Despite having absolutely no chance of being selected as a participant, this year I decided to apply for the Sundance Screenwriter’s Lab. On April 29th, I sent a blank self addressed-stamped postcard along with my application packet. I wrote: “Don’t hold your breath!!!” with a black Sharpie. I figured I’d stick the returned postcard on my fridge and forget about it until I received the “Thank You for Applying” rejection email at the end of the summer.
Today, a friend sent me an email saying he was thankful he didn’t apply because he came across some information on a board. Greg Beal has been the coordinator of the Nicholl Fellowships since 1989 and had this to say about the Lab:
"Entering Sundance as a writer only is problematic. Yes, scripts will be requested on the basis of the pages and synopsis from hundreds of entrants, but the lab participants will mostly be drawn from folks who fit at least some of the following:
1) invited entrants who completely bypass the first cut process;
2) writers and writer-directors known to the Sundance administrators and/or mentors;
3) writer-directors who have had shorts and/or a feature in previous Sundance festivals;
4) writers with some combination of attachments (i.e., director, producers, actors);
5) writers and writer-directors with a film at the project stage (various elements and some or much financing in place);
6) writers and writer-directors recommended to the Sundance administrators by established film folks (often festival and lab regulars).
I was told years ago by one of the Sundance administrators that they were seeking projects that needed one extra push in order to go into production. Consider this example: Ed Burns was a lab participant (with She's the One) after Brothers McMullen was an indie hit.
What writer competition entrants can hope for is: a miracle; or notice this year that will cause them to be invited to submit in a later year."
It doesn’t take the love child of a rocket scientist and a brain surgeon to figure out that’s Sundance’s MO. All you have to do is look up the Lab participants’ resumes and credits to conclude what Greg Beal says above. I do not fit any of the above categories, and I do not hope for a miracle. There’s no such thing as a miracle in screenwriting.
I hope to advance beyond the first round and receive a request for the full script, and, if not, at least get on Sundance’s radar for when I need that “extra push.” You have to get those scripts out there. It’s the only way they are going to get read by people in the industry.
By the way, I got the postcard back with a note that said “Smart girl.”