Sundance Institute: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: In the area of journalism, the Sundance Institute provides assistance in the form of their Documentary Film Program and Fund, which offers support to "independent documentary filmmakers worldwide working on cinematic documentaries focused on human rights and contemporary-issue themes."

IP TAKE: Many of the fellowships and grants listed below have vastly different criteria, so be sure to read through each specific set of guidelines thoroughly.

PROFILE: Among foundations that give the most to film and documentaries, Sundance's grants aren't the largest, but they are among the most prestigious. The Sundance Institute's major grant making focus in film is for narrative features and documentaries. The Institute also 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. Here's the breakdown:

Sundance Institute Documentary Fund - This is the core element of their 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. They accept 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."

More information on all of Sundance's programs can be found in our Fundraising for Film Guide.

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