2020 Development Track FAQ

  • What’s the difference between the Screenwriters Lab, Screenwriters Intensive, and FilmTwo Intensive? Why might I be selected for one over the other?

Each program has its own specific eligibility requirements: the Screenwriters Lab is for first or second-time fiction feature writers, writer/directors, or writer/director teams. The Screenwriters Intensive is for first-time fiction feature writers or writer/directors with priority given to artists from underrepresented communities, including women, artists of color, LGBTQ artists, and artists with disabilities. The Intensive focuses on supporting artists at an earlier stage of their career and/or at an earlier stage of development with their project. The FilmTwo Intensive is for second-time fiction feature writer/directors or writers working with second-time directors, with priority given to artists from underrepresented communities. Although FilmTwo Fellows are selected with a project in development, the program is designed to support an artist at a specific stage of career development, with primary focus placed on creative and strategic efforts toward professional advancement. All Development Track program fellows are eligible to be considered for additional Feature Film Program Labs and activities, including the Directors Lab (first-time fiction feature directors only), the Creative Producing Summit, Catalyst Forum, Women’s Financing Intensive, and ongoing creative and strategic support from Feature Film Program staff.

  • How do I submit an application?

Applications are available online between April 3 - May 15, 2019 for the 2020 January Screenwriters Lab, Screenwriters Intensive, and FilmTwo Initiative. 

  • What does the application include? 

In the first round, application includes the following components:

  • Cover letter (500 word limit): Please introduce 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, where you are in the creative process, and how specifically you think the Lab process could be helpful to you.
  • Artistic statement (500 word limit): Please describe your creative vision for the project. What is your personal connection to the material? What themes are you most interested in exploring in your work, and 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? Who do you see as the audience for this film? Why are you passionate about telling this story now? If this is a resubmission of material we’ve previously considered, how has the material changed since we last read it?
  • Logline: (75 word limit) A 1-2 sentence description of your project. 
  • Synopsis (500 word limit): A brief summary of the plot of your script. Please include all major characters and story points, including the ending.
  • Bio(s) (150 word limit per bio): You may include a bio for up to three members of the creative team, although only the screenwriter(s) and director, if involved with development, will attend the Lab.
  • Description of Scientific or Technological Content (Sloan Fellowship/Grant applicants only): Please give a brief description of the thematic core and scientific ideas being explored. Please include what scientific research and and consultation you would like to put this particular grant towards; this can include specific scientists or fields of research.
  • INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY/RIGHTSOnly required if your project is based on true events or characters.
  • The first five pages of your screenplay or treatment. Please do not submit more than the first five pages. NOTE: You may submit a treatment for the Sloan Commissioning Grant ONLY. If a treatment is submitted and it is not eligible for the Sloan Commissioning Grant, the project will not be considered for any other Development Track programs or fellowships.
  • Demographic Info: In an effort to measure and improve our commitment to supporting artists from diverse backgrounds around the world, we ask each applicant a series of demographic questions. Your responses will not affect your submission to our programs or be sold or shared with anyone at any time.

  • What materials will be requested from me if I advance to the second round? What is the deadline to submit second round materials?

If you advance to the second round of consideration, you will be asked to upload the complete draft of your screenplay. For the Sloan Commissioning Grant ONLY, you may upload a complete draft of your treatment. In addition, you will be given the opportunity to include a link to a directorial sample, although this is not required. Typically, you will be given 10 days to 2 weeks from the date of notification to submit second round materials.

  • What does “Primary Applicant” mean?

For each project submitted, we ask that you designate one applicant as the Primary Applicant, who will be the primary point of contact for your submission throughout the application process. It’s solely so that we can communicate with one applicant per submission.

  • If I advance to the second round, am I a finalist?

We don’t use designations like “finalist” or “semi-finalist.” Approximately 1000-1200 complete screenplays are considered as part of the second round.

  • I’m an international filmmaker based outside the U.S. - how can I apply?

Whether you’re based in the U.S. or internationally, you may apply using the Development Track application. The January Screenwriters Lab always includes both U.S.-based and international filmmakers. Typically, the majority of artists selected for the Screenwriters Intensive and the FilmTwo Initiative are U.S.-based, but international artists may be considered for both programs. 

  • What are the dates of the Screenwriters Lab/Screenwriters Intensive/FilmTwo Intensive?

January Screenwriters Lab: January 17-22, 2020

Screenwriters Intensive: March 2020, exact dates TBD

FilmTwo Intensive: March 2020, exact dates TBD

  • Is it possible to get an extension? What’s the final, final deadline?

Unfortunately we cannot grant extensions - you must submit your online application by 6:00 pm PT on May 15, 2019.

  • How can I apply to the Directors Lab?

There is no open application process for the Directors Lab, which is typically populated by projects that have already been supported via a prior Institute program such as a Screenwriters Lab, Intensive, or grant. The Directors Lab supports first-time fiction feature directors; application to the Development Track is the best way to put your project into the pipeline of eventual consideration for the Directors Lab.

  • May I apply with more than one script?

You may submit up to three projects, but we encourage you to choose one project that is your priority in terms of moving forward. Please note that for each script, you must complete a separate application, and submit a separate application fee.

  • I have a project I want to submit, but it’s still in treatment form or a partial draft. If I don't think I will be able to have a draft in screenplay format in time to submit, can I submit my treatment or partial draft for consideration?

No. We need to receive a completed draft of a screenplay to consider your project. This does not mean the final draft; however, we do ask that the script is in standard format. The only exception to this rule is the application for the Sloan Commissioning Grant, which will consider treatments.

  • May I re-apply with a script that I’ve submitted to Sundance previously?

Under certain circumstances, yes. We strongly recommend you only re-apply with material we’ve considered previously if you’ve made significant revisions to the script. 

  • How long (or short) should my script be?

While there is no “correct length,” a typical screenplay is 90-120 pages. In most cases, if your script is significantly longer or shorter than that range, we will suggest you do more revisions before submitting it for consideration.

  • Do you consider scripts written in a language other than English?

Although we will support scripts that will eventually be produced in a language other than English, your script must be translated into English before you submit it.

  • Do you consider adaptations?

Yes, we will consider scripts based on existing material, as long as you have secured the underlying rights to the source material.

  • May I apply with a script that has been submitted or supported elsewhere?

Yes, we have no restrictions on material that has been submitted to or supported by other artist development programs.

  • I don’t have much experience. Does that affect my chances of being selected?

No. We seek to foster exciting emerging voices, regardless of prior professional film experience. 

  • How far along should my screenplay be when I submit? Can I submit a rough draft? Are you looking for a polished draft?

You must have a completed draft of your screenplay to apply, but we expect that it will still be a work-in-progress. The ideal time to apply to the Lab is when you’ve taken your screenplay as far as you can go on your own, and need the fresh, intensive perspective the Lab provides to brainstorm solutions to stubborn challenges, get “unstuck,” or take the material to a next level.

  • May I submit letters of recommendation? Should I have my industry contacts call on my behalf?

No. Final selections are based on the screenplay and supporting application materials alone, and recommendations will not influence our decisions.

  • How should I address my cover letter?

“Dear Sundance” or “To Whom It May Concern” are both fine.

  • How will I be notified about acceptance? Will I be notified if I’m not selected?

All Lab notifications are made via email. You will hear from us either way, whether selected or not.

  • I haven’t received notification yet, but my friends have - what’s wrong? When will I know if I’ve made it to the second round?

Email notifications are made on a rolling basis. You will hear whether you have advanced to the second round of the application by August 21. Second round notifications about final selections for Development Track programs will be made by December 16.

  • Can Sundance help produce my film? What kind of grants/support/production help can I apply for? 

Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization, and as such we do not produce nor finance films. Feature Film Program grants are reserved for artists already supported by one of our programs such as a Lab or Intensive. The only grant for which there is a public application is the Alfred P. Sloan Commissioning Grant and Fellowship. Applications for this annual grant are accepted through the online application for our Development Track.

  • Will my ideas be protected?

Sundance Institute only shares your script with a small group of trusted readers and, if you advance in the selection process, with a selection committee comprised of Sundance alumni.  Even so, we recommend that all applicants who send their work out into the world register their scripts with the Writers Guild of America for a nominal fee; you do not need to be a WGA member to utilize its registration service.

  • What does the program cost?

Aside from an application fee, we do not charge for participation in our programs. For the Screenwriters Lab in Utah, we cover the cost of travel, accommodations, and food for up to 2 participants per project. For the Screenwriters Intensive and the FilmTwo Initiative, travel and accommodations are not covered, but we do offer a small stipend to Fellows coming from outside Los Angeles to help offset those costs.

  • When I apply for or am selected for one of your programs, does Sundance own my screenplay?

No. Sundance Institute does not take possession of any Lab Fellow's intellectual property.  However, in return for participation in a Screenwriters Lab, fellows are obligated to sign an agreement stipulating that (a) they will make a contribution to Sundance of ¼% of their film's final budget in excess of $1,000,000 (the "Budget Participation"), (b) Sundance will receive 1% of 100% of the film's net receipts, and (c) Sundance will receive a credit line and logo placement in the film's end titles.  If a Screenwriters Lab fellow later participates in a Directors Lab and/or receives Sundance-affiliated grant support exceeding $10,000, the Budget Participation may increase to ½ or ¾%.