In 1990, the Feature Film Program (FFP) made a commitment to supporting a vibrant exchange and dialogue across cultures by including the work of international filmmakers as part of its core program. The Labs have been enriched by developing artists and projects that are deeply rooted in the personal and cultural history of filmmaking voices from all over the world. Through US-based Labs for Screenwriters and Directors, International Labs for Screenwriters (Middle East and India), an annual Awards program for international filmmakers, and the Project Support Continuum for Lab fellows, the FFP has supported artists from over fifty countries making their first and second films.
Award-winning films supported by these initiatives include Andrea Arnold’s Red Road, Walter Salles’ Central Station, Lucretia Martel’s La Cienega, Hany Abu-Assad’s Paradise Now, and Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wadjda.
The information below describes the current program, how to apply, and frequently asked questions.
SUNDANCE LABS IN UTAH
International filmmakers continue to receive support and guidance through Sundance Institute’s core programs. Each year, 6-8 filmmakers are selected for the annual Screenwriters Labs held in January and June at the Sundance Resort in Utah. The Lab is a five-day workshop that gives independent screenwriters the opportunity to work on their feature film scripts with the support of established writers in an environment that encourages innovation and creative risk-taking. Through one-on-one story sessions with Creative Advisors, Fellows engage in an artistically rigorous process that offers indispensable lessons in craft, as well as a deep exploration of their material.
For international Lab fellows, Sundance Institute provides airline travel, accommodations, and meals at the Sundance Resort in Utah for one writer/filmmaker per project for the duration of the Lab.
APPLY FOR THE JANUARY SCREENWRITERS LAB
Filmmakers typically begin their participation in the Feature Film Program with the January Screenwriters Lab, the only Lab for which there is an open application. Online applications for the January Screenwriters Lab are made available in the Apply/Submit section of the website beginning MAY 5 of each year and ending June 15.
The January Screenwriters Lab is held in January, just before the Sundance Film Festival. The 2015 January Screenwriters Lab will be held January 16-21, 2015.
The June Screenwriters Lab is by invitation only and is held near the end of June, following the annual Directors Lab. The 2014 June Screenwriters Lab will take place June 21-26, 2014.
January Screenwriters Lab applications available online starting: May 5 (for the following year's Lab)
Application deadline June 15 (online)
To Apply (INTERNATIONAL Applicants):
The Screenwriters Lab supports writers and writer/directors developing their first or second narrative feature film. If you have previously had more than one narrative feature produced, you are not eligible to apply.
PLEASE NOTE: We have changed our application process! We hope these changes will make things easier on you as an applicant. In an effort to be more green and more efficient, we will now accept all application materials electronically ONLY. You will have a chance to save a work-in-progress version of your application before officially submitting, and we will ask you to upload the first five pages of your script rather than mailing us a hard copy.
- Applications for the January Screenwriters Lab are available May 5 through June 15 the year before.
- When applying online, you will be asked to provide the following supplemental materials along with your contact information:
- A cover letter introducing yourself and your project. There are no strict requirements for this letter, but we'd like to get a brief idea of who you are, what your script is about, and how you think the Lab process could be helpful to you.
- An artistic statement describing your creative vision for the material, giving us a sense of where you are in the creative process. Here's an example of the type of information we're looking for: What is your personal connection to the material? What do you want an audience to take away from your film? How do you envision the realization of this script in terms of story, character, tone, and/or visual style? Is there a budget level you have in mind, and who makes up the audience you most want to reach? Why are you passionate about this story?
- A brief biography on yourself and up to two key creative team members (i.e.: director, producer, etc.). It is unnecessary to have anyone other than the writer attached, and each bio should be no longer than 500 words.
- A synopsis of the screenplay, no more than 1000 words.
- A sample of your directing work (via secure Vimeo link or similar)
- The first five pages of your script. Do not submit script pages from any other work. Please, do not attach the full screenplay.
All of the above information must be submitted via the online application. We no longer accept hard copies of any materials. Candidates may submit up to three applications, though it is not encouraged to submit more than one - please complete a separate application for each project submitted.
If you have additional questions about applying for the Screenwriters Lab, click here for our FAQ.
Alumni and Advisors
Many groundbreaking artists have been supported by the Screenwriters Lab, including: Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar, Sean Durkin, Cary Fukunaga, Cherien Dabis, Craig Zobel, Josh Marston, Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, Darren Aronofsky, David Gordon Green, Shirin Neshat, Paul Thomas Anderson, and Tamara Jenkins.
Creative Advisors for the Screenwriters Labs have included Scott Frank, Susannah Grant, Scott Z Burns, Frank Pierson, John August, Chris McQuarrie, Thomas Vinterberg, Atom Egoyan, Jeff Nichols, Naomi Foner, Mike White, Allison Anders, Walter Mosley, and Walter Bernstein, among many others.
Rawi Middle East Screenwriters Lab (Jordan)
An initiative of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan, The Rawi Middle East Screenwriters Lab was created in conjunction with Sundance Institute's Feature Film Program to support emerging Middle Eastern filmmakers with their first or second feature films. Launched in 2005 and modeled on the Institute's January Screenwriters Lab, Rawi (Storyteller) provides an opportunity for screenwriters from the region to work intensively on their feature film screenplays under the guidance of established writers. The Lab is held annually in Wadi Feynan, Southern Jordan, and has supported filmmakers from Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia.
Rawi and Sundance Feature Film Program have supported over fifty Middle Eastern filmmakers in the past seven years alone. Many have gone on to receive critical acclaim for their projects. The two first features to emerge from the Lab premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival: Pomegranates and Myrrh, written and directed by Najwa Najjar (Palestine) and Amreeka, written and directed by Cherien Dabis (Palestine/Jordan/U.S.). Dabis’s second feature film, May in the Summer, premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.
