Considered the cornerstone of the year-round support the Feature Film Program provides each year, the Directors Lab is held for 3-4 weeks each June at the Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah. A total of eight projects, the vast majority of which have participated in a previous Screenwriters Lab, are invited to participate. There is no open application for the Directors Lab; rather, applicants to the January Screenwriters Lab program are considered for the June Directors Lab after their projects have been selected for the January Screenwriters Lab.
Over the course of the Directors Lab, the 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, the Fellows workshop scenes, collaborate with actors, and find a visual language for their film in an atmosphere where experimentation is encouraged. Surrounded by seasoned professionals, yet removed from the typical pressures of production, Lab Fellows are offered a unique opportunity to see the script "on its feet," develop skills, and take risks. The goal of the Directors Lab is not to have a "finished" work for external use; rather, we encourage innovation and creativity, knowing one of the best ways to continue the development process is by actually shooting scenes from the script. Directors Lab Fellows also join in the weeklong Screenwriters Lab with five additional Screenwriter projects to participate in individualized story sessions under the guidance of established screenwriters.
There is no open application process for the Directors Lab. The vast majority of Directors Lab projects have been supported by a previous Screenwriters Lab, which has an open submissions process. To learn more about the selection process for the Screenwriters Lab click here.
The program is unable to accept open applications from international filmmakers. An international applicant is a non-U.S. citizen living outside of the United States. For more information on the International outreach of the Feature Film Program, please click here.
Sundance Institute provides airline travel, accommodations, and meals at the Sundance Resort in Utah for one writer/filmmaker per project for the duration of the Lab, in addition to the extensive creative and strategic support provided throughout a project's development. The Institute considers special requests to provide accommodations and meals for additional creative partners and may ask the creative team to cover travel and other expenses.
Of course, the Feature Film Program is committed to supporting all of our projects long after the Lab, from script development to audience engagement. Projects supported through the Directors Lab receive the full and continued support of the Feature Film program, which can include ongoing creative and strategic advice, significant production and postproduction resources, a Screenplay Reading Series, a Rough Cut Screening Initiative, and direct financial support through project-specific grants and artist fellowships. The Feature Film Program is committed to seeing its films produced, and then seen by the world, and we continue to search for new ways in which we can support our artists and their projects.
Giving Back to Sundance Institute
Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization funded by foundations, corporations, film industry sources, individuals, government agencies, and earned income such as ticket sales at the Sundance Film Festival. The Institute was founded by Robert Redford as a way to give back to a creative community and a new generation of film and theatre artists by providing them with an opportunity to develop their projects and skills. Because securing funding for the Institute's programs is a consistent challenge, we request that Lab Alumni whose projects are produced contribute to the Institute's work to support the next group of emerging filmmakers. The agreement is a way for filmmakers supported by our program to continue the spirit of giving back. Any revenue that is designated to Sundance Institute is allocated to the Feature Film Program and is used on an annual basis to provide critical support for the Labs.
Projects supported by the Screenwriters Labs are asked to contribute 0.25 percent of their production budget calculated after the first $1 million. Projects supported by the Directors Labs are asked to contribute 0.5 percent of their production budget calculated after the first $1 million. The total contribution for projects supported by both Labs is not to exceed 0.75 percent, if direct granting has exceeded $10,000.00. Contributions are tax-deductible and are used to fund the Labs for the subsequent year. Additionally, Lab Alumni are asked to recognize the Program with the credit, "This film was supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program," along with Sundance's wordmark in the picture's end titles, in a size of type not less than that of the largest end credit, on a separate card immediately following the cast list. Lab Alumni are also asked to contribute 1 percent of the net profit of the film. If you have any questions or would like clarification on this, please call 310-360-1981.
Alumni and Advisors
Directors Lab alumni include Ryan Coogler, Benh Zeitlin, Quentin Tarantino, Paul Thomas Anderson, Cary Fukunaga, Tamara Jenkins, Kimberly Peirce, Gina Prince Bythewood, Chris Eyre, Miranda July, Sean Durkin, Tony Bui, and Rodrigo Garcia among many others. For a complete list of alumni, click here.
Creative Advisors for the Directors Lab have included Paul Thomas Anderson, Alexander Payne, Alfonso Cuaron, Catherine Hardwicke, Walter Salles, Ed Harris, Stanley Tucci, Ira Sachs, Miguel Arteta, Robert Elswit, Ellen Kuras, Kasi Lemmons, Pablo Larraín, Pam Martin, Kevin Tent, Chris Terrio, Michael Arndt, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sally Field, and Alfre Woodard, among many others. Click here for a full list.
Filmmakers typically begin their participation in the Feature Film Program with the January Screenwriters Lab, the only Lab for which there is an open application. Online applications for the Screenwriters Lab are made available in the Applications section of the website beginning February 15 of each year.
January Screenwriters Lab applications available online starting: February 15 (for the following year's Lab)
Application deadline for U.S. filmmakers: May 1 (postmarked)
Application deadline for international filmmakers: August 15 (postmarked)
To apply for the January Screenwriters Lab, please click here.
If you have additional questions about the Directors Lab, click here for our FAQ.