We Sundanced Til Dawn
Supporting #IndieFilmakers From Tribeca to South Hampton, Austin to Milan, & everywhere in-between
A bloggy collection of journalistic stories about breaking into Hollywood 
from the former "Queen of Latenight."

Sundance til dawn

Your Very Unofficial Guide to Late Night Fun at Film Festivals Worldwide

Sundance Labs

By Lisa Lindo

Every June for 34 years filmmakers from around the world have gathered in one special place. This year Sundance Labs will celebrate 35 years of incubating the cinematic dreams of directors. Of the over 3,000 scripts submitted annually, only a handful are chosen. There are labs for directors, and labs for writers. 

In December 2014, the Sundance Institute announced that 12 projects were selected for the 2015 Screenwriters Lab. It's an immersive, five-day writers' workshop for the pros and newcomers that will arrive at the Sundance Resort Robert Redford created in Utah.

Photo Credit: Sundance Institute, 2015

Participating independent screenwriters – drawn from around the world, including the United States, Latin America, Europe, China, and the Middle East – will have 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. The fellows work with a handpicked distinguished group of Creative Advisors at the Lab, led by Artistic Director Scott Frank, and including Naomi Foner, Rodrigo Garcia, Michael Goldenberg, John Lee Hancock, Erik Jendresen, Kasi Lemmons, Walter Mosley, Marti Noxon, Howard Rodman, Susan Shilliday, Zach Sklar, Elena Soarez, Peter Straughan, Joan Tewkesbury, and Audrey Wells. 

For the true cinegeeks out there, you can find detailed descriptions of those 12 lucky lumps of magical clay who made it in here.

"Together with my colleague, Labs Director Ilyse McKimmie, 
we are honored to welcome our new group of fellows 
to the January Screenwriters Lab. They represent a broad spectrum 
of independent vision with stories that reflect our complex world 
with emotional truth and urgency. The Lab is the beginning 
of our year-round support for these filmmakers. We look forward to 
working with them throughout the life cycle of the project."  
~ Michelle Satter, Founding Director of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program

Creative advisors help these merging directorial voices explore not only what they can do, but also what they didn't know about themselves, about their stories, about their craft. At the labs they focus on teaching the collective power of making film - working with your cinematographer, working with your lighting people, discussing options with costuming that can further the story, using sound to expand the persistent world you're creating. Getting a feature off the ground might be a heavy lift, but you can never forget, it's a group effort - each human element as integral to the story as the script, and each crew member a potential fountain of inspiration.

Sundance Labs' creative advisor Catherine Hardwicke tells us, "As a film director, you can plant the seed in their mind and, hopefully, they'll take it even further than you planned to take it. Hopefully, your prop person will come up with some cool thing, and it's gonna raise it to the next level," adding "Just raising the excellence of every scene, every costume, every actor to he highest possible evel, that's respecting the audience, respecting their time. If you're asking them to sit there and watch a 10-minute short, let's make every 10-minutes good, ya know, something they haven't seen before - insightful, shocking, crazy, funny."

Eight films supported by the Labs Feature Film Program are premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. 

Those in U.S. Dramatic Competition are: 
ADVANTAGEOUS, co-written by Jacqueline Kim & Jennifer Phang & directed by Jennifer Phang;
DIARY OF A TEENAGE GIRL, written and directed by Marielle Heller; 
SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME, written and directed by Chloe Zhao; 
STOCKHOLM, PENNSYLVANIA, written and directed by Nikole Beckwith; 
THE WITCH, written and directed by Robert Eggers. 

The World Cinema Dramatic Competition will include: 
PARTISAN, co-written by Ariel Kleiman & Sarah Cyngler & directed by Ariel Kleiman;
UMRIKA, written and directed by Prashant Nair. 

In addition, the Premieres section will feature:
EXPERIMENTER, written and directed by Michael Almereyda.

Image Credits: Sundance Institute, 2015


Sundance lab participants started to express a desire to do more work, develop more projects, in an episodic form. As Sundance heard the call coming from filmmakers throughout the independent community, the Labs responded. 

"This last year we extended our lab model to offer 

interested artists in the independent community a chance 

to develop episodic projects, and we had an incredible 

outpouring of interest. Like Bob said, we have to listen to 

where they want to go, to where the opportunities are to 

tell multidimensional stories with great characters and 

many of them were interested in how to builld skills for that form - episodics. 

Michelle Satre did a great job with that lab. We had a great first lab." 

~ Keri Putnam, Executive Director Sundance Institute

Robert Redford started in television, in live television in fact. He feels it gave him his foundation as an artist. He believes in the medium and that it's part of the fabric of storytelling in terms of film. 

"Television is film. Mainstream film is shrinking obviously, and it's harder and harder 
for an artist to find their way in the major film business, so television offers 
more opportunities. You are seeing alot of tv talent on breakthrough shows like on HBO 
where they're using amazing writers and actors. It's a wonderful place for actors to 
develop themselves. We even have the Sundance Channel, so that means alot."
~ Robert Redford, Opening Day Sundance 2015