Frequently Asked Questions – US
How do I apply?
HOW DO I APPLY?
- Click on the APPLICATION FORM.
- You will be re-routed to a TWL page on the Coverfly website. (Coverfly hosts this contest and you will need a free Coverfly account to submit. You will be able to restrict Coverfly contact to correspondence from The Writers Lab if you wish.)
- When prompted, upload your script as a PDF labeled with the project TITLE ONLY. DO NOT include the name of the screenwriter(s) ANYWHERE on the PDF.
- Complete all fields of the application and click the green SUBMIT box.
- Choose one of the options for our contest and add it to your cart.
- After you finalize payment and submission, you will receive a confirmation from Coverfly that you have successfully entered The Writers Lab contest.
Additionally, prior to submission, writers in the U.S. should register their script for copyright.
- Register your script with either The Writers Guild or the U.S. Copyright Office. Registration is quick and easy, and will protect you and The Lab’s staff and volunteers.
The Writers Guild of America, East, has offered the discounted price of $17 to Lab applicants who are not members of the Guild. Click HERE to register through the WGA. Choose the Student and NYWIFT/The Writers Lab option.
- If you are entering from outside the U.S., please register your script with your local Writers Guild or U.S. copyright office. TWL also recommends THE SCRIPT VAULT for those outside the U.S.
What are the submission period and fees?
Submission windows and fee structures are below. Please note, there are no deadline extensions.
- US Lab submissions are February 15th – March 31st, 2023.
- The Early Bird Submission period is February 15th – March 1
- Standard Entry $45
- Member Entry (WIF & Film Fatales) $40
- Standard Entry with 1.5-page WeScreenplay Feedback $125
- Member Entry with 1.5-page WeScreenplay Feedback (WIF & Film Fatales) $125
- The Regular Submission period is March 2 – March 30
- Standard Entry $60
- Member Entry (WIF & Film Fatales) $40
- Standard Entry with 1.5-page WeScreenplay Feedback $145
- Member Entry with 1.5-page WeScreenplay Feedback (WIF & Film Fatales) $125
For application discounts, the following proof of membership is required:
- NYWIFT members must give their member ID.
- WIF members must supply their chapter name for verification.
- FilmFatales members should provide the link to their FF website profile.
What information willI need for the application?
- Basic contact and biographical information (name, email address, contact phone number, mailing address, birth date).
- Script log line and genre.
- Full-length narrative feature script, in PDF format, preferably no more than 130 pages long and/or pilots (preferably no more than 44 pages (half-hour) or 75 pages (hour-long). Script lengths beyond the number of pages listed will incur a per-page surcharge.
- Registration of your script with an appropriate copyright agency. (See “How do I Apply” above for further details.)
- Credit/Debit Card for payment.
Why must I register my script for copyright before applying?
We ask US writers to register your script to prevent infringement, which will protect your work as well as The Writers Lab staff and volunteers. It is a standard industry practice in the U.S. to register any professional script with The Writers Guild in your home area (U.S. citizens use WGA East or West) or with your country’s equivalent Writers’s Guild, and with the U.S. Copyright Office.
The WGA East has generously offered a discount to The Writers Lab applicants. (See “How do I Apply” above for further details.)
How many scripts can I apply with?
Writers may submit up to three (3) scripts. Each script requires a separate completed application, and a separate non-refundable application fee paid by credit card.
Can writing partners apply?
Yes. Both writers must meet eligibility requirements (See Eligibility Requirements section below). Please designate one writer as the primary contact/potential attendee, and list that writer first in the writing credits on the application.
What if I can’t pay by credit card?
You may pay by check. Please e-mail us at email@example.com to discuss the process.
What if I can’t afford the application fee?
Please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Proof of Need” in the subject line to discuss the process. You will need to provide proof of public assistance or SSI with your application.
Is it possible to submit an updated draft after I’ve applied?
Coverfly offers the option to upload a revised draft of your script after you have applied. Please be advised that once our evaluation process is underway your initial submission might have already been read by our evaluation team. If you are considering submitting a revision, keep in mind that our jurors are very experienced and thoughtful. A strong, carefully crafted script will stand out – even a script that needs work.
What if I can’t submit online? Can I deliver my application in person?
