The Sundance Screenwriters Lab is one of the most prestigious and selective filmmaking programs in the world, but what IS it actually? What it is... is hard to describe.
In this episode of The No Film School Podcast, I sit down with four 2016 Screenwriters Lab Fellows, fresh from their lab experiences, to see if they can describe it (I'm two years removed from my own Screenwriters Lab experience and I still can't). They are Will Jaymes, Mark Levinson, Joe Talbot, and Eva Vives.
For more on these lab fellows and their projects, see the full list of 2016 Sundance Screenwriters Lab Fellows. Also, I am a screenwriter not a mathematician: there were actually only four other fellows on the podcast, not five as I say in the recording — maybe I was including myself.
Honestly, I was worried about doing this episode — is the lab better off as a complete mystery? Am I revealing some sort of trade secret by doing this podcast? But ultimately, listening to our conversation, I realized that the lab experience itself is sui generis; it really can't be replicated. Here I am two years later, about to finally shoot my Netflix-backed feature AMATEUR, and even after doing this podcast with
five four other fellows I don't know how to characterize what it did for me as a writer. So here are some quotes trying to explain the unexplainable:
Mark Levinson: Here we are, a bunch of writers, and we can't put in words what we felt there. Isn't that the whole point, that a film is so much more than the words?
Joe Talbot: You feel special: something you're doing has been acknowledged by this incredible group of people. And then you get there, and they shit on you. And you've never been happier to be shat on.
Eva Vives: We were all in good hands. It was a group of people who have been doing this for a very long time and that made me feel very taken care of, and organized, and secure. At every turn, they never stopped making us feel emotional. It was relentless... it was done by design, to pummel us, but in a good way.
Will Jaymes: It seemed crazy to me — you can't get more experienced screenwriters, and they care SO much. They're talking to each other about your scripts in the morning, at lunch... and I think that's what inspires you afterward.