Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

Documentary Film Funds: Their Missions. The Filters. How to Find Them! (Part 1 of 2) North America

The Sundance Institute‘s Senior Consultant for its Documentary Program, Bruni Burres, analyzed the opportunities to secure funding from a number of foundations and film initiatives on a panel that we shared at the 2012 Asia Side of the Doc in Tokyo.

This week: North America.

By Bruni Burres

North American Documentary Film Funds


  • Cinereach supports feature-length nonfiction and fiction films that are at the intersection of engaging storytelling, visual artistry, and vital subject matter.
  • Grant amounts can range from $5,000 – $50,000 per project.
  • They can be awarded to support any stage of production, including research and development, production and post-production.
  • There are two grant cycles per year: Summer and Winter.
    • Within each cycle, 5-15 projects are selected to receive support.
  • Cinereach requests a Letter of Inquiry before you submit your proposal and official application.
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Chicken and Egg

  • Chicken & Egg Pictures is a hybrid film fund and non-profit production company.
  • It is dedicated to supporting women filmmakers who are as passionate about the craft of storytelling as they are about the social justice, environmental and human rights issues they’re embracing, translating and exploring on film.
  • Chicken & Egg Pictures match strategically timed financial support with rigorous, respectful and dynamic mentorship, creative collaboration and community-building to nurture women film makers whose diverse voices represent a range of lived experience and realities that that have the power to change the world as we know it.
  • For next application deadline, check their website (April, 2012).

Ford Foundation Just Films Initiative

Impact Partners
Not a Documentary Fund, Equity Investors

  • The goal of Impact Partners is to bring together the two groups that make these films possible: filmmakers and film investors/philanthropists.
  • For investors, our goal is to provide the opportunity to participate in financing great documentaries and independent films, and the structure to do so in a fiscally responsible and profitable way.
  • For filmmakers, our goal is to provide both financing and guidance.
  • We provide the resources to get films made, the mentorship to make films the best they can be, and the strategic support to achieve the widest possible audience for each film.
  • However, Impact Partners is an equity investment, not a grant.
  • The filmmakers must re-pay all Impact Partners investment eventually.(

ITVS International Call

  • There is one International Call funding round per year.
  • Applicants may apply for only one project per call.
  • The entire proposal review process can take up to five months.
  • Only one to two percent of International Call applicants will receive funding.
  • International Call is not a grant; ITVS International provides a co-production investment in the program.
  • Single programs of standard broadcast length (one-hour).
  • In rare cases, when a filmmaker’s skills, subject, and story structure warrant it, ITVS will consider programs at feature lengths.
  • Works-in-progress, i.e. projects that have already begun production Programs that can be completed within one year of contract.
  • Co-production projects with either international broadcast partner(s) or co-productions with producers from different countries.
  • See’s coverage of the ITVS strand Independent Lens
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The Nathan Cummings Foundations Arts and Culture Program

  • Supports artistic practices, programs and policies that encourage cross-cultural and multidisciplinary collaborations inside the US.
  • Gives voice to the issues and experiences of underrepresented communities, in order to build a stronger society.
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Sundance Documentary Program and Fund

  • The Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program (DFP) is dedicated to supporting contemporary-issue nonfiction filmmakers worldwide in the production of cinematic documentaries with human rights themes.
  • Sundance Institute Documentary Fund, which grants $1-2 million per year
  • Creative Documentary Labs with seasoned Creative Advisors, held at the Sundance Resort every summer
  • Work-in-progress screenings held at museums, film festivals, and cultural institutions globally
  • Documentary filmmaker and field support at the Sundance Film Festival
  • Creative and strategic partnerships to amplify the use of film around key global challenges.

Sundance Documentary Creative Documentary Labs

Sundance Documentary Audience Engagement Grants

  • The Documentary Audience Engagement Grants are designed to support creative engagement campaigns using film as a tool to raise awareness and create impact.
  • Grants support campaigns that activate audiences and stakeholders around the film toward a specific goal.
  • Competitive projects will go beyond marketing and distribution to initiate engagement with the issues explored in the film and activates participants around the campaign goals.
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Tribeca Institute Funds and Initiatives:

Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund provides funding to feature-length documentaries that highlight and humanize issues of social importance from around the world.

Tribeca Film Institute New Media Fund provides funding and support to non-fiction, social issue film projects which go beyond traditional screens – integrating film with content across media platforms, from video games and mobile apps to social networks and interactive websites.

  • “We’re looking for projects that activate audiences around issues of contemporary social justice and equality around the world and demonstrate the power of cross-platform storytelling and dynamic audience engagement.”
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Tribeca All Access seeks feature-length narrative and documentary submissions from established and emerging filmmakers whose team includes a director or screenwriter from a community that is traditionally under-represented in the film industry.

  • Projects may be in any stage of development, from treatment/screenplay to post-production. Projects of any genre and or budget range are welcome to apply.
  • In addition to a grant of $10,000, grantees work closely with TFI and develop professional relationships throughout the film industry via networking opportunities that include one-one-one industry meetings, panels, workshops and other events during the Tribeca Film Festival.
  • Year-round, All Access also provides customized support to advance projects through completion.
  • Submissions will be open through mid-October.


Photo, Mike Lee, Bang Productions / Asia Side of the Doc, Tokyo

About Bruni Burres

Bruni Burres has been working at the intersection between human rights and arts and culture as a curator, producer and consultant for the past 20 years, including serving as the co-founder and director of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival.

Current clients include the Sundance Documentary Film Program, and the Open Society Foundations.

  • Bruni’s main role with the Sundance Documentary Film Program is to expand the roster of filmmakers working with the program and broaden the human rights themes that the program explores.
  • At the Open Society Foundation Bruni consults with arts initiatives in the USA and Central Asia.
  • In tandem with her work at the International Center for Transitional Justice, she produced the feature length documentary, La Toma (The Siege), which explores the lasting cultural and political impact of the 1985 siege of the Palace of Justice in Colombia.


  1. Availability of funds is a vital factor of success for producers of documentary films. Although, funding is of course an important aspect in every type of filming, since the popularity and profitability of documentary films cannot be guaranteed, sponsors and investors can be put off.

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