Documentary Film Program

Proposal Checklist


Please address the following items in the proposal that you upload. You MUST include your budget within your proposal document as we are only able to accept ONE upload per project. We are unable to accept unsolicited updates to proposals or visual samples once your project is submitted.

Proposal must contain the following:

Topic Summary (1-2 pages)

Briefly provide information to acquaint the reader to the subject, advising why the topic is interesting and why such a film is needed now. Explain any contemporary social or global relevance for the topic. Describe why you are pursuing this project and why you are the best person to tell this story.

Story Summary (Narrative Synopsis) (1-2 pages)

What story or question is your film following? What is your likely story structure? This section might describe who the characters or subjects are and what is their journey? Here you might chose to communicate how the film in intended to unfold from beginning to end. This section is an opportunity to reflect on the potential mission, stakes, central question or possible outcomes.

Visual Sample:

An online streaming link is required to complete your submission. Links must be download enabled and accessible for six (6) months following the submissions deadline. We encourage links to be sent through streaming platforms such as Vimeo or Youtube. Include the links and passwords (if applicable) in your written proposal. We are unable to accept visual material via WeTransfers , DropBox or other cloud based file transfer service where download is required. 

  • Director's Prior Work (1 paragraph) (required)

    For all proposals, the director’s previous work in a visual medium is required. If a prior directing sample is not available, you may submit a film you have shot or edited. Alternatively, previous work from a key creative on the team, will also be accepted. For the work that you submit, briefly highlight its narrative, aesthetic or communication intentions. Articulate the relevance to the current proposal, if any. If the current proposal is a departure, how will the film differ. If a link is not available for the directing sample, you may send a DVD. Please make a note of this intention in your written application.

  • Current Sample or Rough Cut (1 paragraph)

    If the film is already underway, please submit any sample, rough cut, teaser or clip you may have. Development proposals are strongly encouraged to submit clips, trailers and selects, although visual material is not required. Production/Post-Production proposals are required to submit 10 minutes or longer of edited material. With the work you submit, explain concisely what is present or absent in the sample, and how it will differ as a finished film. How does it reflect the intended story, style, subject, etc. Please provide links and password (if applicable) to visual material.

Project Stage (Approximately 1 paragraph)

Clearly communicate a projected timeline for your film, describing your point in the creative/producing process at time of your application. Please provide an estimated time for completion of principal photography and picture lock. If you have applied before, please share how your project has progressed since the last time your applied.

Distribution and Marketing Strategy (Approximately 1 paragraph)

Characterize the intended distribution life for your film, including relevant broadcast, festival, theatrical, semi-theatrical, VOD or home video markets.

Audience and Community Engagement (if applicable) (1 paragraph)

Audience Engagement is a strategic campaign to encourage individuals and communities to move from passive to active participants on the issue your film broaches. Engagement campaigns are distinct from distribution (which puts films on screens), and from marketing and outreach (alerting viewers to see films). Rather, engagement is designed to activate audiences and stakeholders toward a specific goal. Not all films are suited for social engagement, but if yours is, what action would you hope viewers will take after the screening? If you have any partnerships with organizations already in place, how are these relationships/partnerships informing your approach?

Interactive Elements (if applicable) (1 paragraph)

Some films are intended for multiple platforms as an integral part of the user experience. If applicable for your project, describe any story elements that are meant for other platforms (ex: games, installations, apps, augmented reality, etc). Explain how cross platform elements will enhance the experience and interaction between viewers and the world of the story.

Key Creative Personnel (1-2 paragraphs each)

Provide brief biographies (50-150 words) for the director(s), and if attached, the producer (s), cinematographer, or editor. Do not send resumes, CVs or extensive filmographies. Bullet list any other advisors or consultants, if applicable.

Fundraising Strategy

List secured funding sources as well as the funding sources you intend to pursue. Clearly distinguish between potential sources and secured amounts.


  • Foundation A ………            $X Secured
  • Private Investment A………  $X Secured
  • Foundation B ……….           $X Applied
  • Broadcast License A ………. $X In Negotiation
  • Crowdfunding ……….          $X In Process ( Campaign end date MM/DD/YY)

Comprehensive Line Item Expense Budget

Please list a breakdown of all expenses from development through release in U.S. dollars, including a grand budget total. You may view a sample budget by clicking here (pdf, excel). This sample budget is provided as a reference tool only, you may use your own budget format.

