OVERVIEW: The Sundance Institute provides funding for journalism through its Documentary Film Program and Fund, which supports "independent documentary filmmakers worldwide working on cinematic documentaries focused on human rights and contemporary-issue themes."
IP TAKE: Many of Sundance’s fellowships and grants have vastly different criteria, so grant seekers should be sure to read through each specific set of guidelines thoroughly.
PROFILE: Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Sundance Institute is “dedicated to the discovery and development of independent artists and audiences.” It “seeks to discover, support, and inspire independent film and theatre artists from the United States and around the world, and to introduce audiences to their new work.” Sundance's grants aren't the largest, but they are among the most prestigious. The Sundance Institute prioritizes narrative features and documentaries and has fellowships and programs for short film, native film, film music and production.
Sundance's Documentary Film Program offers a number of different grant opportunities for documentary filmmakers:
Sundance Institute Documentary Fund - This is the core element of its documentary funding. It provides between $1 to $2 million a year in support of U.S. and international contemporary independent documentary films, given to between 40 to 60 projects annually. Sundance accepts submissions in the following categories:
- Development (up to $20,000): "There is no reel required with an application, but clips, teasers, trailers, or images are highly encouraged. A previous work sample is required."
- Production/Post-Production (up to $50,000): "Production/Post-production grants provide funds to projects offering approximately 20 to 75 minutes of edited material for the project being proposed. The reel should convey the narrative and aesthetic approach for the final film. A previous sample work must also be included with the application."
- Audience Engagement (up to $20,000): "Audience Engagement grants provide previously granted projects funding for strategic audience and community engagement campaigns."
Special Opportunity Funds - These include partnerships with Cinereach in support of a "global cultural exchange"; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in support of "diverse U.S-based documentarians"; and the Wallace Global Fund, for environmentally themed films.
Creative Documentary Labs - There are five labs hosted annually in the area of documentary film, including the Documentary Edit and Story Lab, Music and Sound Design Lab at Skywalker Sound, Documentary Creative Producing Lab, and the New Frontier Story Lab. These labs draw on the experience of various world-class directors, editors and producers to help educate grantees about the process of documentary filmmaking.
Sundance Institute Creative Producing Summit: Documentary - This is a multi-day event that provides a forum for top industry professionals, producers, and directors to "focus on three primary avenues of dialogue: narrative producing, documentary producing, and the state of the independent film industry."
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