Introducing the Sundance Episodic Story Lab, a Place for TV Writers to Cut Their Teeth

Episodic_1VOD platforms are beginning to change everything about the creation and consumption of TV shows and movies, with one of the big changes being the sheer amount of media audiences are wanting to consume in a single binge. "TV" shows are making out like bandits, attracting more and more filmmakers to work in the world of "television", and the Sundance Institute wants to lend a hand to them with their newly announced Episodic Story Lab, which will teach writers how to develop stories and characters that grow and develop over the course of a series.

TV has been churning out some excellent content, both online, on VOD, and the good ol' fashioned way, over the past several years. Shows have become known for their excellent cinematography, complex characters, and unique stories. That means that there is more demand for talented writers now than ever. The Sundance Institute, recognizing that there aren't many places or opportunities for writers to learn the skills it takes to construct a serialized program on TV and online, has decided to offer training at their Episodic Story Lab.

Sundance Institute's Episodic Story Lab will provide independent and underrepresented writers the opportunity to learn how to develop stories and characters that play out over multiple episodes, working in a setting where they can hone their writing skills and gain insight into navigating the business with accomplished creative and strategic mentors. Our world-renowned Screenwriters Lab will serve as a model as we identify and develop new writers, compelling stories, and showrunners/creators for the burgeoning opportunities for episodic storytelling on all platforms.

Ten writers will participate in this immersive experience over a 6-day period at the Sundance Resort in Utah, and will be offered training in drama and comedy episodic storytelling, as well as a bunch of skill-building activities, including one-on-one sessions with Creative Advisors, small group sessions, and presentations. You will get to workshop your original pilot with advisors and peers, work through the kinks, and learn the tools that will, hopefully, make your work better.

Though this inaugural year for the Lab is invitation only, that doesn't mean that you should pack up, go home, and forget about it. With plans to have an open application next year (and every following year), that gives all of you writers who have been working (or not working, but wanting to) on a pilot idea to get it ready for the Lab to come around in 2015. It's an incredible opportunity for those who want to write for TV -- or "TV" -- episodic shows. So, pour some coffee, work on your show's bible, finish your pilot, and gear up for the 2015 Episodic Story Lab.

Check out the Lab's website for more info.

Do any of you want to write for TV, as opposed to film? Does the Sundance Institute's Episodic Story Lab seem like an opportunity you'd be interested in? Let us know in the comments below.


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Thanks, this is useful

March 22, 2014 at 7:25PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM

t. cal

so, what is the story? - no story - what is the plot? - no plot - so, what is the show about? - it's about nothing - about what? - nothing - nothing? - yes, absolutely nothing. what did you do today? - got up, had breakfast - there you go. there's your show - it is? - yes, a show about nothing - hmmm ...I think you got something in there ...

March 22, 2014 at 8:41PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


"A priority of the program is to identify and support writers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the television industry." they're doing an Equal Opportunity workshop for writers...

Why is this still even an issue? Nobody cares if you're a Puerto-Rican Tranny name Carlina, or a privileged pure bred white kid named B-rad. If you can write, you can write. If you can't, you can't.

Talent will always find a way.

A guy that went to my film school was told by everyone that his gay themed pilot for a t.v. show would never sell. Well, not only did he sell his pilot, it was made into a successful series.

March 22, 2014 at 10:22PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


What Sundance heads think are "traditionally underrepresented" minorities in Hollywood are actually overrepresented in the present. That's why they resorted to the "traditionally". That allows them to weasel out of stipulating the exact condition of these purported under-representations because the actual underrepresented sector in Hollywood right now are folks from the opposite end of the politico-ideological spectrum and this is despite more Americans self-identifying themselves as conservative (38%, according to Gallup) rather than Liberal (23%). You'd think Hollywood would attempt not to piss off half of their potential audience and yet ...

March 23, 2014 at 2:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


I'll admit, I clicked this article because of the pretty redhead.

March 23, 2014 at 1:33AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


This is by invite only.

March 26, 2014 at 7:50AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


All Sundance writer workshops should be considered invite only to begin with.
I'm glad they're not robbing writers this time around.

March 26, 2014 at 1:42PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


If we can get some funding somehow (outside of my wallet!), I'll start accepting writers for my TV show "Day Zero". We're on Tuff TV Thursdays at 10pm EST (as well as online). No need for a "training" session by Sundance, although I'm looking for experienced guys and we don't pay until we get money. Check out my latest episode if interested and email me back, thanks!

March 27, 2014 at 1:22PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM


The day SUNDANCE started accepting 10 mil. budget films for their festival with HWD stars is the moment I turned away from anything to do with SUNDANCE. Their entire LABS system is so fucking convoluted with bullshit of personalitiesand politicis anyway...that you almost have to actually fund a short film yourself, get it accepted and prmiered elsewhere -- on top of at SUNDANCE -- in order to get accepted the next year to do the same, goddamn film...NOW -- IN THEIR LAB!!

What the hell happened to the INDIE of all INDIES????
Do we go back and blame REDFORD?
How about the HEADS he hired???

I love FRUITVALE STATION and BEASTS OF SOUTHERN WILD that came out of SUNDANCE recently, but there's too much b.s. now. The cool and pretty can stay in the mountains.

March 28, 2014 at 5:43AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM