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Episodic Story Lab FAQ

What are the dates of the Episodic Story Lab?
The Episodic Story Lab will take place October 5-10, 2017 at the Sundance Resort in Utah.

Who is Eligible for the lab?
  • Emerging writers and writer/directors from all mediums, including independent narrative features, documentary, theatre, and fiction, who are developing an episodic series.
  • Applicants must have at minimum a completed script for the pilot episode and a 2-3 page series overview that includes a brief description of the premise, genre, central characters, and world of the series, as well as a short summary of the story and character arcs for the first season.
  • The submitted pilot cannot have been sold at any point to a studio or network.
  • Additionally, applicants cannot have sold a pilot or pitch to a studio or network in the past that has been produced.
  • The submitted pilot may be original or adapted from optioned source material.
  • A priority of the program is to identify and support writers from communities traditionally underrepresented in the television industry. 
What is the submission period for the First Round of the application process?
December 1, 2016 - February 1, 2017.

What do I need to include in the First Round of the application process?
  • Contact information for writer(s) (we allow for up to 2 writers per project, however, you must choose one person to be your designated point of contact)
  • Bio(s) of the writer(s) (no more than 250 words per person)
  • Series logline - 2-4 sentences that give an overview of the premise, genre, and world of the series.
  • Pilot synopsis (no more than 500 words) - describe the story, world, and key characters of the pilot episode.
  • 2-3 page series overview (between 1000-1500 words) to include the following elements:
    • A brief description of the central character(s)
    • A brief summary of the story and character arcs for first season. This should NOT be an episode by episode outline. Instead, we want to know, in simple and clear language, how the characters and relationships will change throughout the season, as well as the main thrust of each storyline.
  • Short Essay (no more than 200-300 words per question) – a brief written response to the following questions: 
    • Why are you interested in telling this story? What is your personal connection to the material and/or why are you the best person to tell this story? What specific theme you are exploring?
    • Why are you developing this story as an episodic series? Is there a specific approach in tone, production, narrative or aesthetic that is central to the execution of this series?
  • The first 5 pages of your pilot script
  • A $40 non-refundable processing fee payable by credit card via the online application
When will I be notified if I have advanced to the Second Round?
Applicants will receive notification via email about whether or not they have been selected for the Second Round of our online application process by March 15, 2017. 

What will be required to submit to the Second Round
Applicants who are selected to advance to Round 2 will be required to provide a full pilot script through our online application system by March 29, 2017 in order to be considered for the Lab.

Is there an application fee to apply for the Episodic Story Lab?
Yes, for the first round ONLY, there is a $40 Non-Refundable Processing Fee, payable by credit card via the online application.

How complete should the spec pilot script be?
You must have a full, completed spec pilot script in order to be considered.

Will you consider writing teams?
Yes, we will consider writing teams of up to 2 people.

What kind of material is Sundance most interested in supporting?
  • The Lab will support both one-hour dramas and single camera half-hour comedies. We are looking for compelling character-driven stories that display original voice and distinctive vision. We are open to different genres and types of stories and are likely to select pilots that one would typically expect to find on cable and online platforms (e.g. BET, HBO, Netflix, Amazon, A&E Networks and Sundance TV).
  • In special circumstances, we will consider episodic content for a limited series (fewer episodes than the usual 10 or 13 for cable), however, the candidate must notify us of this intention prior to applying so that we can determine whether or not the project meets our criteria. Additionally, under special circumstances, we will consider content being developed for the web that has a shorter running time than the usual hour or thirty minutes, however, the candidate must notify us of this intention prior to applying so that we can determine whether or not the project meets our criteria.
  • This is not meant to be a definitive list and we do not have a rigid set of criteria for selection; it is merely intended as a broad guideline for the kind of stories we are hoping to support.
Are you supporting animated projects this year?
We are open to considering animated projects, however, the candidate must notify us of this intention prior to applying as we will require supplemental visual materials.

Are you supporting documentary projects this year?
We are not supporting documentary projects at this time, but will be open to considering documentary projects for future Labs.

Can the project be an adaptation of other material (novels, magazine articles, films, etc.)?
We will consider adaptions so long as the writer/s has secured the rights to the original source material and can disclose the legal rights for Sundance to review.

Do participants pay for travel and accommodation?
The Sundance Institute will pay for domestic airfare and provide accommodations for all participants. At this time, we are not able to provide for international travel. We will, however, cover the cost of the domestic portion of international airfare.

What does the program cost?
Aside from an application fee of $40.00, participation in the Episodic Story Lab, including travel, food and accommodations, is completely free.

Does Sundance own my pilot?
No. The Sundance Institute is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and does not have an ownership stake in any projects that are submitted to, or selected for the Lab, nor are we attached in any producorial capacity. All Lab Fellows must own or have approval from the project owner to participate in FFP Programs.

Will you accept international projects?
Although we are open to candidates from across the globe, the Lab is designed to support individuals who are developing episodic projects for the U.S. market. Projects must be in English and we are not able to provide for international travel at this time. We will, however, cover the cost of the domestic portion of international airfare.

What is the application deadline?
The application will be made available to applicants through our online application system on December 1, 2016. The deadline for project submission is February 1, 2017 at 6:00pm PT.

Is it possible to get an extension? What’s the final final deadline?
No, it’s not possible to get an extension. You must turn in your application by February 1, 2017 at 6:00pm PT.

When will final decisions be made?
We will notify everyone of our final decision of the writers selected for the Lab by August 23, 2017.

If you are interested in learning more about writing for the episodic space, please find a list of helpful websites and books that provide additional resources for writers below:

Websites: Books:
  • Writing the TV Pilot by William Rabkin
  • The TV Showrunner’s Roadmap: 21 Navigational Tips for Screenwriters to Create and Sustain a Hit TV Series by Neil Landau
  • The TV Writer’s Workbook: A Creative Approach to Television Scripts by Ellen Sandler
  • Writing the TV Drama Series: How to Succeed as a Professional Writer in TV by Pamela Douglas
  • Writing the Screenplay, TV and Film by Alan Armer
Still don't see your question answered here? Email with further questions.