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Feature Film Program Summary

The Sundance Institute Feature Film Program (FFP) is dedicated to developing and nurturing the next generation of leading edge narrative feature filmmakers through its unique system of labs, granting, and creative and tactical support. For the past 30 years, the Program has championed many of the world’s groundbreaking independent filmmakers by encouraging a rigorous creative process with a focus on original and deeply personal storytelling. By providing tailored year-round support, from script development to engaging audiences, to pioneering filmmakers, the FFP has become a model for supporting artists around the world. Recent award-winning projects cultivated in the Program include Damien Chazelle's Whiplash (2014 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award), Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station (2013 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award), Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize), Sean Durkin’s Martha Marcy May Marlene, Cary Fukunaga’s Sin Nombre, Dee Rees’ Pariah, Haifaa Al-Mansour's Wadjda and Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox. Click here for a closer look at the FFP’s role in supporting Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Read the most recent FFP Newsletter

Ryan Coogler accepting Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize Award
for his directorial debut, Fruitvale Station.

Founded by Robert Redford in 1981, the Sundance Institute was created in response to the shared conviction that the budding independent film movement had the potential for far-reaching creative impact if given adequate resources and a place to foster self-expression and a sense of community among filmmakers. Thirty years later, under Michelle Satter’s continued leadership, the FFP’s network of Labs continues to provide a one-of-a-kind opportunity for filmmakers to incubate their most audacious ideas in an environment where risk-taking is encouraged and failure is regarded as a valuable step in a project’s creative evolution.

The point of entry to the Feature Film Program is the January Screenwriters Lab, a five-day writer’s workshop for 12 filmmakers held at the Sundance Resort. (Read about recent Lab Fellow Ryan Koo's experience here). During the Lab, fellows take part in intensive one-on-one story meetings focused on their feature film scripts under the guidance of accomplished writers in a place that encourages creativity and innovation. The deadline for open submissions to the January Screenwriters Lab is May 1st of the previous year.

Benh Zeitlin and Lucy Alibar (Beasts of The Southern Wild)
at the 2009 January Screenwriters Lab with screenwriter Scott Frank

Once a filmmaker has participated in the January Screenwriters Lab, the Feature Film Program provides a wide range of support designed to help filmmakers realize the promise of their project and to offer strategies and resources to help the project reach its audience. The Project Support Continuum can include the June Directors Lab, the annual Film Music and Sound Design Lab, ongoing screenplay development, targeted momentum grants, public screenplay readings, strategic introductions to potential funders and collaborators, in-kind donations, and works in progress screenings. Additional FFP initiatives, a direct response to the evolving landscape of independent film, include the Creative Producing Fellowship and Summit, the New Frontier Story Lab, and the newest lab supporting Episodic Storytelling. Click here to browse recent photos from the 2014 Director's Lab on our Instagram page.

The Institute’s guiding values of cultural exchange and freedom of expression have broadened the program to include American and international artists in a more meaningful and vibrant dialogue across political, cultural, and geographic boundaries. Reflecting an increasingly global independent filmmaking community, the Feature Film Program (in collaboration with regional partners) has launched several signature programs to support international filmmakers, including the RAWI Middle East Screenwriters Lab held annually in Jordan and the Mumbai Mantra/Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab in India. Additionally, this year marks the fourth year of the Sundance Institute Global Filmmaking Award, presented annually to four emerging international filmmakers, and the 18th year of the Sundance Institute/NHK Award.

Cary Fukanaga (Sin Nombre) at the 2006 June Directors Lab.

Many accomplished artists have contributed as Creative Advisors to the work supported by the Program, including: Gyula Gazdag, Alexander Payne, Ed Harris, Paul Thomas Anderson, Nicole Holofcener, Denzel Washington, Walter Salles, Scott Frank, Walter Mosley, Stanley Tucci, Alfonso Cuaron, Alfre Woodard, Atom Egoyan, Guillermo Arriaga, Thomas Vinterberg, Catherine Hardwicke, Walter Murch, and Robert Elswit. Click here for a full list of past Creative Advisors.

Support for the Feature Film Program

Sundance Institute is deeply grateful to the following donors for their generous support of the Feature Film Program over the past year.

The Annenberg Foundation
Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Mumbai Mantra Media Ltd
John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The Lincoln Motor Company
DCM Productions
Steve Bing
Jeanne Donovan Fisher
Philip Fung-A3 Foundation
Hollywood Foreign Press Association
Red Crown Productions
RT Features
NHK Enterprises, Inc.
National Endowment for the Arts
Time Warner Foundation
3311 Productions
The Ammon Foundation
Grazka Taylor
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
The Ray and Dagmar Dolby Family Fund
Directors Guild of America
Zygmunt & Audrey Wilf Foundation
DCM Productions
Sundial Pictures, LLC
Rosalie Swedlin and Robert Cort
Writers Guild of America, West
John M. August
Firestone / von Winterfeldt Family Fund
Dreambridge LLC
Utah Film Commission

Special Thanks

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

AAdyn Tech
Angeniuex, a Thales group brand
Anton/Bauer, Inc.
Avid Technology, Inc.
Carl Zeiss SBE, LLCZ
Express Shuttle
Kino Flo

Native Instruments
Ola Loa “Fizzy” Vitamins
Porta Brace Inc.
Rosco Labs
Shure Incorporated
Sony Electronics Inc.
The Tiffen Company
The Vitec Group plc

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