The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program (DFP) supports nonfiction filmmakers worldwide in the production of cinematic documentaries on contemporary themes. Established in 2002 with founding support from Open Society Foundations, the program is a vibrant global resource for independent nonfiction storytelling. Recent projects include Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s Crip Camp; Maite Alberdi’s The Mole Agent; Jacqueline Olive’s Always in Season; Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar’s American Factory; Petra Costa’s The Edge of Democracy; Talal Derki’s Of Fathers and Sons; RaMell Ross’s Hale County This Morning, This Evening; and Bing Lui’s Minding the Gap.
Year-round support of filmmakers — including granting, creative labs, and strategic advice from development to distribution — amounts to a commitment to documentary filmmaking as an increasingly important global art form and a critical cultural practice in the 21st century.
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Documentary Film Program Calendar
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.
Labs: DFP creative labs are unique residential workshops that bring together a community of directors, editors, and producers from around the world dedicated to the spirit of collaboration in independent nonfiction storytelling. The DFP hosts labs annually in the summer at the Sundance Resort including the Edit and Story Lab and the Documentary Film Producers 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.
Documentary Fund: The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund supports the work of nonfiction filmmakers from around the globe. In a changing media landscape, the fund has been a stable, progressive force in supporting work that has expressed the world in creative, complex, beautiful, and provocative ways, and has created real cultural and social impact around some of the most pressing issues of our time.
We are proud to sit at the center of this burgeoning creative field with the Documentary Fund, which offers (non-recoupable) support for nonfiction projects that continue to elevate and advance cultural dialogue and break new ground in creativity and innovation.
In its ongoing search for artists and projects to support, the Documentary Fund is seeking filmmakers with a distinct voice and vision, and a meaningful connection to the work they create. We are especially keen to raise the voices of underserved or underrepresented communities from around the world in the service of building a more fair, free, and open society.
September 2022–June 2023
Special Opportunity Funds
In collaboration with our partners, the Documentary Fund offers additional support for projects that address pressing socio-cultural issues. Projects selected for these opportunities will be fielded through our general Documentary Fund application. Those interested in applying for a special opportunity fund should submit an application through the Programs portal.
When a project receives a grant from the DFP, the team is offered a host of 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 eligible for Sundance Institute cross-programmatic initiatives such as the Women@Sundance and Catalyst Forum (both are invitation only). Grantees can also access services provided by Sundance Institute Creative Partnerships and Alumni Programs.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Costa Brava, Lebanon
2019 June Directors and Screenwriters Lab, 2019 January Screenwriting Lab
2021 Sundance Film Festival – U.S. Dramatic Competition, 2018 June Screenwriters and Directors Lab, 2017 June Screenwriters Lab
2022 Sundance Film Festival – Grand Jury Prize, 2020 June Directors and Screenwriters Lab, 2020 January Screenwriters Lab, 2019 Creative Producing Lab
I Was a Simple Man
2021 Sundance Film Festival – U.S. Dramatic Competition, 2015 June Directors and Screenwriters Lab, 2015 January Screenwriters Lab
Support for the Documentary Film Program
The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program is made possible by founding support from The Open Society Foundations. Generous additional support is provided by:
John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
The Kendeda Fund
The Charles Engelhard Foundation
Genuine Article Pictures
Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman
Violet Spitzer-Lucas and the Spitzer Family Foundation
Code Blue Foundation
WNET New York Public Media
A look inside our Documentary Film Program Labs and Intensives