Contact Information

Please provide complete contact information including a valid email address, telephone number and mailing address (in the country’s format). Contact information should be valid for at least six (6) months after the submission deadline.

Audience Engagement Checklist


Sundance Documentary Fund Audience Engagement grants are designed to support creative engagement campaigns using film as a tool to raise awareness and create impact. Grants support campaigns that activate audiences and stakeholders around the film toward a specific goal. Competitive projects will go beyond marketing and distribution to initiate engagement with the issues explored in the film and activate participants around the campaign goals.

Available only to previously granted projects, applications are generally accepted in January and June at any stage of pre-production, production and distribution. Grants can range up to $20,000 and may be partial funding for a larger effort.


Grants will prioritize efforts that inspire and encourage audiences and communities to move from passive to active participants. Campaigns or strategies may be extremely localized, targeted and focused, or may have several components comprising a larger overall strategy. Recent examples of funded audience engagement awards include:

Enter The Faun
Director:Directors: Tamar Rogoff and Daisy Wright (U.S.)
A young actor with cerebral palsy and a choreographer with a passion to understand him and his body embark on a 3-year quest. As art overturns science his life is forever changed, as is the prognosis that he would be in a wheelchair by age 40. The Audience Engagement grant will provide partial support for the work of the Cerebral Posse, The Incredible Body Work Book, and illustrative bodywork webmodules and workshops.

Girl Model (U.S.A.)
Directors: Ashley Sabin and David Redmon
Girl Model follows a 13-year-old Siberian girl and the American scout who discovers her through the complex, global human supply chain of the unregulated and often murky world of the international modeling industry. The Audience Engagement award supports a girl-fueled campaign to encourage the Department of Labor to extend child labor protections to under age models.

The Invisible War (U.S.A)
Director: Kirby Dick
The Invisible War documents the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military, the institutions that perpetuate and cover up its existence, and its profound personal and social consequences. The Audience Engagement grant will help support and evaluate a campaign to engage the U.S. Department of Defense, specifically encouraging measures to radically reduce sexual assault rates, prosecute perpetrators, and support survivors.



  • Type A: Audience Engagement Development
    This category is for strategic design and campaign planning. Eligible activities might include: Topic/Issue Advisor consultation; Partner or stakeholder convening; Audience identification and segmentation; Impact and evaluation planning (including determining base line data), other. Awards are not designed to exclusively off set campaign development consultant fees.

  • Type B: Audience Engagement Implementation and Evaluation
    This category is for campaign implementation. Eligible activities might include: Producing tools, technology or materials, Campaign execution, Screenings, Impact evaluation, other.


Audience Engagement grants are designed to allow filmmakers to go beyond distribution (which puts films on screens), and beyond marketing and outreach (alerting viewers to see films). However, we request background information on your distribution and marketing activities. For additional help distinguishing distribution or marketing activity from audience engagement, please consider the Fledgling Fund article and diagram, here.

Distribution Background Facts

Clearly and concisely characterize current distribution agreements for your film, if any. List only secured distribution agreements to date. If you are still in process on the film or have no distribution agreements you are still eligible to apply for funds.

  • Domestic or International broadcast agreements
  • Sales agents attached
  • Festival premieres (international and national)
  • National level awards
  • Theatrical distributors
  • Home video distributors
  • Educational video distributors
  • Direct/ Digital distribution agreements with online vendors
  • Self distribution on your own website URL
  • Short-form content based on the film
  • Other
  • Rights remaining?

Marketing/Outreach/Social Networking Background Facts (1 Paragraph)

Briefly describe which tools, techniques, platforms, and applications you will use to alert audiences to your film in distribution markets. This could include outreach consultants, promotional materials, press/blog strategy, publicists as well as your website and social network (Facebook, twitter, etc.)



What is your over arching purpose, vision, or goal? Describe the need your project will address and its relevance today. If the goal is not attainable within the context of your activity, delineate the attainable aspect, if any (ex: world peace vs. cross-cultural dialogue). What is your campaign activity or strategy for reaching the goal? If there is a specific aspect for which you seek support, please distinguish. Applicants for Audience Engagement Development grantsmust articulate a purpose, vision, or goal, understanding that this may change considerably through your work with partners and advisors.

