Documentary Film Program


  • The Documentary Fund is accepting submissions until February 8, 2020, at 4:30 p.m. MST for the Summer 2021 grant cycle.Click here for the application.

    The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund has two grant cycles per year, with decisions being made in the summer and winter. The deadline for our Summer 2021 grant cycle is Monday, February 8 at 4:30 p.m. MST.

    Where to Apply Application currently here
    Schedule Grant-making decisions normally occur two times per year, in the summer and winter. Applications must be received approximately six months prior to a decision.
    Size of Grant Pool 40 to 50 projects per year
    Eligibility

    We accept feature-length (52 minutes or more) nonfiction projects. The fund is open to projects and film teams from around the world.

    The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program supports independent nonfiction films with budgets under $1,000,000 (one million) USD.

    Creative and editorial control must be held by members of the films’ key creative teams.

    For United States productions, we prioritize films led by artists from historically underrepresented communities. We define these as communities that have been historically marginalized by virtue of their ability, citizenship status, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Projects that focus on historically underrepresented communities must have a key creative from the community or with deep ties to the community in a power holding position represented on the team.

    For international productions, we prioritize films led by artists from Africa, China, India, Latin America, and the Middle East. Indigenous artists globally and artists from the above regions who are living in the diaspora are also prioritized.

    Applicants may submit at any production phase from development through post-production. All proposals must convey some vision for a finished film. Projects that have not yet secured characters or subjects, are unable to articulate a story or structure, or are unable to explain the project's driving 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.

    What we do not fund

    Fiction films, short films (please see our Documentary Short Film Fund call for information on grants for shorts), series, NGO films, advocacy films, educational films, or branded content.We also tend not to fund purely historical or biographical films unless they show clear contemporary relevance or innovation in form.

    Once your film premieres, we are unable to provide post-production funding support. We therefore encourage applicants to apply at least six months before an anticipated premiere. Picture-locked cuts are also ineligible for post-production funding.

    Entry Fee
  • There are no entry fees associated with applying to the fund.
  • Requirements
  • Applicants are required to fill out our online application.
    Please consult our proposal checklist for required questions.
    Applicants will also be required to upload a line-item budget that covers the entire project from development to finish.
    View a sample budget: PDF or Excel. (Source: Robert Bahar)
  • Evaluation criteria
  • Proposals to the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund are evaluated on several criteria, including artful film language, engaging storytelling, originality, feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, journalistic rigor (where applicable), and potential to reach and connect with its intended audience. The Documentary Fund prioritizes funding films from early career and emerging artists. To that end, film teams’ experience level and access to resources, both financial and creative, is taken into consideration.
  • Grant Categories

    Development (up to $15,000):
    There is no reel required with an application, but access to location and characters must be confirmed. The proposal should clearly articulate a potential direction for the project and ask questions that would indicate a layered and nuanced approach. Mood reels, stills, or some visual references for or depiction of the project in development are recommended. Prior work samples are strongly recommended for development applications.

    Production/Post-production (up to $40,000):

    Production grants provide funds to projects that are able to deliver to us at least 10 minutes of edited material. At least 20 minutes are required for post-production grants. The reel should convey the narrative and aesthetic approach for the final film.

    Apply Now

  • Who should apply?

    The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program supports independent nonfiction films with budgets under $1,000,000 (one million) USD from all over the world. Films may be in any language, but we ask that proposals are written in English and that visual materials be subtitled in English.

    Creative and editorial control must be held by members of the films’ key creative teams.

    For United States productions, we prioritize films led by artists from historically underrepresented communities. Projects that focus on historically underrepresented communities must have a key creative from the community or with deep ties to the community in a power holding position represented on the team.

    For international productions, we prioritize films led by artists from Africa, China, India, Latin America, and the Middle East. Indigenous artists globally and artists from the above regions living in the diaspora are also prioritized.

    Applicants may submit at any production phase from development through post-production. All proposals must convey some vision for a finished film. Projects that have not yet secured characters or subjects, are unable to articulate a story or structure, or are unable to explain the project's driving 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.

    Once your film premieres, we are unable to provide post-production funding support. We therefore encourage applicants to apply at least six months before an anticipated premiere. Picture-locked cuts are also ineligible for post-production funding.

    How does the Documentary Fund define historically underrepresented communities?

    We define these communities as communities that have been historically marginalized by virtue of their ability, citizenship status, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion, or sexual orientation.

    Is my project eligible for funding?

    The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund supports projects that are feature-length documentaries (52 minutes and longer). Hybrid/animated and experimental documentaries are also eligible to apply. We do not fund:

    • Fiction films
    • Short films (please see our Documentary Short Film Fund call for information on grants for shorts)
    • Series
    • NGO films
    • Advocacy films
    • Educational films
    • Branded content

    Are short films eligible for funding?

    We do not fund stand-alone short films through the Documentary Fund. However, we have an annual call for shorts through the Documentary Short Film Fund. This fund’s priorities and eligibility change annually, so please check our website for current information.

    I am making a movie based on true events. Is my project eligible for funding?

    Fiction films, even based on true events, are not eligible to apply. Please refer to the Sundance Institute Feature Film Program for opportunities.

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

    No. Tape-to-film transfers, film prints, and debt reimbursement to complete work are not eligible for funding. We generally do not provide solely completion funding.

    I do not have any funds secured to date. Am I still eligible for funding?

    Yes. Prior funding commitments are not required. Your written proposal should include a fundraising strategy for raising funds for your film, irrespective of a Sundance Institute Documentary Fund grant. In addition to foundations and broadcast license agreements, you might include private donations, in-kind support, crowdfunding, producer investment, and fundraisers. In your fundraising strategy, you should clearly distinguish between funds you have applied for and funds you have already secured.

    WRITTEN PROPOSAL

    What is meant by impact?

    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, which alerts viewers to see films. Rather, engagement is designed to activate audiences and stakeholders toward a specific goal. Not all films are necessarily suited for social engagement.

    What is a fundraising strategy?

    Your fundraising strategy is your plan for raising your film budget. In addition to grants and broadcast license agreements, you might include private donations, in-kind support, crowdsourcing, producer investments, and fundraisers. A fundraising strategy should clearly distinguish between funds you have applied for and funds you have already secured.

    Does my proposal have to be in English?

    Yes. We can only consider proposals written in English, accompanied by a budget translated into USD, and visual material in English or with English subtitles.

    If I am applying for development funds, can my submitted budget cover the development portion of the project only?

    No. A budget covering the costs of the entire project from development through distribution is required for every funding category. This is a one- to two-page comprehensive line-item budget in U.S. dollars. If you have never made a budget and need a sample, you may access an example here. This template is only a general sample and should be tailored to your project. You may also use your own budget format as long as it provides the costs of the entire project.

    VISUAL SAMPLES

    I am already in production but do not have a 10-minute sample. Am I still eligible for funding?

    You may apply for funding in the development category or choose to wait to apply until you have the necessary material. Production or 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 and will be bumped down to the development category.

    I am a first-time director. May I send in someone else’s work as my completed prior work?

    A visual sample that conveys the director’s storytelling ability is preferred. If this is a directorial debut, you may submit a film you have shot or edited instead, or you may choose not to submit a previous work. A previous work from a different member of the team (e.g., producer, editor, cinematographer) will not be accepted.

    How long does my current sample have to be?

    Development applicants are encouraged (but not required) to include a visual sample of up to 15 minutes in length. These visual materials can include scene selects, teasers, or other edited footage.

    Production and post-production applications require a sample that demonstrates characters, story arc or structure, and visual treatment. A minimum of 10 minutes of edited footage is required for production applications and 20 minutes of edited footage for post-production applications. Sundance Institute guarantees watching up to 30 minutes of visual material provided.

    How long does my completed previous work have to be?

    Completed previous work may be any length from short to feature. It may be in any genre. If you have multiple previous works or several co-directors, please select one previous work which best reflects the vision for your new documentary. Reviewers will not review more than one previous work sample.

    Other than the work-in-progress sample and the completed prior work sample, are there any other video clips or samples I need to provide?

    No.

    What format should I submit my visual material in?

    We only accept samples via online streaming links. You must provide an online streaming link and password, if applicable, to your current rough cut or sample and to your completed previous work. We recommend using Vimeo or YouTube for this service. Your film should be available for at least six months after you submit your application. Please do not update or change your uploaded file or its password once you submit your application. When you apply for a grant through our website, provide your link and password. Please double-check that you have entered the password correctly (remembering that passwords are case sensitive). If we do not have the correct password, we will not be able to evaluate your project. Include the link and password in your written proposal as well. We do not accept WeTransfer, Dropbox, Google Drive, or other such file transfer services for the visual material delivery.

