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Feature Film Program



Development Track

The development track has one open application that allows your fiction feature work-in-progress screenplay to be considered for the following programs, fellowships, and grants:

  • Screenwriters Lab (held annually in January)
  • Screenwriters Intensive (held annually in March)
  • Sundance Institute Comedy Fellowship
  • Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant and Fellowship (for projects with scientific and/or technological content)

Our application includes questions to determine your eligibility for each program and fellowship, and you will automatically be considered for all programs and fellowships for which you are eligible. (There is no open application for the Directors Lab, which is typically populated by projects that have been supported through a previous development program.)

For our upcoming Development Track, we've made a commitment to continue and deepen our outreach and support across all underrepresented groups. For this reason, we've decided to discontinue our Asian American and Latinx Fellowships. Please know that this does not indicate a reduced desire to support artists from these communities. Upon deeper examination of our programs through a racial equity lens, we have determined that offering specific fellowships for the same communities every year does not allow us to maximize impact on an equitable basis within the communities most marginalized, and where our annual reporting tells us we have the most room to improve. We will still support Asian American and Latinx artists among a diverse cohort in our Development Track programs, and will continue to make it a priority to identify and amplify voices from all traditionally marginalized communities.

Applications for the 2022 development track are now closed. If you have applied for this year’s track, you will hear whether you have advanced to the second round of the application by August 30, 2021.

Development Track Programs and Fellowships

  • Description:
    The Screenwriters Lab is a five-day writers’ workshop that gives independent screenwriters the opportunity to work intensively on their feature film scripts with the support of established writers in an environment that focuses on the art and craft of screenwriting and creative risk taking. Through one-on-one story sessions with creative advisors, fellows engage in an artistically rigorous process that offers indispensable lessons in craft to facilitate the deep exploration needed to fully realize their material.

    Eligibility:
    The Screenwriters Lab supports writers, writer/directors, and writer/director teams developing their first or second fiction feature film. If you have previously had more than one fiction feature produced, you are not eligible to apply. International projects must have a director attached.

    Size:
    12 projects are selected for the Screenwriters Lab.

    Location:
    TBD

    Dates:
    January 2022 (exact dates TBD)

    Cost:
    The cost of airfare, accommodations, and meals for up to two participants per project is normally covered. (However, note that the 2021 Screenwriters Lab will be hosted digitally, so travel is not needed.) Beyond the application fee, there is no fee to participate.

    In return for participation in a Screenwriters Lab, fellows are obligated to sign an agreement stipulating that (a) they will make a contribution to Sundance Institute of 0.25% of the portion of their film’s final budget that exceeds $1,000,000 (this number may increase to 0.5 or 0.75% through participation in a Directors and Screenwriters Lab), (b) Sundance Institute will receive 1% of 100% of the film’s net receipts, and (c) Sundance Institute will receive a credit line and logo placement in the film’s end titles.

  • Description:
    The Screenwriters Intensive provides emerging screenwriters with the opportunity to hone their craft in a two-day concentrated workshop. The program supports 10 to 12 writers or writer/directors from underrepresented communities who are developing a fiction feature screenplay and includes a hands-on writing workshop, group conversations about the art and craft of screenwriting, and two one-on-one script feedback sessions with creative advisors. Like the residency labs, the Screenwriters Intensive focuses deeply on the creative process and fosters community among the participants.

    Eligibility:
    The Screenwriters Intensive supports writers, writer/directors, and writer/director teams from underrepresented communities who are developing a first fiction feature screenplay. Typically, the majority of artists selected for the Screenwriters Intensive are U.S. based, but international artists may be considered for the program.

    Size:
    10 projects are selected for the Screenwriters Intensive.

    Location:
    TBD

    Dates:
    March 2022 (exact dates TBD)

    Cost:
    Beyond the application fee, there is no fee to participate. Round-trip travel to and accommodations in Los Angeles are not covered when the program is conducted in LA, although a small travel stipend is provided to help offset costs for participants who aren’t based in LA.

  • Description:
    The Sundance Institute Comedy Fellowship provides targeted support to the next generation of diverse, culturally relevant comedic voices. The fellowship supports one artist/project that will participate in either the January Screenwriters Lab or March Screenwriters Intensive and includes an unrestricted grant and customized mentorship from FFP staff.

    Eligibility:
    Writers or writer/directors developing their first or second fiction feature film that have applied to the 2022 development track are eligible for the fellowship.

    If you have questions regarding the Sundance Institute Comedy Fellowship, please read the development track FAQ below. Still don’t see your question answered? Email us at featurefilmprogram@sundance.org.

