What is Smashcut Film Lab?

Presenting an exciting opportunity for liberty-minded filmmakers and other creatives ready to take their craft to the next level — the SmashCut Film Lab.

The SmashCut Film Lab (formerly known as Liberty Lab for Film) is an advanced program for those who have filmmaking, screenwriting, producing experience and want an opportunity to work alongside like-minded creatives with the guidance of seasoned professionals such as Daniel Knauf, (executive producer, NBC’s The Blacklist) screenwriters Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu, Cold), Paul Guay (Liar Liar), David H. Steinberg (American Pie 2) and Courtney Balaker (Little Pink House) in developing, writing, filming and editing your short film or web series idea.

What is the theme of Season 6?

The sixth season of Taliesin Nexus’ Smash Cut Film Lab will be Adaptation Season. For the first time, we are asking applicants to submit stories that are adapted from an original source. This source may be one of the following:

1. A published work of fiction or nonfiction, whole or part, such as a short story, novel, graphic novel, biography, video game, painting, another film
2. An event or events of a real person’s life, living or historical
3. An event (real or fictional) within a broader historical or modern context or subject area

As in past years, the project must present and explore a theme of liberty.

Below we offer a handful of suggestions of a variety of sources to help illustrate the type of projects we are interested in seeing. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Use this list as a jumping off point for you to come up with your own ideas for adaptations. As is the case in Hollywood, an adaptation does not need to be an exact recording of a past event or work. You have wide creative license to explore the work or event in your own voice. Ultimately, we are open to any adaptation provided it fulfills the qualities mentioned above.

1. A Published Work – Up from Slavery (Booker T. Washington), Anthem (Ayn Rand), The Law (Fredric Bastiat), The Gods of Mars (Edgard Rice Burroughs), The Curse of Capistrano (Johnston McCulley) (incidentally these are all works in the public domain)

2. Ludwig Von Mises’ escape from Nazi Germany, Davy Crockett’s decision to go to the Alamo, Zora Neal Hurston finding inspiration for a short story, an entrepreneur’s struggle to stay in business, a citizen fighting to change to an illiberal law or regulation

3. The Civil Rights Era, the American Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, the Invention of the Automobile, Fast and Furious Scandal, Origin of Political Correctness

EXCLUSIVE: TalNexus is excited to announce that we have partnered with Silicon Valley author Ann Bridges to offer exclusive rights to adapt three of her novels for the SmashCut Film Lab. To learn more about Ann and her novels please click here.

If using a published work, you must have the rights to make the film concept you submit. If the work is public domain, then you are fine to submit. If you are dealing with a work not in the public domain, you will need permission from the author or from the estate. Keep in mind that the product you will make in our program is a short film, which has little to no sale value. Consequently, you may consider pursuing a limited right to produce just the short film without wider rights guaranteeing the estate that you will make no profit from the sale or distribution of the film.

Original Concepts
We are still open to accepting original concepts exploring a theme of liberty, but preference in our selection will be for adaptations this season. You may submit up to three concepts for consideration.

What happens if I am selected?

If you and your treatment are selected, you will receive a grant for $10,000 to make your short film or web-series and be paired with an established industry professional who will mentor you through a 100 day development process.  You and your team will then head into production and through to post-production, where at the conclusion, we will host a gala showcase screening where your film will premiere along with your fellow SmashCut participants’ projects.

Along the way, you will also attend multiple mini-workshops that focus on screenwriting, producing, directing and post-production, all lead by veterans of the industry.  You will hear from experts in the fields that your film’s theme touches upon. Taliesin Nexus is committed to furthering your development as a storyteller and filmmaker by connecting you with experienced professionals who want to see you succeed.

All participants who do not already own it, will receive a complimentary full copy of Final Draft  (valued at $249.) Final Draft is the leading software when it comes to screenwriting and it will be yours to keep after completion of the program.  This will no doubt ensure you are armed with the right tools to go along with that talent.