    Can I submit my visual samples on DVD?

    No. All samples must be submitted as a link via a streaming platform such as Vimeo or Youtube. No DVDs will be accepted. If you live in a country with significant impediments to internet access, you may email dfp@sundance.org to request a DVD exemption.

    APPLICATION PROCESS

    How are decisions regarding funding made?

    Proposals go through a multistage review, with selected submissions sent for Sundance Institute Documentary Fund Committee consideration. The committee then meets to make recommendations regarding which projects are funded. Proposals to the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund are evaluated on several criteria, including artful film language, engaging storytelling, originality, feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, and potential to reach and connect with its intended audience. The Documentary Fund prioritizes funding films from early career and emerging artists. To that end, film teams’ experience level and access to resources, both financial and creative, is taken into consideration.

    Who makes up the committee?

    The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund Committee is a combination of issue-area experts and professional film artists and curators. Past panelists have included Laura Silber (Open Society Foundations) and Sapana Sakya (Center for Asian American Media); directors Juan Pablo González, Loira Limbal, and Kimberly Reed; editors Alex O’Flinn and Carla Gutierrez; curators and film critics Ela Bittencourt, Serra Ciliv, and Nico Marzano; and producers Joslyn Barnes, Su Kim, and Angela Tucker.

    What percentage of applications are actually funded?

    The review process is highly competitive. We review approximately 2,200 proposals each year and fund 40–60 films.

    How will I know if the fund has received my proposal?

    After you press submit on the online application, a confirmation page will appear. You should also receive a confirmation email once your application is submitted. If you have not received an email, please double-check your spam filter.

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

    Award decisions typically take three to five months, occasionally sooner. Please do not contact us to inquire about your status, as we cannot provide status updates. You will be notified directly by email once a decision has been made. We periodically announce new grantees throughout the year, and those press releases are not notifications.

    If my project is declined, will staff provide feedback?

    Unfortunately, we have a very limited staff and are unable to provide feedback to all applicants. However, projects that make it to our final stage of review are eligible to receive feedback.

    May I re-apply for a grant if my proposal is declined?

    Yes. However, you may only re-apply when your project has advanced in storytelling vision and intent. Filmmakers are strongly discouraged from submitting nearly identical proposals or visual samples twice.

    If my proposal is declined, what are the chances my project will be accepted if I reapply?

    We do not encourage the resubmission of projects that have previously been declined, as they are unlikely to be successful, unless they have significantly advanced the visual sample, story, and structure, as well as elevated and refined the artistry and thematic depth of the approach.

    If I choose to re-apply, do I need to submit a complete proposal online?

    Yes. Should you choose to re-apply, please apply online with a brand-new application. Your new submission should address significant development of the project since last applying, corresponding with a later stage of production. You must submit new video links accompanying your proposal.

    Can I submit more than one proposal?

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

    If I received development funding from Sundance Institute, can I apply for production or post-production funds?

    If you are awarded a grant for one stage of production, you are still eligible to apply in a different stage, but only after significant further production activity, usually in a subsequent year.

    Can I provide project updates once my application is submitted?

    You may send any significant updates to dfp@sundance.org. However, due to the volume of projects that we receive, the Documentary Film Program does not guarantee that updates will be incorporated into the project’s review.

    If I receive a grant or award from another source, am I still eligible to apply for Sundance Institute funding?

    Yes.

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

    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. Similarly, projects not selected for support by the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund remain eligible to apply for the Sundance Film Festival directly.

    Does receiving a grant from the Sundance Institute's Documentary Fund preclude me from working with any broadcaster or distributor?

    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 considered partial support, and projects generally must seek other funding as well as license and distribution agreements in order to realize their budget.

    If I receive a grant, what are the terms of the contract?

    Grants are not recoupable, and none of your exploitable rights are encumbered. To distribute funds, we require director and producer agreements as well as a clear chain of title to be in place. Our contract requests are verbal and logo acknowledgment in the end credits of the film and on your promotional materials, and four copies of the finished film on DVD. We also require narrative, financial, and distribution reports—and social impact reports, if applicable. We may request your active participation in the Sundance Institute creative community through invitation-only activities to support you and your film, as well as to support other filmmakers and the independent film field globally.

