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Feature Film Program Summary

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The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program (FFP) is dedicated to developing and nurturing the next generation of leading edge narrative feature filmmakers through its unique system of labs, granting, and creative and tactical support. For the past 30 years, the Program has championed many of the world’s groundbreaking independent filmmakers by encouraging a rigorous creative process with a focus on original and deeply personal storytelling. By providing tailored year-round support, from script development to engaging audiences, to pioneering filmmakers, the FFP has become a model for supporting artists around the world. Recent award-winning projects cultivated in the Program include Damien Chazelle's Whiplash (2014 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award), Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (2013 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award), Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize), Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre, Dee Rees’ Pariah, Haifaa Al-Mansour's Wadjda and Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox. Click here for a closer look at the FFP’s role in supporting Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Read the most recent FFP Newsletter


Ryan Coogler accepting Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Award
for his directorial debut, Fruitvale Station.

Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, the Sundance Institute was created in response to the shared conviction that the budding independent film movement had the potential for far-reaching creative impact if given adequate resources and a place to foster self-expression and a sense of community among filmmakers. Thirty years later, under Michelle Satter’s continued leadership, the FFP’s network of Labs continues to provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity for filmmakers to incubate their most audacious ideas in an environment where risk-taking is encouraged and failure is regarded as a valuable step in a project’s creative evolution.

The point of entry to the Feature Film Program is the January Screenwriters Lab, a five-day writer’s workshop for 12 filmmakers held at the Sundance Resort. (Read about recent Lab Fellow Ryan Koo's experience here). During the Lab, fellows take part in intensive one-on-one story meetings focused on their feature film scripts under the guidance of accomplished writers in a place that encourages creativity and innovation. The deadline for open submissions to the January Screenwriters Lab is May 1st of the previous year.


Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar (Beasts of The Southern Wild)
at the 2009 January Screenwriters Lab with screenwriter Scott Frank

Once a filmmaker has participated in the January Screenwriters Lab, the Feature Film Program provides a wide range of support designed to help filmmakers realize the promise of their project and to offer strategies and resources to help the project reach its audience. The Project Support Continuum can include the June Directors Lab, the annual Film Music and Sound Design Lab, ongoing screenplay development, targeted momentum grants, public screenplay readings, strategic introductions to potential funders and collaborators, in-kind donations, and works in progress screenings. Additional FFP initiatives, a direct response to the evolving landscape of independent film, include the Creative Producing Fellowship and Summit, the New Frontier Story Lab, and the newest lab supporting Episodic Storytelling. Click here to browse recent photos from the 2014 Director's Lab on our Instagram page.

The Institute’s guiding values of cultural exchange and freedom of expression have broadened the program to include American and international artists in a more meaningful and vibrant dialogue across political, cultural, and geographic boundaries. Reflecting an increasingly global independent filmmaking community, the Feature Film Program (in collaboration with regional partners) has launched several signature programs to support international filmmakers, including the RAWI Middle East Screenwriters Lab held annually in Jordan and the Mumbai Mantra/Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab in India. Additionally, this year marks the fourth year of the Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Award, presented annually to four emerging international filmmakers, and the 18th year of the Sundance Institute/NHK Award.


Cary Fukanaga (Sin Nombre) at the 2006 June Directors Lab.

Many accomplished artists have contributed as Creative Advisors to the work supported by the Program, including: Gyula Gazdag, Alexander Payne, Ed Harris, Paul Thomas Anderson, Nicole Holofcener, Denzel Washington, Walter Salles, Scott Frank, Walter Mosley, Stanley Tucci, Alfonso Cuaron, Alfre Woodard, Atom Egoyan, Guillermo Arriaga, Thomas Vinterberg, Catherine Hardwicke, Walter Murch, and Robert Elswit. Click here for a full list of past Creative Advisors.

Support for the Feature Film Program

Sundance Institute is deeply grateful to the following donors for their generous support of the Feature Film Program over the past year.

The Annenberg Foundation
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Mumbai Mantra Media Ltd
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Lincoln Motor Company
DCM Productions
HP
Steve Bing
Cinereach
Jeanne Donovan Fisher
Philip Fung-A3 Foundation
Hollywood Foreign Press Association
Microsoft
Red Crown Productions
RT Features
NHK Enterprises, Inc.
SAGIndie
National Endowment for the Arts
Time Warner Foundation
3311 Productions
The Ammon Foundation
Grazka Taylor
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund
Directors Guild of America
Zygmunt & Audrey Wilf Foundation
DCM Productions
Sundial Pictures, LLC
Rosalie Swedlin and Robert Cort
Writers Guild of America, West
John M. August
Firestone / von Winterfeldt Family Fund
Dreambridge LLC
Utah Film Commission

Special Thanks

Sundance Institute gratefully acknowledges the following organizations who have generously provided assistance in supporting the Feature Film Program.

AAdyn Tech
Angeniuex, a Thales group brand
Anton/Bauer, Inc.
ARRI
Audio-Technica
Avid Technology, Inc.
Carl Zeiss SBE, LLCZ
Express Shuttle
Fill-LiteTM
Kino Flo
K-Tek

LaCie
Native Instruments
OConnor
Ola Loa “Fizzy” Vitamins
Porta Brace Inc.
Rosco Labs
Sachtler
Shure Incorporated
Sony Electronics Inc.
The Tiffen Company
The Vitec Group plc

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Posted Aug 28, 2012 in Press Releases

Sundance Institute Announces FILM FORWARD: ADVANCING CULTURAL DIALOGUE Returns to Puerto Rico, Sept. 19-22

Park City, Utah — Sundance Institute, in collaboration with the Puerto Rico Film Society, announced today that the FILM FORWARD: ADVANCING CULTURAL DIALOGUE initiative will... Read More

In Memory of Frank Pierson

Posted Jul 23, 2012, by Michelle Satter, Founding Director, Feature Film Program in Articles

In Memory of Frank Pierson

Frank Pierson was just plain brilliant – as a screenwriter, educator and leader. He was never afraid to have an opinion and was always fiercely independent and ready for an... Read More

Debbie Berman Named Recipient of the Sally Menke Editing Fellowship

Posted Jul 20, 2012, by Sundance Institute in Articles

Debbie Berman Named Recipient of the Sally Menke Editing Fellowship

In 2010, the Sally Menke Memorial Editing Fellowship was created at the Sundance Institute by the late film editor’s husband, Dean Parisot, and children to honor her memory... Read More

Sundance Institute to Host a Week of Creative Film Producing Initiatives, July 30 through August 5,

Posted Jul 16, 2012 in Press Releases

Sundance Institute to Host a Week of Creative Film Producing Initiatives, July 30 through August 5, 2012

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute today announced the participants for its annual Creative Producing Labs and Creative Producing Summit, both held in the same week at... Read More

Sundance Institute Selects Six Fellows for  2012 Feature Film Composers Lab

Posted Jul 10, 2012 in Press Releases

Sundance Institute Selects Six Fellows for 2012 Feature Film Composers Lab

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute today announced the selection of six composers to participate in the 2012 Feature Film Composers Lab, July 25 through August 8 at the... Read More

Part 1: Clay Jeter and Charles Spano Talk Insecurities, Breakthroughs at the Screenwriters Lab

Posted Jul 10, 2012, by Clay Jeter and Charles Spano, Screnwriters Lab Fellows in Articles

Part 1: Clay Jeter and Charles Spano Talk Insecurities, Breakthroughs at the Screenwriters Lab

Clay Jeter and Charles Spano recently attended the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab in the mountains near Park City, Utah, with their project IO, a screenplay about a... Read More

Sundance Institute Alumni Spotlight: 5 Questions With Hank Willis Thomas

Posted Jun 19, 2012, by Sundance Institute in Articles

Sundance Institute Alumni Spotlight: 5 Questions With Hank Willis Thomas

It’s easy to draw parallels between photographer Hank Willis Thomas’ foray into transmedia storytelling and the blossoming New Frontier programs at Sundance Institute. Thomas... Read More

15 Projects Selected for 2012 Cinereach Project at Sundance Institute Grants

Posted Jun 4, 2012 in Press Releases

15 Projects Selected for 2012 Cinereach Project at Sundance Institute Grants

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute and Cinereach today announced the 15 projects that will receive a combined $200,000 in grants this year as part of the Cinereach... Read More

Film Forward Travelogue: Reaching across borders from Calexico to Mexicali

Posted May 18, 2012, by Jennifer Prediger in Articles

Film Forward Travelogue: Reaching across borders from Calexico to Mexicali

The way Calexico and Mexicali play off each other gives reason to be excited about traveling to the Imperial Valley in California. The blending of names and place, people and... Read More

Seven Sundance Institute | Time Warner Foundation Fellows Selected for 2012

Posted May 15, 2012 in Press Releases

Seven Sundance Institute | Time Warner Foundation Fellows Selected for 2012

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute and the Time Warner Foundation announced today the seven artists selected for the 2012 Sundance Institute | Time Warner Foundation... Read More

Sundance Institute Selects 13 Projects for 2012 June Directors and Screenwriters Labs

Posted May 8, 2012 in Press Releases

Sundance Institute Selects 13 Projects for 2012 June Directors and Screenwriters Labs

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute today announced the 13 projects selected for its annual June Directors and Screenwriters Labs, taking place at the Sundance Resort in... Read More

Inside the Sundance Institute Istanbul Screenwriting Lab: A Fellow’s POV

Posted May 7, 2012, by Deniz Gamze Erguven, 2012 !F Sundance Fellow in Articles

Inside the Sundance Institute Istanbul Screenwriting Lab: A Fellow’s POV

Paris, France -- Throughout the years, everything I had heard about the Sundance Labs had been completely appealing. I had viewed them from a distance with great interest and... Read More

Sundance Institute’s Michelle Satter and Alesia Weston Receive Industry Leadership Awards

Posted Apr 19, 2012, by Christine Spines in Articles

Sundance Institute’s Michelle Satter and Alesia Weston Receive Industry Leadership Awards

There are those who argue that Los Angeles, with its sprawling polyglot patchwork of ethnic enclaves, is the city of the future -- a global microcosm where it's possible to... Read More

Notes From the Road: Braden King’s HERE

Posted Apr 11, 2012, by Braden King, director, HERE in Articles

Notes From the Road: Braden King’s HERE

In the summer of 2009, I spent four months in Armenia directing HERE, a 35mm landscape-obsessed road movie that chronicles an impulsive relationship between an American... Read More

Sundance London: Terence Nance Deconstructs Emotion in An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Posted Apr 8, 2012, by Holly Willis in Articles

Sundance London: Terence Nance Deconstructs Emotion in An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty plays at Sundance London beginning Apri 26. Click here for ticket information.

“I didn’t know I was making a feature until I was doing... Read More

The Sundance Film Festival Through the Lens of Terence Nance

Posted Feb 6, 2012, by Sundance Institute to the Blog

The Sundance Film Festival Through the Lens of Terence Nance

Filmmaker and musician Terence Nance premiered his debut feature, An Oversimplification of Beauty, in the New Frontier section of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and... Read More

Reducing the Economic Barriers Between the Artist and the Audience

Posted Feb 1, 2012, by Dr. John E. Warnock, Chairman of the Board, Adobe Systems Incorporated to the Blog

Reducing the Economic Barriers Between the Artist and the Audience

John E. Warnock is Co-Chairman of the Board of Directors of Adobe Systems, Inc., a company he co-founded in 1982 with Charles Geschke. Dr. Warnock was President of Adobe for... Read More

Sundance Institute and NHK Award Scandinavian Writer-Director Jens Assur

Posted Jan 28, 2012, by Bridgette Bates to the Blog

Sundance Institute and NHK Award Scandinavian Writer-Director Jens Assur with the 2012 International Filmmaker Award

Last night, a small group of international cineastes gathered to celebrate the 2012 Sundance/NHK International Filmmaker Award. The intimate dinner helmed by Michelle Satter,... Read More

Gingger Shankar Premieres Himalaya Song

Posted Jan 27, 2012, by Gingger Shankar, Director, Himalaya Song to the Blog

Gingger Shankar Premieres Himalaya Song

The day started with the most inspiring morning at the Women in Film Brunch. There was a sobering speech by Catherine Hardwicke. It was amazing to hear how after Twilight... Read More

Tree of Life Producer Sarah Green Headlines the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Producers Luncheon

Posted Jan 25, 2012, by Eric Hynes in Articles

Tree of Life Producer Sarah Green Headlines the 2012 Sundance Film Festival Producers Luncheon

Though it’s never been easy to make independent films—not by a long shot—the current economic climate has only made it harder to finance, produce, and distribute the kinds of... Read More

Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award Recipients Announced

Posted Jan 24, 2012 in Press Releases

Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award Recipients Announced

PARK CITY, UT - Sundance Institute and Mahindra today announced the winners of the 2012 Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award, in recognition and support of... Read More

Gingger Shanker Guest Blogs about her Directors Brunch Odyssey

Posted Jan 22, 2012, by Gingger Shankar to the Blog

Gingger Shanker Guest Blogs about her Directors Brunch Odyssey.

Gingger Shankar is a Sundance Institute Alumni Advisory Board Member and the director of the 2012 New Frontier installation Himalaya Song.

On Day 3, Mridu, Dave, and I (... Read More

Exploring the Future Normal at New Frontier 2012

Posted Jan 21, 2012, by Eric Hynes in Articles

Exploring the Future Normal at New Frontier 2012

When Sundance introduced the first New Frontier program at the Festival in 2007, in a cramped basement space on Main Street in Park City, it felt like a heady first glimpse... Read More

Five Fests and Counting: Gingger Shankar’s Day One at Sundance

Posted Jan 20, 2012, by Gingger Shankar, Director, Himalaya Song to the Blog

Five Fests and Counting: Gingger Shankar's Day One at the Sundance Film Festival

This is my fifth time to Park City for the Sundance Film Festival. Every year brings the familiar excitement of digging up winter clothes, trying to get tickets to the movies... Read More

Benh Zeitlin Unleashes his Beasts of the Southern Wild

Posted Jan 20, 2012, by Bridgette Bates in Articles

Benh Zeitlin Unleashes his Beasts of the Southern Wild

Six months after Hurricane Katrina, director Benh Zeitlin was crashing on a friend’s floor in New Orleans. The Queens native had been living abroad scouting locations for his... Read More

Independent Film is the Theme: Day One Press Conference Kicks Off 2012 Festival

Posted Jan 19, 2012, by Claiborne Smith in Articles

Independent Film is the Theme: Day One Press Conference Kicks Off 2012 Festival

Thursday’s opening day press conference opened with nothing less than a reference to an American “government in paralysis” - Sundance Institute President and Founder Robert... Read More

Screenplay Reading Series Showcases New Voices

Posted Jan 12, 2012, by Sundance Institute to the Blog

Screenplay Reading Series Showcases New Voices

The Feature Film Program ended last year on a high note, producing installments of our Screenplay Reading Series of Works in Progress on both coasts. In November in Los... Read More

12 Feature Film Projects Selected for Sundance Institute January Screenwriters Lab

Posted Dec 16, 2011 in Press Releases

12 Feature Film Projects Selected for Sundance Institute January Screenwriters Lab

Los Angeles, CA — Sundance Institute has selected 12 projects for its annual January Screenwriters Lab, an immersive, five-day (January 13-18) writers’ workshop at the... Read More

2012 Sundance Film Festival Announces Films in Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, Next  and New Fr

Posted Dec 1, 2011 in Press Releases

2012 Sundance Film Festival Announces Films in Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, Next <=> and New Frontier

Park City, UT — Sundance Institute announced today the films selected to screen in the 2012 Sundance Film Festival out-of-competition sections Spotlight, Park City... Read More