“Before WeScreenplay, I was a relatively new screenwriter and playwright. I had a few scripts win competitions prior to WeScreenplay, but those opportunities didn’t give me access into ‘Hollywood’. I didn’t know if I or what I had written was ‘enough’. I had never taken a meeting. I had no idea how to package and present myself. I was 100% a total newbie and the Lab changed all of that.” — Jason Forbach, Fall 2020 Winner
WeScreenplay’s flagship Screenwriting Lab program, Diverse Voices, had an incredibly successful pivot to the virtual space in 2020, necessitated by the global pandemic.
Let’s set the scene. In October 2020, WeScreenplay brought together the 8 writers that had been named winners in the two competitions that year for 7 days of meetings, workshops, and networking over two consecutive long weekends. The lab is usually one long weekend in person in Los Angeles, California, but because the spring winners had their lab postponed due to COVID, both groups had their labs at the same time.
While every Diverse Voice Lab is different depending on the individual writers who participate in it, here are a few of the highlights from the 2020 labs:
Table of Contents
Tables Reads with Professional Actors
Each writer chose a section of their script and WeScreenplay cast professional actors to do a live Zoom reading! Not only did most writers hear their work out loud for the first time, but it was also an opportunity for them to network with working actors who brought their own flair and insights to each character.
“The table reads that they organized for each of our scripts were a wonderful experience. It stood out because, apart from it just being fun to see actors bring your characters to life, it felt like a celebration of the work of each of the writers, and an opportunity to honor and talk about each other’s work.”
— Elise Brown
Meetings with Literary Reps
WeScreenplay scheduled multiple literary rep meetings for each writer who was searching for representation. These meetings included some of the industry’s biggest management companies and agencies like Zero Gravity Management, APA, Gotham Group, First Friday Entertainment, Lit Entertainment, Anonymous Content, and more. Writers walked away fielding multiple offers for representation and were able to find industry partners who are excited to champion their work.
“I was able to sign with management at 3 Arts and work with Zero Gravity, as they are helping produce and package my pilot, BROOKLYN PANSY. Collectively, we are gaining interest in the project and moving it along, speaking with some names in the industry that I’ve admired for years. It’s completely overwhelming and surreal.”
— Jason Forbach
“Through WeScreenplay advocating for my script and sending it to other great collaborators, I signed with my first lit team, and I love them.”
— Junot Lee
Written Feedback for All – Not Just Those Selected
Every writer who enters the Diverse Voices competition receives a notes from their first round judge — completely free. Even if you’re not ultimately selected for the Lab, you’ll walk away with great direction for where to take your script next.
And we were able to push that further in the lab itself — the writers all read each other’s scripts and engaged in meaningful conversations about what what working and what could be worked further.
“The WeScreenplay Diverse Voices Lab was so informative, and we met some great execs who are supportive of diverse voices. I loved meeting my peers and creating a community that will grow together in our careers. Giving and getting notes from my fellow writers was a highlight. And following up with the executives, and creating relationships is exciting.” — Tricia Lee, Spring 2020 Winner.
Inspiring Meetings with Industry Leaders
Diverse Voices Lab winners took meetings with working screenwriters, development execs, and industry leaders from some of Hollywood’s leading production companies and studios including Lionsgate, Lifetime, Warner Brothers, ITV, Lena Waithe’s company Hillman Grad, Jonah Hill’s company Strong Baby, Sony Pictures, Paul Feig’s digital content company Powderkeg, and more.
“I loved our meetings with Jason Kyle [Sony Pictures] and Courtney Mock [Lionsgate TV]. They both came into the session with humility and kindness. I know personally, I have looked at some of the people in the industry like they are all powerful beings that are from a different world when in reality, they are just like you and me. I loved how Courtney was so open about her success in work and how she balanced that with motherhood (something I think about a lot) and how Jason reminded us that our work may get us in the door but who we are as people is what matters.”
— Phylicia Pearl Mpasi
“I enjoyed our meeting with producer Gabby Revilla, who’s also a writer. She helped us clearly understand how to pitch our stories and how to navigate the way our business thinks in choosing projects. She also shared a great story about how she worked with Damien Chazzelle to piece together his proof of concept short, which led to ‘Whiplash.’ She encouraged him to focus everything he could on his first project because that first story is our calling card.” — Junot Lee
Peer Mentorship & Social Connections
Lab participants met 1:1 with working writers in the industry for advice and mentorship as they continue navigating their screenwriting careers. Writers also had the chance to share their own experiences with the group, leading discussions and exposing one another to various aspects of the industry.
But it wasn’t all work! WeScreenplay made sure to schedule unstructured time for social connections, as well — from virtual “dinners” to game nights to coffee dates.
“I met friends who will help me grow in both my craft and career. I’ve worked in our industry outside of writing for nearly 7 years. The pursuit often feels futile. WeScreenplay gave me inspiration and encouragement. It just takes one person to believe in you to help you get a running start. WeScreenplay filled those shoes, and I’m grateful.” — Junot Lee
The Results? Long-Lasting Career Impact
We were curious to see how embracing this virtual version of the Lab would impact our writers’ career traction, and we were blown away with the result. Writers continue benefiting from the meetings and relationships that started as part of the Diverse Voices Lab!
One writer was recently staffed on CANDY starring Elizabeth Moss after a general at UCP that was set up by WeScreenplay.
“Landing your first writing job in TV can feel like its own kind of magic; a lot of things often have to come together for executives and showrunners to take a chance on you when you’re just starting out. I was meeting a lot of wonderful people, but just hadn’t run into that opportunity where everything aligned. That opportunity came for me after Diverse Voices. Once you’re part of the WeScreenplay family, it feels like they are truly rooting for your success and do what they can to help you achieve it.” — Elise Brown
“I can’t thank WeScreenplay enough. Your supportive, individualized care and attention toward each writer is unique and incredibly special. It has absolutely changed the course of my life and career.” — Jason Forbach
Want the chance to be part of one of the TWO Diverse Voices Labs WeScreenplay holds every year? Submit your Feature or TV pilot today!
Sarah J. Eagen is a comedy/dramedy writer and actor based in Los Angeles who heads up the WeScreenplay competitions, events, and ongoing writer mentorship. She was recently staffed on the sci fi audio drama anthology THE VEIL from Voxx Studios, was a Semifinalist for the Humanitas NEW VOICES & NBC’s Writers On the Verge programs, and she appeared in CBS’ RUSH HOUR and THE BIG BANG THEORY (see Mom, I am using my Neuroscience degree!) You can learn more on her website or get in touch with her on Twitter!