Documentary Film Program


  • The Documentary Fund is currently open and accepting submissions. Click here for the application.

    Submissions to the Documentary Fund are accepted year-round, with granting decisions occurring three times per year. The next round of grant-making decisions is slated for March. To be considered for the March decision, applications must have been received by 11:59 p.m. PDT on October 20, 2019. The following round of grant-making decisions will take place in June. To be considered for the June decision, applications must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. PST on February 17. Submissions received after the deadline will be considered for the following round.

    Where to Apply Access application here
    Schedule We accept applications year-round; grant-making decisions normally occur three times per year. Applications must be received approximately four 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.
  • What we do not fund
  • Short, fictional, NGO, or educational films. Historical or biographical films must demonstrate their broader contemporary relevance and/or innovation in form. Films that are picture-locked or scheduled to premiere before our scheduled decision are not eligible for post-production funds
  • Entry Fee
  • There are no entry fees associated with applying to the fund.
  • Requirements
  • Applicants are required to fill out our online application, which uses the documentary core 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, Excel. (Source: Robert Bahar)
  • Creative Considerations
  • The Sundance Institute Documentary Fund provides grants to filmmakers worldwide for feature-length projects that display artful and innovative film language and techniques, rigorous research, originality, project feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, and the potential to reach and connect with its intended audience. When looking at multiple projects tackling the same subject, preference is given to projects that have a clearly defined structure or driving question; have notable access, angle, or directorial voice; position the issues with higher stakes; or tie to more contemporarily relevant themes. In our evaluations, we heavily weigh a filmmaker’s demonstrated access to subjects, command of the craft of filmmaking, their desire to push boundaries, and the potential for the granting amount to play a catalytic role for the film.
  • 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. Also, we invite applications for a specific need—i.e., to shoot a test re-enactment or sample animation. If a creative technique is integral, and needs funding in order to understand how the film will work, please indicate this. 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

  • The information below is also available here as a PDF.

    ABOUT

    Grants are available for strategic activities that use your film as a tool to create social or cultural impact. Competitive projects are those that activate audiences and stakeholders and invite action and change. Strategies may be extremely simple, targeted, and focused, or they may have several components of a broad and far-reaching campaign.

    Grants range up to $20,000 and may fund an entire, discrete activity or may be a small part of a larger effort. Available only to current Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program (DFP) grantees at any stage of pre-production, production, or distribution, grants can be applied for through our rolling open call. Grants are available either for planning or for implementation and evaluation.

    Audience engagement grants are only open to previously granted projects.

    APPLICATION CATEGORY (choose one)

    • Type A: Audience Engagement—Planning
    • Planning grants could help you consult with topic/issue advisors to determine goals and outcomes, devise strategy, convene or interview partners or stakeholders, identify and segment your audience and/or engage in impact and evaluation planning (including determining your baseline data).
    • Type B: Audience Engagement—Implementation and Evaluation
      Implementation and evaluation grants could help you produce tools, technology, or materials; travel to campaign-specific sites; conduct community screenings not covered by broadcasters, distributors, or speakers’ bureaus; and/or evaluate and measure impact.

    APPLICATION BACKGROUND

    For informational purposes only, we request background information on your distribution activities. For additional help distinguishing distribution or marketing activity from audience engagement, please consider this Fledgling Fund article

    DISTRIBUTION BACKGROUND FACTS
    Please list current distribution agreements for your film, if any. List only secured distribution agreements. If you are still in-process on the film or have no distribution agreements, you are still eligible to apply for funds.

    Information to include:

    • 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 or digital distribution with online vendors
    • Self-distribution on your own website (include the URL)
    • Short-form content based on the film
    • Rights remaining

    PROPOSAL CHECKLIST

    Lengths are suggested, not required. Please use your existing materials.

    1. Strategy (approximately two to four paragraphs)
    2. Partners (approximately one paragraph plus the list)
    3. Tools and Techniques (approximately one to two paragraphs)
    4. Timeline and Sustainability (approximately one to two paragraphs)
    5. Evaluation (approximately one paragraph)
    6. Personne
    7. Budget

    REFLECTION QUESTIONS

    You do not need to answer these reflection questions in your proposal, and you may have an entirely different strategy! The questions are designed to help you probe more deeply into your strategic design.

