Sixth Year of Program Yields over 2,400 Submissions; 14 Fellows, 9 New Television Pilots Selected for Lab and Customized Year-Round Support
Los Angeles, CA — Nine original independent pilots and their 14 creators, will benefit from holistic support and development at Sundance Institute’s sixth annual Episodic Lab, taking place at Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah October 10-15, 2019. With topics that span genres — from provocative reimaginings of the American dream to visionary and epic supernatural dramas– the scope of this year’s projects, along with the diverse backgrounds of their creators, speaks to the Institute’s broad and visionary support of the episodic format as the industry develops and grows; the Episodic Lab is the centerpiece of the Institute’s year-round support program for emerging television writers.
Beginning with the Lab, Fellows will benefit from a full year of customized, ongoing support from Feature Film Program staff, Creative Advisors and Industry Mentors, led by Founding Director of the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program, Michelle Satter and Director of the Episodic Program, Jennifer Goyne Blake. Our Fellows will develop their pilot scripts and series through a rigorous and curated schedule of individual stoy meetings, writers’ rooms, case study screenings and pitch sessions, with the guidance of accomplished showrunners, producers and industry executives.
“As the landscape of episodic content continues to evolve, emerging creators have an opportunity to bring their unique, independent voices and stories to the existing and new platforms” says Satter. “By cultivating visionary talent through industry expertise and support, we are advancing episodic writers with the tools they need to build sustainable creative careers.” Goyne Blake adds, “Alumni of the Episodic Lab have gone on to a wide variety of roles in the industry, and we’re optimistic that our field-building and cultivation has contributed to helping our Fellows get to the next stage of their careers, by staffing on a series or setting up their pilot”
Creative Advisors for the Lab include: Jenny Bicks (EP/Showrunner, Sex and the City), Daniel Chun (Writer/Producer, ABC Studios/Illumination Studios), Charles Eglee (Writer/Executive Producer, American Gods), Lee Eisenberg (Writer/Creator, Little America), Tom Fontana (Creator, Oz), Shalisha Francis (Co-Executive Producer, The Wilds), Lauren Morelli (Showrunner, Tales of the City), LaToya Morgan (Co-Executive Producer, Into The Badlands), Erica Rivinoja (Executive Producer, Marvel’s Tigra & Dazzler), Graham Yost (Showrunner, Justified), and Sanjay Shah (Co-Showrunner, Central Park).
Industry Mentors include: Sarah Babineau (Co-Head of Original Content, Comedy Central), Barbara Crawford (Vice President Current Series, FX Networks), Deniese Davis (Chief Operating Officer, ColorCreative), Marta Fernandez (President, MACRO Television Studios), Susie Fitzgerald (Executive Vice President of Original Scripted Content, AMC and SundanceTV), Anne-Marie McGintee (Director, Original Drama Series, Netflix), Rose Catherine Pinkney (Senior Executive of Scripted Programming, BET Networks), Jeff Schwartz (Development Executive, Amazon Studios), Barbara Teixeira (Head of Television, RT Features), Sarah Timberman (Partner, Timberman-Beverly Productions), and Kathryn Tyus-Adair (Senior Vice President of Original Programming, STARZ).
The Sundance Institute Episodic Program is made possible by Founding Supporters Lyn and Norman Lear and Cindy Harrell Horn and Alan Horn. Leadership Supporters are Amazon Studios, AMC and SundanceTV, BET Networks, Comedy Central, Netflix, RT Features, STARZ, and The Walt Disney Company..
Artists and projects selected for the 2019 Sundance Institute Episodic Lab:
Written by Biniam Bizuneh & Opeyemi Olagbaju
Two broke best friends decide to take another shot at the American dream by starting a streetwear line out of the basement of a parking garage.
Biniam Bizuneh is an Ethiopian American writer and comedian based in Los Angeles. He’s served as a staff writer for Jimmy Kimmel Live! and a contributing writer for Billy On The Street. He’s performed stand-up on Viceland’s Flophouse, Comedy Central’s Stand Up Featuring, and starred in the Lee Daniels’ FOX comedy pilot Culture Clash. Biniam has also written and starred in originals for Comedy Central, including the one-off sketches, Demetrinox, Bad Vibes, and his own Comedy Central digital series, How To Be Broke. Biniam participated in the 2019 Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab and has been recognized with the new Sundance Institute | Comedy Central Comedy Fellowship.
