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Programs Mon 6.17.2024

Our Brand-New Documentary Producing Lab: What Nonfiction Filmmakers Need to Know

The path to making a nonfiction feature isn’t always as clear, as compared to their scripted cousins. For the latter, there’s a perceptible life-cycle of screenplay options, rounds of casting, call sheets and ultimately free Fiji water at the mixing session. But docs are just as often stumbled into as they are intentionally enacted; a single production can often take decades and involve long periods of inactivity where it’s unclear to their creator whether the project is even presently–or ever was–extant. As such, the life of an indie documentary producer can be a little… amorphous.

If only there were some sort of, oh, let’s say Artist Development program calibrated to help define and turbocharge the documentary producer’s relationship to their career and films during their squishy nascent phases. Sure, Film Independent’s Documentary Story Lab has, for decades, shepherded award-winning nonfiction films through their editing and post-production. But now there’s also the Documentary Producing Lab.  

Two Doc Labs? Yes–two Doc Labs! The regular deadline to apply to be part of our inaugural Doc Producing Lab cohort is today, June 17. But don’t worry, Film Independent Members have until the extended deadline, July 1. So here now are a few key things to know about this exciting new Film Independent Program…

Keeping all of your ideas organized? Let us help.

Two Labs are better than one. Recognizing the distinct challenges of each production phase, we’re now offering two separate Doc Labs. Our brand-new Doc Producing Lab is specifically designed for producers working in the nonfiction space. Though participants will be asked to bring a current project to the Lab, the focus here is on the producer’s individual career development and sustainability.

Expanding our support in the nonfiction space. The goal of the Doc Producing Lab is to provide meaningful insight, answers and mentorship to build up producers who wish to continue working in the nonfiction space. Fellows will be paired with creative and business consultants to learn strategies and practices that will benefit them not only on their current projects but throughout their careers.

A meaningful experience for creators. Over the course of a weeklong intensive, Doc Producing Lab Fellows participate in workshops and mentorship sessions designed to help them navigate the ever-changing documentary landscape, with a focus on financing, finishing and distributing their films. Mentors and guest speakers TBA.

What we’re looking for–and what we need from you. It’s easy: early- and mid-career nonfiction producers. Each applicant must submit a work sample of their current project to be considered. If you don’t have a work sample of your current project, please include a work sample of a previous project–any subject, any style.

When, where, wha? Pack your bags (or at least Google a reliable rush hour commute to Mid-Wilshire!) because the Documentary Producing Lab is a one-week program taking place in LA at Film Independent Wilshire Boulevard HQ this September 23-29, 2024. Just head to the La Brea Tar Pits and turn left at the wooly mammoth.


For over 40 years, Film Independent has helped filmmakers get their projects made and seen. The nonprofit organization’s core mission is to champion creative independence in visual storytelling and support a community of artists who embody diversity, innovation and uniqueness of vision.

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