PARTNERS (1 paragraph each)

Considering your strategic purpose or goals, which organizations are best positioned to help you achieve your goals and why? Describe your ideal organizational partner and what they would do to achieve strategic goals. What would your film or engagement activity do to strengthen the organization in turn? Please indicate whether partners are secured, approached, or intended.

AUDIENCES (1 paragraph each)

Considering your strategic plan, describe your primary (secondary and tertiary if applicable) audiences. What action or activity would you enjoy them taking? If there are unique “asks” for distinct audiences, please indicate. Is this engagement activity created with or supported by your partner organizations? Are any “audiences” or communities engaged prior to seeing your completed film?

TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES (1 paragraph each)

Concisely describe tools or techniques you will utilize to support your audience engagement activity, and indicate the audience for each. Why is the tool or technique you selected the most effective way to achieve your vision? The list below is merely descriptive, not exhaustive, and some projects may use none of these. Links or screen shots are very welcome. (No need to reinvent the wheel for this proposal. Feel free to offer an inspiring example or best practice, but indicate CLEARLY what is submitted for review. )

  • 2D Engagement Material (study guides, quizzes, maps)
  • Interactive Technology (apps, games, interactive maps, virtual reality)
  • Onsite activity (public or private screenings, specially edited modules, site specific installation)
  • Design (LED flashlights, merry-go-round well water, windmills, solar cook pots etc.) Other

EVALAUTION (1-2 paragraphs)

How will you define, and then measure, success for your audience engagement activity? Consider impact on partners, audiences, or the constituency represented by the film subjects. Do you have baseline data (or partners that can provide data) against which to measure impact? Tools or techniques for baseline determination might include analytic tools and data sets; publicly available references including press coverage and Google analytics. Consider measuring cultural change impact through language use or modification (Global Language Monitor, etc.), entertainment industry reflections (action heroes not smoking), viewer testimonies, anecdotal evidence, etc. This list is descriptive not directive.


TIMELINE (1 paragraph)

What is the intended time frame (pending funding) for your audience engagement work and why (three months? two years?) Is there a plan for ways the work might continue after your engagement activity is completed and funding has ceased? If your engagement project is not fully funded, is there a plan for a scaled down version of activity that would still reach some of your articulated goals? If significant opportunity to amplify impact were to arise, is there a scaled up version?

KEY PERSONNEL (1 paragraph each)

Provide BRIEF biographies (50-150 words) for key personnel or consultants who will plan, implement or evaluate audience engagement activity. Please indicate their role. DO NOT send resumes, CVs, brochures or extensive filmographies.


    • What is the total budget amount in $US for Audience Engagement activity?
    • What is the total funds secured (if any) in $US for this activity
    • What are the sources of those secured funds (list)?
    • Where will you seek additional funds? (list)?
    • What amount are you requesting from Sundance Documentary Fund?


Please give a line item breakdown of expenses for Audience Engagement activity in U.S. dollars. Two sample budgets created by Working Films are available for download here.

Still have questions? Read our FAQ


Documentary Fund FAQ

Q: Do you have deadlines?

A: Yes. We have two deadlines per year, generally the first week of February and July. Proposals must be submitted online by the end of business on the deadline. If you are submitting the prior directing sample on a DVD, all material must be received in our LA office by the end of business on the deadline. Do not send printed proposals. Sundance Institute reserves the right to solicit film projects at its sole discretion at any time related to Institute or Documentary Film Program priorities. Award decisions take approximately four to six months from the deadline.

Q: Who should apply?

A: The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund supports cinematic feature documentaries with contemporary relevance from filmmakers in the U.S. and internationally. Proposals are evaluated on artful and innovative storytelling, originality, contemporary relevance, and potential to reach its intended audience. First time directors are eligible and no prior work is required. Films may be in any language (with English subtitles or an English dialogue transcript).

Q: When should I apply?

A: You may submit your film at any production phase from development through post-production. Both Development and Production/Post-production proposals MUST convey some vision for a finished film. Production/Post-production proposals must include a rough cut of 10 minutes or longer. Development proposals are strongly encouraged to submit clips, trailers, or selects. Applications from production/post-production proposals that have not yet secured characters or subjects, or are unable to articulate a narrative framework or the story's central question are discouraged. We are unable to consider proposals for story research. You do not need any prior funding or a fiscal sponsor in order to apply.