During this film lab, you will experience an intensive process that is not unlike what filmmakers in Hollywood must contend with: a rigorous development process, valuable collaboration, working within a budget, and notes & feedback from your mentor and Taliesin Nexus.  This is not for the faint of heart. You and your partners will be responsible for producing a high quality film.  At the end of the program your film will be featured in our private annual SmashCut film screening at a first run movie theater in Los Angeles and at private screening events in selected cities across the country.

What do I need to do to apply?

There are a few different ways to apply and be accepted into SmashCut, as we will select 12 applicants to create six two-person teams. (Each team will also have a third member who will be on our SmashCut Producer Track, but more on that below.)

1. Filmmakers can apply in groups of two of three with up to three one-page treatment or ideas.

2. Filmmakers can apply solo with up to three treatment ideas and, if selected, must agree to be paired up at Taliesin Nexus’ discretion, and work with another solo applicant on the treatment that TN has selected.

3. Filmmakers who do not have a treatment and are applying for the Producer Track who, if selected, must agree to be assigned to a maximum of two projects they will produce.

Because film is one of those rare art forms that require a collaborative process, we insist on having a team of filmmakers for each project.  If you want to work alone, then you’ve picked the wrong career.  All writers must deal with the studio, producers, and directors. All directors have to learn to work with their producers, the studio, the actors, and of course the writer.  And the producer must work with everyone and do their best to ensure everyone else is working with each other! Working with a teammate will allow you more flexibility to maintain your other endeavours because producing a film will take up a lot of time. This program isn’t for hobbyists.

Screenwriter and mentor Paul Guay sharing his feedback with humorous reception

Screenwriting mentor Paul Guay shares his feedback in the writers room at the opening workshop.

Each team of filmmakers will also be assigned a mentor who they must also collaborate with.  These are industry professionals who are currently working in film and television.  Their experience and knowledge of storytelling and doing it in Hollywood will be at your fingertips.  They are eager to mentor you and your film.  You must take their notes. This is a crucial part of the process.  Every successful creator in film or television, accepts notes and implements them to the best of their ability.  This can be extremely challenging, but it also very rewarding.  These mentors are on your side and will push you to answer the tough questions that will ultimately, and hopefully, hone your craft.  Engaging in respectful dialogue should disagreements occur will also be crucial in staying on the right course.  And believe us, disagreements will occur.  Should there be instances of disagreement between you and your mentor or partners or both that can’t be resolved, Taliesin Nexus will be the final arbiter.  To reiterate, if you want to work alone, if you think your ideas never need to be challenged, improved upon or even defended by others, then you have picked the wrong profession.  The great part about all of this is, if all those involved are true to the art and only have the best interest of the film at hand, then you will have loads of pride for your project when it is finally finished.

What do I submit?

When applying, each writer and/or director applicant must submit, in addition to a resume and work sample, up to three one-page treatments for the story they’d like to tell on film.  This story must have a theme related to some aspect of liberty.  We are looking for narrative stories, not documentaries. Your stories must also be, first and foremost, entertaining.  So please, no overly heavy-handed stories where you are trying to deliver a message.  If you want to send a message, use Twitter.

Your treatment should be a one-page document that explains the plot or narrative of your proposed film, written in short story form, not in screenplay form. It should include some brief character descriptions, a few lines of dialogue when appropriate and a clear beginning, middle, and end.  The liberty theme should be clear from the content of your story.  Please only submit one-page.  If it’s any longer, we won’t read those extra pages.  Which means we won’t know how it ends.

Please include the following with all treatments (a separate page is fine if needed):

1. A working title.
2. Your name (and your partner’s name if applicable).
3. A one or two sentence logline.
4. The theme of your story.
5. Tell us the one person you know who would love this film after they watched.

(All documents should be submitted in PDF format.  Please convert all word .doc, final draft .fdr, .txt, .rtf, and all other formats to PDF.)

This treatment will be the basis for the film you are going to make. So when you write your treatment please keep the following in mind:  You have a $10,000 budget.  This means that the big CGI sci-fi thriller you thought would be perfect, is actually not.  Your film also must not exceed a running time of 20 minutes.  So that epic 1600 mile journey of a woman finding herself along the Appalachian Trail is going to have to wait until the mini-series version.

Safety School Publicity Still

Samm Levine stars in the SmashCut season 2 project Safety School.


What is the Smashcut Producer Track?

For those interested in gaining knowledge of the producing side of filmmaking, we offer the Producer Track.  Three applicants will be selected and each will be assigned to a maximum of two of the projects being developed.  Producers will work directly with the program producing coordinator who will guide you through producing the film.   Those on the producer track will be producing both projects, including learning about distribution and marketing strategies in the film business.  Producers will be contributing very early on in the front end, guiding development and keeping a distribution and marketing perspective in sight.

Your producer mentor will help guide you, challenge you, and keep your focus sharp as you scrutinize short term and long term decisions affecting your projects.

Applicants interested in the Producer Track must demonstrate an understanding of the creative aspect of filmmaking, but be willing to respect and support the vision of the writer/directors whom they are working with.  You must also posses strong communication skills, be willing to make decisions, and manage multiple personalities with confidence and humility.

Finalists considered for the producer track will then have a formal interview.

1. A phone interview with the program director. 
2. You may be asked to break down a sample short film screenplay and craft a $10,000 budget. 

Please note, not all finalists will complete each of these steps. Once this interview process has been completed, notifications will be sent to those finalists who have been selected to participate in the program.


On location during the production of Liberty Lab for Film 2015 project We.


What happens once we start?

The development phase of the program (roughly 100 days) will be devoted to fleshing out your treatment into an outline and then into a screenplay. You will receive notes and feedback from your mentor along the way.  Towards the end of this first phase, you will commence in pre-production since most of the major elements of your film have been determined.  You will scout locations, interview and hire crew, reserve rental gear, etc.  These tasks can happen simultaneously as you get closer to a final draft of your script.

The next phase of the program has you moving from pre-production and into actual production where you will most likely schedule three to four days of filming.  This is why you want to keep your script to under 20 pages, as even at that length, a three or four day shooting schedule is aggressive. (But that is most likely all you will be able to afford.)  After which you head into post-production where your film is edited and prepped for the premiere screening.  You will receive notes and feedback from your mentor and Taliesin Nexus during post-production as well.  Most teams average about three months in this phase.

LLF workshop 9

Filmmakers and mentors developing their treatments together on Day 1 of the 2015 opening workshop.

To start this program, you will attend the SmashCut Kickoff Weekend.  An opening seminar in Los Angeles where you will be introduced to the program’s mentors and your fellow filmmakers.  This weekend will consist of an intensive “writers room” where each treatment is discussed at length by all the mentors and filmmakers.  This day has been called one of the most intensive yet exciting and fun parts of the entire program and will offer you not only a tremendous amount of creative value for your project, but a valuable experience in terms of your overall development as a filmmaker.  The following day will consist of multiple breakout sessions where you will discuss world building, character design, themes and more. Lunch and dinner will be provided as well as nightly social receptions.  For those traveling from outside the greater Los Angeles area, travel expenses (up to $300) and lodging will be covered by Taliesin Nexus.

Over the course of the film lab you will be in communication with your mentor either by phone, email, or even in person, as you refine your ideas on your way to a final shooting script.  Mentors will weigh in on your rough cuts once you hit the editing room during the Rough Cut Workshop.  This workshop will consist of all films, which should be at similar stages, being screened before your mentors and fellow participants.  The feedback that you gain from this workshop should be used as you move toward picture lock.


A packed house gets ready to watch the premier of the season 2 film lab shorts at the ArcLight Cinemas in Culver City, CA.

