A Closer Look at Film Independent's Directing Lab Fellowship

Aren't directing labs cool? Think about it. Foundations match aspiring filmmakers with some of the industry's best and brightest directors who openly talk about technique, style, and nifty tricks than can only be learned while on the job.

It's an interesting concept because at the end of the day, all directors, theoretically speaking, are competing against one another — for producers' attention, for finite funding dollars, for distributors, etc. Can you imagine this model superimposed on, say, Wall Street? Can you picture a hedge fund manager standing in front of his competitors openly talking about this super-cool leveraging tool whereby they generate an extra $40 million by fudging a certain metric on a P&L statement, all while outsmarting the SEC regulators? (Pardon my cynicism, by the way.) 

Of course you can't. Because it doesn't happen. But this open and free exchange of ideas is refreshingly prevalent in the film world. Sundance, most notably, offers screenwriting and directing labs, and as we note in our Sundance Funder Profile, participation in such labs is often a prerequisite for future grant opportunities.

Then there's Film Independent. The name may ring a bell. We recently looked at how the nonprofit, which also produces the Spirit Awards and the Los Angeles Film Festival, partnered with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to provide $25,000 Sloan Producers Grants for the development of narrative films with scientific, mathematical, or technological themes.

Film Independent also has a soft spot for directors, as evidenced in their innovative Directing Lab. It's is an intensive eight-week program designed to support emerging independent film directors in preparation for their feature films. Fellows also attend Film Independent’s "Directors Close-Up" series that offers a unique opportunity to hear directly from the best independent directors and their collaborators as they explore specific aspects of their craft.

The primary focus of the lab is working with actors in the rehearsal process. Creative Advisors help fellows shoot short scenes and tweak scripts while Film Independent provides the equipment. As the press release notes, "The process creates an opportunity to see the work through from pre- to post-production, and culminates in a group screening for the advisors, Film Independent staff and fellows."

Film Independent just announced the six winners of the 2015 Directing Lab Fellowship. You can see the full list of winners here. What's more, Film Independent also awarded the inaugural Ammon Foundation Fellowship for a Female Director to Philiane Phang who was accepted into the Lab with her project The Space Between. The fellowship includes a $10,000 unrestricted cash grant.

The Directing Lab is supported by lead funder, the Time Warner Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts and The Ammon Foundation.