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Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab Now Accepting Applications for January 2014

After posting about the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting now accepting applications for 2013, one of our NFS readers asked which screenwriting contests I recommend. Well, I recommend screenwriting opportunities that will further your career – namely, making contacts in the industry or finding ways to turn your writing into films yourself (that’s why you’re here at NFS, right?). Beyond making industry contacts, I think there are a few screenwriting opportunities worth considering. The Academy Nicholl Fellowships is one. The Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab is another — a long-standing program known for championing emerging voices in screenwriting and helping those writers turn their words into films. Sundance Institute has now opened applications online for the January 2014 Screenwriters Lab.

Here’s how Sundance Institute describes the Screenwriters Lab on its website:

The Screenwriters Lab is a five-day writer’s workshop that gives independent screenwriters the opportunity to work intensively 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 them indispensable lessons in craft, as well as the means to do the deep exploration needed to fully realize their material.

To give you a sense of the types of projects the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab supports, here are just a few of the program’s alumni:

Sundance Institute has supported over 540 screenwriters through its Screenwriters Lab since 1986. Many of the participants of the Screenwriters Lab in January move on to the Directors Lab in June, and Sundance Institute continues to provide support to these projects to help them find producers and the resources necessary to turn them into completed films. It’s also no accident that several films that participate in the Screenwriters Lab and Directors Lab find their way into the Sundance Film Festival as an extension of that support, though it’s no guarantee.

U.S. applicants for the Screenwriters Lab, don’t wait until April 30 to complete your application because you’ll need to submit several items via the online application, including:

  • A cover letter introducing yourself and your project
  • An artistic statement describing your creative vision for the material
  • A brief biography of yourself and up to two key creative team members
  • A synopsis of the screenplay
  • The first five pages of your script (NOT the full screenplay)

You don’t have to complete the online application all at once. The application will let you save your progress and return later. Just be sure to submit before the May 1, 2013 deadline. To be safe, I recommend submitting at least a few days before the deadline to avoid any problems with websites and servers crashing. Plus, it shows you’re organized and care about your project.

For NFS readers living outside of the U.S., the application process is different and falls under Sundance Institute’s International Outreach, which looks for participants from specific regions of the world. Check out the International Outreach page on Sundance Institute’s website for more details and eligibility criteria.

To find out more information about the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab, including the online application, specific rules and requirements, and FAQ, make sure you check out their website at the link below.

Are you planning to apply to the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab? Have you applied in the past? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the Comments.



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  • Question: I am a dual national and I am writing a feature length script to shoot in my other non US country. Do I fall under the US lab or the international?

    • If you’ve got dual citizenship apply under which ever category serves you best – you’re eligible for both!

    • Christopher Boone on 02.20.13 @ 9:43PM

      Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace) and Cary Fukunaga (Sin Nombre) both participated in the Screenwriters Lab as U.S. residents and shot their films in other countries. I’m sure there are other examples, too, so I would suggest you apply under the U.S. open application. You may want to contact Sundance directly at with your question as well.

  • Also with a question: the need to submit info on two key creative team members….so screenwriters who are not attached to a production team/company need not apply?

  • Christopher Boone on 02.21.13 @ 8:52AM


    Definitely not. If you have a creative team, then you have the option to submit up to two more bios along with your own, but you certainly do not need a creative team to apply for the Screenwriters Lab. If it’s just you, the writer, I still recommend that you apply. My apologies if my edits to the info from the Sundance website made this unclear.

    Take a look at the Sundance Institute website ( to get all of the specific details about the application and requirements.

    • Thanks, Christopher. In any case, I just found out I’m not eligible to apply as I live in the Middle East. Damn! I know there’s the option of RAWI, but this Lab sounds just right for me.

  • I’m trying to fill out my screenwriter’s application, but there is an error on the page preventing me from proceeding. What can I do to get through?