  • Description:
    To support the development of screenplays with scientific or technological themes, Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provide opportunities for both emerging and established filmmakers through granting and fellowships. Established in 2005, the Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant and Fellowship is an annual cash award for a science- or technology-related project that is at an early stage, such as a full treatment or early screenplay draft. Additionally, one fellowship is awarded annually to an emerging screenwriter to support the ongoing development of a feature-length fiction screenplay with science or technology themes through participation at a Screenwriters Lab.

    Eligibility:

    • Projects must incorporate real scientific and/or technological themes and/or characters. Stories that are sci-fi, speculative, or futuristic in nature are not eligible.
    • Projects must be a feature-length fiction film (no documentaries).
    • Project must be live action (no animation).
    • Projects must be in the English language, and applicant must reside in the U.S.
    • For the grant only, screenwriters can be at any stage of their career, with no prior produced work or many produced works. The submission may range from detailed treatment to full screenplay.
    • For the fellowship, screenwriters must have no more than one produced feature screenplay, and only the complete draft of a screenplay may be submitted (no treatments).
    • If the treatment/screenplay is based on source material, the screenwriter must have an option on, or be in the process of optioning, the source material.

    If you have questions regarding the Alfred P Sloan Commissioning Grant and Fellowship, please read the development track FAQ below. Still don’t see your question answered? Email us at featurefilmprogram@sundance.org.

  • Description:
    During the month-long Directors and Screenwriters Lab, eight fellows work with an accomplished group of creative advisors and professional production crews, rehearsing, shooting, and editing key scenes from their scripts. Through this intense, hands-on process, fellows workshop scenes, collaborate with actors, and find a visual language for their film in an atmosphere where experimentation and risk-taking is encouraged. The Screenwriters Lab immediately follows the Directors Lab, providing fellows with a rigorous schedule of one-on-one story sessions with advisors to further advance their scripts.

    Eligibility:
    There is no open application available for the Directors and Screenwriters Lab, which is typically populated by projects that have already been supported via a prior Institute program such as the Screenwriters Lab, intensive, or grant. The lab supports first-time fiction feature directors; application to the development track is the best way to put your project into the pipeline of eventual consideration for the Directors and Screenwriters Lab.

    Size:
    Eight projects are selected for the Directors and Screenwriters Lab.

    Location:
    TBD

    Cost:
    The cost of airfare, accommodations, and meals for up to two participants per project is covered. Beyond the application fee, there is no fee to participate.

    In return for participation in a Directors Lab, fellows are obligated to sign an agreement stipulating that (a) they will make a contribution to Sundance Institute of 0.5% of the portion of their film’s final budget that exceeds $1,000,000 (this number may increase to 0.75%), (b) Sundance Institute will receive 1% of 100% of the film’s net receipts, and (c) Sundance Institute will receive a credit line and logo placement in the film’s end titles.

    Additional questions? Read the development track FAQ.

