mentorship program

Receive unlimited private coaching and achieve your goals as a screenwriter and/or filmmaker.

What if this year alters the next 20?

“You have forever changed my life. That’s not an exaggeration.”

— Amy Tompkins

We won’t let you make a film. We’ll lead you to your best film.

“You get the support and the love of a group of people that want you to succeed.”
— Meg Locke
white laureate with the word 'awards' inside

Our mentees repeatedly sweep awards because we know how to lead our students to their best work.

Once you apply to this program, we’ll send you private screeners to the films above.

“One decision can change your life in very dramatic ways.”

— Kevin Brodie

How to apply

This program is currently closed.

Please scroll down this page for our waitlist form.

Once you join our waitlist, we’ll review your application and contact you to let you know when enrollment will open again. At that time, you’ll be invited to book a private consultation with Ela Thier and discuss your work and goals.

Where will you be in 12 months?

Will you still be thinking about writing and/or creating films, and telling yourself that you’ll do it some day?

Or will you be attending your table read, be in production, or be picking out an outfit for your premiere?

“7 months later I have a film in the can. What?! Huh?!”


Every pro athlete has a coach. Artists need coaches too.
“How long have I had the dream of having a film…? And until I found you, I had no idea how to do it. The fact that I actually have something… blows my mind.”

— Andrew Hartfield

Past mentees share their experience:
“It’s been life changing. Truly.”
— Fianna Litvok
“Huge impact in my life, more than you’ll ever know.”
— Maribelle Martinez

How we build Confidence


Discover your strengths and learn how to lean into them.


Enjoy a network of support with likeminded artists.


Build your skillset and get those reps in. That’s how we grow.


Meet your edge, then exceed your own expectations.


Build self-esteem by doing what you said you will do. We’ll help!

“I am in pre-production on a film. I raised the funds. I have all the tools I need to make this film. And without you, that would not have happened.”
— Meg Locke
I'm a working screenwriter, and the mentorship program was a game changer in my career. Before the program, I was hired to write a feature, but received many pages of notes and the feature was not produced. The process was demoralizing and I was crushed. So when I got hired to write a pilot, I joined Ela's program. This time: the pilot was greenlit and the show is now in with FX. It's all thanks to Ela.
Mathilde Dratwa

Thank you for being an excellent listener and coach. Rather than imposing your personal worldview on others, you have a gift for amplifying the writer's vision for their own piece. The detailed script notes were excellent, and the coaching team provided an infinite wealth of knowledge.

Candace Singh
I have denied my creative side for way too long. Life kept getting in the way and this was my chance to deliver. Your no-nonsense expectation to produce, to stretch myself, to not allow life to be too much, has made me choose myself and do my work. I've now raised $36K for a short that I wrote in which I'll be playing the lead. I don't know how to properly thank you.
Meg Jenkins Locke

Our guiding principles

Every human is creative and has unique talents.
Artists are key leaders in our society.

Artists need community, not competition.

Our mentees create no-money exercise shoots for practice. Like this one!

Program Format


Meet your coach weekly, scheduled around your availability.


Meet, connect, learn. Recordings available.


Written support from coaches and peers.

This is the quality you want to look for in a program. I can have this experience with you instead of spending $60,000 on an MFA.”

— Marilyn McNeal

your investment

Unlimited number of private coaching sessions on an as-needed basis, for a full year.

Value: $12,000

Bi-monthly live classes with Ela Thier and the coaching team for skill building and review of projects

Value: $3,000


Daily written support from coaches and peers, Monday through Friday.

Value: $2,000

Ela Thier’s Consultation services
I work with the coaching team to ensure that each artist receives as much or more than they need. I offer consultations as needed, and I greenlight scripts, production plans, and rough cuts, to ensure that our students’ work meets – and exceeds – industry standards.

Value: $18,000

* The above components are not available a-la-carte, but only as part of the Mentorship Program.

