Documentary Lab

Designed to help filmmakers who are currently in post-production on their feature-length documentary films

Through a series of meetings and workshops, the Documentary Lab provides creative feedback and story notes to participating filmmakers, while helping them strategize for the completion, distribution, and marketing of their films. Additionally, the program serves to advance the careers of its Fellows by making introductions to film professionals who can advise on both the craft and business of documentary filmmaking.

Lab Fellows attend multiple workshops and sessions with guest speakers, established documentary directors, institutional funders, legal professionals, festival programmers and distributors. Fellows are paired with an experienced Creative Advisor who can provide one-on-one support and insight as they ready their projects for release. The Lab culminates in a final pitch event that offers further opportunity for individualized feedback and discussion with industry executives.

For more information on the application deadline please visit our applications page.


  • Inclusion in the Film Independent Talent Guide
  • Access to the Film Independent Screening Room for a work-in-progress screening of your film
  • Year-round support from Film Independent, for all phases of production

Susan Murdy Documentary Film Fellowship

The Susan Murdy Documentary Film Fellowship provides a $10,000 grant in support of a visionary Film Independent Documentary Lab participant.

Who Can Apply?

The Film Independent Documentary Lab accepts applications for nonfiction films or series that will be in late post-production in the spring of 2019. Applicants must submit a work sample which should include a minimum of a polished trailer and scene selects, all the way up to a rough cut. Filmmakers that have yet to complete the majority of principal photography and those that do not yet have any footage assembled are not eligible to apply.

Film Independent is looking for talented filmmakers with documentary projects that are compelling, original and demonstrate a unique vision. Both experienced and first-time directors are welcome to apply. Creative partners on the documentary (e.g. co-director, producer, editor) can apply with the filmmaker as a team – only one joint application needs to be submitted in such cases.

How to Apply:

Applicants must submit the following materials for consideration:

  • A cover letter explaining what inspired you to apply to the Documentary Lab and why this is the right time for you to participate in the program
  • A project description that includes a logline, story summary/synopsis, topic summary, artistic approach, project stage and timeline
  • A summary of distribution/marketing strategy and intended audience
  • A summary of key creative personnel, including bios for each creative team member and a list of attached advisors or consultants
  • Overall fundraising strategy and funding to date
  • Budget information
  • A sample of the director’s prior work or a current work sample

Download a Word (.docx) version of the application here to use as a working document. Copy/paste your completed application into the online version when you’re ready to submit. Applications submitted as a Word doc/via email will not be considered.


  • The program runs for five weeks starting in mid-March, meeting two to four times per week in the evening at Film Independent.
  • The application deadline is December 3 with an extended deadline of December 17 for Film Independent Members.
  • Applicants will be notified approximately four weeks prior to the start of the program.
  • International projects are eligible, though the documentary must have English subtitles for consideration.
  • We are happy to reconsider projects that have previously been submitted, provided the filmmaker can demonstrate progress on the project and/or professional development.
  • Filmmakers may apply to multiple Film Independent Artist Development programs; there is no requirement to have participated in any one program before another.
  • We are open to filmmakers at any level of experience.
  • If accepted. attendance at all scheduled sessions and events is mandatory.

Application Fee

The Fine Print

Beyond the application fee, there is no cost or tuition to participate in any of Film Independent’s Artist Development programs.

Film Independent Membership is not required when applying to Artist Development Labs. However, all participants accepted into the Labs are required to join Film Independent at the standard annual Membership rate of $95.

Applicants who are invited to participate in the program should plan to be in Los Angeles for the duration of the Lab. Film Independent is unable to subsidize any travel, lodging and/or visa expenses for any participants attending from outside of Los Angeles. Participants are expected to attend all sessions in person.

For more information, please email: