Image is not available


What is the Unscripted Film Lab?

Part incubator and part competition, the Unscripted Film Lab is inspired by Y Combinator and our narrative SmashCut Film Lab.  It also comes with the opportunity to receive up to $90,000 to put toward your project!

After a robust application process, seven documentary projects will be selected.

Each project receives a $20,000 production grant to produce a 15-30 minute short doc or series. (Contingent on meeting certain requirements laid out in the rules and release agreement.)

After which, each film is judged by a panel of industry pros and the top three will move on to the next round.  Those three projects are given an additional $5000 to execute a TalNexus approved marketing and distribution plan.

The film that achieves the most success in terms of its metrics and impact after a three-month “run” in the market, will win access to an additional $60,000 grant to use toward their feature length or series versions. This grant will be put into an escrow account while you raise funds for the remainder of the production budget.  If funds cannot be raised, then a new production must be drawn up and approved to access the $60,000.  Rest assured, we want your project to be made.  You will have TN behind you the whole way.

What projects are you looking for?
Think of this program as a sandbox.  Within the sandbox, we can play with whatever characters, themes, and ideas that our imaginations give us, but there are boundaries to the box.  What are those boundaries?  We will be green-lighting stories that explore, challenge, and affirm the core values of our organization:

Individuality ~ Compassion ~ Innovation

You can read more about these values here.  Meanwhile, set your imagination loose on these values, explore them through characters and themes, and surprise us with your story submissions.  What we do not want are didactic, paint-by-numbers stories pushing an agenda.  To help solidify the walls of the sandbox, check out these stories and how they relate to these basic human values:
  • The story of  wrongfully convicted Glen Ford  is a tragic setting in which to feature tolerance, compassion, and justice as being necessary for a harmonious community.
  • To explore individuality and the ideas of choice and responsibility,  an investigation into the mysterious deaths of thousands of drinkers in the prohibition era because of a lack of honor and integrity would be eye opening.
  • The history of how video killed the radio star is a perfect setting to show innovation fostering entrepreneurship, creativity, and stewardship.

These are examples to help get your juices flowing.  They are not intended to limit your imagination.

What stage should my project be in?

We are open to projects that are still baby ideas in your mind or projects that are currently in the early stages of production. If you have some footage shot, have a sizzle reel and pitch, or even have a production plan in place with a team ready to go, please share those details in your application.

If you are still formulating an idea and don’t have a partner or team yet, but you’ve done the research and can present an awesome pitch, tell us all about it.

What happens if I am selected?

Your life becomes instantly more interesting.

You will now have $20,000 to spend on a 15-30 minute documentary, the chance to receive $5000 to spend on distributing and marketing, and then an opportunity to get an additional $60,000 to put toward the feature length.  And you’ll get $2500 for yourself at the end of the program.

During the Kickoff Workshop weekend you will meet a dozen or more other filmmakers who are working just as passionately on their project of which you have the chance to get to know, to collaborate with and share knowledge. Experts will be on-hand to lean on for advice, support and perspective as all of you engage in a workshop that promises to be a highlight of the entire process.  TalNexus workshops, historically, are intimate gatherings full of intensive creativity and growth that forge long-lasting professional and personal relationships.

Over the course of the year long program you will attend a variety of workshops, meetings and presentations designed to expand your knowledge and craft the best story and presentation possible for your project.

  • Opening Story Development Workshop
    • Establish the narrative structure of your project
    • Write an emotional, character-driven treatment
    • Create a production plan: budget, team, schedule, workflow
    • Develop a marketing and distribution strategy, both traditional and digital
    • Develop an engagement and Impact Strategy
  • Rough Cut Workshop
    • Screen cut of the project at its current state for notes and feedback
    • Present the marketing, Distribution and Engagement strategies for notes and feedback
  • CineShots (Half-day presentations in the following areas)
    • Cinematography
    • Directing
    • Editing and Post-Production, Animation
    • Music
    • Marketing and Distribution
    • Narrative of Liberty

The $20,000 grant will be available as soon as your project’s story structure, budget and schedule, and team are in place and approved by TalNexus.

I have to create a two minute pitch video?

Yes please.

As a doc filmmaker, you need to have passion in your project.  While you may find fame from making your doc, finding a fortune is probably not what you should be seeking.  Your motivation for making your film is all about the passion you have for your subject matter – and we want to see that.

Please take two minutes to pitch us on who you are, what your project is about, and why you are the one to make this film or series happen.  The video shouldn’t be flashy. Just prop up your smartphone, make sure we can hear you, and go. No need for graphics, presentations or existing footage. You can save that stuff for rest of the application if you want – just talk to us.

Upload it unlisted or password protected if you wish to YouTube or Vimeo (preferably), put UNSCRIPTED FILM LAB 2019 somewhere in the title, share the link on the application, and you will be good to go. Google Drive and Dropbox links also accepted.

(By sharing the link you agree that TalNexus may download the video in order to share internally with selection committee when evaluating your submission.)

What do I need to do to apply?

To apply, you must sign up here to receive the link to free application.

What do I submit about my project?

You should write up a one-page synopsis of the project that includes the following:

  1. The topic of the project.
  2. The principle subject or “characters” involved.
  3. The tone and style of the documentary. (e.g. Are you Errol Morris or Michael Moore? Is it similar to Making a Murderer and The Jinx or is it American Movie and King of Kong.)
  4. If the film or series were to premiere on a television network, which one would be the perfect home? (NatGeo, HBO, ESPN, CNN, Animal Planet?)
  5. What the social impact you hope this film or series will have on our culture.
  6. Where the project stands at the time of application. ( There is footage shot, or you have a sizzle reel, etc.)
Did you mention I get paid $2500?

Well, yes. The two key creatives on each project will be considered recipients of a Film Lab Fellowship and each will receive a $2500 stipend, to help compensate for the time, energy and commitment it will take to see their project through.  This stipend is yours to use however you like. If you prefer to add this stipend to your budget you may do so.

This stipend will be paid to you upon the successful completion of the program and/or after you’ve gone as far as your project can take you. This means if you don’t make the top three, you will still receive your stipend – provided you adhere to the rules and release agreement.

When does the program begin?

The official start of the Unscripted Film Lab begins with the Kickoff Weekend Workshop, currently scheduled to be held at TalNexus headquarters in downtown Los Angeles February 9 – 10, 2019. (this date changed due to the original conflicting with the Sundance Film Festival.)

The schedule for the CineShots, Rough Cut Workshop and other gatherings and meetings will be set once the program begins and schedules can be coordinated between the various teams and guests.