Q: I am far into production but do not have a 10 minute sample, am I still eligible for funding?

A: Production/Post-Production proposals with very short reels (or with only trailers, teasers or brief selects) are simply not competitive against the longer rough cuts being submitted. You may apply for funding in the Development category or choose to wait to apply until you have the necessary material.

Q: What is meant by "Contemporary Relevance"?

A: Your subject or story may be a local one, but it reflects a challenge or opportunity facing a global community. Perhaps the stakes are high not only for your central character or subject and their family or community, but also for the future of life as lived by other residents of the world. Please articulate what is timely about your story.

Q: What is a Story Summary?

A: The Story Summary or narrative synopsis should convey the film's story. This should include a brief description of the primary characters or subjects and their potential journey, the mission, stakes, central question and possible outcomes. As well, include information about the directorial approach to the story.

Q: What is a Distribution/Marketing Strategy?

A:Outline the intended festival, theatrical, broadcast, home video or educational distribution. Include the names of any distribution company, channel, screening venue, film festival, etc., showing interest in the project, as well as those you plan to approach. This section of the proposal should be a concrete explanation of the best matches available for your particular film, and what you will do to have your film reach its intended audience.

Q: How long should the written materials be?

A: There are general guidelines on the application coversheet, and we appreciate clear and concise language that still richly explains the intended film. The guidelines provided are suggestive. There is no word count limit.

Q: Does my proposal have to be in English?

A: Yes. The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund can only consider proposals written in English, accompanied by a budget translated into USD, and visual material with English subtitles. You need not submit an English dialogue transcript if your film is spoken in English.

Q: May I ask you to review an element of my proposal before I apply? For example, my website, trailer, or synopsis?

A: No. We only review complete proposals submitted through our web upload.

Q: What are some specific examples of films you have funded?

A: Please read our most recent press release about our most recently funded projects. Please note: we do not fund strictly historical, biographical, and NGO or educational films.

Q: How long does my completed prior work have to be?

A: Completed prior work may be any length from short to feature and may be in any genre. You must submit it in its entirety. We will not consider segments of different projects on one reel as the Directing Sample. If you have multiple prior works or several co-directors, please select one previous work which best reflects the vision for your new documentary. If you are a co-directing team please submit one relevant prior work for consideration to represent the team.

Q: If I am a first time director, may I send in someone else’s work as my Completed Prior Work?

A: A visual work that conveys the director's storytelling ability is preferred. If this is a directorial debut, you may submit a work from a key member of the creative team.

Q: What formats are accepted?

A: All work must be submitted via a streaming platform such as Vimeo or Youtube. If the prior directing sample is unavailable through a link, you may send a DVD. Please label your DVD with:

  • Applicant Contact Information
  • Director’s Name
  • Submission Film Title DVD information ( Title and Run Time)

Q. Do you accept online links to video material?

A: Yes, you must provide an online streaming link to your directing sample and current rough cut. We recommend using Vimeo ( for this service. When you register and upload your files, make your film downloadable for atleast 6 months following the submission deadline. Please do not update or change your uploaded file once you submit your application. When you complete your online submission form, you can paste in your Vimeo link and password. Include these details in your written proposal, as well. Please note, we do not accept WeTransfer, Drop Box or other such file transfer services for the visual material delivery.

Q: I do not have any funds secured to date, am I still eligible for funding?

A: Yes. Prior funding commitments are not required. All proposals should include a Fundraising Strategy that details how you will go about raising the funds for your film, irrespective of a Sundance Institute Documentary Fund grant. In addition to foundations and broadcast license agreements you should include private donations, in-kind support, crowd sourcing, producer investment, and fundraisers.

Q: If I am applying for Development Funds, can my budget cover the Development portion of the project only?

A: No. For either funding category a budget covering the costs of the entire project from development through distribution is required. This is a 1-2 page comprehensive line item budget in US dollars. If you have never made a budget and need a sample you may access one here (PDF, excel).This is only a general sample, and should be tailored to your project. You may also use your own budget format, so long as it provides the costs of the entire project.

Q: What percentage of applications is actually funded?

