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Category: From the Labs

How Collaboration—Not Isolation—Leads to Creative Breakthroughs

Filmmaker Grace Lee (“American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs”) participated as a creative advisor at the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program | CNEX Workshop and Documentary Summit in Beijing earlier this year. Below she shares learnings gleaned from working collaboratively with filmmaking teams on their rough cuts.
I arrived in Beijing after a 13-hour flight from New York, jetlagged but thrilled to be a creative advisor at the Sundance / CNEX Documentary Story and Edit Lab.

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A Question Every Screenwriter and Director Should Ask Themselves: “Whose Story Is This?”

Hannah Pearl Utt (co-writer/director) and Jen Tullock(co-writer) attended the 2017 Directors and Screenwriters Labs with their project “Stupid Happy,” which follows dysfunctional, codependent sisters Rachel and Jackie who believe they are orphans after the death of their father, only to find out the mother they thought died when they were young is not just alive, but the star of their favorite soap.“Whose story is this?”
Hannah: That was the first thing Joan Tewkesbury asked me when I sat down for my first advisor meeting of the first week of the Sundance Institute Directors Lab, and I promptly burst into tears. If you’re interested in participating in the Labs, there’s something you should know upfront: everything you’ve heard about them is true; “it’s really hard to explain the experience,” “they can be terrifying,” “totally transformative,” “once-in-a-lifetime experience,” “not a lot of time to sleep,” and because of all that, “lots of crying.

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Do You Have a Screenplay Exploring Science and Technology?

Darcy Brislin and Dyana Winkler attended the 2017 Screenwriters Lab as part of the Alfred P. Sloan Fellowship, established to support the development of screenplays with science and/or technology themes. Click here to apply for the 2018 Sloan Commissioning Grant & Fellowship,“But why on earth would she stay with him?”
Pencils poised, we sat across the table from writer Erin Cressida Wilson, wrapping our brains around the most profound, soul-searching question within our script.

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Ask Yourself These Questions When Developing Your Documentary Film

Kevin Sharpley recently attended the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program’s Story Development Workshop supported by the Knight Foundation, which offers intensive story development sessions for a group of select nonfiction filmmakers from the Miami area. Below, he shares his learnings: the questions you should ask when developing your documentary film.When I walked into the room at the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program’s Story Development Workshop in Miami, it felt electric.

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‘Selah and the Spades’ Director Tayarisha Poe: “Something Was Wrong with My Script”

When I applied to the Sundance Institute Screenwriters Lab, I knew there was something wrong with my script. When I interviewed for the lab, I once again shared that feeling. And then when I got the call from Michelle Satter and Ilyse McKimmie welcoming me and my story (Selah and the Spades) into the fold, I felt a quiet relief—like finally getting an appointment to see a doctor after months of a very sore throat.

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​5 Reasons Native Storytellers Should Apply to the Full Circle Fellowship

It’s been a year since I applied to Sundance Institute Full Circle Fellowship, which aims to support the next generation of Native American storytellers with attendance at the Sundance Film Festival, a set internship at the Native Filmmakers Lab, meetings with industry mentors, and other opportunities.
I was going through the application process and was stuck in a rut. Having recently graduated from college with a Film and Digital Media degree, I was feeling a lot of pressure to find a job and begin my career.

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Film Producers on the First Films That Blew Their Minds

“The film that blew your mind isn’t necessarily the best film,” Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper said slyly at the closing night of the Creative Producing Summit. Apparently that declaration was intended to curtail the evening’s presenters—a who’s-who of the film-producing world—from shying away from candor. In fairness, how many of us are wont to divulge our earliest, innocent artistic predilections? Not I, says this sheepish fan of Waterworld.

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Editor Robert Greene Goes Behind the Scenes of the Doc Edit and Story Lab

I came to the Sundance Institute’s Documentary Edit and Story Lab with a mix of emotions. I’d proudly accepted a creative advisor role, joining an esteemed group that included Laura Poitras, Jonathan Oppenheim, Joelle Alexis, Nels Bangerter, and Lillian Benson, but I remained skeptical of what I thought might be a “too many cooks in the kitchen” approach to editing documentaries. Maybe I was intimidated or wondering what I could offer, or maybe I was afraid of how the lab process might affect my semi-solitary preferences for editing my own films.

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