished pilot script. UCP will compensate the writers for this pilot.
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age at the time of application and legally authorized to live, work and participate in the Lab in the United States. Applicants of diverse backgrounds and all Latinidades are encouraged to apply, including Afro-Latine and Indigenous writers.
Submission Details: You will submit an application, a one-page television proposal of the pilot you will be developing during the lab, a full writing sample along with an excerpted ten pages from the full writing sample, and a signed submission release agreement.
Sundance Episodic Lab
Application Dates: Typically opens February-March.
Format & Eligibility: Offering one of the few training grounds for independent voices to develop an original series and pilot script, the Sundance Institute Episodic Program provides artists with the tools, training, and industry access to move their projects and careers forward. Applicants must be 18 or older at the time of application. The project must be the applicant’s original creation or adapted from the optioned source material. The project must be written in the English language. The project must be new: not previously submitted to Sundance, not already produced, not already sold to a third party, and not distributed online or otherwise. Applicants cannot sell an episodic project (pilot or pitch) to a studio or network that has been shot in the past. The project shall not infringe the copyright or any other proprietary right of another individual or entity. The creator/applicant is responsible for all rights pertaining to the project.
- Bio(s) of the writer(s) (no more than 250 words per person)
- Series logline: A one-sentence description of your series (no more than 50 words) that conveys what your project is about.
- Pilot synopsis (no more than 500 words): A summary of your pilot episode.
- Series overview: This is a one-page description of your series that gives the reader a feel for its main characters, the basic plot, and demands as the tone and format. Imagine you’re describing your series to a friend in a way that conveys your excitement, clearly explains what your series is about, and gives them a reason to want to watch it.
- Personal statement (no more than 250 words): A brief written response to the following questions:
- What is your personal connection to the material?
- Why are you the best person to tell this story?
- Why tell this story now?
- Community Connection: Do you have any personal connection to the unique communities featured in your story?
- Thematic Statement (no more than 250 words): A brief written response to the following questions:
- What is the theme of your series? That is, what is the central idea or big question you are exploring? (E.g., “In the wake of the ultimate betrayal, how does one continue to trust others?” OR “Are criminals born or are they made?” OR “Can a modern family still function like a traditional family?”)
- How is this “thematic question” explored on an episode-to-episode basis in your series? (E.g., “In each episode, the betrayal is seen through the eyes of a different character as its ripple effect permeates more and more lives” OR “In each episode, we focus on a different criminal and the path that led to their crimes” OR “In each episode, an unconventional family struggles to overcome conventional problems”)
- How does this theme inform each of your characters and their journeys over the course of the series? How does the theme connect emotionally to what your characters are going through?
- Characters and Core Relationships: How does your theme inform each of your characters over the course of the series? How does the theme connect emotionally to what your characters are going through? What is the core relationship(s) you hope to explore between the lead characters throughout your series? How do your lead characters explore the theme from their own unique points of view? (no more than 250 words)
- Episodic Vision: Why must your story be told across multiple episodes and/or seasons?
- Video Samples of Previous Work (OPTIONAL): Provide one to three links to samples of your previous work (not to exceed 10 minutes total in length). Samples may include short films, web series episodes, or other relevant video content. Please be sure to include passwords as needed. A decision not to provide a video sample will not negatively impact our review of your application.
- Full pilot script: Scripts should be submitted as PDFs and written in traditional screenplay format.
You can submit an application here.
WeScreenplay TV Pilot Lab
Application Dates: June-October
Format & Eligibility: WeScreenplay’s TV Pilot Lab delivers a one-of-a-kind virtual writing lab hosted by top managers, agents, writers, and more. Winners take part in an interactive 4-day virtual lab with hands-on workshops, industry meetings, and will learn from working TV writers. At least four winners will be selected to participate in this career-changing lab.
All entrants will receive a page of written feedback on their script from their first round’s judge.
Submission Details: Submit a full-length script via Coverfly.
How To Prepare for Screenwriting Lab Submissions
Okay, you’ve learned the benefits of screenwriting labs, you’ve determined your specific needs as a writer, and you’ve chosen which lab you want to enter. How do you prepare?
Stephen King famously said, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” Reading scripts can give you an idea of how to push the boundaries while keeping your script moving at a good pace for your reader. Like a book, you want your reader to get immersed in your story. The best way to do this is to learn from those who succeeded.
Reading scripts before your lab will not only make you a better writer but will prepare you for reading the projects your peers bring to the lab. You will most likely be expected to give notes and feedback — so hone those skills before your lab begins.
Read More: Screenplays That Readers Love
Coverage ratings can briefly be defined as qualitative scores to help compare your writing to others. Ratings can be seen as an overall impression of your script that will highlight particular strengths and weaknesses.
When seeking coverage for your screenplay, it’s important to go to a vetted and trustworthy resource. From there, know that it’s a subjective opinion from one person in the industry. A good program will hire readers with respectable experience in screenwriting. WeScreenplay, in fact, lists some qualifications of your reader in your coverage notes.
From there, you can utilize the feedback to glean insight into how your script is coming across to other readers — and qualitatively compare it to the work of other writers.
If you didn’t already include your writing resume and/or bio when submitting for the lab, you may want to get a head start on it before you arrive. It can take some time to track down the details of your experience. If you’re unsure where to start, begin by looking at your peers’ resumes or reading the bios of previous participants in a program you respect. A quick search online brought up the 2023 Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab and Screenwriters Intensive Fellows — complete with their biographies.
Pay attention to the details they include. How much time did they spend on their hometowns or heritage? What work experience or accolades did they include? How about quippy personal details or surprising facts?
Maintain a working document of your bio in multiple lengths: 100 words, 500 words. Keep a personal bio and a professional bio — some programs distinguish the two.
And make sure each year you give these a new pass to keep them current and fresh.
By now, you’ve probably heard the question, “why you, why now?” with regard to pitching yourself as a writer. It comes up in general meetings, in pitches, and in submission consideration for programs and fellowships, many of which include an essay portion or a personal statement as part of their package.
Being a successful writer is so much more than just being a great screenwriter — you must also be adept at selling yourself. A personal statement is a great opportunity to do just that.
It also refers to shorter versions, such as a one-minute introduction or a thirty-second elevator pitch. Sometimes you’ll be asked to share one interesting fact about yourself.
In a WGA TV Fellowship Panel, Jorge Rivera urged writers to convey a sense of style, personal pitch, and perspective that no one else has — “and everything in your package should fit the brand.”
If you’re submitting comedies to a writing lab, then your personal essay should probably have a joke or two in it. Programmers want to see your writing chops. Your unique voice needs to come through in the personal statement — but this is also your opportunity to connect with the readers through some kind of emotionality.
In a UCLA Extension Class covering TV Fellowships, instructors Ron McCants and Kristine Huntley — both Disney/ABC Writing Program alumni — offer writing exercises to churn some inspiration here. Try writing 100-250 words answering each of the following questions:
- What are stories from formative moments in your life? How have they influenced your writing and the stories you want to tell?
- What inspires you to want to write for TV? (Hint: It should be stronger than your joy of TV.)
The key is to identify what makes you unique. What stories and anecdotes about yourself can you tell people to make yourself stand out?
A cohesive brand should tie you, the writer, into your writing samples. Consider your answers to the questions above and see if you can relate them to the writing samples you’re submitting. How does your own story inform your writing?
A few ways to identify your brand is to answer the following questions:
- What do you write and why?
- What kind of style and voice do you have?
- What material is in your current body of work?
Finally, look at your resume. What kind of story does it tell? What are you doing now to be interesting and skillful? What kind of contribution are you making to your community?
Take time to reflect on these questions as a writer and then embed your responses into your essay questions. Keep track of these and see how they change over time — or refer to them if you get to the interview stage of the application process.
If a script is perfect, it won’t need a screenwriting lab. Someone will buy it and produce it. Screenwriting labs are for the person just as much as the project, so take time to get a great sense of who you are and what you want to offer this world through your writing.
Shannon Corbeil is a writer, actor, and U.S. Air Force veteran in Los Angeles with recent appearances on SEAL Team and The Rookie. She was also a 2023 DGE TV Writing Program Finalist, and her screenplays have placed in various contests. You can read more about her on her website or come play on Instagram and Twitter!