Episodic Storytelling


Labs

Episodic Story Lab
Application Apply here. Deadline: February 1, 2017, 6:00pm PT
Dates October 5-10, 2017
Size of Lab 10 Projects each Lab
Location Sundance Resort, Utah
Eligibility
  • Emerging writers and writer/directors from all mediums, including independent narrative features, documentary, theatre, and fiction, who are developing an episodic series.
  • Applicants must have at minimum a completed script for the pilot episode and a 2-3 page series overview that includes a brief description of the premise, genre, central characters and world of the series, as well as a short summary of the story and character arcs for the first season.
  • The submitted pilot cannot have been sold at any point to a studio or network.
  • Additionally, applicants cannot have sold a pilot or pitch to a studio or network in the past that has been produced.
  • The submitted pilot may be original or adapted from optioned source material.
  • A priority of the program is to identify and support writers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the television industry.
Application Process The ten selected Episodic Story Lab Fellows are chosen through a rigorous outreach and selection process, open to the public. There are two rounds in the application process. In the first round, applicants will be required to pay a $40 non-refundable processing fee and are asked to submit the first 5 pages of a pilot script, along with a 2-3 page series overview that includes a brief description of the premise, genre, central characters and world of the series, as well as a short summary of the story and character arcs for the first season. If selected for the second round applicants are notified by email and asked to submit their full pilot script at that time. For further detail on what the application process entails, please visit our FAQ page below.
Description The Sundance Institute Episodic Story Lab offers 10 writers an opportunity to develop long-form episodic content in a setting where they can hone their writing skills and learn how to navigate the changing industry. Working with accomplished showrunners, as well as non-writing creative producers and studio/network executives, the Fellows participate in one-on-one creative story meetings, pitching sessions, writers’ rooms, and group conversations focusing on the key creative and tactical elements that are central to their success in episodic storytelling.

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Still have questions about the Episodic Story Lab? Read our FAQ
  1. What are the dates of the Episodic Story Lab?
    The Episodic Story Lab will take place October 5-10, 2017, at the Sundance Resort in Utah.
  2. 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.
    • Applicants must have at minimum a completed script for the pilot episode and a 2-3 page series overview that includes a brief description of the premise, genre, central characters, and world of the series, as well as a short summary of the story and character arcs for the first season.
    • The submitted pilot cannot have been sold at any point to a studio or network.
    • Additionally, applicants cannot have sold a pilot or pitch to a studio or network in the past that has been produced.
    • The submitted pilot may be original or adapted from optioned source material.
    • A priority of the program is to identify and support writers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the television industry.
  3. What is the submission period for the First Round of the application process?
    December 1, 2016 - February 1, 2017
  4. What do I need to include in the First Round of the application process?
    • Contact information for writer(s) (we allow for up to 2 writers per project, however, you must choose one person to be your designated point of contact)
    • Bio(s) of the writer(s) (no more than 250 words per person)
    • Series logline - 2-4 sentences that give an overview of the premise, genre, and world of the series
    • Pilot synopsis (no more than 500 words) - describe the story, world, and key characters of the pilot episode
    • 2-3 page series overview (between 1000-1500 words) to include the following elements:
      • A brief description of the central character(s)
      • A brief summary of the story and character arcs for the first season. This should NOT be an episode by episode outline. Instead, we want to know, in simple and clear language, how the characters and relationships will change throughout the season, as well as the main thrust of each storyline.
    • Short essay (no more than 200-300 words per question) – a brief written response to the following questions:
      • Why are you interested in telling this story? What is your personal connection to the material and/or why are you the best person to tell this story? What specific theme you are exploring?
      • Why are you developing this story as an episodic series? Is there a specific approach in tone, production, narrative or aesthetic that is central to the execution of this series?
    • The first 5 pages of your pilot script
    • A $40 non-refundable processing fee payable by credit card via the online application
  5. When will I be notified if I have advanced to the Second Round?
    Applicants will receive notification via email about whether or not they have been selected for the Second Round of our online application process by March 15, 2017.
  6. What will be required to submit to the Second Round?
    Applicants who are selected to advance to Round 2 will be required to provide a full pilot script through our online application system by March 29, 2017, in order to be considered for the Lab.
  7. Is there an application fee to apply for the Episodic Story Lab?
    Yes, for the first round ONLY, there is a $40 Non-Refundable Processing Fee, payable by credit card via the online application.
  8. How complete should the spec pilot script be?
    You must have a full, completed spec pilot script 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. BET, HBO, Netflix, Amazon, A&E Networks and Sundance TV).
    • 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 adaptations 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. We will, however, cover the cost of the domestic portion of international airfare.
  15. What does the program cost?
    Aside from an application fee of $40.00, participation in the Episodic Story Lab, including travel, food and accommodations, is completely free.
  16. Does Sundance own my pilot?
    No. The Sundance Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and does not have an ownership stake in any projects that are submitted to, or selected for the Lab, nor are we attached in any producorial capacity. All Lab Fellows must own or have approval from the project owner to participate in FFP Programs.
  17. 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. We will, however, cover the cost of the domestic portion of international airfare.
  18. What is the application deadline?
    The application will be made available to applicants through our online application system on December 1, 2016. The deadline for project submission is February 1, 2017 at 6:00pm PT.
  19. Is it possible to get an extension? What’s the final final deadline?
    No, it’s not possible to get an extension. You must turn in your application by February 1, 2017 at 6:00pm PT.
  20. When will final decisions be made?
    We will notify everyone of our final decision of the writers selected for the Lab by August 23, 2017.

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 episodicstorytelling@sundance.org with further questions.

Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab
Application The application for the 2016 Sundance Institute | New Voices Lab is now closed. Please check back in February 2017 for information about the 2017 New Voices Lab application.
Dates November 9-11, 2017
Size of Lab 10 Projects each Lab
Location Sundance Institute’s LA Office & YouTube Space Los Angeles
Eligibility
  • Applicants must be permanent legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia.
  • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older at time of application.
  • The project must be the applicant’s original creation.
  • The project must be written in the English language.
  • The project must be new: not already produced, not already sold to a third party, and not distributed online or otherwise.
  • The project shall not infringe the copyright or any other proprietary right of another individual or entity. The creator/applicant is responsible for all rights pertaining to the project.
Application Process The ten New Voices projects will be chosen through a rigorous outreach and selection process, open to the public. There are two rounds in the application process. In the first round, applicants will be required to pay a $20 nonrefundable processing fee and are asked to submit the first 5 pages of a pilot script for a scripted short-form episodic series (up to 25 minutes in length per episode), along with a bio, series logline, project description, 2 short essay responses, and links to samples of previous work. If selected for the second round, applicants are notified by email and asked to submit the following: a full script for the first three episodes (including the pilot) of their short-form series (not to exceed 40 total pages in length); a 2-3 page project overview that includes an in-depth description of the world, tone, themes, characters and story arcs for the project; and a short video pitch (no more than 5 minutes in length) that gives us an overview of the project. For further detail on what the application process entails, please visit our FAQ page below.
Description The Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab will take place November 9-11, 2017, in Los Angeles and is designed to support a group of 10 creators, developing scripted short-form episodic content for digital platforms (up to 25 minutes in length per episode). Fellows will work with an exciting group of creators, showrunners and episodic producers to develop their stories in an environment that encourages risk-taking and innovation. At the Lab, Fellows will participate in an intensive writing workshop, one-on-one creative story meetings, writers' rooms, and group conversations about production, post-production, and marketing in the evolving digital landscape.

For more information about the New Voices Lab, please contact episodicstorytelling@sundance.org

