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Audience Engagement Checklist


Sundance Documentary Fund (SDF) 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 on a rolling basis to current Sundance Documentary Film Program (DFP) grantees at any stage of pre-production, production and distribution, grants can range up to $20,000 and may be for partial funding of 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:

Crime After Crime
Director: Yoav Potash
Two attorneys fight for the freedom of Deborah Peagler, 20 years into her life sentence for the murder of the man who abused her. The audience engagement campaign will partner with policy makers, legislative organizations, and legal education groups to inform five other states about the successful California law that allows incarcerated survivors of domestic violence to petition for their freedom.

Our School
Director: Mona Nicoara
Shot over four years, Our School follows  three Roma children in a small Transylvanian town who are among the pioneer participants in an initiative to integrate the ethnically segregated Romanian schools. The audience engagement award will support cultural change through targeted screenings in the Human Rights community in Romania and internationally, intended to mobilize new energies at a moment that is ripe for change, when Europe has its own Brown vs. Board of Education moment.

Semper Fi: Always Faithful
Directors: Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon
When Master Sgt. Jerry Ensminger’s young daughter dies from a rare type of leukemia, his search for the cause leads him to the shocking discovery of one of the largest water contaminations in U.S. history. The audience engagement award will support the effort to help notify a million families who may be affected by contaminated water on military bases, and help support targeted screenings for legislators interested in health care for affected veterans.

We Still Live Here — Âs Nutayuneân
Director: Anne Makepeace
Spurred on by their indomitable linguist Jessie Little Doe Baird, the Wampanoag Indians of Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard are reviving their long-dead language, marking the first time a language has been revived in a Native American community that had no speakers for many generations. The We Still Live Here Engagement Campaign partners with Cultural Survival and Native American language programs working to create fluent speakers.



  • 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.  SDF 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 SDF 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.