    • SOCIAL CHANGE GOAL AND STRATEGY
      • What are the primary problems illuminated by the film?
      • What is the source of the problems? (What is the source of the problems? (Greenhouse gases; campaign finance; health insurance industry; military industrial complex; gender, racial, or sexual disparities in health, wealth, education, or public accommodation law; etc.)
      • What accomplishable change might make things improved? (Unless you have a big team/budget/timeline, consider narrowing your focus to something impactful, but bite sized.)
      • Who has the capacity to make concrete changes? (Legislature, corporations, teachers, grocery stores, regulatory bodies, etc.)
      • Who can put pressure on this target? (Voters, shoppers, shareholders, professional associations or credentialing bodies, the affected community, a proxy community, etc.)
      • How might you inspire viewers to reach the target and their constituents? What might you ask viewers to do?
      • Would different audiences need distinct messages and suggested actions?
      • Is there a menu of actions for distinct audiences?
      • Is this engagement activity created with or supported by your partner organizations?
    • OR CULTURAL CHANGE GOAL AND STRATEGY
      • What are the primary problems illuminated by the film?
      • What is the source of the problems? (Greenhouse gases; campaign finance; health insurance industry; military industrial complex; gender, racial, or sexual disparities in health, wealth, education, or public accommodation law; etc.)
      • Is the problem understood by many or few?
      • What values underlie the problem? (Poverty is the fault of the poor, domestic violence is a private problem, etc.)
      • What target group (in addition to those afflicted by the problem) needs to feel invested in a cultural change?
      • What values matter to your new target group? (Fairness, independence, family values, religious sanctity, law and order, the American dream, resourcefulness, etc.)
      • Can you harness those values to move cultural understanding of the problem?
      • How can you increase a sense of shared responsibility for the problem, and shared benefit from its solution? (Black Lives Matter, Je Suis Charlie, NOH8, It Gets Better, Don’t be a Litterbug, etc.)
      • What other cultural interventions might be employed? (New superhero, celebrity affiliation, etc.)
      • Is this strategy created with or supported by your partner organizations?
    • PARTNERS
      • Considering your strategic purpose or goals, with which organizations working in this arena might you partner?
      • What type of organization are they? (Membership, advocacy, policy/research, media, entrepreneurial, technological, educational, legal, etc.)
      • How could your film and campaign align with or forward their work?
      • How could the organization advance your campaign?
      • Please indicate whether partners are secured, approached, or intended.
    • TOOLS AND TECHNIQUES Concisely describe tools or techniques you will utilize, if known. 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.
      • 2-D engagement material (study guides, quizzes, maps)
      • Interactive technology (apps, games, interactive maps, augmented reality, avatars)
      • Onsite activity (targeted screenings (legislators, doctors), specially edited modules, site specific installation)
      • Product or environmental design (LED flashlights, solar cook pots, improved mosquito nets, public spaces or urban gardens)
      • Social entrepreneurship (microloans, mobile phone banking, green burials, mobile produce vans)
      • Community philanthropy (donate socks to border-crossers, donate books or glasses to disadvantaged communities)
    • TIMELINE AND SUSTAINABILITY
      • What is the intended time frame and why? (Three months? Two years?)
      • Are any audiences or communities engaged prior to seeing your completed film?
      • How will you know when your campaign is complete?
      • If your engagement project is not fully funded, what is the scaled-down version of activity that would still reach a specific goal?
      • If significant opportunity to amplify impact were to arise, is there a scaled-up version?
      • How might the work continue after your engagement activity is completed and funding has ceased? Is there a partner who might take it over, if needed?
    • EVALUATION
      • How will you define, and then measure, success? Consider impact on partners, audiences, or the constituency represented by the film subjects. You may measure anything in any way that best demonstrates your goals and outcomes.
      • 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 or publicly available references including press coverage and Google analytics. Consider measuring cultural-change impact through language use or modification (e.g., Global Language Monitor), entertainment-industry reflections (action heroes not smoking), viewer testimonies, anecdotal evidence, etc. This list is descriptive not directive.
      • Do you intend to produce an evaluation dashboard?

    ADDITIONAL REQUIRED INFORMATION

    KEY PERSONNEL (one paragraph each)
    Provide brief biographies (approximately 50 to 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.

    BUDGET

    • What is the total budget amount in U.S. dollars for audience engagement activity?
    • What are the total funds secured (if any) in U.S. dollars for this activity?
    • What are the sources of those secured funds (list)?
    • Where will you seek additional funds? (This can be a list.)
    • What amount are you requesting from the Sundance Institute Documentary Fund?

