The Writers Lab selects 12 promising writers each year, from a competitive pool of submissions, to work with accomplished women mentors from the film industry. Participants spend four days at a retreat outside New York City working on their screenplays and their craft in one-on-one sessions with mentors, and gaining valuable tools and information in panels and workshops to achieve success for their projects and their careers.
New to 2021: Television Pilots
With demand for content from diverse voices skyrocketing, the Lab expands its call this year to include pilot scripts as well as narrative features. Feature and pilot writers selected for the October 2021 retreat will work one-on-one and in group sessions with acclaimed screen industry leaders to develop their scripts and their craft, and to build tools and strategies to achieve success, thus expanding the diversity of new content.
About The Writers Lab
The Writers Lab provides script development for women writers over the age of 40. It creates a springboard for scripts to reach the next stage of production and expands the diversity of narrative film The Lab was launched in 2015 By Kyle Stokes, Founder, and is presented by New York Women in Film & Television and Co-founders Elizabeth Kaiden and Nitza Wilon.
Supported by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, The Lab is a four-day writers workshop that gives women screenwriters over the age of 40 the opportunity to work intensively on their feature film scripts with the support of established film professionals. Mentors and writers engage in a rigorous process of intensive script development through one-on-one meetings, panel discussions, peer workshops, and at group meals, Interactions are designed to inspire the artists; to prompt creative exploration; and, through revision, to cultivate first-rate cinematic stories.
The Writers Lab Across the Pond
In April 2021, The Writers Lab announced the launch of The Writers Lab UK & Ireland (TWL UK & I) with the first script development programme of its kind for women over 40, in partnership with Untamed Stories and supported by Dirty Films, the independent film and television production company headed by Cate Blanchett, Andrew Upton and Coco Francini with leading development producer Georgie Pym, and in association with Birds’ Eye View. Submissions will open April 1, 2021.
TWL UK & I will be produced with UK Partner Untamed Stories, the creative production hub helmed by seasoned development producers Julia Berg and Ruth Spencer; in association with Birds’ Eye View, the not-for-profit which champions the female perspective in film and headed by Mia Bays. The Lab is supported by Dirty Films, as well as Screen Scotland, Screen Skills Ireland, Northern Ireland Screen and Ffilm Cymru & BFI NETWORK with funding from the National Lottery.
About The Writers Lab 2020
The Writers Lab 2020 welcomed its most inclusive class to date, with half of the selected participants identifying as diverse, and half of the projects identified as “genre.” In its first-ever fully virtual experience, the 2020 Lab, which saw a 25% increase in submissions, sought to address the extraordinary circumstances of the historic global moment. The desire for more women-led storytelling is clear, and the expansion to include pilots in 2021 will only serve to further The Lab’s mission of amplifying the oft-unheard voices of women over 40.
Launched in 2015, the program is the only lab in the world devoted exclusively to script development for women writers over the age of 40. The Lab is produced by co-founders Elizabeth Kaiden and Nitza Wilon and New York Women in Film & Television, and supported by Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Oprah Winfrey.
The Writers Lab alumni have gained recognition post-Lab: Six landed writer-for-hire jobs, five were signed by managers or agents, two won The Academy Nicholl Fellowship. Four Lab projects have been optioned or moved into production, one is in post-production, and the Lab will see the emergence of its first completed project in 2021, Alyson Richards’ horror film The Retreat.
As The Writers Lab enters its seventh year, it continues to emphasize the importance of community, advocacy, and support for its now six seasons of alums. New in 2021, The Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation, dedicated to the promotion of the arts, education, and initiatives that seek to better our world utilizing nature and the sciences, will provide funding for The Writers Lab to provide additional resources for its 72 alumni, including its first CharacterFest Pitch Session for the class of 2020 with agents and managers planned for Spring 2021.
The mentors for 2021 – including industry leaders specializing in television development – will be announced soon. 2020 mentors included producers Anne Carey (Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Susan Cartsonis (What Women Want), Shruti Ganguly (The Color of Time), Mary Jane Skalski (Hello I Must Be Going), Frida Torresblanco (Pan’s Labyrinth), Jamie Zelermyer (NYWIFT Board President and former Focus Features VP), and screenwriters Mara Brock Akil (The Game), Pamela Gray (A Walk on the Moon), Lisa Jones (Disappearing Acts), Gina Prince-Bythewood (Beyond the Lights), Theresa Rebeck (355), Robin Swicord (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), and Pat Verducci (True Crime).
Women’s Voices Matter
The Writers Lab is dedicated to developing narrative feature screenplays written by women over the age of 40. We feel it is critical to nurture the voices of mature women that have not been heard and are in danger of being lost entirely. We look forward to a new landscape where the female narrative is in equal proportion to the male narrative, and where shared stories strengthen our ties to one another and empower younger generations.
We are committed to female storytellers, yet we do not limit our search to stories about women. The Writers Lab seeks well crafted scripts, in all genres, exploring universal themes, using a full range of cinematic tools.
The Impact of The Writers Lab
Impact of the Lab to-date:
- Five writers have their first writer-for-hire jobs
- Three writers have their first manager and agent
- One writer won a teaching job at a university
- One of our inaugural scripts has been optioned by a production/financing company with a director attached
- One inaugural script has been optioned by an Oscar-nominated director
- Two writers were awarded the prestigious Nicholl Fellowship for screenwriting, and another was a finalist
The Writers Lab is produced by New York Women in Film & Television, with co-founders Elizabeth Kaiden and Nitza Wilon, and has been supported by Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Oprah Winfrey. It is presented in collaboration with the Writers Guild America, East, with in-kind support from The Black List, Film Fatales, Tribeca Film Institute, Roadmap Writers, Relativity Ventures, and Stony Brook Southampton + Manhattan. A special thank you to Final Draft for their product contribution.
Past mentors include Jessica Bendinger (Bring It On, Aquamarine), Susan Cartsonis (Carrie Pilby, The Duff), Rachel Cohen (Stranger Weather, House of Z), Lisa Cortes (Precious), Amy Fox (Equity), Pamela Gray(A Walk on the Moon, Music of the Heart), Caroline Kaplan (Time Out of Mind, Personal Velocity), Meg LeFauve (Inside Out, The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys), Darnell Martin (Cadillac Records, I Like It Like That), Gina Prince-Bythewood (Secret Life of Bees, Beyond the Lights), Mary Jane Skalski (Win Win, The Station Agent), Kirsten Smith (Legally Blonde, Ten Things I Hate About You), Guinevere Turner (American Psycho, The Notorious Bettie Page), Pat Verducci (Disney/Pixar), Ligiah Villalobos (Under the Same Moon, Firelight).