Sundance Institute has defined diversity as one of the core values driving the Institute’s work. The Diversity Initiative at Sundance encompasses our efforts in all programs of the organization to reach into new communities of storytellers and audiences across regions, genres, ethnicities, gender and orientation.
Our goals include deepening and expanding our connections to diverse communities, cultures, languages, and regions across the United States. In doing this we hope to increase the diversity of projects submitted for consideration to all Institute programs, and inspire new artists to tell their stories.
For a closer look at our own baseline statistics in the area of racial and ethnic diversity, we opened up our own records to Dr. Stacy L. Smith and her accomplished team at the Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, University of Southern California. , Their report Race & Ethnicity in Independent Films: Prevalence of Underrepresented Directors and the Barriers They Face was completed in Spring, 2014.The report assesses the prevalence and experiences of statistically underrepresented directors in film. Dr. Smith examined the ethnicity and race of all directors (more than 1,000) of U.S. dramatic and documentary films screened at the Sundance Film Festival from 2002–2013. Researchers also identified relationships between diversity behind and in front of the camera for 118 Festival films from the past four years and compared this data with that of the 500 top-grossing films released theatrically between 2007–2012. Finally, 20 filmmakers from typically underrepresented groups were interviewed about the barriers they face in their industry.
(Sundance Institute, in collaboration with Women In Film Los Angeles, also published two research reports from Dr. Smith at her team exploring barriers and opportunities for women filmmakers starting from Sundance data. This research shaped the goals of the Women Filmmakers Initiative, which can be found here.
Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment (CAPE)
Latino Public Broadcasting
Muslim Public Affairs Council MPAC's Hollywood Bureau
National Association of Latino Arts and Culture
National Association of Latino Independent Producers
Pacific Islanders in Communications
Tribeca Film Institute
Time Warner Foundation seeks innovative and powerful ways to discover, nurture, and celebrate the next generation of storytellers. The Foundation is a founding supporter of Sundance Institute’s Diversity Initiative. Since 2011, the Time Warner Fellowship Program has supported diverse Fellows in the Institute’s Documentary Film Program, Feature Film Program, Film Music Program, Native American and Indigenous Program, Theatre Program and, beginning in 2014, the New Frontier Initiative. Fellows selected from each Program’s pool of artists on the basis of diversity, the distinctiveness of voice, and the particular timeliness of each story. Each Fellow receives a strategic combination of one or more of the following types of support: direct granting; attendance at Sundance Institute Labs; ongoing creative support from Sundance Institute staff and Creative Advisors; and attendance at the Sundance Film Festival. Time Warner Fellows include Ryan Coogler, Chanda Dancy, Sydney Freeland, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Qui Nguyen, and Chloé Zhao. Join our email list to learn when to apply for a fellowship.
In 2013, John S. and James L." Knight Foundation collaborated with Sundance Institute to pilot artist development programming in two key U.S. cities. Philadelphia hosted a Screenwriters Intensive in October 2013 and a ShortsLab in March 2014. Miami was home to a New Frontier Flash Lab and a ShortsLab, both in March 2014. Knight Fellows chosen from Philadelphia and Miami attended the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. Knight Fellows were Jos Duncan, Monica Peña, Heidi Saman, and Julian Yuri Rodriguez.
This fall, the Knight Fellows Project will expand to include more programming in more communities over the next three years, including Akron, Charlotte, Detroit, Macon, Miami, San Jose, and St. Paul. By expanding our Programmatic reach geographically, we hope to expand our pipeline and encourage diverse artists from locations across the U.S. to become a part of the Sundance community. Join our email list to find out how to attend each of these events.
Screenwriters Intensives: Launched in 2013 as part of the Diversity Initiative, the Screenwriters Intensive is designed to provide an intimate group of emerging screenwriters the opportunity to hone their craft in a one- or two-day concentrated workshop. Like the Utah-based Screenwriters and Directors Labs, the Screenwriters Intensive focuses deeply on the creative process and fosters community amongst the participants.
The program supports between 10 and 15 writers who are developing a narrative feature screenplay and can include a hands-on writing workshop, screenings of recent Sundance films followed conversations with the filmmaker, writer roundtables, and individual feedback sessions. We hold a Screenwriters Intensive annually each spring in Los Angeles; in addition, we sometimes travel with the program. We utilize the application process for the January Screenwriters Lab each year to select projects and filmmakers to participate in the annual Los Angeles Intensive; there is no separate application, so applying for the January Lab is the best way to be considered for the program.