    LINE-ITEM BUDGET (one to two pages)
    Please give a line-item breakdown of expenses for audience engagement activity in U.S. dollars. A sample audience engagement budget is available for download here: PDF or Excel.

    EXAMPLES
    Examples of successful Sundance Institute DFP audience engagement awards include:

    • Invisible War
      Director: Kirby Dick
      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 helped 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.
    • Girl Model
      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 supported a girl-fueled campaign to encourage the Department of Labor to extend child labor protections to underage models.
    • 25 To Life
      Director: Mike Brown
      William "Reds" Brawner kept his HIV status a secret for over twenty years. Now Will seeks redemption from his nebulous and promiscuous past as he builds his own family. Audience Engagement PLANNING GRANT will be used to convene stakeholder partners, assess and revise the impact strategy. The films' outreach goals: to help decrease unsafe practices among the target population, reveal complexity in adult relationships, and dispel fear and misunderstandings surrounding the epidemic.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • GENERAL

    Do you have deadlines?

    Submissions to the Documentary Fund are accepted year round, with decisions occurring three times per year. We publicly communicate submission dates for each round on our website and through our social media channels, but as our application never closes, we encourage filmmakers to submit applications only when they can best demonstrate their artistic intent.

    How long do your decisions take?

    Decisions typically take three to six months.

    At what point in my project should I apply?

    Submit your film only when you have written or visual material that demonstrates your creative and storytelling intent. You 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.

    What kinds of films do you support?

    We support independent nonfiction films that display artful film language, effective storytelling, originality and feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, and potential to reach and connect with its intended audience.

    What are some specific examples of films you have funded?

    Recently supported films include Always in Season; American Factory; The Edge of Democracy; Hale County This Morning, This Evening; Minding the Gap; Of Fathers and Sons; and One Child Nation. Please note: we do not fund NGO or educational films. We also tend not to fund purely historical or biographical films unless they show clear contemporary relevance or innovation in form.

    Is there an application fee to apply?

    No. It is free to apply.

    ELIGIBILITY

    Who should apply?

    Independent filmmakers making cinematic nonfiction films anywhere in the world are welcome to submit project proposals. Films may be in any language with English subtitles or transcript. First-time filmmakers are eligible. Prior funding, fiscal sponsorship, and American producers are not requirements.

    I am a filmmaker from a country outside of the U.S. Am I eligible to apply?

    Yes. We support filmmakers globally without restriction.

    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)
    • NGO or educational films. Historical or biographical films must demonstrate their broader contemporary relevance and/or innovation in form.

    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 call information.

    Are series eligible for funding?

    Yes. However, proposals for series should demonstrate especially concrete and specific plans for distribution.

    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.

    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.

    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. A previous work from a key creative member of the team (e.g., editor, cinematographer) will also be accepted.

    How long does my completed prior work have to be?

    Completed prior work may be any length from short to feature. It 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. Reviewers will only have time to review one 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 prior work . We recommend using Vimeo.com for this service. When you register and upload your files, make your film downloadable. 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 Vimeo 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 Vimeo link and password in your written proposal as well. We do not accept WeTransfer, Dropbox, 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.

    WRITTEN PROPOSAL

    What is meant by "contemporary cultural relevance"?

    Please articulate what is timely and significant about your project and how the stakes matter not only for your primary character but for broader audiences or contemporary cultures as well.

    What is a story summary?

    The story summary, or narrative synopsis, should convey the film’s story and story structure. Describe the primary characters or subjects and their potential journey, the mission, stakes, central question, and possible outcomes. You may describe any important artistic elements or creative approaches.

    What is a distribution/marketing strategy?

    Outline the intended festival, theatrical, broadcast, home video, or educational distribution for your project. Your distribution/marketing strategy should be a concrete explanation of the best outlets for your particular film and what you will do to have your film reach its intended audience. You do not need secured agreements in order to include them in your proposed strategy.

    What is meant by audience engagement or 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.

    How long should the written materials be?

    We appreciate clear and concise language that richly explains the intended film. The guidelines in the proposal checklist are suggestions.

    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 or transcript.

    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.

    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 artful or innovative film language, clear storytelling, originality and feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, and potential to reach and connect with its intended audience.

    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), Richard Peña (Film Society of Lincoln Center), and Loira Limbal (Firelight Media); filmmakers Arthur Dong, Kirby Dick, Jessica Yu, Sam Green, and Kimberly Reed; editors Alex O’Flinn and Carla Gutierrez; curators and film critics Ela Bittencourt and Nico Marzano; and producers Joslyn Barnes and Angela Tucker.

    What percentage of applications are actually funded?

    The review process is highly competitive. We review approximately 1,300 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. Given the number of submissions received too early and resubmitted too quickly, 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 of the approach in order to demonstrate the merits of the film and the director’s aesthetic intent.

    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. 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.

    What subject category does my film fall into?

    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 sports for community, access to knowledge, and the pursuit of creative endeavors.
    • Democracy, Peace and Security, and 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, etc.
    • 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.

    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 telephone or Skype. 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 A&E Brave Storytellers Award is offered by A&E Indie Films, the award-winning feature documentary production arm of A+E Networks—a beacon for world-class documentary filmmakers and a trusted collaborator in creating critically acclaimed content with unprecedented access to remarkable stories.

    Grant Opportunity:
    The A&E Brave Storytellers Award is a $25,000 development grant given to four documentary artists with projects that seek to break new ground in nonfiction storytelling. In particular, Brave Storytellers Awards go to artists who seek to pull audiences into never-before-seen cultures and communities and can deliver heartfelt stories of character, grit, and humanity. These are non-recoupable grants, with the filmmaker retaining all rights to the project.

    Requirements for A&E Brave Storytellers Awards are as follows:

    Where to Apply Please submit an application through the Documentary Fund portal. Please email dfp@sundance.org directly if interested in this opportunity.
    Schedule We are no longer accepting applications for this award
    Grantee Pool Size Four projects per year
    Eligibility
  • Series and feature-length nonfiction projects in early development.
  • Grant Categories
  • Development ($25,000):
    Filmmakers eager to develop an idea into a feature-length nonfiction project are eligible for consideration. There is no reel required with an application, but potential characters and locations should be identified. Proposal should clearly articulate a potential direction for the project and ask questions that would indicate a layered and nuanced story. Mood reels, stills, or some visual depiction for the project in development are accepted.
  • 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.

    Previously Supported Projects:
    American Reckoning
    Director: Yoruba Richen

    The United States vs. Billie Holiday
    Director: Jameka Autry

    Untitled Margaret Brown Documentary
    Director: Margaret Brown

    You Were My First Boyfriend
    Director: Cecilia Aldarondo


  • 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 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 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:
    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

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

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

    As Goes Parkland
    Director: Kim A. Snyder
    Producers: Maria Cuomo Cole, Lori Cheatle

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

  • 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

    As Goes Parkland
    Director: Kim A. Snyder
    Producer: Maria Cuomo Cole, Lori Cheatle

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

  • The Science Sandbox Nonfiction Project was launched in 2017 as a creative partnership between the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and Science Sandbox, an initiative of the Simons Foundation, with the intent of fostering innovative nonfiction science storytelling. 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 Science Sandbox Nonfiction Project

  • 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 world-class community of directors, editors, and producers dedicated to bold, courageous nonfiction storytelling. The DFP hosts three labs annually including two Edit and Story Labs and the Documentary Creative Producing Lab. In addition we collaborate with the Sundance Institute Film Music Program to welcome four nonfiction projects to the Music and Sound Design Lab at Skywalker Sound. 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

    APPLY NOW

    Dates June 19–29, 2020
    Location Sundance Mountain Resort, UT
    Size of Lab

    5 projects (director-and-editor teams)

    This application is open to filmmaking teams based in the U.S.

    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.)

    Ideally, projects will attend the lab at a late-assembly/rough-cut stage. At the time of application, you may submit edited sequences, specific scenes, or character assemblies. The material submitted in combination with the written application should reflect your current creative vision and challenges and explain the edit process as you work towards an assembly/cut.

    Description and Format
    The lab is an eight-day residential retreat held in July at the Sundance Mountain Resort in Provo, Utah. Directors and editor teams attend and have access to all of their media on-site at the lab. Over the course of eight days 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. Sundance Institute will also provide round-trip economy travel, ground transportation to/from the airport in Salt Lake City, onsite lodging, and meals for the selected fellows (directors and editors) for the specific dates of attendance.

    APPLY NOW

  • Application Tuesday, February 11, 2020, 5:00 p.m. PST
    Lab Dates July 27–30, 2020
    Festival: January 21–31, 2021
    Number of Fellows: 5
    Location Sundance Mountain Resort and Park City, Utah
    Eligibility
    • Candidates are required to have produced at least one short or feature documentary film as lead creative producer or co-producer (executive producer, associate producer, or line producer does not qualify).
    • Candidates may not be the director of submitted project.
    • Candidates must be in active 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 all CPI dates, above.
    Costs Sundance Institute will provide round-trip economy travel, ground transfer, and on-site lodging for the selected fellow for the specific dates of attendance.
    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, Sundance Film Festival attendance, year-round mentorship from industry mentors, and ongoing support from Sundance Institute staff. Also provided is $10,000 in grant support 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 CPI 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. If you are applying with a producing partner, please include both of your individual responses in the space provided, clearly labeled with each of your names.

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

    APPLY NOW

  • Application By invitation only (by applying to the Documentary Edit and Story Lab you are automatically considered for the Music and Sound Design Lab)
    Lab Dates July 7–20, 2020
    Location Skywalker Ranch, CA
    Size of Lab 8 projects (director-editor teams): 4 nonfiction, 4 fiction

    The Sundance Music and Sound Design Lab brings together eight emerging film music composers with eight filmmaking teams, and Skywalker sound designers in the spirit of experimentation. As the line between fiction and nonfiction storytelling has blurred in recent years, we feel that the community of artists will benefit from cross-pollination.

    The Feature Film and Documentary Film Programs separately select eight supported projects in post-production to participate at the lab. Invited projects do not attend with their composer or sound designer. Once accepted, composers are assigned independently to work with either a fiction or a nonfiction project during the lab. Teams select a scene to work on together during the lab.

    Eligibility
    The lab is open to feature nonfiction projects in mid- to late post-production (from assembly through rough cut). Ideal candidates are directors who are eager to engage in a collaborative, exploratory environment and are receptive to feedback and experimentation. Directors who are already working with a composer are not best suited for the lab, as each director will be paired with a composer who is selected as part of the Film Music Program.

    Description and Format
    The Sundance Institute Film Music and Sound Design Lab brings together eight filmmaking teams in post-production (four fiction projects and four nonfiction projects) with eight emerging film composers, along with Skywalker sound designers, in the spirit of experimentation. Invited film teams select one to two scenes to create original cues for and, rather than attending with their composer or sound designer, are assigned an independent composer and sound designer to work with during the lab. (Composers interested in applying must do so through the Film Music Program.)

    The goal of the lab is experimentation; participants are not expected to continue working with their assigned composers or sound designers after the lab.

    Cost
    Sundance Institute will provide round-trip economy travel, ground transportation, and onsite lodging for the selected fellows for the specific dates of attendance.

Fellowships

In addition to creative labs, DFP has developed artist-centered fellowships, including the Art of Nonfiction Fellowship and Nonfiction Critics Fellowship. These fellowships provide 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, as well as critics and writers interested in nonfiction. U.S.-based candidates only.

  • 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:

    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

  • Application Applications are accepted by invitation only. Please contact dfpfellowships@sundance.org.
    Nomination Deadline Tuesday, April 10, 6:00 p.m. PST
    Dates

    Documentary Edit and Story Lab: July 6–14, 2018
    Sundance Film Festival: January 23–February 2, 2020
    True/False Film Fest (March 2020, exact dates TBC)

    Size of Fellowship 1–2 Fellows
    Location Sundance Mountain Resort, Utah
    Park City, Utah
    Columbia, Missouri

    Description
    Fellowship encourages nuanced, thoughtful writing about nonfiction through opportunities that increase writers’ understanding of and proximity to the creative process. In addition, fellows receive financial and editorial support. Fellow will pursue and deliver a story in the 2019–2020 fellowship year.

    Eligibility

    • Candidates must have published film reviews as well as at least one piece of long-form criticism in print publications and online journals.
    • Candidates may be freelance writers or staff writers.
    • Candidates must live in the United States.
    • Candidates must be available for events listed above.

    Costs
    Sundance Institute and the Murray Center will provide round-trip economy travel, ground transfer, and on-site lodging for the selected fellow for the specific dates of attendance. There is no fee to apply.

    Stipulations
    Fellow retains full editorial control over the piece produced as a result of fellowship support. Neither Sundance Institute nor the Murray Center will have input on the published piece.

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’s Initiative and Catalyst Weekend (both are by invitation only). Grantees can also access services provided by Sundance Institute Creative Partnerships and Alumni Programs.

Alumni Program

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 Catalyst connects culturally engaged film investors and funders with highly anticipated film projects and with the Sundance Institute community. The goal is to foster a meaningful dialogue that opens new paths to production for the most promising new independent films and to create a culture where investors and filmmakers can build fertile partnerships for the long-term.

Over three days at the Sundance Mountain Resort each September, the invitation-only Catalyst Forum introduces prospective financiers to a slate of 10–12 top-notch, Sundance Institute–supported documentary and fiction projects seeking financing. Through project presentations, individually scheduled meetings, and informal social gatherings, investors interface directly with filmmakers, top advisors, and Sundance Institute program leadership. Additionally, the in-depth program delves into the risks and rewards of film investing through case studies, round table discussions, special screenings, and artist conversations. Learn more

Creative Distribution Initiative

Sundance Institute’s Creative Distribution Initiative—formerly Artist Services—helps independent storytellers build audiences and sustain careers through innovations in marketing, distribution, and data transparency.

Since launching in 2011, the initiative has helped over two hundred films achieve access to groundbreaking creative distribution deals, including Columbus, Unrest, First Girl I Loved, Upstream Color, and Detropia. In 2017, the initiative launched the Creative Distribution Fellowship, which supported Columbus and Unrest in their pioneering efforts to reach audiences in lieu of an all-rights distributor. Learn more

Women's Initiative

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. Partnerships include:

  • Stories of Change is a multiyear initiative of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program and the Skoll Foundation that brings together the power of independent storytelling with the impact of social entrepreneurship. Launched in 2007 this year, the initiative is expanding with an additional $2.5 million grant from the Skoll Foundation to include support for narrative filmmakers, new media artists, and continued support for documentary storytelling. In addition to funding the creation of new projects highlighting the work of global change-makers addressing the world's most pressing problems, the initiative brings together leaders in both independent filmmaking and social entrepreneurship at key gatherings globally, including the Skoll World Forum (SWF), the Sundance Film Festival, and intensive workshops at the Sundance Mountain Resort.

    Learn more about Stories of Change...

  • 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

  • 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 multiday workshop and summit. Designed by the DFP in collaboration with CNEX, the DFP invites international advisors, offering workshops designed to nurture documentary storytelling and to 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 crowdfunding 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. (cnex.org.tw)

  • 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, DC, Toronto, San Francisco, and Johannesburg. In that time, more than 1,500 organizations have attended, and over $3 million dollars have been raised in additional funding and resources for participating films. For more information on BritDoc and Good Pitch visit their website.

  • Sundance Institute and TED believe in the power of nonfiction storytelling, and they are announcing an initiative to create a short film and multiplatform campaign around the annual TED Prize winner with the goal of raising awareness of that winner’s work Click for more information.

  • Sundance Institute and BBC World Service are collaborating on Rulebreakers, a series of audio documentaries with accompanying short films. We are seeking creative and ambitious pitches from filmmakers, journalists, audio producers, and podcasters on the theme of broken rules. We invite you to submit treatments about people who are breaking the rules, the consequences for them, and the consequences for the people and systems around them. Pitches for Rulebreakers should address the theme in the most lateral and creative ways and be original, intimate, essential, and thought-provoking. Deadline: Closed on Nov. 13, 2019

    Learn More

Art of Nonfiction Initiative

Sundance Institute’s Art of Nonfiction Initiative provides creative and financial support for nonfiction filmmakers employing inventive artistic practice in story, craft, and form.

With a focus on recognizing nonfiction filmmakers as creative artists, Sundance Institute has developed two unique support opportunities for filmmakers: the Art of Nonfiction Fellowship and Fund.

Recipients of the Art of Nonfiction Fellowship and Fund are selected on a yearly basis through a curated invitation-only application process. Considered artists must be living or working in the United States. Unsolicited applications are not currently being accepted.

Sundance Institute’s Art of Nonfiction Initiative is made possible by founding support from Cinereach. Generous additional support is provided by Genuine Article Pictures and Nion McEvoy & Leslie Berriman.

  • 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:

    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:

    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 Skoll Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Ford Foundation; The Charles Engelhard Foundation; Robert Rauschenberg Foundation; Arcus Foundation; The Rockefeller Foundation; The Kendeda Fund; Bertha Foundation; CNN Films; Discovery Channel; National Geographic; Genuine Article Pictures; Time Warner Foundation; Cinereach; Anonymous; Compton Foundation; Sundance Now; Joan and Lewis Platt Foundation; the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Code Blue Foundation; Joy Family Foundation; PBS; WNET New York Public Media; the J.A. & H.G. Woodruff, Jr. Charitable Trust; Nommontu Foundation; and the S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney Foundation.

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