GOING BIONIC: DISTRIBUTING INDEPENDENT FILMS INTERNATIONALLY – BREAKING IN FROM THE OUTSIDE, PART 2: OPPORTUNITIES AT UCLA & SUNDANCE

Hi Everyone. I hope all of you are gearing up for a wonderfully relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. Even though I gave up eating Turkey and all other meat in 2000, I’m still looking forward to having my “Thanksgiving Salmon” along with mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.  I can’t wait to plant my twin daughters next to me on the sofa and watch my beloved San Francisco 49ers win their ninth in a row. But first, I’d like to share a few more “bionic” strategies with you.

Continuing with our series of columns on “Breaking In From The Outside,” today we’re going to discuss some “strategic educational and professional development” opportunities at The UCLA School of Film, Television and Digital Media and The Sundance Institute. These programs will only force you to leave your nest for a short while, while “branding” you so that everyone in Hollywood will pay attention to you. Of course, the following opportunities cost money, and some are very competitive to get into, but nothing worthwhile is easy, and I only want the best for all of you.

The UCLA Professional Program in Producing
In April of 1995, a few months before this program was created, I was asked to become one of its inaugural instructors. Honored to teach at my alma mater, I gladly accepted. Thus, in June of 1995, I taught my first two-week course at the UCLA Professional Program In Producing, and continued to do so in 1996 and 1997. In short, it was heaven; and I still have dear friends whom were my students back then, and are accomplished film professionals now.

This amazing program is a 10-week, intensive study on all aspects of the film industry. Here’s what the UCLA website says about the topics covered:

Creative Producing/Feature Film Preparation, Digital Filmmaking, Feature Film Financing, Feature Film Development, Pitching, Contracts/Negotiations, Clearance/Copyright, The Half-Hour Sitcom, The One-Hour Drama, The Television Production Shingle, Creating a Television Series, Feature Film Marketing, Television Marketing, Alternative Programming, Feature Film Animation, Theatrical Distribution, Packaging the Independent Feature, Budgeting, Cutting Edge Distribution, The Writer/Producer Partnership, Documentary Filmmaking, and Post-Production.

The program classes meet from Monday to Thursday from 6 P.M. to 10 P.M. Yes, you read that right; they only meet at night, allowing students to have a job or internship during the day.

Cost: $4,500

Pros: Film Professionals teaching, massive contacts, priceless information, ability to cram in information and contacts within 10 weeks, not 2 to 4 years of graduate school, industry respect for attending UCLA film school, and you get to live in L.A. for the summer!

Cons: None that I can see.

Concerns: This is a professional program, thus I believe you have to already have earned a Bachelor’s degree to qualify.

UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting Online
This academic year long program in screenwriting is taught entirely online. Modeled after the UCLA Graduate School of Film in Screenwriting, this program offers classes with no more than eight students in them, and the “class” actually meets once per week on Skype.  Thus, if you want to be molded by the top screenwriting program on the planet, while staying at home, the UCLA Program In Screenwriting Online could be for you.

Cost: $4,500

Pros: Film Professionals teaching, massive contacts, priceless information, respect for attending UCLA film school.

Cons: None that I can see.

Concerns: This is a professional program, thus I believe you have to already have earned a Bachelor’s degree to qualify.

Side Note:

There is also “one academic year on-campus” version of this online screenwriting program, but since this article is focusing on breaking on from your hometown, I chose not to discuss it here. Should you like information on the one-year, on-campus Professional Program in Screenwriting, please visit: http://www.filmprograms.ucla.edu/index_cs.cfm?action=cs_pps&side=cs

The UCLA Television Business Program
Taught by WGA award-winning writer and current TV producer/show runner Rob Long, this 10-week course teaches the ins and outs of television production. Should this be of interest, you should jump on it soon as it starts in January 2012.

Cost: $850

Pros: Being taught by Rob Long for 10 weeks.

Cons: None that I can see (see pros).

Good News: You do not have to have a Bachelors degree to qualify. Enrollment is on a first come, first serve basis.

