2023 Development Track FAQ

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

Each program has its own specific eligibility requirements: 

1. The Screenwriters Lab is for first- or second-time fiction feature writers, writer/directors, or writer/director teams. 

2. 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. Additionally, the Intensive is held online.

  •  Am I eligible for future Sundance Institute support if I am selected for a development track program or fellowship?

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), Producing Summit, Catalyst Forum, Women at Sundance’s Financing and Strategy Intensive, and ongoing creative and strategic support from Feature Film Program staff.

  • Why are the Asian American and Latinx Fellowships no longer offered?

For the 2023 Development Track and beyond, we've made a commitment to continue and deepen our outreach and support across all underrepresented groups. For this reason, we've decided to discontinue our Asian American and Latinx Fellowships. Please know that this does not indicate a reduced desire to support artists from these communities. Upon deeper examination of our programs through a racial equity lens, we have determined that offering specific fellowships for the same communities every year does not allow us to maximize impact on an equitable basis within the communities most marginalized, and where our annual reporting tells us we have the most room to improve. We will still support Asian American and Latinx artists among a diverse cohort in our Development Track programs, and will continue to make it a priority to identify and amplify voices from all traditionally marginalized communities.

  • How do I submit an application?

Applications for the 2023 Screenwriters Lab and Screenwriters Intensive will be available online between April 14, 2022, through May 12, 2022, and can be accessed at apply.sundance.org

  • 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, along with an updated synopsis. 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 and/or a PDF of visual materials (e.g., a lookbook or project deck), although this is not required. Typically, you will be given 10 days to two weeks from the date of notification to submit second-round materials.

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

We don’t use designations like “finalist” or “semifinalist.” Approximately 1,000 to 1,200 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 are U.S.-based, but international artists may be considered for both programs. 

  • What are the dates of the 2023 Screenwriters Lab and Screenwriters Intensive?

January Screenwriters Lab: January 2023, exact dates TBD

Screenwriters Intensive: March 2023, 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 11:59 p.m. PT on May 12, 2022.

  • 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 reapply with a script I’ve previously submitted to the Sundance Institute?

Under certain circumstances, yes. We strongly recommend you only reapply 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 to 120 pages. In most cases, if your script is significantly longer or shorter than that range, we will suggest that 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 31, 2022. Second-round notifications about final selections for development-track programs will be made by December 15, 2022.

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

The Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization, and as such, we do not produce or 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?

The Sundance Institute shares your script only with a small group of trusted readers, and if you advance in the selection process, with a selection committee composed of Sundance Institute 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 two participants per project.

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

No. The Sundance Institute does not take possession of any lab fellow's intellectual property. However, in return for participation in a Development Track Lab, Intensive, or Fellowship, you will be asked to continue the spirit of giving back. We request that lab alumni whose projects are produced contribute to the Institute’s work to support new generations of emerging filmmakers.

1. If the Project is produced for a gross budget equal to or less than $1,500,000, no contribution is due to the Institute.

2. If the Project is produced for a gross budget between $1,500,01 and $3,000,000, the Owner will make a contribution to Sundance Institute in an amount of $4,500.

3. If the project is produced for a gross budget between $3,000,001 and $5,000,000, the Owner will make a contribution to Sundance Institute in an amount of $7,000.

4. If the project is produced for a gross budget that is equal to or exceeds $5,000,001, the Owner will make a contribution to Sundance Institute in an amount of $9,500.

5. All payments are due within 10 business days of the start of principal photography. Any revenue that is designated to Sundance Institute is allocated to the Feature Film Program and is used on an annual basis to provide critical support for the labs. Your ability to give back really makes a difference.

Finally, if selected for the June Directors or Screenwriters Lab, Sundance Institute will receive a credit line and logo placement in the film’s end titles, “This film was supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Film Program.”