Sundance Institute Names the 2023 Episodic Lab Fellows

Marking the 10th Anniversary of Supporting Emerging Writers in the Episodic Space

PARK CITY, UTAH, November 2, 2023 – The nonprofit Sundance Institute announced today the 2023 lab fellows selected for the 10th Episodic Lab program, taking place at the Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah. The selected eight artists are Daniela Bailes (The Letters), Elaine Hsieh Chou (Get Home Safe), Marissa Díaz (Cochinas), Sam Dunnewold (Guts), Laurie Hartung (Rabbit Hole), Farah Merani (The Painted Muse), Sylvia-Anne Parker (Blackbirds), and Hernando Cortes Watson (Horsepower). Their eight projects include themes that explore family secrets, vengeance, sex positivity, magic, revolutionaries, and world-class stallions.

Designed to bring together early-career writers with an original series IP that has not yet been produced, the Episodic Lab is a five-day immersive experience allowing them opportunities to work under the guidance of established showrunners and executive producers. From November 3–7, fellows will workshop their pilot and participate in one-on-one story meetings, case study screenings, panels, and writers’ rooms focusing on their scripts. 

“These fellows arrive swinging heroes and scoundrels over the threshold, leaving readers jolted by surprise or capsized in laughter; their voices are singular, spanning genres, yet tethered by an unyielding belief in humanity,” said Jandiz Estrada Cardoso, Episodic Program Director. “After a season of fatigue throughout the industry and for all the artists who sustain it, I’m so grateful to our Sundance partners, who continue to uplift this phenomenal program.”

Creative advisors this year include Shal Francis (The Morning Show), Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights), Christina Lee (Search Party), LaToya Morgan (The Walking Dead), Erica Rivinoja (Clone High), Sanjay Shah (Everybody Still Hates Chris), Sarah Treem (The Affair), and Graham Yost (Slow Horses).

Prior to the November lab, Episodic fellows took part in three pre-lab craft virtual workshops: the Breaking Story & Outlining workshop with Dara Resnik (The Horrors of Dolores Roach); the “Character Propels Plot” workshop with Kevin Etten (The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent) and Monica Macer (Queen Sugar); “Approaching Your Pitch” with Ingrid Escajeda (Griselda) and James Wong (American Horror Story); and the creators conversation “What Goes Into a Pilot?” with Vali Chandrasekaran (Modern Family), Mike Flynn (Power Book III: Raising Kanan), and Alissa Nutting (Made for Love). 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+, Netflix, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and The Harry and Florence Sloan Foundation.

Episodic Lab alumni include producers Katori Hall (P-Valley), Barry Jenkins (Underground Railroad), Tanuj Chopra (Delhi Crime season 2), Nick Jones Jr. (Yasuke), April Shih (Fargo), Mike Flynn (East New York), Crystal Liu (American Horror Story), Rafael Agustin (Hipster Death Rattle), Desiree Akhavan (The Bisexual), and Heather Rae (Outer Range). Past fellows have gone on to earn writing positions on shows including Lioness, Reservation Dogs, Silo, Futurama, Primo, Powerbook, Queen Sugar, Ms. Marvel, One Of Us Is Lying, This Is Us, Little America, Dave, Snowpiercer, Bel Air, Better Call Saul, Raised by Wolves, You’re the Worst, Silicon Valley, American Gods, Nancy Drew, Armor Wars, Demascus, American Auto, Sweet Tooth, Fresh Off the Boat, and The Americans. Alumni have also set up or sold lab projects at networks including HBO, Amazon, STARZ, Disney+, Hulu, FX, ABC, CW, AMC, TBS, and Netflix.

The 2023 Sundance Episodic Lab projects and fellows are:

Daniela Bailes with The Letters: After discovering her mother’s extensive correspondence with a notorious serial killer on death row, Violet finds herself entangled in family secrets when a similar murder occurs in her own backyard.

An alum of the Yale Writers’ Workshop and the NHMC TV Writers Program, Daniela Bailes recently staffed on Kathryn Lyn’s sci-fi series The Shift for Paramount. Her horror feature She Lives was included on the 2023 Latinx List, and her thriller feature was sold and set to be produced for A+E.

Elaine Hsieh Chou with Get Home Safe: After an unproven hate crime leaves their friend dead, four messy Asian American post-millennials strike out to reclaim their lives in a world that feels inherently unsafe.

Elaine Hsieh Chou is a Taiwanese American writer from California. Her debut novel, Disorientation (Penguin Press), was a New York Times Editors’ Choice, a 2022 NPR Best Book, and an NYPL Young Lions Finalist. The film adaptation was optioned by AppleTV+ the same month the novel was released.

Marissa Díaz with Cochinas: An irreverent raunch-com that follows Malinche, a third-generation closeted “cochina” who decides to live life “cochina and proud,” because her bisabuela didn’t cross the hot Mexican desert for her great-granddaughter to be a 16-year-old virgin, DUH!

