A few entries back I suggested that if a screenwriter were to enter only one screenwriting contest/fellowship, it should be the Nicholl. And that advice still stands, of course. But what if a screenwriter wants to enter more than one contest/fellowship? What other ones are recommended – and good?
Well, number two on my list is Robert Redford’s Feature Film Program’s Screenwriters Lab, which, for would be screenwriters, represents the jewel in the crown of the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. This is not a fellowship per se, but it might as well be.
Redford, who loved his role as the Sundance Kid and didn’t mind playing second fiddle to Paul Newman’s Butch Cassidy, founded the Sundance Institute in 1981, with the following mission: “discovery and development of independent artists and audiences. Through its programs, the Institute seeks to discover, support, and inspire independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work.”
Entry fees in the Screenwriters Lab are modest ($30 last time I checked) and there are twelve slots available for the bi-annual Lab. If you win one, you’ll get a chance to work with Redford, himself, and a host of other screenwriting and film notables. “Graduates” of the Sundance Screenwriters Lab include Darren Aronfsky, who worked on “Requiem for a Dream” during his time at the lab. That’s the good news: Sundance’s Screenwriters Lab provides its winners with real hands-on practice and it surrounds you with working writers, actors, and directors. In between the two Screenwriters Labs, good writers, who produce good screenplays, really do have a shot at seeing their work produced during the Directors Lab, and who doesn’t want to see his or her work produced? And, if Sundance really, really likes what you’ve written, they’ll continue to provide you with support after your stint in the lab is finished. This could include the arrangement of financing, production, and distribution of your movie.
The only downside to Sundance is that it lacks the Nicholl’s $30,000 is prize money and it’s far more condensed than the Nicholl, but hey, I wouldn’t refuse it. Would you?