Episodic Program

About the Episodic Program

Offering one of the few training grounds for independent voices to develop an original series and pilot script, the Sundance Institute Episodic Program provides artists with the tools, training, and industry access to move their projects and careers forward.

Launched in 2014, the Sundance Episodic Program is an entry point and sustaining force for emerging episodic writers and creators across all platforms. Through a rigorous lab experience and customized year-round support, the program provides artists with the tools, training, and industry access to move their careers forward. The Episodic Program supports one unified Episodic Lab with two unique tracks, the Episodic Lab: Pilot to Series and Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot. Our series track centers around revising a pilot and refining a professional pitch, while our idea track focuses on taking a concept from the early stages of development all the way through to a polished draft.
 Both programs are immersive two-part experiences that begin in the fall, offering writers an opportunity to workshop an original pilot to develop their writing and pitching skills. Working with accomplished showrunners, producers, and executives, the fellows participate in creative workshops, receive feedback on their projects, and engage in simulated writers' rooms to break story in a collaborative space. 
Fellows reconvene in the spring to receive feedback on revised drafts, work on their pitch process, and meet with creative executives and producers to discuss the industry landscape.

Episodic Lab Tracks

  • Application The 2021 Episodic Lab application will be open from February 10–March 10, 2021. Click here for the application.
    Dates October 1–3, 2021, October 9–11, 2021, and February 27–28, 2022
    Size of Lab 10 projects per lab
    Location TBD
    Eligibility
    • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older at time of application.
    • The project must be the applicant’s original creation or adapted from optioned source material.
    • The project must be written in the English language, but it does not need to be intended to be fully produced in English.
    • The project should be new, or if previously submitted, it must be materially different from any and all versions previously submitted to Sundance Institute. Projects may not be already produced,sold to a third party, or distributed online or otherwise.
    • Applicants cannot have sold an episodic project (pilot or pitch) to a studio or network in the past that has been shot.
    • 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.
    The Application Process There are two rounds in the application process: in round one, applicants are required to submit the first five pages of an original pilot script, their bio, a series logline, a series overview, their personal statement, a thematic statement, and (optional) links to samples of previous work, along with a $40 nonrefundable processing fee. If selected for round two, applicants are notified by email and have two weeks to submit their full pilot script as well as up to three additional project ideas. For further details on the application process, please see our FAQ section below.
    Description The Episodic Lab: Pilot to Series offers writers an opportunity to workshop an original pilot, and to develop their writing and pitching skills. Working with accomplished showrunners, the fellows will participate in one-on-one story meetings, craft workshops, and simulated writers’ rooms, which together provide creative and strategic tools for success. Part one of the lab will take place October 1–3, 2021, and October 9–11, 2021.
    Fellows will reconvene in February for part two of the lab with a polished draft of their lab project. During this time, they will participate in pitch sessions, group conversations about the episodic landscape, and meet with producers and creative executives to discuss next steps and career goals. Part two will take place February 27–28, 2022.

    For more information about the Episodic Lab: Pilot to Series, please contact episodicprogram@sundance.org.

