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Creative Labs & Year-round Support

The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program provides a suite of year-round support opportunities for projects that receive a grant from the Sundance Documentary Fund (SDF). In addition to ongoing consultation with and creative support from DFP staff  grantees can access Creative Labs and Fellowships. These formal opportunities are by invitation only and open to current SDF grantees.

Creative Labs bring together a community of world-class documentary directors, editors and producers to support the development of grantee projects from around the world. Labs are eight-day intensive residential retreats where the art of nonfiction storytelling is engaged with rigor and candor. The DFP hosts five Labs annually, including two Documentary Edit and Story Labs, the Music and Sound Design Lab at Skywalker Sound: Documentary, Documentary Creative Producing Lab, and the New Frontier Story Lab. Since 2004, the Lab has supported over 275 artists from around the world.

In addition to creative Labs, there are two industry-oriented Fellowships that take place annually at  the Sundance Film Festival and the Sundance Institute Creative Producing Summit.

Application guidelines for the Sundance Documentary Fund can be found here.

Documentary Edit and Story Labs

In 2014, the DFP will host two Documentary Edit and Story Labs at the Sundance Resort in Utah, hosting nine projects (Director-Editor teams). Lab dates are Friday, June 20 - Saturday, June 28 and Friday, July 4 - Saturday, July 12. The structure and focus of the Labs are identical. Projects are paired with seven Creative Advisors and DFP staff to advance their works-in-progress by focusing on story editing, character development and dramatic structure.

Edit and Story Lab Alumni include Tia Lessin and Carl Deal (Trouble the Water), Dawn Porter (Gideon’s Army), Dan Krauss (The Kill Team), Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo (Rich Hill).

Past Lab Advisors include Directors Laura Poitras (The Oath) and Robb Moss (Secrecy) as well as editors Kate Amend (Into the Arms of Strangers), Mary Lampson (Harlan County), Joe Bini (Grizzly Man), and Lewis Erskine (Freedom Riders).

Music and Sound Design Lab at Skywalker Sound: Documentary

The Music and Sound Design Lab in Skywalker Sound was launched in 2013 and brings together documentary filmmakers, emerging film music composers, and Skywalker Sound affiliated sound designers.  The Lab is programmed by the Sundance Institute Film Music Program and the Documentary Film Program and will run Tuesday, June 3 - Wednesday, June 11. Four projects (directors only) are paired in advance with composers and sound designers and will select and score scenes from their work-in-progress. Concurrently, projects also receive feedback on story, structure, and character development with Creative Advisors (Directors, Editors, and Composers) and Institute staff.

The Composers Lab: Documentary was established in 2005 to provide a small group of talented composers with valuable first-hand experience composing for documentary film and to enhance the musical understanding of independent filmmakers.

Music and Sound Design Lab Alumni include Thomas Allen Harris (Through A Lens Darkly), Mark Grieco (Marmato), and Kirsten Johnson (A Blind Eye).

Creative Producing Lab: Documentary

Sundance Institute’s Creative Producing Initiative is a cross-programmatic initiative that supports feature and documentary film producers. The Creative Producing Lab: Documentary runs from Monday, July 27 - Friday, July 31. Six projects will attend this five-day Lab, conceived to develop and support the next generation of independent documentary producers.

Creative Producing Lab: Documentary Alumni include Marty Syjuco (Give Up Tomorrow), Alison Klayman (Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry), and Yoruba Richen (The New Black).

New Frontier Story Lab

The New Frontier Story Lab, now entering its fourth year, is inspired by New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival. The New Frontier Story Lab is the newest program at Sundance Institute offering interdisciplinary support to artists at the convergence of film, art, media, live performance, music and technology. With the philosophy that story is at the heart of all narrative endeavors, this Lab supports artists who are developing interactive, immersive, or experimental projects that aim to create rich and resonant experiences for audiences. In just the last 10 years, the media landscape has been transformed and storytellers are both exploring as well as constructing this new terrain, pioneering new connections with audiences and re-structuring story design. Therefore, projects supported by this Lab can take many forms, but the common goal is to innovate the art and form of story.

To learn more about this cross-programmatic Lab, visit:
New Frontier Story Lab
"Sundance Launches New Frontier Lab"

Fellows Program at the Sundance Film Festival

The 2014 Fellows Program took place at the Sundance Film Festival from Friday-Wednesday, January 17-22. The Documentary Film Program invites ten DFP-supported works-in-progress to attend a curated five-day program of private themed breakfasts, one-on-one meetings with international documentary industry, public panels and other networking events.

  • Themed breakfast sessions- Private roundtables with Festival Programmers, International Broadcasters and International Pitch Forum organizers.
  • One-on-One Meetings – meetings are industry choice and include a range of industry-broadcasters, funders, and producers.
  • Pitching Sessions – an instructional discussion and practical session of how best to pitch your material.

Special Thanks

Sundance Institute gratefully acknowledges the following organizations who have generously provided assistance in supporting the Feature Film Program.

Avid Technology, Inc.
Express Shuttle

Ola Loa “Fizzy” Vitamins