SmashCut Film Lab

Season 5 Applications are now CLOSED
Please check back soon to apply for Season 6!


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

(Before you dash off an application, we strongly recommend you read this entire page plus the How to Apply page on this website.)

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, (co-executive producer, NBC’s The BlacklistAdam Simon, (creator of the FOX series Salem) screenwriters Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu, Cold), Paul Guay (Liar Liar), David H. Steinberg (American Pie 2) and Erica Beeney (The Battle for Shaker Heights and “Project Greenlight” winner)  in developing, writing, filming and editing your short film or web series idea.

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 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.

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 in a bit.)

1. Filmmakers can apply in groups of two of three with one treatment. 

2. Filmmakers can apply solo with one treatment 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 to Submit:

When applying, each writer and/or director applicant must submit, in addition to a resume and work sample, a one-page treatment 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 fictional narrative stories, not documentaries. (If you have a true story, it is up to you to secure the proper film rights to tell that story.)  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 in 12 point font.  If it’s any longer, we won’t read it.  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. Who is your audience? Tell us the one person you know who would love this film.

(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.

Once the deadline for applications has passed, Taliesin Nexus will contact those who would be considered finalists, and have moved to the formal interview portion of our selection process.  This interview will be conducted in three parts over the following two weeks:

1. A phone interview with the program director. 
2. You may be asked to read a sample short film screenplay and deliver your notes and feedback on it. 

Please note that not all finalists will move on or complete each step. Once this interview process has been completed, notifications will be sent to those finalists who have been selected to participate in the program.  Notifications may be sent out no earlier than May 1 and no later than May 31 2017.

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.  We encourage you to submit a treatment that would be eligible to be developed by a filmmaker team who’s treatment wasn’t selected.  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 similar to what is outlined above.

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.  Notifications may be sent out no earlier than June 1 and no later than June 30 , 2017.


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

What to expect when accepted:

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. 

LLF workshop 9

Filmmakers and mentors developing their treatments together on Day 1 of the 2o15 opening workshop.

To kickoff this program, you will attend a weekend 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 100+ days that follow the kickoff workshop, 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.

Please look over this schedule to ensure you will be able to adhere to deadlines over the course of the 2017 Season 5 film lab

**NEW 2017 DATES**

Opening Workshop 
July 14 – 16

Phase 1 – Development and Script
July 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 program needs

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.

Applying is completely free.  The deadline to apply for Season 5 has now PASSED so start preparing your Season 6 applications!

We look forward to reading your applications and, hopefully, seeing you in Los Angeles for the opening workshop!


If this is your first time applying for our programs please click below

If you are an alumni and have previously attended a Taliesin Nexus workshop please click below.

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