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Screenwriters Lab

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The Screenwriters Lab is an incredible glimpse in the process of storytelling, an experience for writers with unmatched interaction. This raucous event is a Festival favorite and features award-winning actors and surprise guests.


3:00p.m. Friday March 20

Tito’s Handmade Vodka Filmmaker Loft


Academy Award winner Stephen Gaghan (Traffic, Syriana, Dolittle) hosts this year’s Screenwriters Lab, one of the Festival’s most talked about events. The Screenwriters lab allows four finalists to receive rare opportunities such as experiences at industry roundtables, insider access during the Sun Valley Film Festival, and personalized face time with Academy Award winning writer and Screenwriter’s Lab host, Stephen Gaghan. The panel will kick off with a discussion with the finalists led by Gaghan, followed by the presentation of the High Scribe Award, sponsored by Submittable, and a reading from the winning script.

Stephen Gaghan

Stephen Gaghan. Gaghan is one of the most acclaimed and accomplished filmmakers of his generation. In 2001, he earned the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Steven Soderbergh’s film Traffic. For that film, he also won a Golden Globe Award, BAFTA award, WGA award, and notice from many critics’ organizations. Gaghan was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay in 2006 for Syriana, which he also directed. That screenplay also won the Best Screenplay award from the National Board of Review and garnered the best supporting actor Oscar for George Clooney. Gaghan directed Gold starring Matthew McConaughey. In addition to directing Gold, he co-wrote the original song “Gold” for the film with Iggy Pop, Daniel Pemberton and Danger Mouse, which garnered a Golden Globe nomination. Upcoming, Gaghan wrote and directed Dolittle starring Robert Downey Jr., Emma Thompson, Ralph Fiennes, Rami Malek, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Kumail Nanjiani, and Michael Sheen, set to release in January 2020. Gaghan’s additional film writing credits include Havoc (2005), The Alamo (2004), and Rules of Engagement (2000). Additionally, he has two Edgar Awards and won the 1997 Emmy for Best Dramatic Writing for an episode of NYPD Blue.



The High Scribe Award, announced by the judge during the Screenwriters Lab is presented to an emerging voice in screenwriting. The 2020 Judge is Jennifer Todd, a film and television producer whose credits include Alice in Wonderland, Accross the Universe, Memento, the Austin Powers franchise, Live by Night, Celeste and Jesse Forever, Must Love Dogs, and Now and Then.  She is an executive producer of Showtime’s series City on Hill starring Kevin Bacon. She recently produced the upcoming Warner Bros. drama, The Way Back, directed by Gavin O’Connor and starring Ben Affleck, which will be released March 6th. Jennifer also produced the 89th and 90th Annual Academy Awards ceremonies, and currently serves as an Academy Governor representing the Producers Branch.

2019 Finalists

Witnesses by David Eisenberg and Jon Higgins

Clare by Lauren Minnerath

The Graveyard Shift by Max Andrew Dubinsky and Matthew Carpenter


Previous hosts include Award-winning screenwriters Mark Duplass (The Puffy Chair) , Charles Randolph (The Big Short), Craig Borten and Melissa Wallack (Dallas Buyer’s Club), and Phil Johnston (Ralph Breaks the Internet), (Zootopia).

Learn more about the submission process.