Episodic Storytelling


Labs

Episodic Story Lab
Application The online open application for the 2015 Episodic Story Lab will go live on December 4, 2014, with a deadline of February 11, 2015.
Dates Fall 2015
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.
  • 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.
Description

Sundance Institute’s Episodic Story Lab is an immersive experience for ten writers over a six-day period at the Sundance Resort in Utah.

The writers will work with an accomplished group of showrunners, television executives, and producers. They will participate in one-on-one creative story meetings, a simulated Writers’ Room to break story, pitch sessions, and group conversations about the creative and business environment of television writing and producing.

Application Process

The ten writing 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.

Still have questions? Read our FAQ
    1. What are the dates of the Episodic Story Lab?

      The Episodic Story Lab will take place in the Fall of 2015 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 do I need to include in the (Round 1) application?

      Applicants will be asked to provide the following in their application:

      • Bio(s) of the Writer(s) (no more than 250 words per person)
      • Contact Information for Writer(s) (up to 2 writers per project)
      • Pilot Synposis (no more than 500 words) - describe the story, world, and key characters of the pilot episode
      • First 5 Pages of the Pilot Script 
      • 2-3 Page Series Overview (between 1000-1500 words) to include the following elements:
        • The series title
        • A series logline: 2-4 sentences that give an overview of the premise, genre, and world of the series
        • A brief description of the central character(s)
        • A brief summary of the story and character arcs for 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 this 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 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?
      • A $40 Non-Refundable Processing Fee payable by credit card via the online application
    4. 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 4, 2015. Our notifications are made on a rolling basis. You will hear whether you have proceeded to the Second Round of the application process by March 4 at the latest.

    5. 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 in order to be considered for the Lab.

    6. 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.

    7. How complete should the spec pilot script be? 

      You must have a full, completed spec pilot script in order to be considered.

    8. Will you consider writing teams? 

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

    9. 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, 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.
    10. 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.

    11. 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.

    12. 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.

    13. 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.

    14. 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.

    15. What is the application deadline? 

      The application will be made available to applicants through our online application system on December 4, 2014. The deadline for project submission is February 11, 2015.

    16. 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 11, 2015.

    17. When will final decisions be made? 

      We will notify everyone of our final decision of the writers selected for the Lab by August 14, 2015.

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.



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 Episodic Lab

The Sundance Institute Episodic Story Initiative and Lab is made possible by Founding Supporters Lyn & Norman Lear; Leadership Supporters A&E, Netflix, SundanceTV, and Time Warner Foundation/HBO; and Discovery Supporters Cindy and Alan Horn, RT Features, and Sonar Entertainment.

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