SmashCut participants will also be invited to attend the all-expenses paid Apollo Workshop: Storytelling in Film and Television, if you have not already done so.  Click here to learn more about this exciting weekend workshop filled with interactive sessions and panels full of Hollywood professionals from writers and directors, to producers, executives, and managers.

What does the Season 6 calendar look like?

Please look over this schedule to ensure you will be able to adhere to the season 6 deadlines.

**NEW 2018 DATES**

Kickoff Weekend
January 19 – 21

Phase 1 – Development and Script
January 17 – October 23

Phase 2 – Pre-Production, Principal Photography, Post-Production
October 1 – December 15

these dates are subject to change due to specific needs of your project and the program

Though we anticipate that most of our successful applicants will reside in or near L.A., or be able to relocate here for the duration of the program, we are excited to also invite filmmakers outside of Los Angeles to apply.  If you apply and plan on producing your project in your home city, we are more likely to accept you into the program if your city has ample resources and a history of film/television being produced there, e.g., New York City, Vancouver, Atlanta, New Orleans or even Austin, TX.  Regrettably you are not allowed to use any of the production budget for personal expenses, so you will need some other means of supporting yourself while you are in the program.  L.A. is filled, however, with aspiring actors, screenwriters, directors and other Hollywood wannabes with “day jobs” to make the ends meet whilst they claw their way up that ladder of success, so you’ll be in ample company.

We can foresee, however, a circumstance whereby someone might be able to participate even if he or she could not spend the entire duration in L.A.  For example, an out-of-state grad student could conceivably spend the summer in Southern California and then return to school at the end of August.  At that point, shooting should be completed and the post-production phase will be well underway.


What is the Storytellers Workshop?




The Storytellers Workshop for Film & Television is a weekend conference connecting talented emerging filmmakers with members of our faculty of Hollywood screenwriters, producers, executives and talent representatives.  It takes place August 9-11, 2019 at Taliesin Nexus’ headquarters in downtown Los Angeles, CA.

This weekend-long workshop is completely free of charge – free tuition, free room and board. Travel stipends are also available to those attending from outside of southern California.

This Storytellers Workshop offers writers in film and/or television a valuable opportunity to be paired one-on-one with a member of the TalNexus faculty to hear feedback on your work.  Faculty members such as screenwriter Bill Marsilii (DEJA VU), writer / producer Craig Titley (Marvel's AGENTS OF SHIELD), and former development exec Sara Anne Fox (MY FAVORITE YEAR) will read your submitted script before the workshop begins and then meet with you in order to share their reactions.  You will receive notes on your work, advice on how and where to pitch it, and you'll get the chance to learn about their history in the business and share your experiences and expectations as well. 





How can the Storytellers Workshop help me?


The workshop is designed to give you practical critiques and insights into your feature film or television script by giving you the chance to work one-on-one with one a screenwriter, producer, or executive.  You will submit your script in advance of attending the workshop, which will then be assigned to a mentor who will arrive at the workshop to go over their feedback with you. 

You will be paired with one or two other writers, and will get the chance to read their work and listen to the feedback on their scripts as well.  This can be just as valuable as hearing about your own work, because you will be able to compare your own analysis with each other.  Identifying areas you may have overlooked and even providing perspectives that may not have been touched upon. 

The beginning of the workshop will be your chance to pitch your project to two veteran screenwriters who will give you immediate feedback on not only your story, but on how you pitched! Often times the most critical part of pitching is how you pitched.  For even if the listener didn't like your story idea, they may have ben so captivated by you that they want to hear another idea or two. 

Past participants have struck relationships with faculty that have led to partnering up on a feature film,  full time positions with production companies, being staffed on television series and so on.  This nexus is becoming a fast lane into Hollywood if you take advantage of the opportunity to stay connected and engaged.  You and your fellow attendees will also find yourselves staying connected beyond the workshop, collaborating and working together on your own projects.  TalNexus prides itself in our high rate of connectedness among our alumni. 


What kind of activities take place?

Well, as mentioned in the previous question, the first thing that will take place is a pitching session on Friday night. 

Each participant will get to pitch their feature film or television series idea to two screenwriters and hear immediate feedback on the story as well as the nature you pitched. 

On Saturday begin the mentor sessions, where you will get 90 minutes to hear from your assigned mentor on your script.  You will get the chance to ask questions, try out different material and ideas.  You will also hear advice on what may be the best path for you in getting the script made or sold, or how else it can benefit your career. 

Saturday will also be bookended by a speaker in the morning and a screening in the evening.  A guest screenwriter will join you in the morning to share with insight into the world of screenwriting in Hollywood and share some personal stories.  In the evening, we'll get the chance to watch one of the latest SmashCut Film Lab projects along with the filmmakers to learn about to discuss the themes of the film, their film lab experience, and working with their Hollywood mentor. 

Sunday morning is all about TV.  Television writer David Steinberg will give you the hard truth about writing for film versus writing for television.  You'll be shocked and inspired (or deflated) by the valuable insight and knowledge he will share.  Afterwards you'll get the rare treat of seeing how an episode of a popular television series was crafted in the writer's room and then watch the episode with live commentary from writer himself in-person.  

The workshop will then conclude with a panel discussion on Managing Your Career with industry managers who represent writers, directors and actors all working in Hollywood right now.  You will hear real time information on what is hot, what is not, and what you should be doing to gain representation and how to use it to your mutual benefit. 

In addition, on Friday and Saturday evening, we'll host social events that offer more opportunities to meet like-minded creatives and faculty.


What is CinderQ?



Cinder Quarterly Anthology (CinderQ) is the Netflix of new authors. This collection of binge-worthy short stories and narrative nonfiction contains a wide variety of styles, genres, and serialized short works from emerging fiction writers and essayists. Read now for challenging stories that will make you think, written by unique authors with steadfast gut and noteworthy skill.

Subscribe for the year or explore a single issue. Listen to audio versions of your favorite stories. Discover new artists and indie filmmakers, too. When you subscribe to our print version, you'll get four new and beautiful books per year mailed to your home. This is not the stuffy quarterly magazine for MFA students and academics. This magazine is for readers who can't get enough riveting stories full of bold characters penned by unflinching authors.



Where can I read CinderQ?




ONLINE: You can read the magazine by downloading the app "Cinder Quarterly Anthology" to your iPhone or Android device. If you'd like to read an image-free copy, you can peruse our Kindle version here

We are in the process of developing an awesome website where you'll be able to read these stories online, subscribe to the print edition, comment on your favorite works, and more. So stay tuned. But in the meantime, read via our web app here

IN PRINT: We have a full service subscription system coming soon. However, if you'd like a print copy of CinderQ in the meantime, email and she will send you one in the mail in exchange for a small donation. 




How can I write for the anthology?


If you are a fiction or narrative nonfiction writer and you would like to submit a story or pitch for publication to CinderQ, please email your submission to We will try to respond to your submission within a timely manner.

Please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Fiction word count: 3,000-8,000 words
  • Memoir word count: 1,200-5,000 words
  • Essay word count: 500-2,500 words
  • Must grapple with liberty-related themes in some way


Can I participate if I'm an artist or illustrator?


Yes! Each issue of CinderQ features a completely original illustrated cover by an artist in our network. If you're interested in designing one of our upcoming covers, email (we can pay for your work!). 

If you would like to submit an image you've already created to be published in the interior of the magazine, you can also email your submission to Rebecca. When we publish your illustration we'll also generously link to your website and/or portfolio on our website and app. 

If you are a comic book artist, we want your submissions too! We are going to start publishing one short story comic in every issue starting with Issue No 2. Submissions must be roughly 2-5 page spreads sized for a 6X9 publication, and you can email them to in PDF or JPG format. 



What are the TalNexus Writing Groups?

TalNexus Writing Groups for Creative Writers and Screenwriters are your chance to be mentored by a professional author! The groups are for authors who write:

  • Novels and Stories
  • Narrative Non-Fiction
  • Screenplays and Theatre
  • Graphic Novels

If you are a writer interested in exploring the themes and values of individual liberty, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression in your work, we invite you to apply to join a TalNexus Writing group. Each group will be paired with a mentor who is a professional author.  Your peers and the mentor will provide advice, creative critique, and career guidance. And the best part is that you can be anywhere in the world to participate!

How often does the group meet?

Ten meetings will be held per year via video chat (such as Google Hangouts, Skype or or, location permitting, in-person.  Group leaders will arrange and coordinate meetings times.

What happens during the meetings?

Groups focus on reading each other’s creative works and providing constructive feedback.  Writers are encouraged to share at least one 20 page story, chapter, or screenplay act every 3-4 months.  Works for critique will be shared with group members who will send their notes to the writer. Not only will you get valuable feedback by peers, you will also meet new friends and potential collaborators.


You said this was paid?


Why would I want to be an intern?

The Odysseus Fellowship program places qualified applicants in paid three-month internships at leading production companies, working for movers and shakers in the industry.  You read that right:  paid.  We help you cover your living and travel expenses.

How leading are our participating companies?  Our host producers have been involved in numerous hit movies such as Braveheart, Elf, The Wedding Crashers, Forrest Gump, and The Passion of the Christ.

Our hosts are also committed to being mentors.  So while they may ask you to run through a brick wall on occasion, or merely pick up their lunch order, you will learn plenty about the business every single day on the job.

How much do we get paid?

We offer a stipend of up to $5000 to help you make ends meet while you are working hard to establish yourself. And, we will help cover your travel costs to and from L.A. (if necessary).

During the program, you will also receive additional mentoring from the Taliesin Nexus staff, and if scheduling permits, you will attend our Apollo Workshop (if you haven’t already), absolutely gratis.  You also may be required to make a short film or write a screenplay in your spare time under the supervision of the program administrators.

To recap, interns will receive:

  • Placement at a production company, a management company or agency, or even in a writing staff room
  • A stipend of up to $5000 or school credit
  • Possible travel reimbursement
  • Mentoring
  • Automatic acceptance into the Apollo Film & TV Workshop
Can you give me specifics about the internship?

Each fellowship will last for 12 weeks, and applicants must be committed to living and working in the Los Angeles area during that period.  (You don’t have to live there now; we might pay for your travel there, and back home after it’s over.)  We usually stagger our internships throughout the year, with some beginning in the spring, fall and summer.

The perfect candidate for the program would be a recent film school graduate or someone with some writing or filmmaking experience and/or training, but not someone who has already enjoyed a substantial career (after all, this is an opportunity for those who haven’t had their real shot yet).  You must have completed at least one screenplay or short film/video that you will include with your application.

If you are a current student (and over 21), and you can earn school credit for participating in an internship, and you do not need the stipend, you should indicate this on your application form (in the “referral/other notes” section), as we may be able to add an extra space for you (because our budget allows for only a few stipends per year).

Please note that the great majority of interns we select have attended one of our workshops previously.  If you have not participated in one of our programs before, we strongly recommend that you apply to the Apollo Workshop at the same time (or better yet, before) applying for our internship program.

Applicants should be able to demonstrate the following:

• a talent for, and knowledge of, filmmaking or screenwriting
• a tenacious commitment to succeed in the entertainment business
• the skill set to thrive in a production company environment
• a passion for a free society

TN Alumni interested in the Writing Mentorship track of the Odysseus Fellowship should mention this in the notes section of the application.

Note:  If you can receive university credit for your internship, let us know in the “Referral, Other Notes” section of the application form.