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New Frontier

Sundance Institute | New Frontier Story Lab
Storytelling Without Borders


A bold spirit of innovation has emerged among artists as they seek to engage audiences with narrative worlds that leverage new technologies, visual aesthetics, social media cultures, immersive designs, game theory, transmedia activism and shifts in the boundaries of authorship. 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.

The Sundance Institute’s New Frontier program was created to identify and foster independent artists innovating in the art and form of storytelling at the convergence of film, art, media, live performance, music and technology; to provide a place for audience to view and participate in their work; and to build a community of collaborators across diverse disciplines to push the boundaries of story.

The New Frontier program began in 2007 with the formation of an exhibition and programming space at the Sundance Film Festival. The dynamic work presented at New Frontier inspired the Sundance Institute to deepen its support of storytellers pioneering new mediums and methodologies by establishing the New Frontier Story Lab in 2011.

What Types of Projects Are Eligible?

With an emphasis on story, this Lab supports artists who are developing interactive, immersive, or experimental projects that aim to create rich and resonant experiences for audiences. The New Frontier Story Lab is open to a wide variety of storytelling disciplines, forms and story designs. 

We invite projects that fit the following criteria:

  • The project tells or co-creates a fiction, non-fiction or hybrid story (or stories).
  • The project provides one or more of the following points of entry: film, gaming, theater, music, visual arts, comics, literature, design and web/mobile native arts.
  • The project innovates story design by using new technologies and platforms to enable the creation of story (i.e. apps, virtual reality technology, holograms, haptic technology, biometric technology, binaural sound, mobile 3D imaging, rotoscope animation, projection mapping, Web GL, augmented reality, geo-locative digital assets); OR low-tech designs that are exploring new methods of storytelling (i.e. immersive experiences, live action role play, participatory design, non-linear story, mixed reality experiences, etc.).
  • The project is a work in progress with at least one component of its story design in advanced development.
  • Applicants must have completed some previous work in one or more fields related to their project.
  • International projects will be considered, but all project materials must be provided in English.

What Happens at the Story Lab?

New Frontier invites six projects to the Sundance Resort for a five-day-long immersive Story Lab experience with a group of leading artists, designers, filmmakers, storytellers, technologists and innovators in the field. After identifying the unique needs of each selected project, the Sundance Institute sources expert Creative Advisors to provide individualized feedback and creates a customized agenda of activities to support the development of the projects. 

Past Creative Advisors include: digital artist Aaron Koblin (Lead at the Google Data Arts Team), actor/comedian Bret McKenzie (Flight of the Concords), Marti Noxon (Fright Night, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), game developer Nick Fortugno (Co-Founder & CCO Playmatics), Scott Snibbe (Bjork’s Biophila, Philip Glass’ Rework), composer Stewart Wallace (Harvey Milk, The Bonesetter’s Daughter), transmedia innovator Susan Bonds (CEO of 42 Entertainment), interactive producer Jeremy Mendes (Bear 71, National Film Board of Canada), Wesley Strick (Cape Fear, Arachnophobia), musician and DJ Chris Holmes  (Beck, Paul McCartney), experience designer Lance Weiler (Pandemic, Collapsus),documentary filmmaker Sandi DuBowski (Trembling Before G-d), playwright Lynn Nottage (Ruined) and Richard LaGravanese (Beautiful Creatures, Fisher King, Behind the Candelabra).

The Lab will include the following elements with an emphasis on storytelling: 

  • Project presentations with full group feedback (Lab Fellows & Advisors)
  • Individualized story and story design sessions
  • Conversations about key artistic, design and technology issues
  • Presentations, demonstrations and conversation about the evolving field of New Frontier: case studies from Creative Advisors; research on field opportunities and challenges; best practices and lessons learned in concept, design, production, audience/co-creator engagement and implementation.

Six projects will be invited to bring up to two team members each to the Sundance Resort from October 23 to 27, 2014.  Air travel, accommodations, and meals are covered by Sundance Institute.

What Happens After the Lab?

Fellows who complete a Lab at the Sundance Institute become part of a community of storytellers and audiences that support independent artists in furthering their craft and bringing great projects into the world. 

After the Lab, Fellows will participate in a strategic planning consultation to outline a road map for successfully completing their projects and semi-annual check-in sessions with New Frontier staff and advisors. Additionally, Fellows will be eligible to access #ArtistServices, which assists alumni with creative funding, distribution and marketing.

If appropriate, projects supported through the Lab will be considered by New Frontier at the Sundance Film Festival as a way to platform the new work and provide a live component for expanding the boundaries of interactive experience. 

New Frontier Story Lab project submissions are accepted by invitation or recommendation only. Application materials will be available for invited artists/projects by April 3, 2014. The deadline for project submissions is June 2, 2014.


Kamal Sinclair
Senior Manager, New Frontier Story Lab
Sundance Institute

Episodic Story Lab

For more information about this program, please visit our website:

PLEASE NOTE: We accept all application materials electronically ONLY. You will have a chance to save a work-in-progress version of your application before officially submitting, and we will ask you to upload your spec pilot script and 10 episode treatment rather than mailing us a hard copy.

1. What you need to know (please read it all!):

The application is a two step process.

  • FIRST you have to complete the electronic application. This is where you provide us with all of your contact info, as well as the name of the Feature Film Program staff member who invited you to apply, a brief bio on yourself, a synopsis of the project, and a short essay response about your artistic intentions. Sign in or create an account to access the electronic application.
  • SECOND you must upload your spec pilot script and 10 episode treatment as separate attachments. A PDF is the required format.

  What you will need to complete online:

  • CONTACT INFO We will use the email address you provide to correspond with you moving forward. Please make sure is cleared in your spam filter!
  • BIO of yourself and your co-writer, if applicable (no more than 250 words each). Please note that we will not accept a standard resume. Rather, we would like a narrative bio describing your life and past writing experience.
  • PILOT SYNOPSIS (no more than 500 words) This should be a detailed, complete summary of your pilot script, describing the story, world, and key characters.
  • SHORT ESSAY (no more than 300 words per question) A brief written response to the following questions:
    • Why are you interested in developing this story as a series and why is this material uniquely told in episodic form?
    • Is there a specific approach in tone, production, narrative or aesthetic that is central to the execution of this series?

3. What you will need to upload:

  • PILOT SCRIPT (drama or single-camera half-hour comedy)
  • 3-5 PAGE SEASON ONE TREATMENT that outlines the story and character arcs for ten episodes. The treatment should include the following elements:
    • Series Title
    • 2-4 sentences that give an overview of the premise, genre, and world of the series
    • Brief description of the central character(s)
      • List of up to 4 supporting characters, with two-line descriptions
      • Ten short paragraphs, each describing the character(s) and story arcs for an individual episode

NOTE: A PDF is the required format for these uploads. For tips on how to convert Final Draft to PDF:

You must submit your application online no later than midnight PST on May 15, 2014.

4. Then what?

You will hear back from us VIA EMAIL on or before August 15, 2014 letting you know if you have been selected for the Episodic Story Lab. We will respond to every applicant, either way. PLEASE NOTE: The email address you provide us with today will be the one we will use to contact you months from now, and email will be the only mode of communication we will use to contact you.

The email will come from If you have a "spamblocker," please allow emails to be sent into your inbox from this address.

5. Please Note

  • The Episodic Lab is for emerging writers in the episodic space who have not yet sold a pilot to a studio or network.
  • Co-writers: Please designate one of you as the primary contact, and list that person first.
  • Unfortunately, due to the amount of submissions, we cannot provide individual feedback.
  • Although we are open to candidates from across the globe, the Lab is designed to support individuals who are developing episodic projects for the U.S. market. Projects must be in English, and we are not able to provide for international travel at this time, although we would be able cover the cost of the domestic portion of an international airfare.
  • If you have any other questions or problems, email But before you do, please read the FAQ fact sheet - most of your questions are probably answered there!

Sundance/Sloan Commissioning Grant & Fellowship

PLEASE NOTE: We accept all application materials electronically ONLY. You will have a chance to save a work-in-progress version of your application before officially submitting.

Sign in or create an account to access the electronic application

What you will need to complete online:
  • CONTACT INFO We will use the email address you provide to correspond with you moving forward. Please make sure is cleared in your spam filter!
  • LOGLINE (75 words maximum)
  • SYNOPSIS   Please be as specific as possible, not just only to the story beats (i.e. literal) but to the spirit, themes, and character throughlines.  For example, if you are developing a story about a true life character, what specific “angle” or story are you trying to illuminate, rather than just tell us the beats of the person’s life from birth to death.  We are looking to understand your approach to why are you telling this particular story, not just what you find interesting in a character. (500 words maximum)
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION of the thematic core and scientific ideas being explored. (75 words maximum)
  • ARTISTIC STATEMENT - Screenwriter’s creative intent for the script, which can include the genesis of the story, particular themes of interest, and why this story is of interest for the writer to tell. (500 words maximum)
  • ADDITIONAL INFORMATION (optional) - Any additional information such as status of the project, attachments, or prior science research done to date. (500 words maximum)
  • BIOS for the screenwriter(s), director(s), and producer(s) (if applicable).  Please specifically list all notable credits, accolades, education, and experience.  (250 words maximum each) 
  • NAME and EMAIL  of person writing your recommendation letter.  Your recommender should be someone familiar with your prior creative work, such as a filmmaking colleague or professor, but does not necessarily need to be familiar with your submitted project. Once you complete your application, they will receive an automated email from Sundance to electronically submit their recommendation letter to us. 
  • APPLICATION FEE of $40 (credit card only)

You must submit your application online no later than 5:00 pm PST on September 10, 2014.

All applicants will receive a response via e-mail no later than October 17, 2014 regarding their submission status. Due to the high volume of applications we receive, we are unfortunately unable to provide any feedback on individual projects.
If you have additional questions about the Sundance/Sloan Commissioning Grant & Fellowship, click here for our FAQ

If you have further questions, please e-mail us at