A: The review process is highly competitive. We review up to 2000 proposals annually, but will generally fund no more than 60. We fund between 3-4% of submissions.

Q: How are decisions regarding funding made?

A: Proposals go through a multi-stage review, with selected submissions sent for Sundance Documentarty Fund Committee consideration. The Committee then meets to make recommendations regarding which projects are funded. Proposals to the Sundance Documentary Fund are evaluated on artful and innovative storytelling, originality, contemporary relevance and potential to reach its intended audience.

Q: Who makes up the Committee?

A: The Sundance Development Fund Committee is a combination of Human Rights experts and professional film artists. Past panelist have included Laura Silber (Open Society Foundation), Terry McGovern (Ford Foundation), Richard Pena (Film Society of Lincoln Center), Alan Jenkins (Opportunity Agenda), Cynthia Lopez (POV), and Academy Award nominees Arthur Dong, Kirby Dick, Jessica Yu, Rob Epstein, and Marshall Curry.

Q: How will I know if the Fund has received my proposal?

A: After you press submit on the online application, a confirmation page will appear. For further assurance, U.S. applicants may mail us a self-addressed, stamped postcard. You will not be contacted unless there are materials missing in your proposal.

Q: When will I find out if I have been awarded a grant?

A: Award decisions take four to six months from the application deadline.

Q: If my project is declined, will staff provide feedback?

A: No. Unfortunately, we have a very limited staff, and are unable to provide feedback.

Q: Does it hurt my chances if I re-apply for a grant after my proposal has been declined in the past?

A: You are eligible to re-apply for a grant on a given film, provided you have significantly developed the project since last applying. Filmmakers are strongly discouraged from applying too early, or from submitting nearly identical proposals twice. Given the number of submissions received too early or too often, the DFP restricts resubmission of unsuccessful applications to 3 attempts. Some exeptions may apply.

Q: If I choose to reapply, do I need to submit a complete proposal online?

A: Yes. Due to the volume of applications we are unable to maintain files in our offices after the given funding cycle is closed. Should you choose to reapply, please apply online through our open call. Your new submission should also reflect significant development of the project since last applying. Please articulate these developments in the Project Stage section of your submitted proposal.

Q: Will you return my written or media materials?

A: No. Due to the volume of requests, we are not able to return any materials.

Q: Can I submit more than one proposal per cycle?

A: Yes, you are allowed to submit more than one proposal in the same round as long as they are for separate projects.

Q. Can I provide project updates once my application is submitted?

A. No, unfortunately due to the volume of projects that we receive, we are unable to accept unsolicited updates to proposals or rough cuts. Please note, the Documentary Film Program reserves the right to request updates from projects at its sole discretion at any time during the round.

Q: My project is finished. Can I apply for funding to pay for film transfers or reimburse debt, etc.?

A: No. Tape to film transfers, film prints and debt reimbursement to complete work are NOT eligible for funding.

Q: Are short films eligible for funding?

A: No. As stated under the Eligibility Requirements, the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund can currently only consider projects that range in length from full broadcast hour to long format feature at this time. However, full length films that will conduct versioning for educational modules, multi-platform purposes, or community engagement films etc. are eligible overall.

Q: If I receive a grant from Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, will my film screen at the Sundance Film Festival or on the Sundance Channel?

A: No. Grantees are encouraged to submit their completed work for festival consideration directly to the Program staff of the Sundance Film Festival, which selects films independently. Universal eligibility requirements regarding length, premiere status, etc. apply. Similarly, projects not selected for funding by the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program remain eligible to apply for the Sundance Film Festival directly. The Sundance Channel is a separate entity and broadcast decisison are made independently of grants.

Q: Does receiving a grant from Sundance Institute Documentary Fund preclude me from working with another broadcaster or distributor?

A: No. Sundance Institute Documentary Fund awards are grants to the artist and do not encumber broadcast, theatrical, or DVD distribution rights in your project. Grants are generally considered partial support, and projects generally must seek other funding as well as license and distribution agreements in order to realize their budget. A grant award from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund has no relationship to the programming of the Sundance Channel, a separately run entity based in New York City.

Q: What subject category does my film fall into?

