$10K Film Grant Available: Now Accepting Liberty Lab for Film Applications!


Are you a liberty-minded director, writer, or producer? Bring your perspective to the Liberty Lab for Film (LLF) to fine tune your craft as a filmmaker and storyteller while making a great, professional quality short film or web series.

LLF is an advanced program from Taliesin Nexus, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, for those who have filmmaking, screenwriting, or producing experience eager to work alongside like-minded creatives with the guidance of seasoned professionals such as Daniel Knauf, (executive producer, NBC’s The BlacklistAdam Simon, (creator of the FOX series Salem) screenwriters Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu, Cold), Paul Guay (Liar Liar), David H. Steinberg (American Pie 2) and Erica Beeney (The Battle for Shaker Heights and “Project Greenlight” winner)  in making your film.

If selected, you will receive $10,000 to make your short film and embark on a 100 day development and writing phase, before moving into production and post.  You and your team will work together from script development until your film or web series premieres at our gala SmashCut screening in Los Angeles and/or selected cities across the country.

LLF participants will also take part in CineShots, intimate discussions focusing on screenwriting, producing, directing, and post-production lead by industry veterans. Participants will also receive a free copy of Final Draft 10 (valued at $249), the industry’s leading screenwriting software.

The LLF is not for the faint of heart. You will undergo a compressed studio experience including script development, pre-production, production, post-production, and editing before finally seeing your film on the big screen!

(Taliesin Nexus is the owner and operator of the SmashCut Culture blog.)

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$10,000 Film Grant Available – Make a Short Film This Summer

As an independent filmmaker, the single biggest obstacle to getting your film made is: paying for it.  You can have all the other elements you need lined up: a great story, a fast and efficient crew, talented actors, and your aunt has even agreed to let you film at her vacation home in the mountains, (as long as you pay for the maid service afterwards,) but if you don’t have a budget to pay for it all, you will not make your film.  This is where Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film program comes in.

The Liberty Lab for Film (or LLF) is an advanced program for those who have filmmaking, screenwriting, and/or producing experience and want an opportunity to work alongside liberty-minded creatives under the guidance of seasoned professionals such as Daniel Knauf, (co-executive producer, NBC’s The Blacklist) Adam Simon (creator of the FOX series Salem) and screenwriter David H. Steinberg (American Pie 2)  in developing, writing, filming and editing your short film or web series idea.

Jessica Stroup (FOX's The Following) discusses her scene with LLF filmmaker and director Nick Delgado on his film Freedom HUD
Jessica Stroup (FOX’s The Following) discusses her scene with LLF filmmaker and director Nick Delgado on his film Freedom HUD

If you and your treatment are selected, you will receive a grant for $10,000 to fund your project and be paired with an established industry professional who will mentor you through a 100 day process.  At the conclusion, Taliesin Nexus will host a gala showcase screening in Los Angeles where your film will premiere along with your fellow LLF participants’ projects.

This is not for the faint of heart.  You and your partners will be responsible for producing a high quality film. For 100 days, you  must contend with: a rigorous development process, valuable collaboration, working within a budget, and notes & feedback from your mentor and the network.  It’s a process not unlike aspects of the Hollywood system or any independent film production.

To submit, all you need is a one-page treatment of your story idea for a short film or web-series that touches on some aspect of liberty.  Why Liberty?  Taliesin Nexus is committed to helping storytellers, who share a passion for human freedom and diversity, succeed in their entertainment career.

The 2015 LLF Fellows and their mentors in the writers room at the opening workshop.
The 2015 LLF Fellows and their mentors in the writers room at the opening workshop.

One great aspect about applying is, if you apply early, it will give them time to review your application and reach out to you to offer feedback. If they can help you with your treatment even before you make it in to the program, they want to do it.  Taliesin Nexus is committed to ensuring that you and your project receive as much support as possible.

Please follow this link to learn more about the program, the application process, and what to expect when you are selected into the program.  Applications are being accepted NOW and you have until April 15, 2016 to submit.

(Taliesin Nexus is the owner and operator of SmashCut Culture)


Kickstarter Alert – Yinz

Smash Cut Culture is proud to support the up & coming filmmakers who make up part of the nexus that is Taliesin Nexus. Please take a moment to check out alum Jeremy Michael Cohen’s pitch for his latest feature film project Yinz and its Kickstarter campaign below:

Today we’re launching the Kickstarter campaign for my first feature film as a director. The film is called YINZ, and it’s inspired by growing up in my Rust Belt hometown in Western Pennsylvania. I’m making the movie with Hailey Hansard, my long-time girlfriend and a working actress, and John Hermann, an experienced producer I’ve worked with before.

From the Kickstarter page for Yinz

The first day is the most important time for any Kickstarter campaign. It’s the make-or-break day for whether it will go viral. We know not everyone can or wants to put money into a Kickstarter, and we’re cool by that. But we’d love and be grateful if you’d share the campaign with your friends today.

There’s a ton of information about YINZ on the Kickstarter page and in the video. However, we’ve come up with this nifty little phrase to sum up the movie: Yinz is a dark comedy about growing up in Western Pennsylvania. A violent and funny forbidden love story in the the heart of the Rust Belt.

I’d like to ask you to do two things, please:

1) Please visit our Kickstarter page and watch the video. We’re pre-selling the movie for $25, and we’ve put together some pretty cool rewards for higher levels of backing. There’s a ton more information about the project on the Kickstarter page. We’d love any comments you want to leave on the page, too. Watching the video and chipping in even a single dollar is the most important thing you can do for us. If you want a direct link to the campaign, it’s: www.jerm.co/yinzkickstarter



Shelter Star, Clea Duval Interviewed at Dances With Films

cleaClea Duval, star of writer/director RJ Daniel Hanna’s short film drama Shelter (produced as part of the 2014 Liberty Lab for Film project through Taliesin Nexus) was interviewed just prior to the short’s premier this past Monday, June 1st at the Dances with Films festival in Hollywood, CA.

To find out more about the film check out the Facebook page.

From her early turn as the tough high school outcast in Robert Rodriguez’s “The Faculty” to most recently as one of the six American diplomats detained in Ben Affleck’s Oscar winning film “Argo,” DuVall has been hitting all the right performance notes and shows no sign of stopping.  Her latest work is in a moody new short titled “Shelter” (making its way to the big screen via the Dances With Films Festival 2015 on Monday, June 1st at 5pm at the Chinese 6 Theaters on Hollywood and Highland in LA) that sees DuVall playing a prisoner on parole who becomes affected by her job working at an animal shelter.  The short is a precursor to a proposed feature length film and if anything like the impressive sixteen minute movie it’s gonna be a movie to watch for.



Wigs – Liberty Lab for Film

WIGS 1C 1400x1400Next up in our ongoing series highlighting the film projects that were produced during the 100 day challenge laid out by Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film, we bring you another comedy web-series. Wigs was created by writer Richard Mattox and director Matt Edwards (both SCC contributors).

Sick and tired of seeing all the attention that comic book superheroes garner on the sidewalks of Hollywood Blvd., Virginia, a widowed grandmother with some disposable income, forms “Wigs on Wheels”, a group of historical re-enactors who travel around Los Angeles bringing real American heroes like Abraham Lincoln, Frederick Douglass, and Dolley and James Madison to life. Overzealous police, smart-aleck kids, and internal subversion are all present in this hilarious comedy.

Wigs garnered first place and the filmmakers were awarded $2000 for their work during the 100 Day Challenge of the Liberty Lab for Film.

[Update: Taliesin Nexus has extended the deadline to apply for this year’s Liberty Lab for Film until midnight Monday the 25th for all you last minute shoppers out there.]

Smash Cut Culture: What drew you to becoming a filmmaker?

Richard Mattox: I was always interested in the performing arts.  I had experience acting, playing music, and singing all throughout my childhood.  But I think it was Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that inspired my to become a filmmaker.  I remember writing my own sequel to the films.  It was a 10 page script in which I was the lead.  I can still remember standing behind my mom as she operated the camera, banging pots and pans together for sound as my neighborhood friends tromped around the snow fighting with plastic swords.

Matt Edwards: Growing up in Los Angeles I was exposed very early on to the behind-the-scenes action of some of my generations favorite TV shows.  With action scenes from shows like Knight Rider, The Fall Guy and The A-Team being filmed on the streets of my neighborhood, I figured every kid knew how the “sausage was made” and it was no big deal.  When I hit college and met more people not from LA, I realized how lucky I was to have sort of a home court advantage when it came to being comfortable trying to make it in Hollywood and I better not waste the chance.  Plus I fell in love with Hitchcock movies at about age 9, and never looked back.


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DEADLINE EXTENDED – 2015 Liberty Lab for Film

May 15 is here and if you thought you missed out on applying for 2015’s Liberty Lab for Film, then good news… you’ve got seven more days to get your act (or three acts) together and apply for a $10,000 grant, a Hollywood insider to mentor you and 100 days to make your film.

You can read more about the program here or below on the next page.  But perhaps you are more easily persuaded by the visual and would like to watch a short reel showing off last year’s lab participants.



C.A.R.E. Force – Liberty Lab for Film 2014

In our ongoing series* highlighting the film projects that were produced during the 100 day challenge laid out by Taliesin Nexus’ Liberty Lab for Film, we bring you the comedy webseries C.A.R.E. Force created by comedy writer Crystal Hubbard and fiction writer Mike Pauly (both SCC contributors).  The series centers on an obscure law enforcement agency that may or may not be fighting actual crime.  Nonetheless, they exist to enforce the laws that time forgot.

SCC: What drew you to be a filmmaker?

Mike Pauly: I’ve always felt compelled to tell stories. The medium of film/television reaches the widest possible audience and can have the most impact.

Crystal Hubbard: I was too old to be Indiana Jones.



When We Meet Again – 2014 Liberty Lab For Film

Jimmy Lui is one of 2014’s Taliesin Nexus Liberty Lab For Film Fellows.  He wrote and directed the short film thriller When We Meet Again.  His partner fellow Nevil Jackson was the cinematographer on the project.  The film is a sci-fi drama about a teacher visited by a time-traveller who tries to convince her that he knows what is best for her.  Smash Cut Culture asked Jimmy Lui a few questions about the project and on himself as a filmmaker.

SCC: What drew you to be a filmmaker?

JL: A charcoal pencil.  I find that movies have a certain power that other mediums do not.  I grew up an Asian kid in the deep South.  To say that I did not fit in with my peers is a bit of an understatement.  Yet, at the movies, we were all the same.  That is a pretty powerful idea.  Movies can be empowering and personal and communal and inspiring and entertaining and influential.The movies I was attracted to most growing up were the films of Bruce Lee, the action films from Hong Kong and Big Trouble In Little China.  Perhaps it was seeing heroes who looked like me on the screen, but I think it was more the beauty and power of the martial arts and action in those films.

When I was a teenager, I noticed that most of the movies that I loved were by the same few filmmakers.  That’s when I decided that I wanted to be a filmmaker.  Unlike most filmmakers of my age group who went to film school, I do not like the Star Wars films and I think Martin Scorcese is a hack.  I would rather make movies in the vein of Sammo Hung, John Carpenter, Buster Keaton, Paul Vehoeven, David Cronenberg and Mel Gibson.



2015 Liberty Lab For Film & Calliope Authors Workshop

Taliesin Nexus is proud to announce that applications have launched for two more of their 2015 programs.

Liberty Lab For Film

Get a $10,000 Grant to Make a Short Film in the Liberty Lab Program!

Taliesin Nexus is seeking applications for the Liberty Lab for Film program, which provides grants of $10,000 to seven teams of filmmakers to create a short film or web series with a liberty-related theme.  Each team of two filmmakers will be assigned a mentor from among our faculty of seasoned Hollywood professionals, screenwriters and producers whose credits include hit TV shows like The Blacklist and Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, and hit movies like American Pie II and Liar Liar (with Jim Carrey).


apollo wkshp

NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS: The Apollo Workshop: Storytelling in Film & TV

logo-1The Apollo Workshop:  Storytelling in Film and Television (formerly The Filmmakers Workshop) is a weekend conference connecting 25 talented aspiring filmmakers with 25 members of our faculty of Hollywood screenwriters, producers, executives and talent representatives.  It will take place in August 14-16, 2015 on the UCLA campus.

And imagine this:  the workshop is completely free of charge — free tuition, free room and board, and even travel stipends to those coming from outside of Southern California.

The Apollo Workshop offers training in two critical areas:  Storytelling Development and Career Development.

Click here to learn more and apply.

Lights, Camera, Liberty, the Series: Part II

As a quick public service announcement for those of you just getting looped in, over the course of the next few weeks, we’ll be posting videos submitted by participants in The Atlas Network’s “Lights, Camera, Liberty” program. Each member organization has been asked to share a short (in some cases, short-ish) video that they produced and best shows off their mission-in-action, as well as their filmmaking chops.

This week’s video, a promo clip, comes from the Manning Centre on Building Democracy, based out of Calgary.

In their own words,

Combining archival footage and historic quotes, this short clip reminds Canadians of their country’s tradition of self-reliance and free markets. 

Enjoy, and happy weekend!

Breaking Records and the Liberty Lab

Our last (but not least!) mentor for the Liberty Lab for Film is a record-breaking screenwriter.  No, he didn’t set a record for growing the biggest pumpkin or juggling the most chainsaws.  Instead, mentor Bill Marsilii (along with co-writer Jerry Rossio) sold the time-travel thriller Deja Vu to super-producer Jerry Bruckheimer and Touchstone Pictures for an unprecedented $5 million.  The resulting film, starring Denzel Washington, grossed more than $180 million worldwide.

Of course, as with most “overnight successes,” many years of sweat and hard work went into preparing for that moment.  Bill spent years working in improv and theater, acting in and writing plays before he moved onto movie scripts.


Since the Deja Vu deal, Bill has sold several other screenplays and pitches, including 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:  Captain Nemo to Walt Disney Pictures, and Blood of the Innocent, an adaptation of the Dracula vs. Jack the Ripper graphic novel,  to Inferno Entertainment.  He also adapted the classic children’s novel The Wind in the Willows which is currently in production at Peter Jackson’s Weta Workshop, starring Ricky Gervais.

I’ll let you in on a little secret:  whoever is assigned Bill as a mentor is very, very lucky.  And one more secret before I wrap up here:  The final day to apply for the Liberty Lab is May 15 — just two days from now.

If you’re a procrastinator like I am, you may have left your application to the last minute.  Not to worry!  You’ve still got time to write that one-page treatment and turn it in right under the deadline, even if you have to set a writing record of your own.


Taliesin Nexus sponsors five $10,000 prizes for web series and short film pitches

I’ve never been able to wrap my head around the adage “There Ain’t No Such Thing As a Free Lunch” (or TANSTAAFL, for all you acronym aficionados). Because if you’re not the one picking up the tab then, yeah, it’s FREE, so Super Size that #5! (Feel free to use the comment section to point out how flawed my logic is, while I munch on my Big & Tasty.)


Anyway, in the vein of things being “FREE,” the folks over at Taliesin Nexus are giving away $50,000 to be used on five winning pitches for this year’s Liberty Lab. According to TN:

“The Liberty Lab is an advanced program for those who have some filmmaking or video-making experience or training under their belt but want an opportunity to work with like-minded creatives with the guidance of seasoned professionals.

“In this program, you will have 100 days to write, shoot and edit a short film or video (between 5-30 minutes long) while receiving feedback from one of our faculty along the way at crucial stages (first draft of the script, first rough cut of the video, etc.).  And you will have a $10,000 production budget with which to work.”

This is an awesome opportunity for those of you looking to take your filmmaking to the next level, but are struggling to come up with funds to show the world what you’ve got.

Pitches must be submitted no later than May 15, so get crackin’!

[Note:  This article has been corrected from an earlier version.]