If you are NOT able to submit electronically, please email email@example.com
Is it true that when you enter a contest late, your script doesn’t have a chance?
False! You might have heard that the judges get tired of reading, or the winners have already been chosen. Quite the opposite. Every submitted script is read – multiple times – with the same care and rigor. Our readers are paid for their work and are always eager to find talented writers and exciting projects.
Why do you charge an application fee?
We use application fees to pay our independent readers, who carefully evaluate hundreds of scripts, through multiple rounds. The contributions of our primary donors cover only the Lab Retreat.
Are there additional fees associated with attending the Lab Retreat?
Writers selected for the US lab are responsible for travel to and from New York City. The Writers Lab organization covers travel to the Retreat venue from New York City, as well as food and accommodations during the Retreat. The labs for Europe and the UK & Ireland are virtual, so there are no additional expenses.
Should I have industry contacts call or e-mail with references?
Our final decision is based on the material alone. Your work will speak for itself.
How will I be notified about acceptance?
All Lab notifications will be made via email. You will hear from us, whether you place or not, on or before August 1, 2023.
I haven’t recieved notification about my acceptance, but I know others who have? Why is that?
Notifications may be made on a rolling basis. Final decisions will be made on or before August 1, 2023.
Am I eligible to apply?
The Writers Lab is open to women and non-binary writers over 40. We honor the fact that gender is personal and specific and seek to create an inclusive and supportive community. In addition, applicants must be age 40 or over as of the first day of the lab to which they are applying, and submit a completed narrative feature or pilot.
Why does the application ask for my birthday?
Your birthdate is necessary for us to confirm age eligibility, as outlined in the previous question.
I am an American living abroad. Am I eligible to apply?
Yes. Keep in mind that we do not cover transportation to/from New York City for selected writers.
I am not a U.S. citizen and/or live outside the U.S. Am I eligible to apply?
Yes. Citizenship and country of residence do not affect eligibility for the US lab. However, your narrative feature script or pilot must be in English. Additionally, keep in mind that selected writers are responsible for their own travel to/from New York City for the Lab Retreat (and related passport/VISA requirements), and are expected to be in New York by the day before the Lab begins.
I live in a British Commonwealth country. Should i apply to the U.S. or the UK & I Lab?
The Writers Lab U.S. is open to ALL international applicants. The Writers Lab UK & I is open only to eligible writers living in England, Northern Ireland, The Republic of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Additionally, please see the previous question for information on travel and visa considerations.
Do I need to provide proof of birthdate, passport or visa with my application?
No, you do not need to submit these documents with your application. However, accepted writers will need to provide these documents in order to sign the Lab Contract, which finalizes acceptance.
I don’t have much experience. Does this affect my chances for acceptance?
Absolutely not. The Lab seeks to foster exciting voices, regardless of professional experience. However, The Lab does NOT teach screenwriting basics. Submissions must exhibit knowledge of screenwriting formatting, standards, technique and style.
The Lab Retreat
Who will attend the retreat?
Both virtual and in-person retreats included the writers who have been selected; nearly 30 mentors and guest speakers; and the founders with several TWL team members.
What happens at the retreat?
Writers, mentors, guests, the founders and team members gather for workshops, discussions, peer groups, story rooms, individual story presentations, screenings, key notes, Q & As, panels, and, of course, one-on-ones. We also connect informally over meals, cocktail hours, walks, and exercise sessions. The retreat is a very full four days.
What kind of production support does the Lab offer?
The Writers Lab is a screenplay development lab. We are not a producing lab, nor do we offer any kind of production funding. However, in addition to connecting participants with a peer group of driven and talented writers, the Retreat offers access to, and interaction with, a range of other film industry professionals.
If my script is good enough to be accepted why do I need to develop it further?
Any script accepted to our Lab will benefit from further development. That is the primary focus of The Writers Lab, and all selected writers should expect to revise their winning work. Beyond script development, the Lab offers recognition for your work as well as a unique chance to connect with a supportive community of peers and industry professionals.
Does the Lab offer any follow-up for writers beyond the Retreat?
The Writers Lab offers additional development support for writers in the months following the Lab, as well as a range of programs and resources for all Lab alumni. When possible, we also plan follow-up networking events every year.