    1. What’s the difference between the Screenwriters Lab and Screenwriters Intensive? Why might I be selected for one over the other?
      Each program has its own specific eligibility requirements:
      • The Screenwriters Lab is for first- or second-time fiction feature writers, writer/directors, or writer/director teams.
      • The Screenwriters Intensive is for first-time fiction feature writers or writer/directors who come from underrepresented communities, including women, artists of color, LGBTQ+ artists, and artists with disabilities. The Screenwriters Intensive focuses on supporting artists at an earlier stage of their career and/or at an earlier stage of development with their project.
    2. Am I eligible for future Sundance Institute support if I am selected for a development track program or fellowship?
      All development track program fellows are eligible to be considered for additional Feature Film Program labs and activities, including the Directors Lab (first-time fiction feature directors only), the Creative Producing Summit, Catalyst Forum, Women at Sundance’s Financing and Strategy Intensive, and ongoing creative and strategic support from Feature Film Program staff.
    3. Why are the Asian American and Latinx Fellowships no longer offered?
      For our upcoming Development Track, we've made a commitment to continue and deepen our outreach and support across all underrepresented groups. For this reason, we've decided to discontinue our Asian American and Latinx Fellowships. Please know that this does not indicate a reduced desire to support artists from these communities. Upon deeper examination of our programs through a racial equity lens, we have determined that offering specific fellowships for the same communities every year does not allow us to maximize impact on an equitable basis within the communities most marginalized, and where our annual reporting tells us we have the most room to improve. We will still support Asian American and Latinx artists among a diverse cohort in our Development Track programs, and will continue to make it a priority to identify and amplify voices from all traditionally marginalized communities.
    4. How do I submit an application?
      Applications for the 2022 Screenwriters Lab and Screenwriters Intensive are now closed.
    5. What does the application include?
      In the first round, an application includes the following components:
      • Cover letter (500-word limit): Please introduce yourself and your project. There are no strict requirements for this letter, but we’d like to get a brief idea of who you are, what your script is about, where you are in the creative process, and how specifically you think the lab process could be helpful to you.
      • Artistic statement (500-word limit): Please describe your creative vision for the project. What is your personal connection to the material? What themes are you most interested in exploring in your work, and what do you want an audience to take away from your film? How do you envision the realization of this script in terms of story, character, tone, and/or visual style? Is there a budget level you have in mind? Who do you see as the audience for this film? Why are you passionate about telling this story now? If this is a resubmission of material we’ve previously considered, how has the material changed since we last read it?
      • Personal Connection (500-word limit): What is your personal connection to a) the story you are telling, and b) the specific communities your story is about? How are you working to make sure that the characters and world of your film are authentically represented, and that the community you’re writing about has a voice in the creative process?
      • Logline (75-word limit): A one- to two-sentence description of your project.
      • Synopsis (750-word limit): A brief summary of the plot of your script. Please include all major characters and story points, including the ending.
      • Bio(s) (150-word limit per bio): You may include bios for up to three members of the creative team, although only the screenwriter(s) and director, if involved with development, will attend the lab.
      • Description of scientific or technological content (Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship and Commissioning Grant applicants only): Please give a brief description of the thematic core and scientific ideas being explored. Please include what scientific research and consultation you would like to put this particular grant toward; this can include specific scientists or fields of research.
      • The first five pages of your screenplay or treatment: Please do not submit more than the first five pages. NOTE: You may submit a treatment for the Sloan Commissioning Grant only. If a treatment is submitted and it is not eligible for the Sloan Commissioning Grant, the project will not be considered for any other development track programs or fellowships.
      • Demographic info: In an effort to measure and improve our commitment to supporting artists from diverse backgrounds around the world, we ask each applicant a series of demographic questions. Your responses will not affect your submission to our programs or be sold or shared with anyone at any time.
    6. What materials will be requested from me if I advance to the second round? What is the deadline to submit second round materials?
      If you advance to the second round of consideration, you will be asked to upload the complete draft of your screenplay. For the Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant only, you may upload a complete draft of your treatment. In addition, you will be given the opportunity to include a link to a directorial sample, although this is not required. Typically, you will be given 10 days to two weeks from the date of notification to submit second round materials.
    7. If I advance to the second round, am I a finalist?
      We don’t use designations like “finalist” or “semi-finalist.” Approximately 1,000 to 1,200 complete screenplays are considered as part of the second round.
    8. I’m an international filmmaker based outside the U.S. How can I apply?
      Whether you’re based in the U.S. or internationally, you may apply using the development track application found here. The Screenwriters Lab always includes both U.S.-based and international filmmakers. Typically, the majority of artists selected for the Screenwriters Intensive are U.S. based, but international artists may be considered for both programs.
    9. What are the dates of the 2022 Screenwriters Lab and Screenwriters Intensive?
      Screenwriters Lab: January 2022 (exact dates TBD)
      Screenwriters Intensive: March 2022 (exact dates TBD)
    10. Is it possible to get an extension? What’s the final, final deadline?
      Unfortunately we cannot grant extensions. the final deadline to submit an online application was 11:59 p.m. PT on May 17, 2021.
    11. How can I apply to the Directors Lab?
      There is no open application process for the Directors Lab, which is typically populated by projects that have already been supported via a prior Institute program such as a Screenwriters Lab, Intensive, or grant. The Directors Lab supports first-time fiction feature directors; application to the development track is the best way to put your project into the pipeline of eventual consideration for the Directors Lab.
    12. May I apply with more than one script?
      You may submit up to three projects, but we encourage you to choose one project that is your priority in terms of moving forward. Please note that for each script, you must complete a separate application, and submit a separate application fee.
    13. I have a project I want to submit, but it’s still in treatment form or a partial draft. If I don’t think I will be able to have a draft in screenplay format in time to submit, can I submit my treatment or partial draft for consideration?
      No. We need to receive a completed draft of a screenplay to consider your project. This does not mean the final draft; however, we do ask that the script is in standard format. The only exception to this rule is the application for the Sloan Commissioning Grant, which will consider treatments.
    14. May I re-apply with a script that I’ve submitted to Sundance Institute previously?
      Under certain circumstances, yes. We strongly recommend you only re-apply with material we’ve considered previously if you’ve made significant revisions to the script.
    15. How long (or short) should my script be?
      While there is no “correct length,” a typical screenplay is 90–120 pages. In most cases, if your script is significantly longer or shorter than that range, we will suggest you do more revisions before submitting it for consideration.
    16. Do you consider scripts written in a language other than English?
      Although we will support scripts that will eventually be produced in a language other than English, your script must be translated into English before you submit it.
    17. Do you consider adaptations?
      Yes, we will consider scripts based on existing material, as long as you have secured the underlying rights to the source material.
    18. May I apply with a script that has been submitted or supported elsewhere?
      Yes, we have no restrictions on material that has been submitted to or supported by other artist development programs.
    19. I don’t have much experience. Does that affect my chances of being selected?
      No. We seek to foster exciting emerging voices, regardless of prior professional film experience.
    20. How far along should my screenplay be when I submit? Can I submit a rough draft? Are you looking for a polished draft?
      You must have a completed draft of your screenplay to apply, but we expect that it will still be a work-in-progress. The ideal time to apply to the lab is when you’ve taken your screenplay as far as you can go on your own, and need the fresh, intensive perspective the lab provides to brainstorm solutions to stubborn challenges, get “unstuck,” or take the material to a next level.
    21. May I submit letters of recommendation? Should I have my industry contacts call on my behalf?
      No. Final selections are based on the screenplay and supporting application materials alone, and recommendations will not influence our decisions.
    22. How should I address my cover letter?
      “Dear Sundance” or “To Whom It May Concern” are both fine.
    23. How will I be notified about acceptance? Will I be notified if I’m not selected?
      All lab notifications are made via email. You will hear from us either way, whether selected or not.
    24. I haven’t received notification yet, but my friends have—what’s wrong? When will I know if I’ve made it to the second round?
      Email notifications are made on a rolling basis. You will hear whether you have advanced to the second round of the application by August 30, 2021. Second round notifications about final selections for development track programs will be made by December 15, 2021. If those dates have passed and you have still not received notice of the status of your application, please reach out to featurefilmprogram@sundance.org and we will be happy to sort out any communication issues.
    25. Can Sundance Institute help produce my film? What kind of grants/support/production help can I apply for?
      Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization, and as such we do not produce nor finance films. Feature Film Program grants are reserved for artists already supported by one of our programs such as a lab or intensive. The only grant for which there is a public application is the Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant and Fellowship. Applications for this annual grant are accepted through the online application for our development track.
    26. Will my ideas be protected?
      Sundance Institute only shares your script with a small group of trusted readers and, if you advance in the selection process, with a selection committee composed of Sundance Institute alumni. Even so, we recommend that all applicants who send their work out into the world register their scripts with the Writers Guild of America for a nominal fee; you do not need to be a WGA member to utilize its registration service.
    27. What does the program cost?
      Aside from an application fee, we do not charge for participation in our programs. When the Screenwriters Lab takes place in Utah, we cover the cost of travel, accommodations, and food for up to two participants per project. For the Screenwriters Intensive, travel and accommodations are not covered, but we do offer a small stipend to Fellows coming from outside Los Angeles to help offset those costs, when those programs are conducted in LA.
    28. When I apply for or am selected for one of your programs, does Sundance Institute own my screenplay?
      No. Sundance Institute does not take possession of any lab fellow’s intellectual property. However, in return for participation in a Screenwriters Lab, fellows are obligated to sign an agreement stipulating that (a) they will make a contribution to Sundance Institute of 0.25% of the portion of their film's final budget that exceeds $1,000,000. (this number may increase to 0.5 or 0.75% through participation in a Directors Lab), (b) Sundance Institute will receive 1% of 100% of the film’s net receipts, and (c) Sundance Institute will receive a credit line and logo placement in the film’s end titles.

    Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant and Fellowship FAQ

    1. What’s the difference between the commissioning grant and the fellowship?
      The commissioning grant focuses on projects in earlier stages of development—from full treatment form to early screenplay drafts. If your script is in a later stage of development, we can consider it for a Screenwriters Lab Fellowship. If you are not sure, please choose either within the application, and we will evaluate based on the status of the project for either the grant or fellowship. Please remember that the Screenwriters Lab Fellowship is only available to first- or second-time feature screenwriters.
    2. Do I need to have a science advisor already on board my project?
      No science advisor is required in order to apply for this grant. However, you are encouraged to include information about any that you may be collaborating with or would like to collaborate with in the “Brief description of the scientific ideas being explored” section of the application.
    3. Why can't I submit a science-fiction project?
      The goal of this particular grant is to focus on stories grounded in current (or past) science and/or technology. Although we understand some cutting edge science can be construed as science fiction, please use your best judgement in deciding whether or not to apply. For example, stories taking place in the future or involving science that is clearly not yet achievable would be considered science fiction.
    4. Can I submit my documentary project?
      This grant and fellowship is only available to fiction (scripted) features.
    5. Can I re-apply with the same project as last year?
      Yes, although we encourage you to re-apply with the same project only if you have made significant revisions. If you do re-apply, please articulate what has changed in terms of story, attachments, and/or strategy since the previous submission. It is important for our selection committee to understand the movement forward from a previous submission.
    6. Can only Americans apply?
      International applicants may apply, but all submitted projects for the Sloan Commissioning Grant or Fellowship must be intended to be filmed in English and submitted to us in English.
    7. Do you accept scripts that have been supported via other Alfred P. Sloan Foundations grants and awards?
      Yes, we have no restrictions on material that has been supported through prior grants, awards, and workshops.

