Film Independent has set the participants and projects for its sixth annual Episodic Lab — an intensive program, designed to provide individualized story and career development for emerging television writers with original pilots. The list includes Christopher Au (Cloak & Data), Miguel Orozo & Boris Rodriguez (East Los Aliens), Terry Dawson (Makeba) GG Hawkins (Murder Podcast), Sarah Mokh (Room 099), and the duo of Ben Gonzales & Erica Bardin (The Deed).
This year’s Lab will be a two-week virtual program helping to further the careers of its Fellows by introducing them to industry veterans who can offer guidance on both the craft and business of writing episodic content. Through personalized feedback from experienced showrunners, creative producers and executives, Fellows will gain the tools to revise and refine their pilots and navigate a changing industry landscape. A final networking and pitch event will then offer participants the opportunity to introduce themselves and their work to studio and network executives.
The 2022 Episodic Lab’s Creative Advisors and Guest Speakers include Linda Yvette Chávez, Silka Luisa, Robbie Pickering, Rebecca Sonnenshine, Ligiah Villalobos, Patrick Magill, Stacy Rukeyser, Jessica Schulman, Marc Mounier, Eliza Wheeler, Elaine Chin, Sydney Lowe, Laura Garrison, Miura Kite, Ellen Shanman, Kelly Kulchak and Sheila Hanahan Taylor. The Lab’s Founding Sponsor, Netflix, will pair each Fellow with an Industry Advisor and provide them with opportunities to learn from the showrunners behind its series.
“We’re incredibly proud to partner with Film Independent on their signature program for emerging television writers,” said Peter Friedlander, who serves as Netflix’s VP of Scripted Series, U.S. and Canada. “We look forward to supporting these talented eight writers over the coming weeks.”
Film Independent has also announced that it will award this year’s Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Grant to 2022 Lab Fellow Au, who will receive $20,000 grant to support the development of his pilot, Cloak & Data. Awarded to outstanding writers whose screenplays integrate science or technology themes and characters into dramatic stories, the Sloan Episodic Lab Grant is part of the Foundation’s nationwide film program to advance public understanding of science and technology.
“I’m honored to receive this year’s Alfred P. Sloan development grant,” said Au. “Cloak & Data is a tech espionage thriller that explores the underbelly of Silicon Valley during the mobile revolution of the late 2000’s, when startups were moving fast and breaking things. I appreciate the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s support for this story, which seeks to underscore the importance of information security in our increasingly digital world.”
Film Independent’s s MPAC Hollywood Bureau Writing Fellowship Grant will go to Mokh, who will receive $10,000 from the organization elevating stories by and about Muslims, in support of her pilot, Room 099.
“We are proud to support writers with such wit, talent, and dedication to authentic storytelling in this year’s Episodic Lab,” remarked Associate Director of Fiction Programs Dea Vazquez in closing, “and to be able to nurture their artistic voices and careers in the program.”
The nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, Film Independent also looks to bolster upcoming filmmakers through Project Involve, additional Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Producing and Screenwriting), its Fast Track Finance Market and Fiscal Sponsorship, as well as through further Grants and Awards, which provide over one million dollars annually in cash and services to visual storytellers.
Past Episodic Lab Fellows include April Shih, who has written on FX’s Dave, Mrs. America, and You’re the Worst and struck an overall deal at FX Productions; Kimi Lee, who sold her show $ugar in a four-way bidding war to Hulu; Henry “Hank” Jones, who has written on Netflix’s Family Reunion and Peacock’s Bel-Air; KD Dávila, who has written on CBS’s Salvation and Freeform’s Motherland: Fort Salem; and Stephanie Adams-Santos, who has written on The CW’s Two Sentence Horror Stories.
More information on the pilots being developed by the 2022 Episodic Lab participants can be found below.
Title: Cloak & Data
Writer: Christopher Au
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Fellowship Awardee
Logline: A straight arrow software engineer is unwittingly thrust into the lucrative underground world of tech espionage, setting her on a dangerous collision course with elite hackers, law enforcement, and the NSA.
Title: East Los Aliens
Writer: Miguel Orozco, Boris Rodriguez
Logline: After a spaceship crashes in East LA, a mixed-status Latino family rescues an alien and must find the courage to defy government officials and save the alien from an evil that could spell the end of humanity.
Writer: Terry Dawson
Logline: In 1959 Harry Belafonte discovers South African singer Miriam Makeba in a London nightclub and invites her to America with the promise to make her a huge star. He delivers and she becomes wildly popular throughout the 60s. But when she becomes romantically involved with notorious political activist and Black Panther Stokely Carmichael she finds herself blackballed from showbiz and exiled from her country.
Title: Murder Podcast
Writer: GG Hawkins
Logline: When a climate radio reporter is forced to investigate a cold case homicide in a rural town, her aspirations for journalistic integrity are threatened by obsessive podcast listeners — true crime junkies with a thirst for vengeance. Murder Podcast is a horror dramedy series about our cultural fixation with true crime.
Title: Room 099
Writer: Sarah Mokh
MPAC, Hollywood Bureau Fellowship Awardee
Logline: In a secret basement prayer room, hidden from their peers and Ivy League Administration, a group of Muslim college students struggle to find their places on campus and in America.
Title: The Deed
Writer: Ben Gonzales, Erica Bardin
Logline: When a struggling entrepreneur receives an unexpected inheritance with unconscionable strings attached, he must comply to protect his family from sinister forces.