The Sundance Documentary Film Program 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 non-fiction storytelling. Recent projects include Nicole Newnham, Jim LeBrecht’s Crip Camp; Maite Alberdi’s The Mole Agent; Jacqueline Olive’s Always in Season; Julia Reichert, 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 as an increasingly important global art form and a critical cultural practice in the 21st century.
Documentary Fund Proposal Checklist
The proposal checklist outlines the application requirements for the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund’s Winter 2021 grant cycle. The deadline was July 26th 2021.
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.
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.
The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund is not currently accepting applications. The next open call will take place during winter 2022-2023.
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.
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 Programs portal.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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 email@example.com.
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 Ford Foundation; John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Luminate; Sandbox Films; The Kendeda Fund; The Charles Engelhard Foundation; Gucci; CNN Films; Compton Foundation; Genuine Article Pictures; Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman; Violet Spitzer-Lucas and the Spitzer Family Foundation; Code Blue Foundation; EarthSense Foundation; Harbour; Adobe; WNET New York Public Media; and two anonymous donors.