    Still don’t see your question regarding the Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant and Fellowship answered here? Email us at featurefilmprogram@sundance.org.

  • Description:
    The Editing Residency brings the director and editor of two fiction feature films in picture edit together at the Directors Lab for one week in June, along with a dedicated editing creative advisor and other advisors. The goal is to provide an immersive space to work on the edit and significantly advance the cut over the course of a week.

    As part of our response to the COVID-19 situation, we have made changes to our 2020 Post-Production Track programs. For summer 2020 only, we will not be holding in-person Labs and we will not be accepting applications for the Editing Residency. Applications for directors to participate in the Film Music and Sound Design Lab (to be hosted virtually) will be accepted by invitation only.

    Eligibility:
    Filmmakers must be in picture edit on a fiction feature film; by the start date of the residency, filmmakers must have completed a first cut but still have significant time allotted in the schedule before picture lock. Priority is given to first- or second-time directors that are alumni of Institute programs or the Festival. To apply, filmmakers must submit a rough cut or substantial sequences along with the shooting draft of the screenplay.

    Size:
    Two projects are selected per residency.

    Location:
    Hosted digitally

    Dates:
    June 2–June 10, 2020

    Cost:
    The cost of airfare, accommodations, and meals for up to two participants per project is normally covered. (However, note that the 2020 residency will be hosted digitally, so travel is not needed.) Beyond the application fee, there is no fee to participate.

    Additional questions? Read the post-production track FAQ below.

  • Description:
    The Film Music and Sound Design Lab provides a group of eight emerging composers with valuable firsthand experience composing for film. The Feature Film Program offers four directors in post-production on a fiction feature the opportunity to pair up with one of the composer fellows to collaborate and explore the role of music in their work. (The Documentary Film Program provides the same opportunity to four directors in post-production on a documentary film.) Each filmmaker/composer team also works closely with an in-house sound designer in an environment where music, score, and sound design are treated as integrated aspects of the overall story world of the film. With leading film composers, directors, music editors, and music supervisors serving as creative advisors, lab fellows work closely together in a supportive atmosphere designed to promote experimentation and collaboration. Please note: The post-production track application is for directors with a feature in post-production only; composers wishing to be considered for the Music and Sound Design Lab must apply through the Film Music Program application.

    As part of our response to the COVID-19 situation, we have made changes to our 2020 Post-Production Track programs. For summer 2020 only, we will not be holding in-person Labs and we will not be accepting applications for the Editing Residency. Applications for directors to participate in the Film Music and Sound Design Lab (to be hosted virtually) will be accepted by invitation only.

    Eligibility:

    • Directors must be in picture edit on a fiction feature film and must have completed at least a first cut by the start date of the lab. Priority will be given to first- and second-time fiction feature directors.
    • Directors may or may not have a composer attached to the film; however, only the director will travel to the lab, so directors will be paired with one of the composer fellows even if another composer is attached. (The lab collaboration with a composer is for the workshop only, and directors are not obligated to use any material generated at the lab in the finished film.)
    • To apply, filmmakers must submit a rough cut or substantial sequences of the film with the shooting draft of the screenplay.

    Size:
    Four fiction films in post-production are selected per lab.

    Location:
    Hosted digitally

    Dates:
    July 27–August 14, 2020

    Cost:
    The cost of airfare, accommodations, and meals for one participant per project is normally covered. (However, note that the 2020 lab will be hosted digitally, so travel is not needed.) Beyond the application fee, there is no fee to participate.

    Additional questions? Read the post-production track FAQ.

    1. Do I have to apply to both the Editing Residency and the Film Music and Sound Design Lab?
      No. You can choose to apply to only one of the programs, or you can be considered for both simultaneously. The application allows you to indicate which programs you want to apply for.
    2. Can I be selected for both the Editing Residency and the Film Music and Sound Design Lab?
      Yes, it’s possible to be selected for both programs.
    3. Which members of the team attend these programs?
      The director and editor of a project attend the Editing Residency. The director of a project attends the Film Music and Sound Design Lab.
    4. Do you support international projects?
      Yes. However, if selected for the Editing Residency, international artists may be asked to cover a portion of their airfare to the program.
    5. I’m a director and I’m already working with a composer on my film. Can he/she come to the Film Music and Sound Design with me?
      No. The Film Music and Sound Design Lab has a separate application for composer fellows, which can be found here. Selected directors will be paired with one of the Film Music composer fellows even if another composer is attached to their film. The lab collaboration with a composer is for the workshop only, and directors are not expected or obligated to use any material generated there in the finished film.
    6. How far along in post-production should I be when I apply?
      In order to apply, you need to submit a link to a cut of your film. Ideally we would prefer to see a completed cut, but if you’re not yet at that stage, you can submit significant edited scenes or sequences. We require you submit a minimum of 20 minutes of edited material.