“Liar Liar” and the Liberty Lab


No, our pants are not on fire.  Instead, we’re thrilled to announce that Paul Guay, who conceived and wrote one of Jim Carrey’s greatest hits, Liar Liar, will serve as a mentor in this summer’s Liberty Lab for Film.


Paul’s movies have grossed more than half a billion dollars.  Liar Liar was Carrey’s second-biggest hit without the word Batman or Grinch in the title (number one was Bruce Almighty, in which Carrey played God — how do you compete with that?).

At the time of its release Liar Liar was the sixth-highest-grossing comedy in history.  The screenplay received an Honorable Mention (along with Fargo, Million Dollar Baby, The Full Monty and Catch Me If You Can) in Scr(i)pt magazine’s list of the Best Scripts of the Past 10 Years.

Paul has been involved in numerous other projects.  He co-wrote the feature film version of The Little Rascals, Universal’s second-highest-grossing movie of the year, and co-wrote Heartbreakers, starring Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt and Gene Hackman, which opened #1 at the box office, and the rights to which he co-licensed to MGM for production as a stage musical.

Paul is a much sought-after script consultant.  But you can get his feedback for free if you are accepted into the Liberty Lab program.  Apply soon; the final deadline is May 15th.

What do Matt Damon and the Liberty Lab have in common?

Battle of Shaker Heights

It’s really simple, actually.  Matt Damon was one of the producers of HBO’s reality show, Project Greenlight.  The winning screenwriter of season two was Erica Beeney, whose script The Battle of Shaker Heights was made into a movie that also served as the first starring vehicle for actor Shia LaBeouf.

After winning HBO’s Project Greenlight contest, Erica wrote and developed numerous projects including an updated version of the classic teen surf movie Gidget for Sony and the comedy New Sensation for New Line.  She wrote Love & Other 4-Letter Words, a romantic comedy, for producer Chris Moore.  With husband Rupert Wyatt (director of Rise of the Planet of the Apes) she wrote a feature film Ice Road Truckers based on the popular TV series.

Erica has also worked extensively in television, including writing a TV movie for USA Network, a TV pilot for Viacom, and a one-hour drama pilot for Lifetime Television.  She’s currently writing a pilot for Media Rights Capital (producers of the House of Cards series) called True Believers.  Erica researched and developed It Might Get Loud, a documentary on the electric guitar, for Davis Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning director of Waiting for Superman.   She is currently working on Devil’s Canyon, an original screenplay she is slated to direct for Paramount Pictures.

And Erica will serve as a mentor to one fortunate team of filmmakers who are accepted into the Liberty for Film program.  Applications are free until midnight PT, April 25, and just $25 during the week after that.

Comedy and the Liberty Lab

A couple of weeks ago we introduced one of the mentors in Taliesin Nexus‘s new Liberty Lab program, Daniel Knauf, as a producer and writer of horror and other “darker” genre projects.   Today we do an about-face and talk about comedy.

David H. Steinberg took a circuitous route to writing comedy scripts via law school.  David entered Yale at age 16 and earned his law degree from Duke University.  After four years of practicing law, he quit and entered USC’s Peter Stark Producing Program.


David sold his first screenplay, Slackerswhich went on to become a cult classic starring Devon Sawa and Jason Schwartzman.  He went on to write several films in the American Pie franchise (including American Pie 2), National Lampoon’s Barely Legal, and the remake of the 1980’s classic Porky’s.  David has written several animated movies like Pixie Hollow Games.  He’s also written several TV pilots for various networks.

David created and directed the award-winning short film, The Babysitter (with Brie Larson), which garnered more than four million online views on Atom.com, and made his feature directorial debut on the romantic comedy Miss Dial.  He recently checked off one of his bucket-list items by writing an episode of The Simpsons.

And yes, David will be serving as the mentor to one lucky team of filmmakers this summer who are admitted to the Liberty Lab program.  So apply soon, as applications are free until April 25 (and just $25 after that).


What do Dracula and the Liberty Lab have in common?

imagesDaniel Knauf is an executive producer and writer for NBC show Dracula, starring Jonathan Rhys Myers.  It’s not a surprise that Daniel was tapped to work on Dracula,  considering the projects he’s worked on before (and is currently developing).  They include the eerie, Emmy-winning series Carnivale, which he created for HBO.

And if you meet Daniel, you will soon discover that, aside from being a gentleman (in all senses of the word), he is a gifted storyteller.  I have had the pleasure of meeting Daniel at several Taliesin Nexus-sponsored workshops, where he holds students spellbound with his colorful anecdotes, salty humor and hard-won sagacity.

And yes, if you are an aspiring filmmaker and you apply for and are chosen for this summer’s Liberty Lab for Film, you will get a chance to meet the man in the flesh, as he is slated to serve as one of the mentors for the program.  A lucky pair of creative initiates will be paired with Daniel (how I envy you!), who will provide canny advice and push you to make a sensational short film.

But don’t worry; he won’t try to extract any blood.  (Or so he promised.)




Free Workshop and Internships for Liberty-Loving Creatives

Want to score a free weekend in L.A., learning the craft of storytelling from Hollywood veterans?  Or how about a three-month paid internship at a leading production company?

Taliesin Nexus is pleased to announce that applications are now open for two of their premier training programs.

The Filmmakers Workshop is TN’s flagship, this year’s being the fifth in a row.  A three-day weekend conference in August, it’s the perfect way to sample what TN has to offer, with minimal commitment.  Best of all, it’s absolutely free.  And TN even helps cover travel expenses and provides free room and board.

Who can apply?  TN is looking for liberty-loving filmmakers, video-makers or screenwriters who have some background in media or have written at least one script or made at least one short film or video.

About two dozen applicants will be selected to come to L.A. on August 15-17, 2014, where the workshop will take place on the campus of UCLA.  The faculty is comprised of seasoned Hollywood professionals who will share tips on craft and career advice.  The focus is on developing powerful stories, which is the root of any great movie or TV show.


If you prefer a longer sojourn in L.A., apply for the Hollywood Internship Program.  This program is more selective than the workshop, as it only accepts about three each year.  Each will work for a leading production company as an intern for about three months.  One or two will work in the summer, and the other(s) in the fall, gaining valuable experience and connections.

The early-bird application deadline is May 1st, so apply soon.  See the “How to Apply” page for more information.

And don’t forget about TN’s new program for more advanced filmmakers, the Liberty Lab for Film.

The AFI 100 Movie Challenge

The AFI 100 Movie Challenge

The Academy Awards happened recently; a night where most of the country gathers around their TVs to celebrate the one thing we all have in common: a love for the movies.

However, for as much as I pride myself in film knowledge, the famous Oscar montages tend to inform me as to how few of Hollywood’s greatest pictures I’ve actually seen.

This led me to a challenge; an attempt to tackle 100 of the greatest films of all time.

Every 10 years the American Film Institute revises what they assert to be the list of the top 100 films ever made.  Here it is: 100 Years 100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition.


Put-Up Time

Ever tell your friends, “If only I could have $10,000 for a production budget and mentoring from a seasoned Hollywood pro, I could make a really kick-ass short film”?

Well, it’s time to put up or shut up.  Taliesin Nexus is offering just that to ten lucky young filmmakers.  Go here to find out how the program works and how to apply.

A key part of the application is a one-page treatment of your idea for a short film or video.  The story you want to make needs to address some aspect of liberty as its theme.  And it must be makable within the budgetary limits.  (So forget about that sequel to Braveheart, unless you’re really good at green-screen CGI.)

The judges will be looking for originality.  But they’re not looking for super-esoteric film-school short films.  You know the type — shot in black and white for no good reason, weird for the sake of being weird.  It wouldn’t kill you to give it a coherent narrative.  (And it’d definitely give you a better shot at getting picked.)

So, start thinking up those original story ideas with a coherent narrative and a liberty theme.  With any luck, you’ll be making a kick-ass short film this summer.

And stay tuned to this blog, as we’ll release additional tips and details on TN’s programs.