    May I ask you to review an element of my proposal before I apply (e.g., my website, trailer, or synopsis)?

    No. We only review complete proposals submitted through our online portal.

    I still have questions. Can I call or Skype with you to discuss my film?

    No. Unfortunately, we are unable to respond to inquiries about our application process via a call. If you have read the entire FAQ and you still have specific questions, please email dfp@sundance.org and we will be happy to try to answer them. Please understand that we cannot provide status updates. If we need additional information, we will contact you

    TECHNICAL SUPPORT

    How do I reduce the file size of my PDF?

    Check out this link.

    How do I convert my film from a DVD to a uploadable digital file?

    Download and Install HandBrake here, and learn how to use Handbrake here.

    I’m having trouble uploading my film to Vimeo. Can you help?

    Check out this link.

Special Opportunity Funds

The Documentary Fund offers additional support for projects that address specific pressing socio-cultural issues, through our partners. Projects selected for these opportunities will be fielded through our general Documentary Fund application. If interested in applying for a special opportunity fund, please submit an application through the Documentary Fund portal.

  • The Sundance Institute | Kendeda Fund partnership offers grants and impact convenings aimed to change the way independent artists, influencers, and the general public think about urgent contemporary issues. Grants aim to support new work on the subjects of gun violence prevention and the environment.

    Grant Opportunity:
    People, Place, and Planet
    Kendeda’s People, Place, and Planet program envisions well-being for all within the ecological means of the planet. True sustainability links social and ecological challenges. The program seeks a world that embeds an understanding of the earth’s planetary boundaries into solutions for more just and equitable societies. It also supports storytellers who are exploring new ways to understand our relationship with the environment, specifically how communities are shifting energy systems, economies, livelihoods, and lifestyles to survive and thrive in balance with nature.

    Gun Violence Prevention
    Kendeda’s Gun Violence Prevention program seeks to unite unexpected partners around replicable strategies for long-term change, building on creative community-led efforts to find new, productive pathways toward a less violent society. The program invests in storytelling that moves beyond tragedy reporting and other traditional frames to focus instead on points of agreement, creative solutions, and models of progress. It also supports emerging leaders and new voices working at the intersection of gun violence prevention, criminal justice reform, racial equity, and poverty.

    The Sundance Institute | Kendeda Fund partnership provides non-recoupable grants to documentary, narrative, or emerging media projects exploring gun violence prevention and the environment. The fund also supports thoughtful impact campaigns to shape the public discourse on these themes.

    Application Requirements:

    Where to Apply Application will reopen in Late Fall 2020.Please email dfp@sundance.org to notify us of your application and interest in the Kendeda Fund at Sundance Institute.
    Schedule Grant-making decisions happen twice per year (usually late spring and fall) in conversation with the Kendeda Fund staff.
    Grantee Pool Size Four to six projects per year
    Eligibility
  • Shorts, series, and feature-length nonfiction projects; immersive/ new media projects.
    Gun Violence Prevention—U.S. only
    People, Place, and Planet—U.S. and international applications are accepted.
  • Grant Categories
  • Development (up to $15,000)
    Production/Post-production (up to $40,000)
    Impact (up to $25,000)
  • To learn more about the Kendeda Fund, click here.

    Completed Projects:
    Akicita- The Battle For Standing Rock
    Director: Cody Lucich
    Producer: Gingger Shankar

    Always in Season
    Director: Jacqueline Olive
    Producers: Jessica Devaney, Jacqueline Olive

    Awavena
    Lead Artist: Lynette Wallworth
    Producer: Nicole Newnham

    Charm City
    Director: Marilyn Ness
    Producer: Danielle Varga

    Harvest Season
    Director: Bernardo Ruiz
    Producers: Lauren Rosenfeld, Bernardo Ruiz

    Inventing Tomorrow
    Director: Laura Nix
    Producers: Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Laura Nix

    Newtown
    Director: Kim A. Snyder
    Producers: Maria Cuomo Cole, Kim A. Snyder

    Silas
    Directors: Anjali Nayar, Hawa Essuman
    Producers: Steven Markovitz, Anjali Nayar

    When Claude Got Shot
    Director: Brad Lichtenstein
    Producer: Talleah Bridges