      For the Editing Residency, by the start date of the residency filmmaking teams should have completed at least a first cut of the film, but still have significant time allotted in the schedule before picture lock. For the Film Music and Sound Design Lab, by the start date of the lab filmmaking teams can be anywhere in the process between a completed first cut and picture lock.
    7. Who watches the cut of my film?
      Feature Film Program staff are the only people who view the cut of the film during the selection process. Once a project is selected, the cut will also be shared with the Film Music Program staff. At no point is the cut shared across the Institute (including Sundance Film Festival programming staff), and FFP staff are not involved with programming the Festival.
    8. What does it cost to attend the program?
      Aside from the application fee, there is no fee to attend. Travel, accommodations, and meals are normally covered for two participants per project for the Editing Residency and one participant per project for the Film Music and Sound Design Lab. (However, note that the 2020 residency and lab will be hosted digitally, so travel is not needed.)
    9. What are the technical requirements and specifications for the Editing Residency?
      We can support most standard editing software (e.g. Avid, Final Cut, Premiere). Selected projects will liaise with our technical director in advance of the residency to ensure an appropriate setup is provided that allows filmmaking teams to continue working with existing media and systems.

FFP Fund: Ongoing Alumni Support

Every year, Sundance Institute provides more than $300,000 in financial support to Feature Film Program alumni through a robust program of fellowships and direct artist granting designed to give lab-supported projects momentum at critical junctures in their development, pre-production, post-production, and distribution/marketing stages. These fellowships and grants are funded through a group of partnerships with very generous foundations, film industry companies, and individuals committed to the work of sustaining artists and advancing their work along their entire journey to connect with audiences. The Feature Film Program staff work together with our partners to award funds, considering impact, timing, urgency, and quality of work as key criteria.

  • The Summit provides a forum for top industry professionals, producers, and directors to focus on three primary avenues of dialogue: fiction producing, documentary producing, and timely issues facing the independent film industry. Panelists representing leaders of the independent film industry attend the Summit for one-on-one meetings, panels, intimate round tables, and case study reviews. The fostering of community among participating producers and the engagement of key figures in the independent film industry are the cornerstones of the event.

  • The Dolby Family Sound Fellowship provides a range of post-production resources to allow the fellowship recipient to fully realize the creative potential of the film’s sound design. The fellowship is given annually to one to two directors with films selected for the Sundance Film Festival. In 2014, Mike Cahill (I Origins) became the inaugural fellow. The 2021 fellowship was awarded to Passing, written and directed by Rebecca Hall.

  • In 1996, the Sundance Institute/NHK Award was established by Sundance Institute in partnership with NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) to celebrate 100 years of cinema and to honor and support emerging independent filmmakers whose originality, talent, and vision contributes significantly to the future of world cinema.

    One international filmmaker is selected each year and commemorated with an announcement at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The award includes a $10,000 cash prize, attendance at the Sundance Film Festival for creative and strategic meetings at the Festival, and guidance by FFP staff throughout the life of the project.

    Past recipients include Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Lucretia Martel (La Cienega), Laure de Claremont-Tonnerre (The Mustang), Andrey Zvyagintsev (Elena), and Walter Salles (Central Station), among others.

    The 2021 Sundance Institute/NHK Award was presented to Meryam Joobeur’s Motherhood.

  • Presented in partnership with the Maryland Film Festival, the fellowship provides a lab fellow with a $10,000 bridge grant as a means to move their project forward during the crucial phases of advanced development and pre-production. The 2021 Maryland Film Fellows are Charlotte Wells (Aftersun) and Andrew Thomas Huang (Tiger Girl).

  • The Adrienne Shelly Women Filmmakers Grant was established to support the advancement of talented women filmmakers as they focus on the next crucial steps of their filmmaking process. The Adrienne Shelly Foundation provides a $5,000 grant to be awarded annually by the Sundance Institute to a filmmaker coming out of the Feature Film Program’s Directors Lab. The Adrienne Shelly Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the memory of the late writer/director/actor Adrienne Shelly. The 2021 Adrienne Shelly Women Filmmaker Fellow is Sontenish Myers (Stampede).

  • As associate director of the Institute's Feature Film Program, Lynn Auerbach made a profound difference in the lives of the many screenwriters and filmmakers who came to know her. To honor her memory, this fellowship provides concentrated support to one screenwriter participating in the Feature Film Program. The Auerbach fellow receives a cash stipend and, when appropriate, a produced reading of their screenplay. The 2021 Lynn Auerbach fellow is Jacob Albert (Parts & Labor).