Latino Screenwriters Project: The mission of the Latino Screenwriters Project (LSP) is to support emerging Latino screenwriters by elevating the presence, representation and quality of stories that narrate the U.S. Latino experience. Sundance Institute has provided consulting support to the LSP, run by Feature Film Program alumni Jim Mendiola and Cruz Angeles, since the inaugural year of the program in 2013. Held in San Antonio, the program typically runs alongside Cinefestival, the nation’s longest running national and international Latino film festival, and each year supports four screenwriters in a three-day intensive workshop that includes panels, screenings and one-on-one feedback sessions under the mentorship of experienced screenwriters. Past advisors have included Patricia Cardoso (Real Women Have Curves), Ligiah Villalobos (Under the Same Moon), Tyger Williams (Menace II Society), and David Riker (The Girl).
Asian American Feature Film Fellowship: Made possible in part by the A3 Foundation, this Fellowship supports an Asian American writer (or writer-director) participating in a Screenwriters Lab, Screenwriters Intensive, or the Creative Producing Summit, with a cash grant and year-round support.
Collaboration with the Blacklist: As part of our ongoing partnership with the Black List website, one Black List-referred writer will be selected to participate in our annual spring Screenwriters Intensive in Los Angeles to further develop their screenplay.
Sundance InstituteArcus Foundation Fund: Arcus Foundation is dedicated to the idea that respect for diversity among peoples and in nature is essential to a positive future for our planet and all of its inhabitants. Their grant making focuses on LGBTQ causes and conservation of Great Apes. The Arcus Foundation Fund was established in 2013 and supports documentaries with LGBTQ themes. Over the brief life of the Fund, Arcus Foundation has supported nine projects in various stages of development. Sundance Institute is proud to support LGBTQ stories, storytellers, and audiences who are so often underrepresented – or misrepresented – in mainstream media.
Documentary Film Program Network: The DFP uses a nationwide network of organizations, alumni and advisors, engaged semi-annually, to encourage diverse application submissions from around the world.
CNEX Workshop and Summit in Beijing: With support from Open Society Foundations and in collaboration with CNEX, the DFP makes an annual pilgrimage to China to conduct a 4-6 day workshop for Chinese documentary filmmakers. The program allows for Chinese filmmakers to discuss their projects with advisors, DFP staff, and other Fellows in an open, thoughtful environment. Each year some of the projects are identified for further support by DFP staff in an effort to encourage applicants from all around the world
Conducted a successful three-year Initiative with a national foundation partner to find, cultivate and grant to US artists of color from under represented groups.
Documentary storytelling workshops geared toward diverse US filmmakers including through the Knight Fellows Program, mentioned above
Full Circle Initiative: 2014 marks the 20th Anniversary of the Native American and Indigenous Program and presents an opportunity to infuse new talent into the Program. With the support of W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Full Circle will expand the Native Program’s place-based investments in tribal communities in Michigan and New Mexico and enable us to implement a focused strategy to engage Native youth (ages 18-24) and their communities through Fellowships, workshops, classes, screenings, and talks with Native filmmakers and other industry professionals. Full Circle aims to address the Native Program’s major need to discover more young artists and infuse the Sundance pipeline for emerging independent filmmakers with new Native voices. We will incorporate Full Circle Fellows into our Festival and residential Labs for professional artists, as well as activities modeled on the Institute’s one-day Shorts Labs, Artist Services creative marketing and distribution workshops, and New Frontier Flash Lab for transmedia storytelling. Through scouting trips to meet with current and potential collaborators and tribal leaders in Michigan and New Mexico, we will identify new locations, partners, and young Native filmmakers to support. Designed in collaboration with public relations consultant Liz Hill, our communications with constituents will include a quarterly Full Circle e-newsletter, social media, and video content, photo coverage, and blog posts. These tools will establish regular lines of communication between the Native Program and tribal youth that can be embedded in family and community dialogue.
The Native American and Indigenous Program has regional workshops and activities planned through the Knight Fellows Project and the aforementioned Full Circle Initiative. These activities not only enlarge the artist pipeline for Sundance geographically, they also focus on a traditionally underrepresented group.
Sundance Institute Diversity Initiative is made possible by founding support from Time Warner Foundation. Generous additional support is provided by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Dove, Arcus Foundation, Surdna Foundation, Ford Foundation, The Harnisch Foundation, Philip Fung-A3 Foundation, Morgan Stanley, Susan Bay-Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy, Norlien Foundation, SAGIndie, Archer Gray, NBCUniversal, Cindy and Alan Horn, The Gruber Family Foundation, Bhakti Chai, J. Manus Foundation, and CBS.
The Knight Fellows Project is made possible by generous support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.