    1. What are the dates of the Episodic Lab: Pilot to Series?
      The 2021 Episodic Lab: Pilot to Series will take place October 1–3, 2021, October 9–11, 2021, and February 27–28, 2022.
    2. Who is eligible for the lab?
      • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older at time of application.
      • The project must be the applicant’s original creation or adapted from optioned source material.
      • The project must be written in the English language, but does not need to be intended to be fully produced in English.
      • The project should be new, or if previously submitted, it must be materially different from any and all versions previously submitted to Sundance Institute, it cannot be already sold to a third party, or not distributed online or otherwise.
      • Applicants cannot have sold an episodic project (pilot or pitch) to a studio or network in the past that has been shot.
      • 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 round one of the application process?
      The submission period is open February 10–March 10, 2021.
    4. What do I need to submit in round one of the application process?
      • Contact information for writer(s): We allow for up to two writers per project; however, you must choose one person to be the primary applicant and your designated point of contact.
      • Bio(s) of the writer(s) (no more than 250 words per person)
      • Series logline: a one-sentence description of your series (no more than 50 words) that conveys what your project is about
      • Pilot synopsis (no more than 500 words): a summary of your pilot episode
      • Series overview (no more than 500 words): This is a one-page description of your series that gives the reader a feel for its main characters, the basic plot and themes, and the tone and format. Imagine you’re describing your series to a friend in a way that conveys your excitement, clearly explains what your series is about, and gives them a reason to want to watch it.
      • Personal statement (no more than 250 words): a brief written response to the following questions:
        • Why are you interested in telling this story?
        • What is your personal connection to the material?
        • Why are you the best person to tell this story?
        • Why tell this story now?
      • Thematic statement (no more than 250 words): a brief written response to the following questions:
        • What is the theme of your series? That is, what is the central idea or big question you are exploring (For example, “In the wake of the ultimate betrayal, how does one continue to trust others?” OR “Are criminals born or are they made?” OR “Can a modern family still function like a traditional family?”)
        • How is this thematic question explored on an episode-to-episode basis in your series (For example, “Each episode, the betrayal is seen through the eyes of a different character as its ripple effect permeates more and more lives,” OR “Each episode, we focus on a different criminal and the path that led to their crimes,” OR “Each episode, an unconventional family struggles to overcome conventional problems.")
        • How does this theme inform each of your characters and their journeys over the course of the series? How does the theme connect emotionally to what your characters are going through?
      • Samples of previous work (optional): Provide one to three URL links to samples of your previous work (not to exceed 10 minutes total in length). Samples may include short films, web series episodes, or other relevant video content. Please include passwords as needed.
      • The first five pages of your pilot script (in .pdf form)
      • Demographics: to be filled out by the primary applicant and the additional applicant (if applicable)
      • Application terms: to be signed by the primary applicant
      • A $40 nonrefundable processing fee (payable by credit card via the online application)
    5. When will I be notified if I have advanced to round two?
      Applicants will receive email notification about whether or not they have been selected for round two of our online application process between April 7 and April 10, 2021. If you do not hear about your status by April 10, please reach out to the Episodic Program via email.
    6. What do I need to submit in round two of the application process?
      After they receive email notification, applicants who are selected to advance to round two are required to upload the full pilot script for their original series and up to three additional project ideas through our online application system by April 21, 2021, in order to be considered for the lab.
    7. Is there an application fee to apply for the Episodic Lab?
      Yes, for round one only, there is a $40 nonrefundable processing fee, payable by credit card via the online application.
    8. How complete should the pilot script be?
      You must have a full, completed original pilot script in order to be considered.
    9. Will you consider writing teams?
      Yes, we will consider writing teams of up to two people.
    10. Can I apply with a director, producer, or other attachment?
      No, this lab is exclusively designed for writers.
    11. Will you consider animated series this year?
      Yes; however, the candidate must notify us of this intention when applying, as we may request supplemental materials. Supplemental materials can include p: Pitch decks, character sheets, mood boards, or another visual representation that communicates the idea, tone, and substance of your project.
    12. Will you consider nonfiction series this year?
      Yes; however, the candidate must notify us of this intention when applying, as we may request supplemental materials. Supplemental materials can include p: Pitch decks, character sheets, mood boards, or another visual representation that communicates the idea, tone, and substance of your project.
    13. Will you consider international series?
      Yes; however, the project must be in English, and we are not able to provide for international travel at this time. We will cover the cost of the domestic portion of international airfare.
    14. Will you consider adaptations of other material (novels, magazine articles, films, etc.)?
      Yes, we will consider adaptations so long as the writer (or writers) has secured the rights to the original source material and can disclose the legal rights for the Sundance Institute to review.
    15. Do participants pay for travel and accommodation?
      No, 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 cover the cost of the domestic portion of international airfare.
    16. What does the program cost?
      Aside from an application fee of $40, participation in the Episodic Lab, including travel, food, and accommodations, is completely free.
    17. Does the Sundance Institute 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.
    18. When does the application open?
      The application for the 2021 Episodic Lab opens on February 10, 2021, at noon PT.
    19. What is the application deadline?
      The deadline for project submission is March 10, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. PT.
    20. 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 March 10, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. PT.
    21. When will final decisions be made?
      Applicants will receive email notification about whether or not they have been selected for the lab between August 11 and August 15, 2021. If you do not hear about your status by August 15, please reach out to the Episodic Program.
    22. Will the lab be held in Park City or online this year?
      • It is too early to say. The 2020 lab was held entirely on Zoom and through our Sundance Co//ab platform.