  • Honoring the renowned screenwriter and devoted creative advisor, Walter Bernstein, the Screenwriting Fellowship will be presented annually to one to two screenwriters supported through the Screenwriters Lab whose script illuminates the human condition from a fresh perspective. The Bernstein fellow receives a grant as they continue working on the development of their script post-lab. The 2021 Walter Bernstein Screenwriting fellows are Erica Tremblay and Miciana Alise (Fancy Dance).

  • The Sundance Institute | Maja Kristin Directing Fellowship is presented annually to support two women directors who have recently participated in the Directors and Screenwriters Lab. Each Maja Kristin Directing fellow receives a $10,000 grant and dedicated creative and strategic support from Sundance Institute staff as they work to advance their project. The 2020 Sundance Institute | Maja Kristin Directing fellows are Charlotte Wells (Aftersun) and Nikyatu Jusu (Nanny).

  • In memory of Sally Menke’s artistry and love of mentoring, Sundance Institute created the Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellowship to support an emerging narrative editor in furthering their craft, expanding their artistic community and providing momentum to their editing career.

    Selected annually, the Sally Menke Editing fellow will work as an editor at the Sundance Institute Directors Lab, focusing on editing the workshop scenes of two directors selected for the lab. The fellow will also have the year-round opportunity to work with two established editors as mentors.

    The Sally Menke Editing Fellowship is designed to support an emerging narrative editor who has edited at least one narrative film (no more than four), and any number of shorts, documentary films, industrial films, or webisodes. Additionally, the ideal candidate is committed to continuing a career in editing, passionate about the creative process, and open to exploration and experimentation in the editing room. The 2021 Sally Menke Memorial Editing fellow is Susan E. Kim.

    Sally Menke Fellowship applications are considered by invitation or recommendation only. For more information, please contact featurefilmprogram@sundance.org.

  • The Sundance Institute | Stars Collective Granting Fund is a cross-programmatic fund supporting Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and women filmmakers working on fiction and nonfiction projects. The unrestricted grants, ranging from $1,500 - $10,000, aim to provide critical support to advance projects at various stages of their life cycles, from advanced development to pre-production through launch. This can include requesting support to further development, extend post-production, attend festivals and forums, hire key creative team members (consulting editors, producers, casting directors, etc.), cover COVID-related costs, or provide self-distribution support.

    This rolling application is not open to our alumni community or to the general public and is only available for those currently being supported by the Sundance Institute through our labs and granting programs.

    If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may submit anytime during your filmmaking journey. Sundance Institute staff, along with an external advisor, will be making funding decisions on a bi-monthly basis through August 2021.

    For more information and to apply to the Sundance Institute | Stars Collective Granting Fund, please visit apply.sundance.org.


International Work

In 1990, the Feature Film Program made a commitment to support a vibrant exchange and dialogue across cultures by including the work of international filmmakers as part of its core program. Our Labs have been enriched by developing artists and projects that are deeply rooted in the personal and cultural history of filmmaking voices from all over the world. During these years, the FFP has supported numerous award-winning artists from over eighty countries through U.S.-based Labs for Screenwriters and Directors, customized, year-round creative and strategic support, and fellowship programs,

To expand upon our legacy of Screenwriters Labs in Brazil, Cuba, Greece, India, Jordan, Mexico and Turkey, the Feature Film Program has created ongoing partnerships with international organizations, supporting a next generation of filmmakers and producers from the Global South. We are currently building a multi-year program in Latin America, Africa and MENA to support artists working across fiction and non-fiction filmmaking, as well as episodic and emerging media formats. Through Sundance Co//ab, our community digital platform, we are organizing live webinars with leading Latin American filmmakers in Spanish language, and will soon provide learning opportunities in Arabic.

Between all the programs, FFP has supported international artists from over 60 countries making their first and second feature films, including:

Guillermo del Toro Mexico
Alfonso Cuarón Mexico
Ritesh Batra India
Jonas Carpignano Italy
Chaitanya Tamhane India
Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre France
Dominga Sotomayor Chile
Lynne Ramsay UK
Tatiana Huezo Mexico
Remi Weekes UK
Maimouna Doucoure France
Andrey Zvyagintsev Russia
  • Application By invitation
    Dates October (exact dates TBD)
    Size of Lab Six to eight projects
    Location Morelia, Mexico
    Eligibility Filmmakers from Latin America working on their first or second feature screenplays
    Description The Feature Film Program’s first international lab was established in the early ’90s with producer Berta Navarro and supported an exciting new generation of Mexican filmmakers, including Alfonso Cuarón and Guillermo del Toro. We are very pleased to return with the Morelia Screenwriters Lab, organized in collaboration with Berta and the Morelia Film Festival, an opportunity for the Institute to re-establish ties to our closest neighbor and support a new generation of artists in Mexico.
  • Application Not currently accepting applications.
    Dates Early August 2020 (To be announced)
    Size of Lab Three projects
    Location Tokyo
    Eligibility Independent screenwriters working on their first or second feature screenplay
    Description A collaboration with longtime partner NHK, this screenwriting workshop takes place each summer in Tokyo. In its inaugural year, Joan Tewkesbury (Nashville), screenwriter and veteran advisor at the Directors Lab, crafted a three-day program for three promising Japanese filmmakers. Filmmakers including Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Chloe) and Bill Wheeler (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Hoax) have designed programs for the workshop in recent years.