A:The subject of your film should convey the general issue area that your film addresses. Although your film may fit into a number of subjects, we ask that you choose one that best represents your film. Below are our six subject areas with a brief description:

  • Cultural activity and freedom of expression Films that highlight the existence of the arts and sport for community, access to knowledge and the pursuit of creative endeavors.

  • Democracy, Peace and Security, Human Rights Projects working to highlight and understand human dignity and the fundamental right to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being. Work that addresses peace and security and/or focuses on the right of people to assemble, advocate or participate in democratic practices, among others.

  • Economic Justice and Equity Subjects that encompass the moral principles that guide the design of our economic institutions and fairness through all segments of society.

  • Environmental Sustainability Films dealing with the environment, ecology, natural resource extraction. biodiversity, conservation, climate change, green jobs among others.

  • Institutional and Government Responsibility Projects seeking to highlight the institutional responsibility or promote greater transparency and accountability of corporations, governments, foundations, religious and educational institutions and other powerful interests.

  • Vulnerable Populations, Tolerance and Social Inclusion Projects that address discrimination, persecution and the lives of people from diverse communities and points of view. Projects highlighting the lives of groups that are not well integrated into society because of ethnic, cultural, economic, geographic or health characteristics.

Q: Where can I find additional answers to questions?

A: You may send an email query with specific questions to Please understand that we cannot provide status updates. If we need additional information we will contact you, and if you have significant updates to the nature of your project you may let us know by mail or email.

Labs & On-Going Support

Creative Labs bring together a community of world ­class documentary directors, editors and producers to support the development of Documentary Fund grantee projects from around the world. Labs are eight­ day intensive residential retreats where the art of nonfiction storytelling is engaged in with rigor and candor. All Documentary Labs are by invitation only.

Documentary Edit and Story Labs


Application By Invitation
Dates Late June & Early July
Size of Lab 4 Projects per lab (Director and Editor Teams)
Location Sundance Resort, Utah
Eligibility Open to Sundance Documentary Fund grant recipients
Description Projects in the later stages of post-production share their rough cuts in a collegial but rigorous environment. Teams work closely with creative advisors, emerging editors, and staff to address issues of story structure and character development.
Music and Sound Design Lab at Skywalker Sound: Documentary


Application By Invitation
Dates September 15-23, 2014
Size of Lab 4 Projects
Location Skywalker Sound, CA
Eligibility Open to Documentary Fund grant recipients
Description Documentary filmmakers, emerging film music composers, and Skywalker Sound affiliated sound designers are paired together in a spirit of experimentation to explore possibilities for music and sound design in documentary film. Teams select and create original cues for 1-2 scenes from their works-in-progress at Skywalker Sound’s world-class facilities.
Documentary Fellows Program at the Sundance Film Festival


Application By Invitation
Dates During Sundance Film Festival (January)
Size of Lab 10 Projects
Location Park City, Utah
Eligibility Open to Documentary Fund grant recipients
Description Invited projects participate in a curated six-day program of industry meetings, pitch training, case studies, screenings, and panels.
Creative Producing Lab


Application By Invitation
Dates July 27-31, 2015
Size of Lab 6 Projects
Location Sundance Resort, Utah
Eligibility Open to Documentary Fund grant recipients
Description Producers in the later stages of post-production work closely with Advisors to develop critical producing skills and strategize around the release of their film in a safe, nurturing environment. .
New Frontier Story Lab


The New Frontier Story Lab offers interdisciplinary support to artists at the convergence of film, art, media, live performance, music and technology. With the philosophy that story is at the heart of all narrative endeavors, this Lab supports artists who are developing interactive, immersive, or experimental projects that aim to create rich and resonant experiences for audiences. Projects supported by this Lab can take many forms, but the common goal is to innovate the art and form of story. Learn More

Artist Support via #ArtistServices


#ArtistServices helps alumni answer the question “what happens after I’ve made my movie?” Our programs empower independent filmmakers to maintain creative control of their distribution, amplifying their reach and revenue potential in the process. Through an unprecedented collection of deals, partnerships, strategy, and resources, ArtistServices gives every Institute-supported film robust access to best-in-class digital distribution deals, creative funding tactics, and marketing support/p>


Sundance Institute’s Catalyst Initiative connects forward-thinking investors with the world of independent film, with the intention of envisioning film finance in a new light. Learn More