Is there a correct length for a script?
While there is no correct length, features are generally between 80 and 120 pages; half-hour pilots are 22-44 pages; and hour-long pilots are 45-75 pages (depending on genre and other factors). rnrnu0026nbsp;rnrnPlease note that feature screenplays longer than 130 pages, and pilots longer than 44 pages (half-hour) or 75 pages (hour-long), will incur a per-page surcharge to the application.
Are there any requirements regarding the software I use to write?
The Writers Lab has no software preference, as long as the script uses industry standard formatting, and is converted to a PDF before submission.
What file formats can i use to submit my script?
All scripts must be submitted as PDF files. All film industry professionals expect scripts in PDF format, so this is a good opportunity to format your script to industry standards.
Will you consider scripts not written in English?
Although your script may include other languages, the predominant language must be English. Providing translation for passages in other languages can help, but we don’t recommend translating every non-English line, as doubling up can slow the pace – and is often unnecessary.
Can I reapply with the same script as last year?
We welcome re-submissions, as long as the script has undergone a substantial revision that has addressed the following:
- Are all characters clearly introduced, established, and fully realized, with a defined need and arc?
- Is every line of dialogue necessary, either revealing character or moving the plot along?
- Are the descriptions well written, specific and succinct?
- Will this story speak to a wide audience?
- Is this story right for this Lab? Does it tell a story from a POV not generally seen, or for an under-served audience?
- Does the script follow standard formatting protocols? Has it been carefully proofread so that readers will not struggle with typos, long paragraphs, or confusing scenes?
Can i submit a script based on a book or an adaptation?
Yes, we will consider scripts based on prior works as long as you have secured the underlying rights to the material. We ask for proof of rights, in the form of a contact, e-mail, or letter, if your script reaches the Finalist level in the selection process.
Can I submit a treatment if i don’t think I’ll have a completed draft by the deadline?
No. The Lab is for completed feature and television pilot scripts only.
What does The Writers Lab consider complete?
While the Lab will consider scripts at various stages of development, the draft submitted must meet the following standards of completion:
- Scripts must be either feature-length polished drafts, in the 80-to-120 page range, OR polished pilots that are 22-44 pages (half-hour) or 45-75 pages (hour-long).
- We will not consider screenplay fragments, treatments, synopses, book excerpts, or stage plays.
- Scripts should show a strong understanding of screenwriting technique and style.
- Scripts should present a fully realized story, with identifiable concept, world, characters and genre.
Will my ideas be protected?
We will make all reasonable and customary efforts to protect your ideas. Additionally, we request that you copyright your submission. (Please see “Why must I register my script for copyright” under THE APPLICATION.)
Do you accept scripts that have been submitted elsewhere?
Yes. We have no restrictions on material that has been to, or developed through, other labs, workshops or programs.
The Submissions & Selection Process
Who will be reading my script?
Our readers represent diversity of gender identification, age, race, ethnicity. In the first TWO rounds, we have a team of trusted readers who have been trained to look for well-crafted stories that meet The Writers Lab mission. In the THIRD round, we invite industry professionals to read scripts and take notes. The Founders read alongside readers in all rounds.
- 95% identify as women
- Ages 21 – 70
- 40% identify as Non-white
- 100% are in media and/or entertainment: directors, writers, producers, actors
Reference, Interview, previous experience, sample script discussion, implicit bias meeting. Reader Mandate: Transparency of genre preferences, personal biases, time limitations.
How does the reading and selection process work?
In the first TWO rounds, we have a team of trusted readers who have been trained to look for well-crafted stories that meet The Writers Lab mission. We meet regularly to explain our mandate and mission; to discuss scripts; to answer questions. We use a buddy system so each writer can bounce thoughts and questions with a fellow reader. Each reader must answer a list of questions AND provide at least a few lines of commentary on each script. In the THIRD round, we invite industry professionals to read scripts and take notes. The founders read alongside readers in all rounds. All scripts are read blind. All readers are paid per script.
Each script is assessed twice. Two readers are required to read and provide brief top-line notes. Any script that receives at least one positive recommendation moves to …
A Round 2 reader must answer a slightly more detailed list of assessment questions, and provide notes. If the reader scores high on all the questions, the script moves on to…
Scripts that have reached this level are read by professional jurors, a team of about a dozen allies (eg. managers, producers, execs.) This script group comprises a few hundred features and pilots that have been and continue to be assessed and discussed.
The top 45 to 60 scripts from Round 3 are read again or discussed by founders, and reader notes are carefully reviewed. To select our final cohort of 12, we assess the excellence of the script alongside diversity of race, ethnicity, genre, format, age, residence, and short personal statements in the application.
What are some of the questions readers must answer?
Readers are instructed to look for a strong grasp of screencraft as well as diverse voices, POVs, genres, stories and characters. Below is a sampling of the questions our readers must answer:
- Craft / Formatting: Is this a complete feature or pilot (1-hr OR half-hour)? Does the writer know basic screen craft? Does the script show standard formatting (slug lines, character introductions, indented dialogue, proofed for typos, etc)?
- Cinematic Storytelling: Is the writing VISUAL? Does the writer clearly establish the world, characters and action?
- Characters / Representation: Are the characters diverse (eg. gender, race, ethnicity, ability, POV)? Are they authentically and fully developed with individual voices, appropriate arcs and journeys?
When and How are writers notified?
The Writers Lab has THREE notification dates.
On June 30 we email TWO groups: writers whose scripts are NOT moving on and writers whose scripts ARE moving on as Quarterfinalists.
On July 14 we email TWO groups: writers whose journey ends at Semifinalist and writers whose scripts ARE moving on to the Final Selection round.
On August 1 we email and announce TWO groups: Finalists and Participants.
What are a few script submission statistics?
Scripts submitted are predominantly in the following genres: Drama, Coming of Age, Historical, with strong numbers in Scifi, Fantasy, Horror, Thriller, Comedy and Romcom. We intentionally maintain genre proportions at higher levels of the competition to ensure an inclusive variety of stories.
We strive for over 30% diversity of race, ethnicity, ability, POV and other demographics at each level of selections.
The Writers Lab explicitly invites applicants to choose how they wish to identify themselves in terms of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, and ability. These application identifiers are consulted at each round of selection to ensure that diversity remains proportional to submissions. Because The Writers Lab serves women and non-binary writers over 40, applicants must identify as women or non-binary. We honor the fact that gender is personal and specific and seek to create an inclusive and supportive community.
Top Reason Your Script Was Not Selected
Typos, spelling and/or formatting errors
Proofread, proofread, proofread. It matters.
Weak protagonist engine and arc.
Clearly establish your protagonist’s need and obstacles, and make sure you carry through the arc of her story, all the way to some sort of resolution.
Poor or confusing world-building
World needs to be clearly, economically, and cinematically established (especially in genre scripts).
Poor or confusing story set-up
Choose a main story and set it up clearly for your audience. Many scripts take on too much and lose their way.
Script is overwritten
Most film stories can be told in well under 120 pages. Every line or sentence should add to the story, not repeat or distract. Cut what you can, and keep your story moving.
Excessive and/or ineffective dialogue
Ask yourself: Is that line essential? Is it stating subtext or exposition that can be SHOWN? Does it successfully build conflict? Does it reveal character through wit and/or texture?
Have you written too little? (Set your scenes! Introduce your characters! Include important visual details!) OR, do you have way too much? (Don’t describe characters’ feelings, camera shots, or back story.) And, break up blocks of description into easily digestible bites.
Concept is overdone or lacks relevance.
Old or new, your story must stand out, with new insights into universal themes or compelling characters or perspectives. At the same time, know your cliches and tropes, and when to use or lose them.
Make sure your story effectively uses the visual and auditory aspects of storytelling for the screen. (Note: use music references with care; referencing unlicensed songs can reveal lack of screenwriting savvy. Suggest only, i.e. “She sings something like [song name]…”)
Poor or clichéd gender representation
TWL doesn’t require a woman protagonist, but we definitely notice scripts that pass the Bechdel test, and wince when female characters are introduced solely as “gorgeous/hot/pretty/curvy.” This applies to gender across the spectrum. TWL isn’t interested in gender clichés, tokenism or stereotypes. We champion complex and compelling characters, and stories that provide an authentic experience and point of view.
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