    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
      • “Resource Center” from the Writers Guild Foundation—wgfoundation.org
      • “A ton of useful information about screenwriting” from John August’s blog—johnaugust.com
    • Books:
      • Writing the 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 A. Armer

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

  • Application The 2021 Episodic Lab application will be open on February 10–March 10, 2021.
    Dates November 11–14, 2021, and April 9–12, 2022.
    Size of Lab 10 projects per lab
    Location TBD
    Eligibility
    • Applicants must be 18 years of age or older at time of application.
    • The project must be the applicant’s original creation or adapted from optioned source material.
    • The project must be written in English but does not need to be intended to be fully produced in English.
    • The project should be new, or if previously submitted, it must be materially different from any and all versions previously submitted to Sundance Institute, It cannot be already produced, not already sold to a third party, or 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 There are two rounds in the application process: in round one, applicants are required to submit the first five pages of an original pilot script, their bio, a series logline, a series overview, their personal statement, a thematic statement, and (optional) links to samples of previous work, along with a $40 nonrefundable processing fee. If selected for round two, applicants are notified by email and have two weeks to submit their full pilot script, and up to three additional project ideas. For further details on what the application process entails, please see our FAQ section below.
    Description

    The Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot is designed to identify emerging independent voices, with the goal of developing an original episodic project from its inception. The program focuses on the craft of outlining, writing, and revising episodic material. During the lab, fellows participate in workshops with accomplished showrunners to sharpen their episodic storytelling skills. After the lab, fellows receive strategic and creative support from Sundance Institute staff and creative advisors. Part one of the Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot will take place November 11– 14, 2021.

    For part two of the lab, fellows will reconvene in April with a new writing sample to participate in one-on-one story meetings, simulated writers’ rooms, and group conversations with industry mentors about project development, pitching, and the episodic landscape. Part two will take place April 9–12, 2022.

    For more information about the Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot, please contact episodicprogram@sundance.org.

    1. What are the dates of the Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot?
      Part one of the Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot will take place November 11–14, 2021. Part two is currently scheduled to take place April 9–12, 2022, in Los Angeles, California.
    2. What are the eligibility requirements for submitting a project to the Lab?
      • 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 but does not need to be intended to be fully produced in English.
      • The project should be new, or if previously submitted, it must be materially different from any and all versions previously submitted to Sundance Institute. It cannot be already produced, sold to a third party, or 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 round one of the application process?
      The submission period is February 10–March 10, 2021
    4. What do I need to submit in round one of the application process?
      • Contact information for writer(s): we allow for up to two writers per project; however, you must choose one person to be the primary applicant and your designated point of contact.
      • Bio(s) of the writer(s) (no more than 250 words per person)
      • Series logline: a one-sentence description of your series (no more than 50 words) that conveys what your project is about
      • Pilot synopsis (no more than 500 words): a summary of your pilot episode
      • Series overview (no more than 500 words): this is a one-page description of your series that gives the reader a feel for its main characters, the basic plot and themes, and the tone and format. Imagine you’re describing your series to a friend in a way that conveys your excitement, clearly explains what your series is about, and gives them a reason to want to watch it.
      • Personal statement (no more than 250 words): a brief written response to the following questions:
        • Why are you interested in telling this story?
        • What is your personal connection to the material?
        • Why are you the best person to tell this story?
        • Why tell this story now?
      • Thematic statement (no more than 250 words): a brief written response to the following questions:
        • What is the theme of your series? That is, what is the central idea or big question you are exploring (For example, “In the wake of the ultimate betrayal, how does one continue to trust others?” OR “Are criminals born or are they made?” OR “Can a modern family still function like a traditional family?”)
        • How is this thematic question explored on an episode-to-episode basis in your series ? (For example, “Each episode, the betrayal is seen through the eyes of a different character as its ripple effect permeates more and more lives,” OR “Each episode, we focus on a different criminal and the path that led to their crimes,” OR “Each episode, an unconventional family struggles to overcome conventional problems.”)
        • How does this theme inform each of your characters and their journeys over the course of the series? How does the theme connect emotionally to what your characters are going through?
      • Samples of previous work (optional): Provide one to three URL links to samples of your previous work (not to exceed 10 minutes total in length). Samples may include short films, web series episodes, or other relevant video content. Please include passwords as needed.
      • The first five pages of your pilot script (in PDF form)
      • Demographics: to be filled out by the primary applicant and the additional applicant (if applicable)
      • Application terms: to be signed by the primary applicant.
      • $40 non-refundable processing fee (payable by credit card via the online application)
    5. When will I be notified if I have advanced to round two?
      Applicants will receive an email notification about whether or not they have advanced to round two of our online application process between April 7 and April 10, 2021. If you do not hear about your status by April 10, please reach out to the Episodic Program.
    6. What do I need to submit in round two of the application process?
      After they receive email notification, applicants who are selected to advance to round two are required to upload the full pilot script for their original series and up to three additional project ideas through our online application system by April 21, 2021, in order to be considered for the lab.
    7. Is there an application fee to apply for the Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot?
      Yes, for round one only, there is a $40 nonrefundable processing fee, payable by credit card via the online application.
    8. What does the program cost?
      Aside from an application fee of $40, there is no charge for participation in the Episodic Lab: Idea to Pilot.
    9. Do participants pay for travel and accommodations?
      No, domestic airfare and accommodations will be provided for all participants who are not locally based.
    10. Does the Sundance Institute own my project?
      No, the Sundance Institute does not have an ownership stake in any projects that are submitted to, or selected for the program, nor are we attached in any producorial capacity. All Episodic 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 two people.
    12. Will you consider animated series?
      Yes; however, the candidate must notify us of this intention prior to applying, as we will require supplemental materials. Supplemental materials can include pitch decks, character sheets, mood boards, or another visual representation that communicates the idea, tone, and substance of your project.
    13. Will you consider nonfiction series?
      Yes; however, the candidate must notify us of this intention when applying as we may request supplemental materials. Supplemental materials can include pitch decks, character sheets, mood boards, or another visual representation that communicates the idea, tone, and substance of your project.
    14. Will you consider adaptations of other material (novels, magazine articles, films, etc.)?
      Yes, 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.
    15. Will you consider international series?
      Yes; however, the project 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.
    16. When does the application open?
      The application for the 2021 Episodic Lab opens on February 10, 2021, at noon PT.
    17. What is the application deadline?
      The deadline for project submission is March 10, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. 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 March 10, 2021, at 6:00 p.m. PT.
    19. When will final decisions be made?
      Applicants will receive email notification about whether or not they have been selected for the lab by between August 11 and August 15, 2021. If you do not hear about your status by August 15, please reach out to the Episodic Program.

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

Year-Round Continuum of Support

Following participation in the labs, fellows receive customized, year-round support from Sundance Institute staff with a focus on project development, securing representation, and staffing. This includes ongoing creative and strategic advice from the Episodic Program team and advisors; targeted introductions to agents, managers, writers, producers, and executives; inclusion in our alumni program,the Sundance Institute Collective opportunities to observe the writers' rooms of shows currently in production; and ongoing mentorship with episodic writers, directors, and producers.

Support for the Sundance Institute Episodic Program

As of September 2020

The Sundance Institute Episodic Program is made possible by founding supporters Lyn and Norman Lear and Cindy Harrell Horn and Alan Horn. Leadership supporters are AMC and SundanceTV, Comedy Central, Netflix, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, STARZ, and WarnerMedia.

Join the Donor Community