Opey Olagbaju is a Nigerian-American standup comedian and writer that has written on shows such as Hulu’s I Love You America with Sarah Silverman, Comedy Central’s The New Negroes and Freeform’s Unrelated. As a standup, the D.C.-area native performs at clubs and colleges all over the country. He has also successfully showcased in several festivals, such as District of Comedy at the Kennedy Center, Bridgetown Comedy Festival, RiotFest LA and SF Sketchfest, and as a New Face at the 2019 Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. Opey participated in the 2019 Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab and has been recognized with the new Sundance Institute | Comedy Central Comedy Fellowship.
Written by Claire Rothrock & Ryann Weir
Cloister F*cked is an irreverent, half-hour comedy about two millennial nuns who defy the Catholic Church in order to preserve their own faith.
Claire Rothrock is a Brooklyn-based writer and performer for things on stage and things on screens. She and writing partner Ryann Weir sold their comedy series Cloister F*cked to CBS Studios and Sutton Street Productions. Their play I Heard Sex Noises, which premiered at Ars Nova, is also being developed into a half hour comedy series with Stampede Ventures and they are currently writing an Untitled Heist Film with director Leslye Headland. Other credits together include their digital series Basic Witch (Amazon Prime/JASH) and The Undertow, a fantasy musical commissioned by NYU’s Playwrights Horizons. Claire has worked extensively off-Broadway for the last decade and most recently can be seen in the Netflix series, Russian Doll from creators Leslye Headland, Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler. She received her MFA from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Claire and Ryann were previously supported by the Episodic Program in the 2018 Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab.
Ryann Weir is a Brooklyn-based writer and performer who loves funny stories about badass chicks. She and writing partner Claire Rothrock sold their comedy series Cloister F*cked to CBS Studios and Sutton Street Productions. Their play I Heard Sex Noises, which premiered at Ars Nova, is also being developed into a half hour comedy series with Stampede Ventures and they are currently writing an Untitled Heist Film with director Leslye Headland. Other credits together include their digital series Basic Witch (Amazon Prime/JASH) and The Undertow, a fantasy musical commissioned by NYU’s Playwrights Horizons. Ryann has worked extensively off-Broadway for the last decade and is a proud alumni of the Obie-winning group EST/Youngblood. She received her BFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts and recently received two Alfred P. Sloan Foundation commissions for her plays X and In Possible Tech. Claire and Ryann were previously supported by the Episodic Program in the 2018 Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Lab.
House of the Moons
Written by Soo-Hyun Chung & Jonathan Sanford
House of the Moons chronicles the rise and fall of the Korean immigrant family behind the controversial Unification Church as they battle for control of the religious and financial empire built by the infamous Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
Soo-Hyun Chung is a Korean-born immigrant who grew up in Missouri and Connecticut before escaping to New York. Now living in Los Angeles, she’s a Film Independent Screenwriters Lab, Writer’s Guild Feature Access Project, and Visual Communications Armed with a Camera fellow. She was a senior writer/ director for MTV On Air Promos, a publicist for nine inch nails and Marilyn Manson, a door person for the avant garde NY club The Cooler, a music journalist who wrote about going on tour as a college student with Ice T for the Village Voice, and a Lyft driver.
An LA native, Jonathan Sanford earned a degree in film at San Francisco State University, did a stint in Berlin as a camera assistant and translator, then returned home to shoot independent features and work as a creative producer for Art Linson. As a filmmaker and cinematographer, his work has screened at Sundance, South by Southwest, Edinburgh, and ArtBasel Miami. In 2016 he produced the hybrid documentary-fiction feature The Other Kids.
Written by Kelly Edwards
A highly-educated, substance-abusing, black cable news anchor on the verge of self-destruction is relegated to the heartland to do the one thing she despises the most — interview real Americans about what makes America great.
Throughout her career, Kelly Edwards has worn multiple hats – as a development executive in both tv and features, as Executive Producer of a drama series, writer’s assistant, and as a diversity executive. In her current role as WarnerMedia Entertainment’s SVP of Talent Development, Edwards oversees the emerging artists programs for series, films, and miniseries. Edwards graduated from Vassar College with a BA in Theater and is currently seeking her MFA in Screen and Television Writing from Emerson College.
Written by Henry Alberto & Valerie Stadler
In 1997, a young queer boy partners with a group of Miami drag queens to help keep his father’s drug pushing operation afloat and save his struggling family. Based on a true story.
