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.
Labs & Fellowships
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Partnerships include:
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.
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 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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