Film Independent Selects Seven Participants for 2020 Episodic Lab - Film Independent - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Film Independent Selects Seven Participants for 2020 Episodic Lab - Film Independent

Film Independent, the nonprofit arts organization that produces the Film Independent Spirit Awards, announced today the seven writers and six projects selected for its fourth Episodic Lab. This year’s Creative Advisors include Gloria Calderón Kellett (One Day at a Time), Veena Sud (The Killing), and Christopher Yost (Cowboy Bebop). The Film Independent Episodic Lab is supported by Founding Sponsor Netflix. Additional support is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

“The Episodic Lab is an integral part of Film Independent’s mission to support bold, inclusive voices in the realm of visual storytelling. This year’s cohort of television writers brings with them courageous and multi-faceted original series that are uniquely reflective of today’s ever-changing world,” said Lisa Hasko, Director of Artist Development at Film Independent. “We are proud to provide tangible professional resources and relationship-building opportunities to these talented writers in an effort to nurture their careers and creativity.”

This year’s Episodic Lab is a two-week intensive virtual program that helps to further the careers of its Fellows by introducing them to industry veterans who 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.

Each Fellow is paired with a Creative Advisor with whom they’ll work one-on-one and in group sessions to develop their project. Additionally, guest speakers will screen and discuss their own work to offer insights into the creative process and industry best practices.

As Founding Sponsor, Netflix is deeply committed to supporting each year’s selected Fellows, pairing them with an Industry Advisor, and providing shadowing opportunities in their writers’ rooms. This unique access to a premiere content creator like Netflix is a crucial step in helping the Fellows move forward in their careers. A final networking and pitch event will offer Fellows the opportunity to introduce themselves and their work to studio and network executives.

Film Independent will also present the Alfred P. Sloan Episodic Grant, a $10,000 development grant to support a pilot that explores science and technology themes or that depicts scientists, engineers, and mathematicians in engaging and innovative ways, to Katherine Ruppe for her project Liftoff. As part of her Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, Ruppe will receive a science advisor to support the development of the series.

"I'm thrilled to be awarded the Alfred P. Sloan Episodic Lab development grant," said writer Katherine Ruppe. "Liftoff tells the compelling story of America’s first female astronauts -- six intrepid pioneers who blast through the chauvinistic brotherhood of spaceflight in 1978, risking their lives in the pursuit of discovery. Their passion for exploring the mysteries of the universe aligns with the goals of the Sloan Foundation -- to educate and inspire young people to engage with science and reach for the stars."

The 2020 Episodic Lab Creative Advisors and guest speakers include Sian Heder, Gloria Calderón Kellett, Colleen McGuiness, LaToya Morgan, Dailyn Rodriguez, Beth Schacter, Ellen Shanman, Elizabeth Stephen, Veena Sud, and Christopher Yost.

Film Independent Artist Development programs promote unique independent voices by helping filmmakers create and advance new work through Project Involve; Filmmaker Labs (Directing, Documentary, Episodic, Producing and Screenwriting); Fast Track finance market and Fiscal Sponsorship, as well as through Grants and Awards, which provide over one million dollars annually to visual storytellers.

The 2020 Episodic Lab participants and their projects are:

Afro-Saga Vol 1: Children of Lazarus 
Writer: Michael Harris
Logline: Azaria aka Night Lotus, bands with a team of genetically enhanced humans to defeat a tyrant and his elite death squad known as The Children of Lazarus.  

Chavez Ravine
Writers: Mary Ann Marino, Maria Venegas
Logline: On her thirteenth birthday, Esperanza (Espy) Cortez discovers that she can time-travel through hidden portals in East LA where Tongva and Mexican's predecessors reveal hidden secrets about her ancestors, her family, and herself. In present day, Espy confronts her family, challenges her community, and evolves from an immigrant daughter into a modern-day warrior, fighting for our future armed with wisdom from the past.

Writer: Van B. Nguyen
Logline: Exploring the secrets of an Asian-American family and their surroundings in Texas, Descent follows a Vietnamese cop torn between the duty to her family and her oath to protect and serve.

Leila & Soraya
Writer: Ora Yashar
Logline: A struggling Iranian chef starts seeing the ghost of her great grandmother and suddenly finds herself front row for a master class in cooking and in life.

Writer: Katherine Ruppe
Logline: Liftoff intercuts the true story of America’s first female astronauts -- six intrepid pioneers who blast through the chauvinistic brotherhood of spaceflight in 1978 -- with the heartrending Challenger disaster, which claims the life of one of our “first women” and spurs Sally Ride to take charge in the accident investigation.

Wild Life
Writer: Carmiel Banasky
Logline: When an epic flood submerges California, Pauline -- a zookeeper who prefers animals to people -- must save the wildlife (and her marriage) by turning an abandoned shopping mall into a zoo and climate-migrant camp.

Film Independent is the nonprofit arts organization that champions creative independence in visual storytelling and supports a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation, and uniqueness of vision. Film Independent helps filmmakers make their movies, builds an audience for their projects, and works to diversify the film industry. Film Independent’s Board of Directors, filmmakers, staff, and constituents is comprised of an inclusive community of individuals across ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation. Anyone passionate about film can become a Member, whether you are a filmmaker, industry professional, or a film lover.
In addition to producing the Spirit Awards, Film Independent produces Film Independent Presents, a year-round screening series for its members that offers unique cinematic experiences for the Los Angeles creative community and the general public.
Through annual screenings and events, Film Independent provides access to a network of like-minded artists who are driving creativity in the film industry. Film Independent’s Artist Development program offers free Labs for selected writers, directors, producers, and documentary filmmakers and presents year-round networking opportunities. Project Involve is Film Independent’s signature program dedicated to fostering the careers of talented filmmakers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the film industry. 

For more information or to become a Member, visit

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