Still have questions about the New Voices Lab? Read our FAQ
  1. What are the dates of the New Voices Lab?
    The New Voices Lab will take place November 9-11, 2017, at Sundance Institute’s LA Office and YouTube Space Los Angeles.
  2. What are the eligibility requirements for submitting a project to the Lab?
    • Applicants must be permanent legal residents of the 50 United States or the District of Columbia.
    • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older at time of application.
    • The project must be the applicant’s original creation.
    • The project must be written in the English language.
    • The project must be new: not already produced, not already sold to a third party, and not distributed online or otherwise.
    • The project shall not infringe the copyright or any other proprietary right of another individual or entity. The creator/applicant is responsible for all rights pertaining to the project.
  3. What is the submission period for the First Round of the application process?
    February 10 - April 10, 2017
  4. What will be required to submit for the First Round of the application process?
    • Contact information for writer-creator(s) (up to 2 per project).
    • Bios of writer-creator(s) and other key creatives (up to 2) (may include the director, producer and/or cinematographer).
    • Series logline: 2-3 sentences that summarize your project’s concept and story.
    • Project description: a brief description (no more than 500 words) of the story, genre, central character(s) and world of the project.
    • Short essay responses (no more than 200-300 words per question) in response to the following questions:
      1. Why are you interested in telling this story? What is your personal connection to the material and/or why are you the best person to tell this story? What specific theme you are exploring?
      2. Why are you developing this story as a short-form episodic series? What is the intended platform (e.g. – personal website, digital platform or aggregator, mobile device, social media, etc.), length of the project/series (i.e. – number of episodes), and approximate duration for each episode? If your project includes any interactive or VR components, please detail those here. Is there a specific approach to format, tone, aesthetic, narrative, production or distribution that is central to the execution of this series?
    • Samples of previous work – Provide 1-3 URL links to samples of your previous work (not to exceed 10 minutes total in length). Samples may include short films, vlogs, web series episodes or other digital content. Please be sure to include passwords as needed.
    • The first five pages of a pilot script for the first episode of a short-form series.
    • $20 non-refundable processing fee payable by credit card via the online application.
  5. When will I be notified if I have advanced to the Second Round?
    Applicants will receive notification via email about whether or not they have advanced to the Second Round of our online application process by June 7, 2017.
  6. What will be required to submit for the Second Round of the application process?
    • A full script for the first three episodes (including the pilot) of a short-form series (not to exceed 40 total pages in length).
    • Project overview (2-3 pages in length, between 1000 -1500 words). This should be an in-depth description of the world, tone, themes, characters and story arcs for your project. If you are envisioning your project as a continuing series, please focus on what you see as the first season. You don’t need to break down the project episode by episode, but you should describe the primary storylines that will propel your characters forward over the course of the series.
    • A short video pitch (no more than 5 minutes in length) that gives us an overview of your project. This is your opportunity to show off your video-making skills, tells us a little bit about your background, and let us know why you are interested in telling this story. It should include your name(s), the title of your series, and a short description of the project, including the story, world, setting, tone, genre and main characters.
  7. Is there an application fee to apply for the New Voices Lab?
    Yes, for the first round ONLY, there is a $20 Non-Refundable Processing Fee, payable by credit card via the online application.
  8. What does the program cost?
    Aside from an application fee of $20.00, there will be no charge for participation in the New Voices Lab.
  9. Do participants pay for travel and accommodations?
    Domestic airfare and accommodations will be provided for all participants who are not currently based in Los Angeles, CA.
  10. Does Sundance or YouTube own my project?
    No. Neither Sundance Institute nor YouTube have an ownership stake in any projects that are submitted to, or selected for the Lab, nor are we attached in any producorial capacity. All Lab Fellows must own or have approval from the project owner to participate.
  11. Will you consider co-creator teams?
    Yes, we will consider co-creator teams of up to 2 people.
  12. What kind of material is Sundance most interested in supporting?
    • The Lab is designed to support emerging creators working on scripted, short-form, episodic content (no more than 20 minutes in length per episode).
    • We are looking for projects that demonstrate a creative vision and unique voice, populated by strong characters, original concepts, and innovative approaches to storytelling.
  13. 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.
  14. Are you supporting nonfiction projects?
    We are not supporting documentary projects at this time, but will consider projects that have both nonfiction and fiction elements that have a scripted narrative. We are open to considering nonfiction projects for future Labs.
  15. Can the project be an adaptation of other material (novels, magazine articles, films, etc.)?
    We will consider adaptations as long as the rights to the original source material have been secured and applicant(s) can disclose the legal rights for review. The Creator/Applicant is responsible for all rights pertaining to the project.
  16. Will you accept international projects?
    Unfortunately, we are not accepting International projects at this time (though we may consider them for future Labs). Projects must be in English and applicants must be permanent legal residents of the fifty (50) United States or the District of Columbia.
  17. What is the application deadline?
    The application will be made available to applicants through our online application system by February 10, 2017. The deadline for project submission is April 10, 2017, at 6:00pm PT.
  18. Is it possible to get an extension? What’s the final final deadline?
    No, it’s not possible to get an extension. You must turn in your application by April 10, 2017, at 6:00pm PT.
  19. When will final decisions be made?
    We will notify all applicants whether or not they were selected as Fellows for the Lab by October 13, 2017.

Year Round Continuum of Support

Following participation in the Labs, Fellows receive a customized, year-round continuum of support to include ongoing creative and tactical advice from Sundance staff and designated advisors; targeted introductions to agents, managers, attorneys, showrunners, creative producers, executive producers, networks, digital distribution platforms, and others as needed; inclusion in the Sundance Institute alumni community, potential opportunities to observe the writers rooms of shows currently in production and for ongoing mentorships with episodic writers, directors and producers.


Advice for Applicants

The Feature Film Program's Lab programs are designed to give aspiring independent artists the skills and knowledge they need to pursue their craft. While the specific criteria for participation differs across our various programs, for all of our initiatives we are seeking passionate, bold, risk-taking, and creatively rigorous artists compelled to see their vision through to audience. Some things to think about while applying to any of our programs include your personal connection to the material, why you are passionate about this particular story, how you intend to realize the project creatively and logistically, and the impact you hope to have on audiences.


Support for the SUNDANCE INSTITUTE | YOUTUBE NEW VOICES LAB

The Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab is made possible with Founding Support from YouTube.


Support for the Episodic Lab

The Sundance Institute Episodic Storytelling Program and Lab is made possible by Founding Supporters Lyn & Norman Lear and Cindy & Alan Horn; Leadership Supporters A&E, Netflix, SundanceTV, Amazon Studios, BET and Time Warner Foundation/HBO; Discovery Supporters RT Features; and Supporter BBC America.

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