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January Screenwriters Lab FAQs

1.  How do I apply?
Applications for the 2018 January Screenwriters Lab are available at applications2.sundance.org starting March 15, 2017 and are due by 6:00PM PT on May 2, 2017. 

2.  Am I eligible for the January Screenwriters Lab?
The Screenwriters Lab is for filmmakers making their first or second narrative feature films; unfortunately, if you have already made two or more features, you are not eligible for the Screenwriters Lab. If you are a director developing a script that you did not write, you may apply for the Screenwriters Lab with the screenwriter as a team.

3.  How do I get into the Directors Lab?
Because the Directors Lab is usually populated by projects that have been supported through a previous Screenwriters Lab, there is no open application process for the Directors Lab. Application to the January Screenwriters Lab is the best way to put your project into the pipeline of eventual consideration for the Directors Lab.

4.  How many scripts can I apply with?
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.

5.  I have a project I want to submit for the Screenwriters Lab, but it is still a treatment. 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 for consideration?
No. We need to receive a completed draft of a screenplay in order to consider your project for the Screenwriters Lab. This does not mean the final draft; however, we do ask that the script is in standard format.

6.  Can I reapply with the same script next year?
Under certain circumstances, yes. We will consider re-applications with the same script only if you have completed significant revisions.

7.  What's the difference between the January Screenwriters Lab and the International January Screenwriters Lab?
The January Screenwriters Lab includes international filmmakers alongside US-based artists. However, there are separate applications for each. If you are based in the U.S., regardless of your citizenship, or if you're an American citizen living outside the U.S., you should use the online application called "January Screenwriters Lab" (not "International"). If you are not an American citizen and you are based in a country other than the US, then you should use the online application called "(International) 2018 January Screenwriters Lab". The application window for all applicants is March 15 – May 2.


8. I have written a script and want Sundance to produce it. Is that possible?

No. Sundance Institute is a non-profit organization. We do not produce or finance films. Rather, our Screenwriters and Directors Labs provide filmmakers with opportunities to develop their material in a workshop environment.


9.  What kind of grants / support / production help can Sundance offer our movie? Or that I can apply for?
Sundance Institute Feature Film Program grants are reserved for artists already supported by the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program. 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 available from mid-June through early September.

10.  Should I have my industry contacts call with references?
No. Our final decision is based on the material and talent alone. Take comfort in the fact that your work will speak for itself!

11.  What are the Lab dates?
The 2018 January Screenwriters Lab will take place January 12-17, 2018.

12.  When and where is the Directors Lab?
The Directors Lab is held each June, usually during the first three and a half weeks of June. Like the Screenwriters Labs, the Directors Lab is held at the Sundance Resort in Sundance, Utah.

13.  Is it possible to get an extension? What’s the final final deadline?
No, it’s not possible to get an extension. You must complete the online portion of your application by 6:00PM PT on May 2, 2017.

14.  If invited to submit in my full length screenplay, how should I send it?
You will be asked to submit a .pdf file, with instructions provided on how to upload the file with your second round notifcation.

15.  How long/short is too long/short for a script?
While there is no “correct length”, the average script is between 90 – 120 pages. In most cases, if your script is significantly shorter or longer than that range, we will suggest you do more revisions before submitting it for consideration.

16.  How will I be notified about acceptance? Will I be notified if I’m not accepted?
All Lab notifications will be made via email. You will hear from us either way, whether accepted or not.

17.  I haven’t received my notification yet, but all my friends have! What’s wrong?? When will I know if I’ve made it to the next round?
Our notifications are made on a rolling basis. You will hear whether you have proceeded to the second round of the application process by August 15 at the latest. Final Lab decisions will be made by December 15.

18.  Can I deliver my application in person?
We no longer accept materials in person as our entire application process is now available online. The next application will open on March 15, 2017.

19.  I don't have much experience. Does that affect my chances at the labs?
Absolutely not. Sundance Institute seeks to foster exciting emerging voices, regardless of professional film experience.

20.  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 in order to be considered .

21.  Can I submit a script based on a novel?
Yes, we will consider scripts based on prior work, as long as you have secured the underlying rights to the material.

22.  How complete should the screenplay be?
Sundance Institute considers scripts at various stages of development, but you must have a full, completed screenplay in order to be considered.

23.  What does the application include?
The application includes the following components:

  • A cover letter (750 word limit):
    Please introduce yourself and the 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 (1000 word limit): Please describe your creative vision for the material, and give 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 is the audience you most want to reach? Why are you passionate about this story? If this is a resubmission of material we've considered previously, how has the material changed or transformed since we last read it?
  • A logline: a 1-2 sentence description of your project.
  • A synopsis (1000 word limit): a brief summary of your project.
  • A bio (up to three for each project, 500 word limit)
  • The first five pages of your screenplay. Please do not submit more than the first five pages.
  • A directorial sample (if applicable)

24.  Would my ideas be protected?
Yes, Sundance Institute does not share or distribute any materials.

25.  Do you accept scripts that have been submitted elsewhere?
Yes, we have no restrictions on material that has been through other writers workshops or programs.

26.  How should I address my cover letter? Michelle Satter? Sundance Staff? To Whom It May Concern?
Please address your cover letter "To Whom It May Concern."

27.  What does the program cost?
Aside from an application fee, participation in all of our Labs (including travel, food and accommodations) is completely free.

28.  Does Sundance own my screenplay?
No. All Lab Fellows must own or have approval from the project owner to participate in FFP Programs. 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. This number may increase to ½ or ¾% through participation in a Directors Lab and/or Sundance-affiliated grant support exceeding $10,000 (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.

Still don't see your question answered here? Email featurefilmprogram@sundance.org with further questions.

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