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Sundance Institute Announces Class of 2021 Episodic Fellows

This structural evolution of the Lab emerged in dialogue with the rapidly shifting ecosystem of the industry.

Sundance Institute Announces Class of 2021 Episodic Fellows

Sundance Institute announced TODAY the 21 Fellows across 18 projects completing its first-ever multi-track Episodic Lab, designed as an immersive two-part experience hosted on Sundance Collab. This year, Fellows were divided into either the Idea to Pilot Track, in which they developed an original pilot from a nascent early idea to a completed original polished draft, or the Series Track, in which they workshop an existing original pilot and develop a professional series pitch to sell. This structural evolution of the Lab emerged in dialogue with the rapidly shifting ecosystem of the industry, including scaling demand for fresh content across networks, streamers, and platforms.

Over the course of the restructured Lab experience, Fellows received customized, ongoing support from Creative Advisors, Industry Mentors, and Sundance Institute Feature Film Program staff, led by Founding Director, Michelle Satter with support from outgoing Episodic Program Director, Jennifer Goyne-Blake and Jandiz Estrada Cardoso who has now joined as the Director. Working with accomplished showrunners, the Fellows participated in one-on-one story meetings, craft workshops, and Writers' Rooms, which together provided creative and strategic tools for successful work ahead. Creative Advisors who participated in the Lab included Jenny Bicks, Jacob Chase, Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, Danny Chun, Cheo Hodari Coker, Charles Eglee, Lee Eisenberg, Kevin Etten, Shalisha Francis, Katori Hall, Teresa Hsiao, Rochée Jeffrey, Kristi Korzec, LaToya Morgan, Erica Rivinoja, Peter Saji, Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, Vera Santamaria, Sanjay Shah, Malcolm Spellman, Tatiana Suarez-Pico, Halsted Sullivan, and Graham Yost.

After an initial fall gathering, Fellows reconvened with polished drafts of their Lab projects to participate in pitch sessions, panel conversations about the episodic landscape, and met with producers and creative executives to discuss next steps and career goals. Industry mentors included: Kesila Childers, Deniese Davis, Dante di Loreto, Marta Fernandez, Carrie Gillogly, Tiffany Hawthorne, Quan Phung, Candace Rodney, Justin Rosenblatt, Jeff Stern, Sarah Timberman, Kathryn Tyus-Adair, Yvette Urbina.

Career advancement for past cohorts have expanded every year. Artists who have gone through the program include writers Katori Hall, Barry Jenkins, Desiree Akhavan, and Heather Rae. Other Fellows have gone on to staff shows including This is Us, Little America, Dave, Snowpiercer, You're the Worst, Better Call Saul, Silicon Valley, Fresh off the Boat, American Gods, The Baby-Sitters Club, and The Americans. Many alumni have sold their Lab projects to networks including HBO, Amazon, Hulu, FX, ABC, CW, and AMC. 64% of Fellows from the 2018 and 2019 Episodic Labs were staffed and close to 75% of the selected projects have sold or been set up with producers. The COVID-19 pandemic dictated the shift to this year's first fully digital artist incubator allowing for longer lead development with more pathways for individualized support and touch points throughout the program.

"Sundance Institute champions independent creators," says Satter, "and we need to stay nimble and responsive across formats, media and narrative structures. By convening emerging talent together with established advisors, we aim to create sustainable careers in an ever-evolving industry. With the ongoing generosity and support of our Episodic team and Advisors, many of our writers have been staffed on shows, and a growing number are now developing their pilots at a variety of networks."

"This Lab is a destination for bold writers hungry to bring their independent perspectives and their rigor to develop stories for audiences who crave independent voices. I'm thrilled to lead the next evolution of Sundance's mission to embrace these integral creators and support them in navigating the industry landscape of multi-episode storytelling. adds program Director Jandiz Estrada Cardoso.


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