Indie Film Development - WMM Lab Pipeline

We Make Movies has made a name for itself as a diverse, synergistic, sustainable ecosystem for artists and content creators. We have been paving the way towards democratizing storytelling, and the industry as a whole. Gone are the days when excessive financing, unattainable tools of the trade, and permission from industry gatekeepers unnecessarily limit us from telling stories. We’re dedicated to empowering creatives of all ages by providing free weekly labs, discounted resources and services, educational industry events, showcases, and film challenges.

This week we are breaking down our beloved LAB PIPELINE (formerly known as workshops). From conception of an idea to full execution of your project, WMM has a lab for every stage of development. Feature films, shorts, series, pilots, multimedia projects, experimental work, you name it, can be brought into one of our applicable labs to be further refined. Not only does this give filmmakers the opportunity to hear and see their work up on stage or on screen so it is off the page, out of their heads, and given the chance to be seen with fresh eyes, but they also walk away with valuable feedback from our community of like minded filmmakers. The supportive, collaborative atmosphere alone, is a worthwhile experience, in a town that enjoys chewing up and spitting out artists in favor of the "next big thing." 
Our premiere lab is the WRITERS LAB, which focuses on providing a venue for fresh pages to be read by professional actors, with the aim of encouraging the writers to explore the material as a precursor to pre-production, whether it be for a short film, a spec pilot, or a feature film. We hold staged readings of 4-6 original script submissions (15 pages or less per submission to keep the night varied) at each Writers Lab. The pieces can be shorts, or excerpts from larger works. Each script is cast ahead of time by WMM (casting suggestions from the writers are taken into consideration) from our large community of professional actors. The audience then provides feedback to the writer after each piece is read. Hundreds of projects have benefitted from this lab, as it functions as a test audience before a single cent is spent on actually making the project. It is the perfect place to work out the kinks of the plotline, feel out the characters and their arcs, and generally cultivate the structure of the piece before going into pre-production. 
Once a month, we host our PERFORMANCE LAB, which gives filmmakers the opportunity to share more polished versions of their craft and vision for various projects. Actors are  encouraged to showcase, in depth, characters and elements of their talent that the community may not have seen yet. Writers use this lab as a way to see how staging and action come  to life, while directors can convey their point of view of a piece. We highly encourage actors to team up with WMM writers and directors to simulate the real life collaboration that happens when a film is actually shooting, and love seeing scenes, monologues, songs, stand-up, improv, basically anything beyond the "staged reading" phase.
Once a quarter, our newest lab, the PRE-PRODUCTION WRITERS LAB accepts submissions for scripts that are in the pre-production phase and very near the shooting phase. Scripts submitted to the queue are prioritized based on which projects are closest to their shoot dates, and cast in advance by our casting team, just as the Writers Lab are. The feedback for these labs are specific to the practicalities of actual production. Notes typically address matters of locations, visual accompaniment, general polish of the scripts, as well as troubleshooting any concerns relating to pre-production as a whole. This workshop has also helped us do new member outreach to help expand our talented WMM actor database, as many actors who may be cast in reality, are asked to join in on the readings, alongside our own members.

Last, but not least, is our ROUGH CUT LAB (formerly known as Test Screening Night). Filmmakers with "works in progress" bring 15 minute portions of their projects to share to help them get to the next stage of development by garnering feedback on aspects of their work such as color, sound, general edit, and graphics. This night is ideal for filmmakers interested in feedback from our community to help refine, polish, or test screen different post-production choices, but we also accept storyboards or look books from filmmakers in search of community support around locations, costuming, and other such details of pre-production. 

An innumerable amount of projects have come out of this pipeline, and gone on to win accolades at festivals, as well as distribution on streaming platforms. Many artists of all walks, have been given opportunities to fail cheaply and humbly, while ultimately honing their craft and gaining confidence in their work. Countless collaborations have been fostered through this community. For any filmmaker looking to develop a project, the WMM Lab Pipeline is an accessible, productive, and invaluable resource... but don't take our word for it. Come find out for yourself. 

Written by Sapna Gandhi

Sapna Gandhi is an actor, singer-songwriter, and content creator. In addition to TV credits such as BOSCH, SHAMELESS and SCANDAL, she has appeared in numerous shorts, features, and series, including festival darlings IN ABSENTIA (Raindance) and THUMPER (Tribeca). Gandhi has produced several series and films under the umbrella of her production company Elegant Grotesque (most recently SCRAP, starring Anthony Rapp and Vivian Kerr, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ STRANDED ON THE EARTH, directed by Mike Bruce). She is also 1/2 of the musical duo, VATAVARAN, was born in England, raised all over the states, studied English and Women’s Studies, and trained at the American Conservatory Theatre in SF.

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