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2018 Sundance/Sloan Commissioning Grant & Fellowship Application Instructions

Established in 2005 to support the development of screenplays with science and/or technology themes, the collaboration between Sundance Institute and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provides two different opportunities for screenwriters through a Commissioning Grant or a Lab Fellowship. Both provide a cash award to support further development of a screenplay, opportunities to retain science advisors, and receive overall creative and strategic feedback throughout the life of the project.

We are looking for a diversity of stories that not only highlight science (which can include math, technology, medical research, as well as other sciences) as a central component, but also go beyond that thematically to engage us with strong characters and an engaging story. While biopics and historical films are welcome, we also encourage you to think outside the traditional mold of what a science film is, in terms of using the science/technology as a backdrop for stories about individuals, how it influences their lives, relationships, and unique perspectives.  An outside-the-box example is the film MONEYBALL, in which a central character is applying a statistical approach to building his baseball team’s roster.  Science-fiction projects are not eligible for this grant or fellowship. Sci-fi includes stories that are set in the near or distant future or include speculative science (plausible in near future but not yet considered current hard science practice). Examples of sci-fi films are EX MACHINA or GATTACA.

Stories with medical oriented science are eligible but of less interest if it portrays a medical condition (eg. Alzheimers, blindness, etc.) but does not address a specific diagnostic or research process and/or treatment process. 



  1. For the Commissioning Grant, screenwriter(s) can be at any stage of their career, with no prior produced work or many produced works. For the Fellowship, screenwriters must have no more than one produced feature screenplay.

  2. Project must incorporate real science and/or technology themes and/or characters. Stories that are sci-fi or futuristic in nature are not eligible.

  3. Project must be a feature length narrative film (no documentaries).

  4. Project must be live action (no animation).

  5. Project must be English language, and screenwriter must reside in the US.

  6. Status of project may range from detailed treatment to full screenplay form. However, only full screenplays will be considered for the Fellowship.

  7. If based on other material, the screenwriter (or submitting party) must have an option or ownership of the source material.


The Commissioning Grant recipient will receive the following:

  1. A cash grant of up to $20,000 to provide support during the writing period

  2. A stipend of up to $5,000 for a science advisor and research

  3. Creative support during the writing process from a Creative Advisor

  4. Creative and strategic support from the Feature Film Program staff


The Fellowship recipient will receive the following:

  1. Attendance as a Fellow at one of the following events at our discretion: Screenwriters Lab, Screenwriting Intensive, or Creative Producing Summit 

  2. A stipend of up to $5,000 for a science advisor

  3. A cash grant of up to $10,000 to provide support during the development of the project

  4. Creative and strategic support from the Feature Film Program staff

What you need to complete online by SEPTEMBER 7, 2017 at 6PM PST:

You must sign in or create an account to access the electronic application located at

  • LOGLINE (75 word maximum)

  • SYNOPSIS Please be as specific as possible, not just only to the story beats (i.e. literal) but to the spirit, themes, and character throughlines. For example, if you are developing a story about a true life character, what specific “angle” or story are you trying to illuminate, rather than just tell us the beats of the person’s life from birth to death. We are looking to understand your approach to why are you driven to tell this particular story, not just what you find interesting in a character or piece of history. (500 word maximum)  

  • Brief description of the THEMATIC CORE and SCIENTIFIC IDEAS being explored. Please include what science research and consultation you would like to put this particular grant towards; this can include specific scientists or fields of research. (150 word maximum)

  • ARTIST STATEMENT Screenwriter’s creative intent for the script, which can include the genesis of the idea, particular themes of interest, the emotional core driving the characters, and why this story is of interest for the writer to tell. (500 word maximum)

  • ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (optional) Any additional information such as status of the project, attachments such as producer or director, or prior science research done to date. (500 word maximum)

  • BIOS for the screenwriter(s), director(s), and producer(s) (if applicable). Please specifically list all notable credits, accolades, education, and experience. (250 word maximum per bio)  

  • APPLICATION FEE of $40 (credit card only)

You will have the ability to save your application-in-progress and log in at a later date to complete and submit. You will not be able to edit your application once it has been submitted. Once you electronically submit your application, there will be a link to view and print your completed application as a PDF file. Please save this file for future reference and in the case of any technical issues.  

Please be advised that you DO NOT need to submit your full screenplay or treatment for the first round of selections.

Click here to apply


Next Steps

Applicants will be notified on a rolling basis as to whether or not their application is progressing to the next stage of the selection process. If you are invited to submit further materials, you must be prepared with the below beginning around September 23, 2017:

  • FULL SCRIPT OR TREATMENT Upload a PDF file of the most current draft of your script or treatment.

  • DIRECTING SAMPLE (optional) You will be asked to provide a link (and password if applicable) to a directing sample for the director attached to your project. Sample should be recent and relevant to the project you are submitting. Please submit a sample that reflects their work as a team and not individual samples or reels.

All applicants will receive notification of their application status via email no later than October 13, 2017. Due to the high volume of applications we receive, we are unfortunately unable to provide any feedback on individual projects. If you have additional questions about the Sundance/Sloan Commissioning Grant & Fellowship, click here for our FAQ.


Selection Timeline

The timeline for the 2018 Sundance/Sloan Commissioning Grant & Fellowship is as follows:

June 7, 2017

Application available online

September 7, 2017

Application closes

October 13, 2017

Notification of second round selections. Invitations are made on a rolling basis, and you should be prepared to submit a full draft of the script or treatment and directing samples (optional) beginning September 23, 2017.

December 22, 2017

Notification of final selections


If you have further questions, please e-mail us at