Program bonuses

As part of the program, you’ll receive year-long access to any courses you’re not currently enrolled in. Work through courses at your own time and pace to uplevel your skills, as you work with a mentor weekly and develop your body of work:

Write Your Best Screenplays

Receive year-long access to my self-paced, on-demand course in screenwriting. Eliminate writing blocks; find your voice; achieve emotional impact; and dive into the nuts and bolts of story structure.

Value: $997

Producing Indie Films

Receive year-long access to my self-paced, on-demand course in producing your own work. Funding; packaging; audience building; marketing & distribution; and all things physical production.

Value: $997

The Film Directing Suite

Receive year-long access to my self-paced, on-demand suite of courses on film directing. Learn how to work with actors to achieve natural-looking and powerful performances. Then work through my course on shot planning and become a pro – regardless of budget.

Value: $1,997

Additional courses

Additional courses include a course on pitching and publicity; goal setting for artists; film editing; as well as a year-long membership in the IFS Studio, a live, co-working space.

If it’s available to anyone, it’ll be available to you.

Value: $1,000

ongoing access to slack

Our community on Slack has been one of the most valuable components of the program. It’s where our coaching team and I offer guidance daily. Given that we’ll become personally invested in your success for years to come, we decided to offer ongoing membership in our slack space to all alumni – indefinitely. The program will run for a year, but this bonus will ensure that your connection with us – is life long.

Value: $10,000

TOTAL VALUE: $50,000

* Saving of $830 when paying in full.

Get coached through fundraising

OUR mentees regularly exceed fundraising goals

Stephanie raised 3 times what she spent on our program. Her short is currently a finalist in the World Film Festival in Cannes, and she’s in talks with potential financiers about funding the feature film.

Rasika exceeded her goal of $5K and raised $8K for a one-day shoot featuring herself and her mom.

These are super typical results.

While our program is a fraction of the price of most film schools, and offers an unparalleled amount of private coaching at the highest level, we also coach mentees who want it through raising money for their projects. This is a skill that will keep on giving – over a lifetime.

How to apply

Please submit our program application form to join our waitlist. 

This program is open by invitation.

After reviewing your application, we’ll reach out to let you know when the program will reopen for enrollment. At that time, we’ll invite you to book a private consultation with Ela Thier to discuss your background and goals.

Please note that we require a $500 refundable deposit to book a consultation. If you join the program, the deposit will be applied towards your registration fee in the program. If you don’t join, the deposit will be refunded in full.

Your consultation does not guarantee admission, and does not obligate you to join.

Past mentees share their experience:
“I can have this experience with you instead of spending $60,000 on an MFA.”

— Marilyn McNeal

“It’s blown my mind …I feel that you want me to be successful and that’s extremely rare.”

— Stephanie Williams

Ela Thier, The Independent Film School_1

Program Director

I’ve written, directed, and produced several award-winning features and many shorts. You can view my filmography on IMDB.

As importantly to me, I’ve guided hundreds of screenwriters and filmmakers since 2006, and proven time and again that to thrive, what artists need are skills, community, encouragement, and guidance from someone who believes in them and holds out high expectations.

It’s been a highlight of my life to have launched careers of fellow artists. And it’s been a recent highlight to lead a team of powerful artists who share my passion for teaching.

Ela Thier
“The pilot was greenlit and the show is now in with FX. It’s all thanks to you.”

— Mathilde Dratwa

Your Coaches

Andrea Martínez Crowther

Andrea Martínez Crowther is a Mexican-Canadian filmmaker who feels equally comfortable in the worlds of fiction and documentary and her films – deeply personal and often self-referenced – frequently explore the blurry area between the two. 

Her first feature film, Insignificant Things, was Executive Produced by Guillermo del Toro. It participated in the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab, IFP Director’s Lab and premiered in the San Sebastian Film Festival. 

Her second film, Ciclo, an intimate road documentary revisiting the bicycle journey her father and uncle made from Mexico to Canada in 1956, garnered several People’s Choice Awards in film festivals around the world.

Observar las aves, her third film, premiered at the Los Cabos Film Festival where it garnered the People’s Choice Award as well as the New Art Kingdom Award. Her most recent film, Tare, stars renowned Mexican actor Tenoch Huerta (Narcos, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever).

Click here for Andrea’s writing-directing reel

Dylan Gary

Dylan Gary‘s career highlights include working on the writing staff of HBO’s critically-acclaimed TELL ME YOU LOVE ME, receiving a coveted “blind pilot” deal from Sony Television, and adapting a popular British TV show for American audiences (also for Sony). 

Dylan’s original pilot, BEHIND THE SUN, was commissioned by The Sundance Channel. His limited-series RANDOM (co-created with Kim Farrant) was optioned by London-based Warp Films (THIS IS ENGLAND,THE LAST PANTHERS, ’71). Dylan was also hired to adapt a novel by Olive Productions (Steve Buscemi, Stanley Tucci, Wren Arthur), and has worked as a professional script consultant for a wide array of production companies and management houses

His recent film, THE UNIFORM, is currently on the festival circuit. Dylan brings years of teaching experience, knows how to genuinely care about and nurture fellow artists, and help each artist find and enjoy their unique voice.

Shane Andries

Shane Andries launched his career as a writer after winning the Grand Prize award at the Slamdance Screenplay Competition (shout out to Ela and IFS!). 

He’s currently writing a live-action Aladdin spinoff for Disney, and has previously worked with several award-winning production companies, including Automatik, Anonymous Content, and Sony Television. 

Shane has a B.F.A from the School of Drama at The University of North Carolina School of the Arts. As an actor and musician, he performed worldwide as a Blue Man in BLUE MAN GROUP and has worked in television and film, most recently, HBO’s Love and Death.

Shane directed several short films and is working with Phiphen Pictures on his directorial feature debut. He resides in Austin, TX, with his wife, Bethany, and their two young daughters.

Jane Shepard

Jane Shepard has worked within Hollywood and in independent films. Her screenplay Freak City was nominated for a Writer’s Guild Award when it was produced as a Showtime Original Movie. 

She has since worked as writer, director, producer, and actor, in several award-winning films including Nine and Earning the Day.  Shepard’s published collections of plays include Meaty Monologues and the popular Kickass Plays For Women, whose plays debuted Off-Broadway. She’s also a professional actress, musician and cartoonist. On her time off, you might find her pruning your yard!

Depending on your needs, private coaching may include:
  • Creative recovery
  • Script notes
  • Script consultations
  • Acting sessions
  • Directing actors
  • Shot planning
  • Production guidance
  • Crowdfunding guidance
  • Post-production guidance
  • Film festival guidance
I wrote more in 3 months than I have in over 10 years. I can’t thank you enough for all the knowledge you’ve imparted. You provide a welcoming home that encourages creativity and collaboration; one that I’ll treasure for many years to come. I’m forever grateful!
John Akahoshi
Being a part of this mentorship program was rewarding in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I walked away with a network of fellow writers and artists who are incredibly talented and dedicated to their craft. I gained the confidence to trust my instincts and found the courage to show up to a blank page. My understanding of storytelling also improved as Ela and the coaches were instrumental in helping me bring clarity to sticky points with thoughtful and respectful collaboration. I’m thankful to have been a part of this experience.
I've been mentored by Ela in the past and it was hugely successful. I worked with her on a comedy TV pilot and it placed in several competitions – not something I expected. Also, with her help, I completed a short film that I had shot but struggled to complete for years. Ela coached me through bringing it to the finish line, and it's now premiering in the Clermont Ferrand's Film Festival (the leading short films festival in the world). Being mentored by Ela was really successful in the past, and I plan to do it again.
Leslie Tô
I've ordered script notes and hired script doctors in the past. The problem is that everyone has a different opinion, sometimes they even conflict. Your approach was so much more helpful; I got the whole picture and now I understand so much more. This program was equivalent to receiving an MFA, but without investing two years and sixty grand.
Lee Aubrey
Candace Singh


When Candace began the program she had a draft of one script.

