The most coveted road to a Netflix deal lies through acceptance at Sundance.
But what are the odds that U.S. and international documentaries will earn a slot on the program?
- 1,635 Documentary Features were submitted to the 2018 Sundance Film Festival:
- 740 were from the U.S.
- 895 were international.
- Sundance selected 47 for screening.
- The success rate for feature docs was 2.9%.
- U.S.: 37 selections / 4.9% acceptance rate.
- International: 10 selections / 1.1% success rate.
Prior Funding by Sundance
Of the 47 selections, 13 (28%) had received prior funding from the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program:
- Of Fathers & Sons
- Inventing Tomorrow
- Crime + Punishment
- DARK MONEY
- Minding the Gap
- Three Identical Strangers
- Hale Country This Morning, This Evening
- Bisbee ‘17
- Generation Wealth
- 306 Hollywood
- Getting your documentary on the Sundance inside track multiplies your odds of acceptance, but not of winning a prize.
- The Sundance selection bar is much higher for international projects than U.S. ones.
- There’s always IDFA, TIFF, Berlin and more.
The Cost of Missing Out
- Let’s assume that the average production cost of all 1,635 Sundance submissions is in the range of $500,000 – $750,000.
- The total production expense of the 1,588 “Not Accepted” documentaries would be $794 million to $1.19 billion!
- The odds are only slightly higher for Narrative Features.
- 75 of 2,266 submitted projects were selected.
- That’s an acceptance rate of only 3.3%
Winners & Competitors at Sundance
You can study the full documentary program for 2018 with links here…
- U.S. feature docs
- International feature docs
- And here is a link to the 2018 prizewinners
- Many thanks to the Sundance Press Office for sharing the data.
PBS: Similar Odds for Acceptance
- When I last checked, the signature PBS documentary slot POV accepted 16 films out of around 1,000 submissions, for an acceptance rate of 1.6%
- Read more about POV in our detailed October 2015 coverage.
- PBS’s Independent Lens slot reported around 22 films accepted for broadcast out of 725+/- submissions, or a 3% acceptance rate.
- Read about ITVS and Independent Lens in our 2015 coverage here.
- I’ll update these #’s soon.