More recently, 2009 Rawi alum Haifaa Al Mansour (Saudi Arabia) premiered her first feature Wadjda at the 2012 Venice Film Festival, where it was acquired for theatrical release in North America by Sony Pictures Classics. Wadjda is the first feature film shot entirely in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the first ever by a Saudi female filmmaker.
Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil (Egypt) was developed in the 2008 Rawi Lab and 2009 Sundance Directors Lab and Screenwriters Lab. The film played at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, winning Best Cinematography and the Worldview / Sundance Impact Award. El Hosaini has received recognition around the world, including 2012 Berlinale and 2012 London BFI Film Festival.
From the 2007 Screenwriters Lab, Iraqi project Son of Babylon, co-written by Mohamed Al-Daradji and Jennifer Norridge and directed by Al-Daradji premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival was selected as Iraq’s official entry to the 83rd Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
This year, Rawi and Sundance will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Lab. For information on how to apply, click here.
Press Release - Six Projects Selected for 2013 Rawi Screenwriters Lab in Jordan
Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab (India)
In 2011, Sundance Institute launched a multi-faceted partnership with the Mahindra Group, one of India’s largest and most respected companies. One of the centerpiece initiatives of this collaboration is the Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab, which is designed to support new independent voices in Indian cinema. Creative advisors have included Guillermo Arriaga, Shekhar Kapur, Audrey Wells, and Joshua Marston.
For information on how to apply, click here.
2014 Mumbai Mantra | Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab
Navneet Behal – Experiments With Truth
Ashvin Kumar – Noor
Bornila Chatterjee – Nuclear Hearts
Gaurav Madan – Shaktipur Crude
Deepanjali Sarkar - Svadharma
Dylan Mohan Gray & Vikramaditya Motwane – The Last Day Of Winter
Sanjay Talreja – The River Murder
Neeraj Ghaywan & Varun Grover – Fly Away Solo
!F-Sundance Screenwriting Lab (Turkey)
Since 2011, the Feature Film Program has collaborated with the !f Istanbul Independent International Film Festival on the !f Sundance Screenwriters Lab in Istanbul, supporting emerging Turkish filmmakers.
For this year’s lab, !f and Sundance are collaborating with the filmmaker Athina Rachel Tsangari (Attenberg) to include two filmmakers from Greece, to celebrate two neighboring regions with strong emerging filmmaking cultures.
NHK Workshop (Japan)
A new collaboration with longtime partner NHK, this screenwriting workshop takes place each summer in Tokyo. In its inaugural year, screenwriter and veteran advisor at the Directors Lab, Joan Tewkesbury (Nashville), crafted a three-day program for three promising Japanese filmmakers. Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Chloe) designed the curriculum for the 2013 edition, and Bill Wheeler (The Reluctant Fundamentalist, The Hoax) will teach this year’s workshop.
2012 fellows Kentaro Hagiwara and Kyohta Fujimoto went on to receive the annual Sundance/NHK Award for their feature script Spectacled Tiger.
Filmmakers may apply for FFP’s international awards programs during the annual submission period for the January Screenwriters Lab.
Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award
In addition to the Lab, Sundance and Mahindra have partnered to create the Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award, which recognizes and supports emerging independent filmmakers from four different regions annually. Winning filmmakers each receive a cash award of $10,000 and attendance at the Sundance Film Festival for a specially curated five-day program, which includes targeted creative and industry meetings, screenings and panels.
Recipients of the 2014 Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award
Tobias Lindholm (Denmark) / A War
Hong Khaou (Vietnam-UK) / Monsoon
Neeraj Ghaywan (India) / Fly Away Solo
Ashlee Page (Australia) / Archive
Following the festival, Feature Film Program staff and creative advisors provide ongoing creative and strategic support, which may also include the opportunity to participate in one of the Sundance Institute Creative Labs in Screenwriting, Directing, Composing, and Producing.
Past award-winners include, Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation (Israel), Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan (Australia), and Dominga Sotomayor’s Late To Die Young (Chile), and Bogdan Mustata’s Wolf (Romania).
Press Release - 2014 Sundance Institute | Mahindra Global Filmmaking Awards
In 1996, the Sundance/NHK Award was established by Sundance Institute in partnership with NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) to celebrate 100 years of cinema and to honor and support emerging independent filmmakers whose originality, talent, and vision contributes significantly to the future of world cinema.
One international filmmaker is selected each year and commemorated with an announcement at the Sundance Film Festival in January. The award includes a $10,000 cash prize, attendance at the Sundance Film Festival for creative and strategic meetings at the festival with established filmmakers, and guidance by FFP staff throughout the life of the project.
Most recently, 2010 winner Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Quvenzhané Wallis).
Recipient of the 2014 Sundance/NHK Award
Mark Rosenberg / Ad Inexplorata
Other films which have been supported by the Sundance/NHK Award include: Cherien Dabis’s May in the Summer (Palestine), Andrei Zvyagintsev’s Elena (Russia), Cruz Angeles' Don't Let Me Drown (U.S.), Gyorgi Palfi's Taxidermia (Hungary), Rodrigo Moreno's El Custodio (Argentina), Lucrecia Martel's La Ciénaga (Argentina), Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll's Whisky (Uruguay), and Walter Salles' Central Station (Brazil). Made early in these directors' careers, each of these films were instrumental in launching the work of emerging filmmakers in their respective countries.
Press Release - 2014 Sundance/NHK Award