ZON Intensive Script Development Lab at UT Austin

Interdisciplinary research,
education and capacity building

The Intensive Script Development Lab, June 3 - July 30 at UT Austin, will be an advanced sequence of courses in film scriptwriting, direction and production for ten students from selected Portuguese universities. The ten finalists will be chosen this spring, based on their submissions of short film synopses.

Deadline: 15 Mar 2010

ZON Intensive Script Development Lab at UT Austin

Department of Radio-TV-Film
Summer 2010: June 3-July 30

Application details are available at http://www.zon.pt/premio/
(click on "ZON Intensive Script Development Lab")

The deadline for student submissions is 15 March, 2010.  Please contact the ZON Lab coordinator at your university for more information.

The program consists of two stages. During June and July, selected students will participate in intensive lab courses at UT Austin, developing their scripts and studying directing and production with highly experienced instructors including Richard Lewis and Stuart Kelban. Students chosen for the program will receive roundtrip travel to the United States plus room and board during their stay in Austin.

The second stage of the program when attendees return to Portugal. Students will continue with shooting and post-production from August through October, supervised by their respective universities. Program participants must complete their ten-minute films by the end of October and are asked to enter them in the ZON Criatividade em Multimédia prize 2010 competition.

The Austin portion of the program will consist of three classes, which are described below.

Writing the Short Script (Kelban)

Whether writing a short script or a feature-length screenplay, the screenwriter's goal is to tell a compelling story with engaging characters. In this course, we will explore the fundamentals of narrative story-telling -- character, plot and structure – and apply these dramatic principles to the development of your own original screenplay. At the end of the course, students will leave with short scripts ready for production, and with the storytelling skills to help make you better film makers.

From Script to Screen (TBA)

The Script-To-Screen class investigates the process of taking a film script ‘off the page’ and projecting it ‘onto the screen.’ The course will focus on a thorough understanding of short-format narrative filmmaking, through creative collaboration and intensive scene work-shopping, culminating in shot and edited scenes. The goal of the course is to prepare the scripts written in "Writing the Short Script" for full production.

Producing Film and Television (Lewis)

Producing Film and Television will detail how things work in the supposedly non-creative side of the entertainment industry. The course will focus on the function and duties of a producer as he or she shepherds an idea through a project "life cycle": development, financing, pre-production, production, post-production, marketing and distribution. Lecture topics will mirror the project life cycle while students concurrently develop their own business plans/prospectuses for original film or television projects of their choosing. At the end of the semester, each student should have a complete and realistic business plan for a film or video project, one that is ready for presentation to entertainment industry contacts and financiers. Both independent productions and productions originating in the studio/network system will be covered, as will considerations specific to both fiction and non-fiction productions.


Stuart Kelban is the Head of Screenwriting in the Radio-Television-Film department of the University of Texas at Austin. He has sold scripts to many of the major studios, including Warner Brothers, Sony, Fox and Mandalay Pictures, and written television pilots for HBO, NBC and UPN. Most recently, he developed a 60-minute drama with Happy Madison Productions (Adam Sandler), and co-wrote a 30-minute pilot for Will Ferrell and Adam McKay. He is currently rewriting a feature script set in Baghdad for Ferrell and McKay. Stuart has led classes on screenwriting for new media in Portugal during the summers of 2008 and 2009.

For more information, please see http://rtf.utexas.edu/faculty/skleban.html

Steve Mims’ award-winning short films have screened widely in festivals and on television, and he has extensive experience in writing, directing and editing. The New York Times' Vincent Canby called his film AUNT HALLIE "A treasure...which belongs on everybody's list of the top ten funniest films ever made." His feature film THE PERFECT SPECIMEN premiered at SXSW and on SHOWTIME. His music videos include work for Webb Wilder, Stephen Bruton, Los Straitjackets, the Austin Lounge Lizards, and Billy Joe Shaver and have aired on MORE MUSIC, TNN, CMT, GAC, CMT EUROPE, M2 and MTV. Mims’ newest short film, HONORARIUM, premieres at SXSW 2010. He is currently working on a feature length documentary.