    Us Kids
    Director: Kim A. Snyder
    Producers: Maria Cuomo Cole, Lori Cheatle

    Projects in Production:
    A Journey Into the Storm
    Director: Sandra Salas
    Producer: Dwjuan F. Fox

    Hollow Tree
    Director: Kira Akerman
    Producers: Monique Walton, Jolene Pinder

    Newtok
    Director: Andrew Burton
    Producer: Michael Kirby Smith

    The Invasion of Rio Bonito
    Director: Alex Pritz
    Producer: Alex Pritz

    Madidi (working title)
    Director: Elizabeth Unger
    Producer: Elizabeth Unger

    Paradise
    Director: Karl Malakunas
    Producers: Marty Syjuco, Michael Collins

  • The Sundance Institute | Kendeda Fund partnership offers granting and impact convenings aimed to change the way independent artists, influencers and the general public think about urgent contemporary issues. Grants aim to support new work on the subjects of gun violence prevention and the environment.

    Grant Opportunity:
    People, Place, and Planet
    Kendeda’s People, Place, and Planet program envisions wellbeing for all within the ecological means of the planet. True sustainability links social and ecological challenges. The program seeks a world that embeds an understanding of the earth’s planetary boundaries into solutions for more just and equitable societies. It also supports storytelling and storytellers that are exploring new ways to understand human relationship with the environment, specifically how communities are shifting energy systems, economies, livelihoods, and lifestyles to survive and thrive in balance with nature.

    Gun Violence Prevention
    Kendeda’s Gun Violence Prevention program seeks to unite unexpected partners around replicable strategies for long-term change, building on creative community-led efforts to find new, productive pathways toward a less violent society. The program invests in storytelling that moves beyond tragedy reporting and other traditional frames to focus instead on points of agreement, creative solutions, and models of progress. It also supports emerging leaders and new voices working at the intersection of gun violence prevention, criminal justice reform, racial equity, and poverty.

    The Kendeda Fund | Sundance Institute fund provides non-recoupable grants to documentary, narrative, or emerging media projects exploring gun violence prevention and the environment. The fund also supports thoughtful impact campaigns to help these projects shape the public discourse on these themes.

    Application Requirements:

    Where to Apply Please submit an application through the Documentary Fund portal. Please email dfp@sundance.org to notify us of your application and interest in the Kendeda Fund at Sundance Institute.
    Schedule Grant-making decisions happen 2 times per year (usually late spring and fall) in conversation with The Kendeda Fund staff.
    Grantee Pool Size 4-6 projects per year
    Eligibility
  • Shorts, series and feature length fiction projects, Immersive/ New Media projects.
    Gun Violence prevention - US only
    People, Place and Planet - US & International applications are accepted.
  • Grant Categories
  • Development (up to $15,000)
    Production/Post-Production (up to $40,000)
    Impact (up to $25,000)
  • Creative Considerations

    These awards aim to provide seed funding for projects in early development. We are excited to support projects that have sparked the curiosity of the filmmaker because of the incredible potential the story holds for a powerful character driven documentary that takes us into a world we may not be familiar with.

    To learn more about The Kendeda Fund, click here.

    Completed Projects:
    Always in Season
    Director: Jacqueline Olive
    Producer: Jessica Devaney, Ann Bennett

    Awavena
    Director: Lynette Wallworth
    Producer: Nicole Newnham

    Charm City
    Director: Marilyn Ness
    Producer: Katy Chevigny

    Harvest Season
    Director: Bernardo Ruiz
    Producer: Lauren Capps Rosenfeld

    Inventing Tomorrow
    Director: Laura Nix
    Producers: Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Julie Goldman, Chris Clements

    Newtown
    Director: Kim A. Snyder
    Producer: Maria Cuomo Cole

    Silas
    Director: Anjali Nayar
    Producer: Steven Markovitz

    When Claude Got Shot
    Director: Brad Lichtenstein
    Producer: Talleah Bridges

    Projects in Production:
    A Journey Into The Storm
    Director: Sandra Salas
    Producer: Djuan Fox

    Akicita- The Battle For Standing Rock
    Director: Cody Lucich
    Producer: Gingger Shankar

    US Kids (formerly known as As Goes Parkland)
    Director: Kim A. Snyder
    Producer: Maria Cuomo Cole, Lori Cheatle

    Hollow Tree
    Director: Kira Akerman
    Producer: Monique Walton, Jolene Pinder

  • The Sundance Institute | Sandbox Fund was launched in 2017 as a creative partnership between the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Sandbox Films, a documentary studio that illuminates the art and beauty of scientific inquiry. This multiyear initiative harnesses the power of nonfiction storytelling as a vehicle for inspiring audiences to engage with science.

    The project offers grants, engagement events, and other opportunities for independent artists seeking to explore the intrinsic link between science and culture through innovative storytelling.

    Learn More About the Sundance Institute | Sandbox Fund

  • The Sundance Institute | Luminate Fund provides non-recoupable grants to stories addressing Luminate’s key impact areas: civic empowerment, data and digital rights, financial transparency, and independent media.

    Grant Opportunity:
    By investing in a range of high-quality documentary, narrative, episodic, and emerging media projects, the fund helps catalyze strategic storytelling across the four areas where Luminate strives to have impact: civic empowerment, data and digital rights, financial transparency, and independent media. Filmmakers will be eligible if they are working on relevant issues in any of our priority countries and regions—including Africa, Europe, and the U.S.—but the fund especially encourages applications from Latin America. The fund supports independent filmmakers both financially and with advisory and network services.

    Learn More About the Sundance Institute | Luminate Fund

Labs & Fellowships

Labs

DFP creative labs are unique residential workshops that bring together a community of directors, editors, and producers from around the world dedicated tothe spirit of collaboration in independent nonfiction storytelling. The DFP hosts labs annually in the summer at the Sundance Resort including theEdit and Story Lab and the Documentary Creative Producing Lab and Fellowship At each lab, filmmakers work intensively with advisors and staff in a spirit of experimentation to advance their projects and nurture their creative instincts in a rigorous and supportive environment. Following the lab, DFP staff provides ongoing customized creative and strategic support throughout the life of the project.

All labs are programmed through an open submission process. You do not have to have a grant from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund to be eligible for support. There is no fee to apply.

  • Application

    TBD

    Dates June 21–26, 2021
    Location TBD
    Size of Lab

    5 projects (director-and-editor teams)

    The Documentary Edit and Story Lab supports filmmakers with nonfiction feature films in post-production. Lab fellows advance their projects through rigorous creative exploration and discussion of story structure and character development with world-class advisors. Filmmaking teams work closely with director and editor advisors and staff in a dynamic and supportive environment, and after the lab they receive ongoing creative and strategic support. To take best advantage of the lab, teams should be at a place in their edit at which creative exploration with trusted advisors will advance their project and bring a greater clarity of vision. First-time feature directors as well as midcareer artists are encouraged to apply.

    Past fellows include Jennifer Brea (Unrest), Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis (Whose Streets?), Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra (The Infiltrators), Petra Costa (The Edge of Democracy), and Yance Ford (Strong Island).

    Eligibiliy

    The lab is open to feature nonfiction projects in mid- to late post-production (from assembly through rough cut). There is no restriction of genre or storytelling style; we are looking for projects with a bold, contemporary vision made by courageous storytellers. Ideal candidates are directors and editors who are eager to engage in a collaborative, exploratory environment and are receptive to feedback and experimentation. Projects too far along in the edit, for whom creative input and exploration would be detrimental to the creative process, are not ideal candidates. Ideally, projects should have an editor attached at the time of application and should attend the lab as a director-editor team. (Projects for which the director is also the editor will also be considered.)

    Description and Format
    The lab is a week long residential retreat. Directors and editor teams attend and have access to all of their media on-site at the lab. Over the course of the Lab fellows will screen their rough cut for the group and meet regularly with creative advisors and staff in small groups. Throughout the week, creative advisors also give presentations on the art and craft of editing and directing nonfiction features. Six creative advisors participate in the lab: four editors and two directors.

    The Documentary Edit and Story Lab is rooted in the belief that nonfiction editing is an art, not just a technical craft, and that the director-editor relationship is a core tenet of nonfiction storytelling. By inviting a team of experienced editors who articulate the nuances, challenges, and dynamic nature of this essential relationship in nonfiction storytelling, the lab fosters creative community and a unique focus on craft.