Creative Partnerships

The Documentary Film Program has established a portfolio of innovative field-building creative partnerships and international collaborations that benefit the global documentary community. These strategic initiatives provide funding and networking opportunities for established filmmakers, and support and mentorship emerging international artists. Activities include, convenings, workshops, solicited requests for proposals and one-on-one meetings. Partnerships include:

Stories of Change | Skoll Foundation


Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation have partnered in an innovative multi-year partnership, Stories of Change: Social Entrepreneurship in Focus Through Documentary. This initiative brings filmmakers and social entrepreneurs together through invited gatherings at the Sundance Film Festival, the Skoll World Forum, and the Impact Lab, in addition to documentary film project funding for nine feature-length films and several short projects. Stories of Change believes that powerful storytellers and innovative change-makers can benefit from each other, and together can benefit society as a whole.

Sundance Short Film Challenge | Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation


As technology advances, our world grows smaller. Yet, while we are more connected than ever before, we remain separated by the lottery of where we are born. Around the world, people just like you – with the same beliefs, dreams, and aspirations – have drastically fewer opportunities due to extreme poverty and hunger. Through the universal power of storytelling, the Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge will put a spotlight on our similarities—showcasing stories that communicate how we can support one another to end poverty and hunger once and for all. There is a more hopeful future for millions of people around the world, it’s up to us to inspire a positive change together. Learn More

Workshop and Documentary Summit | CNEX


Partners since 2010, the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program | CNEX Workshop and Documentary Summit in Beijing has taken place in the spring in 2011 and 2012 and is projected for spring 2013. Each year, 10 invited Chinese documentary project teams from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan participate in the immersive multi-day workshop and summit. Designed by the DFP in collaboration with CNEX, the DFP invites international advisors offers workshops designed to nurture documentary storytelling and encourage the diverse exchange of ideas. Activities include one-on-one creative feedback meetings, pitch sessions, discussions with international advisors, presentations, panels, and productive discussions for larger audiences of artists, film professionals, broadcasters, educators, cultural leaders, and stakeholders. The subsequent Documentary Summit is a one-day, public schedule of panel discussions on topics of direct relevance to Chinese documentary filmmakers, such as crowd funding and international best practices. International advisors have included Robb Moss (Secrecy, Jean Tsien (Music from the HeartHollywood Chinese, Ruby Yang (The Blood of Yingzhou District), and Andrea Meditch (Buck). Each year, $25,000 in granting is available to participating projects. (

Good Pitch | BRITDOC


Launched at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival as a partnership between the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and the UK-based BritDoc Foundation, Good Pitch brings together filmmakers with NGOs, foundations, philanthropists, brands, and media around leading social issues to forge coalitions and campaigns that are good for all these partners, good for the films, and good for society. To date, more than 90 documentary projects have been presented at Good Pitch events in London, Oxford, New York, Washington D.C., Toronto, San Francisco, and Johannesburg. In that time, more than 1,500 organizations have attended and over $3 million dollars raised in additional funding and resources for participating films. For more information on BritDoc and GoodPitch visit their website

TED Prize Filmmaker Award


Sundance Institute and TED believe in the power of non-fiction storytelling, and are announcing an initiative to create a short film and multi-platform campaign around the annual TED Prize winner with the goal of raising awareness of the work of the TED Prize winner. Click for more information.


Advice for Filmmakers

The Sundance Documentary Film program believes that artful storytelling can transform conversations and cultures. Through our non-recoupable grants and artist support opportunities, we seek to engage with fresh voices and veterans in the field who are pursuing financially viable nonfiction projects with clear and forward going storytelling, strong artistic vision and the potential to reach an audience. Our staff can be found attending Forums and Festivals around the globe in the hopes of connecting with filmmakers and artists and we are always available via email at

Support for the Documentary Film Program

Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program is made possible by founding support from Open Society Foundations. Generous additional support is provided by Skoll Foundation; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Ford Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; The Charles Engelhard Foundation; Hilton Worldwide; The Rockefeller Foundation; Arcus Foundation; TED; Time Warner Foundation; CNN Films; the Joan and Lewis Platt Foundation; Compton Foundation; Threshold Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Candescent Films; Kenneth Cole Productions; the J.A. & H.G. Woodruff, Jr. Charitable Trust; Nancy Blachman and David desJardins; and the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation.

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