Marissa Díaz is a Tejana writer, director, and producer who is most known for her work on Generation. Her writing has been supported by Spotlight Dorado, Film Independent, The Black List, and the PGA. She is a graduate of NYU Film/TV with an MFA from USC’s Stark Producing Program.

Sam Dunnewold with Guts: Following her best friend’s death by medical malpractice, enraged sophomore Allison plots to befriend Kenzie — the sick, sweetly naïve daughter of the doctor responsible — in her quest for revenge… only to find that she wants in on the plan.

Sam Dunnewold is a small-town Minnesota boy and a huge nerd. After honing his comedy voice editing videos at The Onion, he moved to Los Angeles to cut fiction podcasts and learn to write. In 2022, Sam was a finalist for the Austin Television Festival’s pitch competition and became an Inevitable Foundation Accelerate fellow.

Laurie Hartung with Rabbit Hole: After a magician pulls her out of his hat, a bright young bunny seeks to understand what the hell happened to her while protecting the town that thinks she’s gone crazy in this animation-meets-live-action dark comedy.

An alum of Second City and iO, Laurie Hartung writes and performs sketch and musical comedy. Her writing has been recognized by the Austin Film Festival, ScreenCraft’s Comedy and Animation competitions, and PBS. Before moving to Los Angeles, Laurie was a teaching artist at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music. 

Farah Merani with The Painted Muse: A talented Ismaili art restorer is commissioned to hunt down a series of rare Mughal masterpieces for a major British museum and discovers she’s digging into long-forgotten and conflicted pieces of her own royal ancestry, forcing her to reckon with everything she thought she knew about her family.

Farah Merani is a Canadian Muslim actor, writer, and producer. She has performed across North America, Europe, and Asia. Her credits include NBC’s Quantum Leap, Apple TV+’s See, Shadowhunters, and Annapurna Interactive’s upcoming video game Thirsty Suitors. You can find her onstage with the Ensemble Shakespeare Theater in Pasadena.

Sylvia-Anne Parker with Blackbirds: Behind the decadence of 18th-century England, whispers of abolition in the air, a young woman from the London slums uses her past ties to wealthy society to change the game for her fellow Black Britons.

Sylvia-Anne Parker, a British screenwriter, fuses fact with fiction to create emotionally charged stories helmed by women of color who exhibit a strong sense of purpose and identity. She was selected for the Writers Lab UK & Ireland, Sony-sponsored Creative Corridor Program, and Wscripted/MUBI Cannes Screenplay List.

Hernando Cortes Watson with Horsepower: A Filipina horse whisperer, on a mission from God, works relentlessly to free her fellow oppressed estate workers on Connecticut’s most powerful Arabian stallion-breeding farm. 

Hernando Cortes Watson is a Filipino nonbinary director, producer, and screenwriter known for crafting diverse characters rooted in the epic. A multigenre artist, they have worked on features large and small, in premium television, and are in post-production on their feature documentary debut, Body Of Work: The Rebirth Of Hernando Cortes.

Sundance Institute

As a champion and curator of independent stories, the nonprofit Sundance Institute provides and preserves the space for artists across storytelling media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. Sundance Collab, a digital community platform, brings a global cohort of working artists together to learn from Sundance advisors and connect with each other in a creative space, developing and sharing works in progress. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences and artists to ignite new ideas, discover original voices, and build a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Through the Sundance Institute artist programs, we have supported such projects as Beasts of the Southern Wild, The Big Sick, Bottle Rocket, Boys Don’t Cry, Boys State, Call Me by Your Name, Clemency, CODA, Drunktown’s Finest, The Farewell, Fire of Love, Flee, The Forty-Year-Old Version, Fruitvale Station, Get Out, Half Nelson, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hereditary, Honeyland, The Infiltrators, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Little Woods, Love & Basketball, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Mudbound, Nanny, Navalny, O.J.: Made in America, One Child Nation, Pariah, Raising Victor Vargas, Requiem for a Dream, Reservoir Dogs, RBG, Sin Nombre, Sorry to Bother You, The Souvenir, Strong Island, Summer of Soul (…or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), Swiss Army Man, Sydney, A Thousand and One, Top of the Lake, Walking and Talking, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and Zola. Through year-round artist programs, the Institute also nurtured the early careers of artists such as Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, Gregg Araki, Darren Aronofsky, Lisa Cholodenko, Ryan Coogler, Nia DaCosta, The Daniels, David Gordon Green, Miranda July, James Mangold, John Cameron Mitchell, Kimberly Peirce, Boots Riley, Ira Sachs, Quentin Tarantino, Taika Waititi, Lulu Wang, and Chloé Zhao. Support Sundance Institute in our commitment to uplifting bold artists and powerful storytelling globally by making a donation at Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter), and YouTube.


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