    Previous Documentary Edit and Story Lab advisors include editors Kate Amend (Into the Arms of Strangers, The Keepers), Andrea Chignoli (Cielo, No), and Jonathan Oppenheim (Paris Is Burning, The Oath), and directors Laura Poitras (Risk), Jeff Malmberg (Spettacolo), Nanfu Wang (One Child Nation), Robb Moss (The Same River Twice, Containment), and Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths, The Great Invisible).

    Contributing Editors
    Teams are paired with a contributing editor (CE). These are talented emerging editors invited to participate in the lab through a competitive application process (by invitation only). CEs are selected to provide technical and creative support on-site. Sundance Institute staff pair CEs with attending projects based on the projects’ creative and technical needs. This role is unique to the Edit and Story Lab and reflects the DFP’s commitment to nurturing the next generation of nonfiction editors.

    Cost
    There is no fee to apply.

  • Application

    The application for the 2021 Documentary Creative Producing Lab and Fellowship is currently open and accepting applications until February 18, 2020 at 3pm Pacific Time.

    Apply here

    Dates Lab : July 26–29, 2021
    Summit: July 30-August 1, 2021
    Number of Fellows: 5
    Location TBD
    Eligibility
    • Candidates are required to have produced or co-produced at least one documentary short (experience as an executive producer does not qualify). Candidates must be lead producer on the project they are applying with.
    • Candidates may not be the director of the submitted project.
    • Candidates must be in production or post-production on project.
    • Candidates must live in the United States, though the project may be filmed internationally.
    • Candidates must be available for the entirety of the Lab and Summit dates above.
    Costs There is no cost to participate in this Lab.
    Description and Format The Documentary Film Program’s Creative Producing Lab and Fellowship is a yearlong program designed to nurture emerging producers with project-specific support through the Creative Producing Lab and Creative Producing Summit, year-round mentorship from industry mentors, and ongoing support from Sundance Institute staff. A $10,000 grant is also provided for costs of living and unsupported costs of project development for the fellow. The program is designed to hone emerging producers’ creative instincts and evolve their communication and problem-solving skills at all stages of their next feature film project.
    Deliverables Fellows are required to acknowledge Sundance Institute and the Creative Producing Iniative support partners, to provide reporting at the close of the fellowship year, and to participate in possible blogs, interviews, and panels. Fellows should be willing to give back to the Sundance Institute creative community through willingness to coach, advise, or mentor future fellows from Sundance Institute. Accepted fellows also must provide a current producers’ agreement or memo of understanding for the project they have applied with.

    Note: Only one application should be submitted for each project. We will consider only the lead producer on the submitted project. If there are additional producers, they must also be disclosed on the application. Additional producers are welcome to selec events but do no receive the full benefits of Lab participation.

    To be eligible to apply, you may not have any role on the project other than producer or co-producer.

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Fellowships

In addition to creative labs, DFP has developed artist-centered fellowships, including the Art of Editing Fellowship as well as past Fellowships, the Art of Nonfiction Fellowship and Nonfiction Critics Fellowship. These fellowships have provided financial support as well as a curated year-long program of events and tailored support designed to refine and deepen fellows’ creative practice. Ideal candidates are inventive, creative, early- to mid-career nonfiction storytellers, editors, directors as well as writers.

  • The Art of Nonfiction Fellowship is designed to encourage and support the creative process of boundary-pushing nonfiction filmmakers. Artists with distinct voice and vision receive an unrestricted direct-to-artist grant and participate in a year-long fellowship track composed of group gatherings and individualized opportunities tailored to their creative aspirations and challenges. This Fellowship concluded in 2019.

Alumni Support

When a project receives a grant from the Sundance Documentary Film Program, the team is offered a host of informal and formal support opportunities to nurture the project’s development as well as the artist's career. They are also part of the growing, global Sundance Alumni community. Grantees are also eligible for Sundance Institute cross-programmatic initiatives such as the Women@Sundance and Catalyst Forum (both are by invitation only). Grantees can also access services provided by Sundance Institute Creative Partnerships and Alumni Programs.

Sundance Collective

With more than nine thousand playwrights, composers, digital media artists, and filmmakers served through Institute programs over the last 35 years, the Sundance community of independent creators is more far-reaching and vibrant than ever before.