9 months later:

She wrote 3 pilots; 2 specs of existing shows; 8 shorts; currently writing a feature.

She directed 4 exercise shoots, and is now in pre-production as writer, producer and director on a professionally produced short film.

This is Amy Tompkins, a full-time secretary, who joined us with zero experience. Zilch. None. Since joining us, she’s directed two of her own short films, was hired to direct a short, and is now developing a feature. Pictured here accepting a Women In Film award.

When our students succeed, we succeed.

We’ll be invested in your work as if it were our own.


We coach mentees through raising money for their projects. With our help, most mentees raise as much or more than they spend on this program.

I would add, as well, that this program is a small fraction of what film schools cost, but offers individualized attention like no other.

All that said, if joining is financially impossible, that is not your fault, and you should not apply for now.

Film schools focus on mechanics, and this can be the least important aspect of filmmaking.

While we deliver skill building in spades, we also focus on building confidence and community. We hold out high expectations that meet each artist where they’re at.

In film school everyone learns the same thing. This program tailor-fits your needs, goals, strengths – and schedule!

We cost a lot less – and deliver way more.

And for what it’s worth: I’ve had countless film school graduates tell me that what we deliver has done a lot more than film school as far as learning the mechanics go.

Ever go to a film festival? How many (gulp…) unmemorable films, or ones that are painful to watch, have you sat through?

Last time I went to a festival, an audience member said about the film created by my student: “Well, that one was different. You felt like you were watching a real movie.”

All those meh films that flood festival programmers aren’t coming from people without talent. They come from artists who haven’t received the training and support that they needed to reach their potential.

Even the pretty looking ones that were well shot don’t leave a mark, because at the end of the day, the quality of a film is not about mechanics.

We don’t want you to make a film. We guide you in making your best possible film – the one that audiences will go home thinking about. Those are the films that launch careers.

Most of our students show up feeling this way. I felt that way for years while writing scripts and shopping them around, hoping for that magic “sale.” (Plot spoiler: that sale doesn’t come until you’ve produced your own films.)

That said, you can absolutely focus the entire year on building a body of stunning scripts. Mentees who have done that excelled and were supremely proud of their work.

Just be forewarned that most of the mentees who show up not wanting to produce their work end up getting inspired by their colleagues and deciding to take the plunge and bring their writing to life on the screen. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Absolutely. Every artist needs coaching, no matter their level of experience. I turn to coaching myself, regularly. We’ve had professional writers and filmmakers join our program to uplevel their skills, and build their body of work in both quality and quantity.

About fifty percent of our mentees have said at one point or another: “I’m the least experienced person here.” How is half the group the “least experienced?” Lol.

It would be a mistake to “wait until you’re ready.” This program is exactly how you get yourself ready. We’ll take you from zero to sky’s-the-limit.

Never written a single word of a single script? Join us and we’ll launch you. Enough with the waiting.

Just heads up that if you’re really, truly a complete beginner, half the group will still be convinced that they have less experience than you 😉

How to apply

Please fill our application form to join our waitlist.

This program is open by invitation.

After reviewing your application, we’ll reach out to let you know when the program will reopen for enrollment. At that time, we’ll invite you to book a private consultation with Ela Thier to discuss your background and goals.

Please note that we require a $500 refundable deposit to book a consultation. If you join the program, the deposit will be applied towards your registration fee in the program. If you don’t join, the deposit will be refunded in full.

Your consultation does not guarantee admission, and does not obligate you to join.

Have questions?

Write us at [email protected] 

Thank you!

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