Documentary Labs

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

Through a series of meetings and workshops, the Documentary Story Lab and Documentary Producing Lab advance the careers of nonfiction filmmakers by introducing them to film professionals who provide advice and expertise on both the craft and business of documentary filmmaking.

Taking place in the spring, the Documentary Story Lab helps directors craft the best story possible for their documentary film. Over the period of one week, participants 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 and Editing Advisor who provide one-on-one support. The Lab culminates in a final pitch event that offers further opportunity for individualized feedback and discussion with industry executives.

The Documentary Producing Lab, held during the Fall, is designed for producers working in the nonfiction space. For one week, Fellows participate in workshops designed to help them navigate the ever-changing documentary landscape, with a focus on financing, finishing and distributing their films. Fellows will meet one-on-one with institutional funders, legal professionals, festival programmers and distributors, in addition to being paired with creative and distribution consultants. The Lab also includes multiple case studies with notable nonfiction producers, and concludes with a networking day with industry professionals.

For more information on application deadlines, please visit our applications page.

Who Can Apply?

The Documentary Story Lab only accepts projects in the final stages of production or post-production. An assembly or rough cut is required to participate in the Lab. Projects in the research and/or development phase are not eligible..
The Documentary Producing Lab accepts projects in active development, production or post-production.

Film Independent is looking for talented filmmakers with documentary projects that are compelling, original and demonstrate a unique vision.

How to Apply

Applicants must submit the following materials for consideration:

  • A cover letter explaining what inspired you to apply to the Documentary Story or Producing 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 key creative personnel, including bios for each creative team member and a list of attached advisors or consultants
  • Funding to date
  • Budget information
  • An extended sample of the current project (see below)
  • Documentary Producing Lab only: A summary of distribution/marketing strategy and intended audience, plus overall fundraising strategy

Applicants must submit an extended work sample from the project with which they are applying. For the Documentary Producing Lab, this should include a short trailer or teaser. For the Documentary Story Lab, submitting a full assembly is recommended.

Submit your application here. Applications submitted as a Word doc/via email will not be considered.


  • Individual directors and/or producers are welcome to apply, as are directing or producing teams.
  • Six projects will be selected for each Lab.
  • Filmmakers can apply for both Labs, however acceptance into one Lab does not guarantee acceptance into the other.
  • Applications rounds are specific to each Lab. Applicants to the Documentary Story Lab will not be considered for the Documentary Producing Lab without a separate application, and vice versa.
  • International projects are eligible, though the film must have English subtitles for consideration.
  • We will 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 and there is no requirement to have participated in any one program before another.
  • Final selections will be based on the written application and supporting materials.
  • Due to the high volume of submissions, we unfortunately are unable to provide feedback about individual projects.
  • Email notifications are made on a rolling basis. Applicants will be notified three to four weeks prior to the start of the program.


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 General Membership rate of $95.

Applicants will be notified three to four weeks prior to the start of the program.

For more information, please email:

To learn more about Film Independent Fellows and their projects, visit our Talent Guide.