Now that I’ve got plugging my beloved UCLA Film School out of my system (for now), let’s discuss what The Sundance Institute offers.

Sundance Screenwriting Lab
This prestigious five-day lab occurs in Sundance, Utah twice per year, every January and June. Twelve projects get chosen for the January lab, with five chosen for June.  According the Sundance website, “The June selections are almost always populated by previous screenwriting projects.

As for what they’re looking for in a perspective project, Sundance offers the following statement:

“Seeks work that represents the personal vision of an artist and challenges and engages audiences in a truly original way.

The Fellows are selected from an open submissions process and a combination of intensive year-round outreach, recommendations from a national network of program alumni, Creative Advisors, film school faculty, film festival staffs, producers, and other film professionals. Historically, open submissions have provided approximately half of the total number of projects considered for the Labs.”

Cost: While there is a nominal application fee of $35, if you earn a spot here, Sundance pays for quite a bit of your costs. Here’s what the Sundance website says about their support:

“Sundance Institute provides airline travel, accommodations, and meals at the Sundance Resort in Utah for one writer/filmmaker per project for the duration of the Lab, in addition to the extensive creative and strategic support provided throughout a project’s development. The Institute considers special requests to provide accommodations and meals for additional creative partners, and may ask the creative team to cover travel and other expenses.”

Pros: It’s Sundance! And they pay for you.

Cons: None, but it’s hard as hell to get into.

Concerns: None.

Sundance Directors Lab
This cornerstone of the Sundance Institute’s year-round programs is held for 3-4 weeks in Sundance, Utah every June. It’s also “invite only” meaning you simply can’t apply to it. However, the directors are chosen from the January Screenwriting lab participants, or the June Screenwriting lab participants, only after their projects have been selected to the January screenwriting labs.

Pros: It’s Sundance! And they pay for you.

Cons: None, but it’s hard as hell to get into.

Concerns: None.

Sundance Creative Producing Fellowship and Lab
This yearlong intensive program is granted to five emerging producers annually. Here’s how Sundance describes it on their website:

The Fellowship focuses on the holistic producer, who identifies, options, develops, and pitches material; champions and challenges the writer/director creatively; raises financing; leads the casting/packaging process; hires and inspires crew; and navigates the sales, distribution, and marketing arenas. The Program is designed to hone emerging producers’ creative instincts and evolve their communicating and problem-solving skills at all stages of realizing a project.

Five producers will be selected for a one-year fellowship, with Fellows supported to participate in the following:

  • Feature Film Creative Producing Lab
  • Creative Producing Summit
  • Sundance Film Festival attendance (screenings, curated meetings, and networking opportunities)
  • $5,000 living stipend
  • $5,000 pre-production grant
  • Year-round mentorship from two industry Advisors
  • Community building among Producing Fellows
  • Year-round support from Sundance Institute staff

Sundance also provides a bit of financial assistance to those who get chosen.

Pros: You become part of the Sundance family.

Cons: None (see above).

Concerns: You may lose some friends due to their jealousy.

Sundance Creative Documentary Labs
The documentary labs are divided into three sections; Edit and Story Lab, Film Composers and Documentary Lab, and the Creative Producers Lab: Documentary.  They are all “invitation only” and they are generally chosen from the recipients of the Sundance Documentary Fund:

Pros: Sundance branding and support.

Cons: None, but it’s hard as hell to get into.

Concerns: Getting into the Sundance Creative Documentary Labs requires getting funded by the Sundance Documentary Fund.

Okay, people. That’s what I’ve got for you today. Next week we’ll have a Thanksgiving edition, and then the following week we’ll come back for one more edition of “Breaking In From The Outside” when we focus on less competitive short-term learning opportunities as well as “pitch fests.”

As Thanksgiving is upon us, I am thankful for you lending me your eyes, and I look forward to borrowing them gain next Tuesday! Have a very happy turkey (salmon or tofu) day!

As always, I can be followed on Twitter @Lonelyseal.




Posted on November 22, 2011 in Features, Going Bionic by
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