Project Support Continuum

Customized Advice, Connections, and Advocacy

After participation in one of the Labs, Feature Film Program Fellows continue to receive a robust suite of customized creative and tactical assistance as they move projects forward from development through distribution. In many cases, the Institute has helped the Fellows attach producers, identify potential financiers, and assemble other significant resources to move their projects toward production and distribution. Specific ways in which the Feature Film Program maintains its commitment and support of filmmakers and their projects include: ongoing creative and strategic support, designated mentors, key crew and producer recommendations and the Works-In-Progress Screening Initiative.

  • A live reading of a work-in-progress screenplay can play an essential part in a writer’s developmental process. It often takes hearing a screenplay read by actors to see how the characters come to life and to see which scenes play well and which are problematic, as well as to experience live how the structure of the screenplay builds the story or where it doesn’t engage the audience. Each year, up to four work-in-progress screenplays are given staged readings by an ensemble of professional actors in New York and Los Angeles. The scripts are chosen from screenplays developed at the Screenwriters and Directors Labs and represent a further stage of examination and development. Click here for a full list of participants

    The Screenplay Reading Series is presented in association with Writers Guild of America, West. If you are based in New York or Los Angeles and would like to be notified of upcoming readings, please send your full name, email address, and any professional affiliation to featurefilmprogram@sundance.org.

  • The Works-In-Progress Screening Initiative provides filmmakers with crucial creative support during the post-production phase of the filmmaking process. The Feature Film Program staff and a select group of Creative Advisors screen a succession of rough cuts of the film, offering creative feedback as the filmmaker moves to a final version.

    The Works-In-Progress Screening Initiative is reserved for projects that have gone through the Screenwriters and Directors Labs.

  • Through the Institute’s Interdisciplinary Program, Sundance-supported filmmakers are eligible for customized support on their film’s music and sound needs. This can include access to composer, sound designer and music supervisor recommendations and/or creative guidance on your music needs during post production.

  • Sundance Institute’s Catalyst program builds a culture of partnership between independent investors and filmmakers. Each year, equity and industry funding is unlocked for a selected group of ambitious new independent film projects. Catalyst brings together both new and experienced film investors through highly curated film financing opportunities (Catalyst Forum in September), custom programming, and engagement with the Sundance Institute community. We train selected filmmakers to effectively present their films for independent financing, and we provide them with continued support throughout the lives of their projects, through guidance on building successful investor relationships and critical project feedback.

    Learn More

  • Sundance Institute Talent Forum brings together a diverse and bold array of artists and projects from across the Institute’s renowned artist-support programs for a three-day gathering during the Sundance Film Festival. With a curation focused on a diversity of artists at different stages of their careers and projects, as well as varied storytelling forms and genres, Talent Forum provides specific opportunities to meaningfully advance the projects and careers of these storytellers. Providing a focused community, bespoke connections to industry, cultivation of potential collaborators and advocates, and unique access to all parts of the Festival, the Talent Forum is on hiatus for 2021.


Advice for Applicants

The labs of the Feature Film Program are designed to give aspiring independent artists the skills and knowledge they need to develop their craft and advance their projects. While the specific criteria for participation differs across our various programs, for all of our initiatives we are seeking passionate, bold, risk-taking artists compelled to see their vision realized from script to audience engagement. We value filmmakers’ personal connection to the material, clarity of vision, and commitment to a rigorous creative process.


Support for the Feature Film Program

As of December 2020, Sundance Institute is deeply grateful to the following donors for their generous support of the Feature Film Program over the past year:

explore.org, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation
Maja Kristin
NBCUniversal
Hollywood Foreign Press Association
Karen Lauder
Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund
Sandra and Malcolm Berman Charitable Foundation
Comedy Central
National Endowment for the Arts
NHK/NHK Enterprises, Inc.
Amazon Studios
Kimberly Steward—K Period Media
SAGindie
Philip Fung—A3 Foundation
Rosalie Swedlin and Robert Cort
Directors Guild of America
Deborah Reinisch and Michael Theodore Fund
Writers Guild of America West

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