Mims completed his graduate work in film at the University of Texas in 1987, and his teaching career spans over two decades. For more information, please see http://rtf.utexas.edu/faculty/smims.html

Richard Lewis has worked as an editor, producer, director, and/or writer for companies including National Geographic Television, Channel 4 (UK), A&E, PBS, Sierra Club Productions, and Devillier-Donegan Enterprises. Most recently, he worked on The Living Weapon, an episode of American Experience for PBS. His last production, Chimp Rescue, premiered on National Geographic Explorer and won a Genesis Award for Best Cable Documentary. Richard's editing credits include Nick Broomfield's Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of A Serial Killer. Additional experience includes three years as a story analyst in Los Angeles and three years as a management consultant with Andersen Consulting in Atlanta and London. Richard primarily teaches producing and screenwriting, and taught screenwriting courses for the UT Austin-Portugal digital media program in 2008 and 2009.

For more information, please see http://rtf.utexas.edu/faculty/richardlewis.html


The Department of Radio-Television-Film at The University of Texas at Austin offers a broad range of courses in the media arts leading to the Bachelor of Science, Master of Fine Arts, Master's and Ph.D. degrees. Consistently ranked as one of the top 10 programs in the United States, it is one of the few departments offering degrees in both media production and media studies.

There are currently approximately 900 undergraduate students and 160 total graduate students in the Department, taught by 28 full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members and approximately 25 part-time adjunct faculty.

Our M.F.A. students have an outstanding record of award-winning student work in festivals, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and various broadcast outlets. The Department’s production area offers studio space; an array of video and film cameras, lighting and grip equipment and recording devices; an expert technical staff, and highly experienced and professionally active faculty members.

The University of Texas

The University of Texas at Austin is one of the largest public universities in the United States. Founded in 1883, the university is based on a 140- hectare main campus with 21,000 faculty and staff, 17 colleges and schools, and more than 50,000 students. The university is annually ranked among the country’s very best public research universities and many of its colleges, schools and departments are considered among the finest in the nation.

The campus area features a wide variety of cafes and inexpensive restaurants and is next to major public transit routes.


Austin, a city of over 750,000 people, is known for its flourishing creative and high tech industries, arts and cultural organizations, museums, and active outdoor culture. Austin has a thriving filmmaking community and is home to South By Southwest (SXSW), one of the top U.S. film festivals.

Summer activities in Austin include hiking and biking on the city’s extensive trails, canoeing on Town Lake, swimming in the city’s famous natural pool, Barton Springs, and tubing on the Comal and Guadalupe rivers. At night, the city hosts a diverse live music scene featuring jazz, rock, experimental, and country, and features several bar and restaurant districts.

Activities (Tentative listing)

The ZON Intensive Script Development Lab at UT Austin will facilitate some group activities for students, mostly on weekends and evenings, to give them the full flavor of Austin. Event plans are currently taking shape, and are tentative. They may include:

Austin Film Society: Austin Studios

Operated by the Austin Film Society, Austin Studios is a centrally located, 8 hectare production facility providing over 30,000 square meters of production space in five wireless stages. This facility has been used in a variety of major features including Stop-Loss, Grindhouse, and The Rookie. The Department of Radio-TV-Film will negotiate a tour of the studio area for ZON participants.

Harry Ransom Center:

ZON students may tour the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center, a renowned humanities research library and museum. The Center’s film collections include more than 10,000 scripts for film, television, and radio; more than 15,000 posters, lobby cards, and other advertising materials; and over a million photographs, including film stills, portrait and publicity photographs, set and location reference stills, makeup and wardrobe stills, and candid, behind-the-scenes photographs. The Ransom Center’s new exhibition, Making Movies, focuses on the collaborative nature of film production and will be available for viewing until August 1, 2010.

River Tubing

Floating down the Comal or Guadalupe rivers in an inner tube is a time-honored summer pastime in central Texas. Tubing trips last 2-3 hours, taking participants past verdant riverbanks, shaded forest areas, and occasionally through small rapids.

Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs is one of Austin’s greatest natural assets, and is a popular summertime destination for Austin residents and visitors. Fed by an underground spring, the natural pool covers over one hectare and is surrounded by grassy slopes, providing lots of space for swimming and sunning. The pool is 20 degrees Celsius year round, offering cold refreshment in the Texas summer heat.

Gruene, Texas

Gruene, Texas is one of Central Texas’ most picturesque towns, settled along the Guadalupe River in the 1870s. The town is home to Gruene Hall, one of Texas oldest dance halls. On weekends and evenings, the dance hall fills with music lovers and dancers listening to traditional country, blues, and Americana.