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Episodic Story Lab FAQ

  1. What are the dates of the Episodic Story Lab?

    Our inaugural Episodic Story Lab will take place from September 27 – October 2, 2014 at the Sundance Resort in Utah.

  2. How do I apply?

    For the inaugural year of the Lab, the Institute will consider applicants by invitation only. In future years, an open application process is anticipated and information will be available in the Fall of 2014.

  3. How do I get invited?

    For the first year, we will reach out to our vast alumni and creative advisor network and an expansive group of television/cable/online industry writers, producers and showrunners for recommendations of writers to be considered. When receiving recommendations from external sources, we will extend invitations to apply at our discretion, after determining whether the writer and project are likely to be a strong potential match for the program. We are not accepting unsolicited applications at this time.

    In future years, an open application process is anticipated and information will be available in the Fall of 2014.

  4. Who can recommend a project to the Lab?

    Institute staff will source recommendations through extensive outreach to a network of alumni, mentors, industry sources and other artist support programs and diversity initiatives. If you are sourced to recommend a potential candidate, please email episodicstorylab@sundance.org and provide a brief description of the project, the candidate’s background, and your reasons for recommending him/her.

  5. Who is eligible for the Lab?

    • Emerging writers and writer/directors from all mediums, including independent narrative features, documentary, theatre, and fiction, who are developing an episodic series.
    • Emerging writers in the episodic space who have not yet sold a pilot to a studio/network or an online platform.
    • A priority of the program is to identify and support writers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the television industry.
  6. What do I need to include in the application?

    Interested applicants will be asked to provide the following in their application:

    • Contact Information
    • Name of the FFP staff member who invited you to apply
    • Bio(s) of Writer(s) (up to 2 writers per project, no more than 250 words per person)
    • Pilot Synopsis (no more than 500 words) - Describe the story, world, and key characters of the pilot episode
    • Pilot Script (drama or single-camera half-hour comedy)
    • 3-5 page Season One Treatment that outlines the story and character arcs for ten episodes. The treatment should include the following elements:
      • Series Title
      • 2-4 sentences that give an overview of the premise, genre, and world of the series
      • Brief description of the central character(s)
      • List of up to 4 supporting characters, with two-line descriptions
      • Ten short paragraphs, each describing the story and character arc for an individual episode
    • Short Essay (no more than 200-300 words per question) – a brief written response to the following questions:

      • Why are you interested in developing this story as a series and why is this material uniquely suited to the episodic format?
      • Is there a specific approach in tone, production, narrative or aesthetic that is central to the execution of this series?
  7. Is there an application fee to apply for the Episodic Story Lab?

    As we are accepting applications by invitation only this year, there is no application fee at this time.

  8. How complete should the spec pilot script be?

    You must have a full, completed spec pilot script and a 3-5 page treatment for a 10 episode season in order to be considered.

  9. Will you consider writing teams?

    Yes, we will consider writing teams of up to 2 people.

  10. What kind of material is Sundance most interested in supporting?

    The Lab will support both one-hour dramas and single camera half-hour comedies. We are looking for compelling character-driven stories that display original voice and distinctive vision. We are open to different genres and types of stories and are likely to select pilots that one would typically expect to find on cable and online platforms (e.g. HBO, Netflix, AMC, Sundance Channel, FX, etc.)

    In special circumstances, we will consider episodic content for a limited series (fewer episodes than the usual 10 or 13 for cable), however, the candidate must notify us of this intention prior to applying so that we can determine whether or not the project meets our criteria.

    Additionally, under special circumstances, we will consider content being developed for the web that has a shorter running time than the usual hour or thirty minutes, however, the candidate must notify us of this intention prior to applying so that we can determine whether or not the project meets our criteria.

    This is not meant to be a definitive list and we do not have a rigid set of criteria for selection; it is merely intended as a broad guideline for the kind of stories we are hoping to support.

  11. Are you supporting animated projects this year?

    We are open to considering animated projects, however, the candidate must notify us of this intention prior to applying as we will require supplemental visual materials.

  12. Are you supporting documentary projects this year?

    We are not supporting documentary projects at this time, but will be open to considering documentary projects for future Labs.

  13. Can the project be an adaptation of other material (novels, magazine articles, films, etc.)?

    We will consider adaptions so long as the writer/s has secured the rights to the original source material and can disclose the legal rights for Sundance to review.

  14. Do participants pay for travel and accommodation?

    The Sundance Institute will pay for domestic airfare and provide accommodations for all participants. At this time, we are not able to provide for international travel, although we would be able to cover the cost of the domestic portion of an international airfare.

  15. Will you accept international projects?

    Although we are open to candidates from across the globe, the Lab is designed to support individuals who are developing episodic projects for the U.S. market.  Projects must be in English and we are not able to provide for international travel at this time, although we would be able cover the cost of the domestic portion of an international airfare.

  16. What is the application deadline?

    The application will be made available to invited applicants on April 1, 2014. The deadline for project submission is May 15, 2014.

  17. Is it possible to get an extension? What’s the final final final deadline?

    No, it’s not possible to get an extension. You must turn in your application by May 15, 2014.

  18. When will final decisions be made?

    We will notify everyone of our final decision of the writers selected for the Lab by August 15, 2014.

If you are interested in learning more about writing for the episodic space, please find a list of helpful websites and books that provide additional resources for writers below:

Websites:

  • “On Story presented by the Austin Film Festival” – onstory.tv
  • “Writing for Episodic TV” from the WGA – wga.org
  • “FAQ & Writing Resources” from the Writers Guild Foundation Library – wgfoundation.org
  • John August’s Blog, “A Ton of Useful Information about Screenwriting from Screenwriter John August” – johnaugust.com

Books:

  • Writing the TV Pilot by William Rabkin
  • The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap: 21 Navigational Tips for Screenwriters to Create and Sustain a Hit TV Series by Neil Landau
  • The TV Writer’s Workbook: A Creative Approach to Television Scripts by Ellen Sandler
  • Writing the TV Drama Series: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV  by Pamela Douglas
  • Writing the Screenplay, TV and Film by Alan Armer

Still don't see your question answered here? Email episodicstorylab@sundance.org with further questions.