If you have been selected for any Institute lab, program or festival, you are a member of this community. Sundance alumni receive support throughout their careers, including access to tools, resources and advice as well as artist gatherings and more. Alumni are also encouraged to actively contribute to the Institute’s creative community and to our mission to discover and develop work from new artists. Learn more

Catalyst

Sundance Institute’s Catalyst program builds a culture of partnership between independent investors and filmmakers. Each year, we endeavor to unlock funding for ambitious new independent film projects and to grow the community of indie-film supporters. Catalyst trains selected filmmakers to effectively present their films for independent financing, connects them to our network of potential funders, and provides them with continued support throughout the lives of their projects. We also offer Catalyst artists guidance in building successful investor relationships; access to mentorship; and critical project, pitch, and budgetary feedback. Sundance Institute and Sundance Film Festival alumni are uniquely eligible for this opportunity, and applications are solicited by invitation.

Learn more

Women at Sundance

Women at Sundance is a multifaceted initiative dedicated to creating gender equality in American media. We support women filmmakers to grow and sustain their careers through a yearlong fellowship program, through an annual Financing and Strategy Workshop, and through Catalyst Women, which provides direct access to prospective investors. We convene networks and communities of artists, industry, and supporters committed to advancing women behind the camera at our annual Sundance Film Festival Women’s Brunch and through special events throughout the year. 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 mentor emerging international artists. Activities include convenings, workshops, solicited requests for proposals, and one-on-one meetings.Current partnerships include:

  • The BBC World Service and Sundance Institute collaborate on a nonfiction audio series series that airs worldwide on the World Service and is made available in podcast and streaming audio formats. Projects are selected from a joint open call each year. Participants are trained in audio storytelling by the BBC and spend six months shaping an audio program around a specific theme as well as working on an accompanying short film.

    Listen to last year's collaboration here

  • Stories of Change is a multiyear initiative of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation designed to connect independent storytellers with renowned social entrepreneurs, to foster story skills and networking among these communities, and to support compelling films that inspire and enlighten audiences with solutions to urgent social issues.

    Over eleven years, the Stories of Change Fund has granted $2.6 million across 49 projects from 94 filmmakers, and connected 90 social entrepreneurs with that community.

    Learn more

  • The Art of Nonfiction Fellowship is designed to encourage and support the creative process of boundary-pushing nonfiction filmmakers. Artists with distinct voice and vision receive an unrestricted direct-to-artist grant and participate in a year-long fellowship track comprised of group gatherings and individualized opportunities tailored to their creative aspirations and challenges. Previous fellows include:

    2018
    Deborah Stratman
    Natalia Almada
    Sam Green
    Sky Hopinka

    2017
    Theo Anthony
    Garrett Bradley
    Sierra Pettengill
    Iva Radivojevic

    2016
    Khalik Allah
    Kitty Green
    Kirsten Johnson
    RaMell Ross
    Brett Story

    2015
    Margaret Brown
    Robert Greene
    Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq

    The Art of Nonfiction Fund is designed to support pioneering artists at the vanguard of creative nonfiction filmmaking, providing no-strings-attached grants to artists developing work that takes an inventive cinematic approach. Once granted, artists have access to a range of Sundance Institute programs and opportunities open only to alumni, as well as ongoing strategic and creative support from the Documentary Film Program. Previous grantees include:

    2018
    Jem Cohen
    Kevin Jerome Everson
    Kevin B. Lee & Chloé Galibert-Laîné
    LaToya Ruby Frazier Leilah Weinraub

    2017
    Ra’anan Alexandrowicz
    Yance Ford
    Betzabé Garcêía
    Adam and Zack Khalil
    Deborah Stratman

    2016
    Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel
    Scott Cummings
    Joshua Oppenheimer
    Bill and Turner Ross
    Amanda Rose Wilder

Resources

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 dfp@sundance.org.

Support for the Documentary Film Program

The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program is made possible by founding support from Open Society Foundations. Generous additional support is provided by Ford Foundation; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Skoll Foundation; Luminate; The Kendeda Fund; Science Sandbox/Simons Foundation; The Charles Engelhard Foundation; Genuine Article Pictures; CNN Films; Cinereach; National Endowment for the Arts; John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Bertha Foundation; Compton Foundation; Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman; Joan and Lewis Platt Foundation; Elkes Foundation; Code Blue Foundation; Vulcan Productions; WNET New York Public Media; Adobe; EarthSense Foundation; J.A. & H.G. Woodruff, Jr. Charitable Trust; and two anonymous donors.

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