Born and raised in Miami, FL., Latinx filmmaker Henry Alberto is a recipient of a Skowhegan Artist Residency, a Yaddo fellowship, a Latino Screenwriting Project Fellowship and is an alumnus of the Outfest Screenwriting Lab. Henry adapted the award-winning novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The script was included on the inaugural Latinx Black List and is being set up by producers Kyra Sedgwick and Valerie Stadler of Big Swing Productions.
Valerie Stadler is a filmmaker and co-founder of Big Swing Productions with partners Kyra Sedgwick and Meredith Bagby. Most recently, Valerie was the head of Production and Development for Fluency, a multiplatform studio under NBCU Hispanic Enterprises. She co-directed Fallen Star: Finding Home which screened at the Whitney Museum and co-wrote Sunset Stories which premiered at SXSW. She is an alumnus of the Outfest Screenwriting Lab.
Mature Adult Stuff
Written by Lindsay Weiglein
An ambitious and selfish 30-something finds her world turned upside down when the boyfriend she was planning to dump has a stroke and now depends on her for his every basic need. Based on a true story.
Lindsay Weiglein is a writer, producer and performer who is currently the showrunner of the television series Dance Moms. Lindsay was also selected as a 2019 Sundance Institute | YouTube New Voices Fellow and has recently completed a mockumentary travel show. She is a member of the band Stone Darling.
Written by Katherine DiSavino
When an orphaned teenager discovers her tragic past was predicted by a centuries-old prophecy, she must claim her birthright as the Seventh Daughter of a Seventh Daughter and save the world from supernatural evil.
Katherine DiSavino is an LA-based film and TV writer, originally from Lancaster, PA. She currently writes on the CW’s Nancy Drew. Before that she wrote for The Outpost (CW) and was a writers’ assistant on The InBetween (NBC). Katherine is also a playwright published by Samuel French; her four published plays have been translated into multiple languages and performed around the world.
Written by Adamma Ebo & Adanne Ebo
This satirical crime drama takes a darkly-comedic look at the tensions between a Black family-operated hair salon and a big Korean-American hair care company over the rightful ownership of the billion dollar Black hair care industry.
After graduating with a BA in English from Spelman College, Adamma Ebo received a full fellowship to UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, graduating with her MFA in Directing & Production in 2018. Adamma was a 2019 Sundance Screenwriting Intensive Fellow for her feature film script Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul, which she is attached to write and direct. Adamma also has her first TV development deal to co-create and co-write an adult animated dark comedy series with her identical twin sister Adanne, who is also her producer and co-writer. Adamma is from Atlanta and now lives in Los Angeles with Adanne and is a showrunner’s assistant for the upcoming Amazon horror series Them: Covenant.
A graduate of Spelman College and Northwestern University School of Law, Adanne Ebo had her first film storytelling experience when she produced one of her twin sister’s graduate school short film projects. The sisters then co-founded Ejime Productions, with Adanne serving as lead producer and co-writer. She is currently attached to produce the pair’s first feature film project Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul, and also has a development deal to co-create and co-write their first adult animated dark comedy series. Adanne is a 2019 Project Involve Producer Fellow and currently works in business affairs at Endeavor Content.
Valley of Bones
Written by Lekethia Dalcoe
After the unjust killing of a young Black boy reignites the eternal rivalry between the Angel of Death and the Devil, their supernatural forces contend for power over the restless Black souls trapped in Purgatory.
Lekethia Dalcoe is an award winning playwright from Houston, TX, who now resides in New York City. Directed by Tony nominated actor/director Harry Lennix, her play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red,” won Best Play for the 2018 Audelco Awards. Ms. Dalcoe is currently creating “THE HOLDING SPACE CYCLE,” a Dante’s Inferno reflected through the lens of tortured black experiences. In her work, the souls of black America are in jagged shards; she simply wants to piece those souls together.
A few pics from Episodic Lab:
Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, Sundance Institute is a nonprofit organization that provides and preserves the space for artists in film, theatre, and media to create and thrive. The Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally. The Sundance Film Festival and other public programs connect audiences to artists in igniting new ideas, discovering original voices, and building a community dedicated to independent storytelling. Sundance Institute has supported such projects as Sorry to Bother You, Eighth Grade, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Hereditary, RBG, Call Me By Your Name, Get Out, The Big Sick, Top of the Lake, Winter’s Bone, Dear White People, Brooklyn, Little Miss Sunshine, 20 Feet From Stardom, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Fruitvale Station, I’m Poppy, America to Me, Leimert Park, Spring Awakening, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fun Home. Join Sundance Institute on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube