In September 2019, I had the privilege of being chosen as the NewEnglandFilm.com Fellow to attend the Stowe Story Labs' Narrative Lab in Stowe, Vermont. Today I'm talking about what my experience attending the lab was like, what I enjoyed about it, what my biggest takeaways were, and what I would recommend you do if attending a writing lab!
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What's the Stowe Story Lab?
The Stowe Story Lab is a nonprofit that aims to bring writers, filmmakers, and producers, together with working industry professionals to get projects made. Their programs include labs, writer's retreats, as well as fiscal agency, which helps support select projects.
I attended the Narrative Lab, which is a four-day intensive program focused on skill development, networking with other writers, and access to working industry professionals.
Did it cost money to attend?
Yes, the Narrative Lab costs $2,450 to attend. Thankfully you can apply for full and partial scholarships! My NewEnglandFilm.com fellowship covered the cost of my attendance fee.
What was an average day like?
An average day would include:
Meeting in smalls groups and discussing how to pitch our projects. We'd practice our pitches and provide feedback. We practiced pitching every day, so it was nice to see how everyone's pitches improved throughout the lab.
We'd have a presentation on a subject such as story structure.
For lunch, we would all take the opportunity to meet and talk with people we hadn't introduced ourselves to yet.
Before the lab, we sent everyone in our peer group our scripts. So, each day, we'd meet in peer groups, and focus on one person's script to provide feedback.
We'd meet with mentors and discuss what they do and what they look for, and then we'd pitch our projects and get feedback from the mentors.
For dinner, we networked and continued to get to know each other.
After dinner, we often went out for drinks and socialized.
Biggest Take Away
The biggest thing the Stowe Story Labs did for me was to prepare me to take advantage of the opportunities I received after it. The Narrative Lab taught me how to talk about and pitch my projects. Through working on my pitch every day I was able to learn how to express the key points I want to get across about a script, how to cater to the person I'm talking to, and how to draw out or shorten a pitch depending on the type of meeting I'm in. The lab took me from feeling nervous and anxious about my works to feeling confident and in control.
My favorite aspect of the lab was getting to meet so many other writers as well as industry professionals! It was lovely to be welcomed into the Stowe Story Community and get to meet other passionate storytellers, especially since I live in a place without a strong film community.
My advice if you find yourself accepted into a writing lab is just to be prepared to soak everything up! Labs are often very busy and keep you going constantly, so try to be in the moment and take in everything you're learning.
Don't be afraid to meet people! Network! As someone who can be anxious about meeting new people, the lab helped me to break out of my shell and get more comfortable networking.
Also, be sure to check if the lab you're interested in provides scholarships! I wouldn't have been able to attend Stowe Story Lab if it wasn't for the fellowship I received. Some labs provide aid so that they can have writers from all walks of life participate.
I loved my time at the Stowe Story Lab. I was able to meet so many fantastic writers and mentors, and it helped teach me how to package and present a script in my pitches. If you have a chance to apply, I'd definitely recommend it! I've listed some of the best screenwriting labs around the world in this article, so be sure to check it out.