UnionDocs is a Center for Documentary Art that presents, produces, publishes, and educates. We lead a diverse community on a search for urgent expressions of the human experience, practical perspectives on the world today, and compelling visions for the future.

Check out what we got up to last year—

About

From humble roots as a collective of emerging artists and curators living and working out of a 3-story walk-up in Brooklyn, UnionDocs has become an internationally-recognized center for documentary art. The small scale of the building belies the bustling and varied set of activities inside on any given day.

Each year we: produce 3 LABS for 36 filmmakers supporting new work and encouraging long-lasting collaborations; design 24+ WORKSHOPS on the strongest traditions and most forward-looking experiments in documentary for 400+ participants;
program 60+ EVENTS in person and online, that connect powerful nonfiction to relevant audiences and partner organizations, hosting important idea-driven conversations; manage $500,000+ in grants toward sponsored artist’s PRODUCTION; and run a FELLOWSHIP program pairing 4 artists and 4 writers, each receiving $20,000. Our major productions, like Living Los Sures and Say Something Bunny! have received outstanding critical praise and reached international audiences.

These efforts spring from the belief that documentary art, when paired with thoughtful context and open debate, is an invaluable tool for understanding the complexities of contemporary life and creating a more just and equitable society.

"An esoteric, experimental, community-focused space—and it’s working to keep Williamsburg that way, as well"

The Brooklyn Rail

"UnionDocs Brings Auteurs Together"

Wall Street Journal

"One of the city's side pockets of cultural enterprise"

Brooklyn Magazine

Events

60+ annual events highlighting 100+ artists for a local audience of 6000+ and an expanding international membership.

Through 60+ public EVENTS each year, UnionDocs showcases powerful works of nonfiction (film, video, sound, photography, oral history, printed word, and performance). Programming includes premieres by established and upcoming artists and rare archival screenings, highlighting artful and inventive work that is otherwise difficult to access. Our goal in exhibition is to continue to be at the helm of the most innovative and necessary documentary art, to increase exposure, provide contexts for new developments in form, and inspire both the creation of new work and thoughtful public dialogue about important societal issues.

Check out our upcoming events

UNDO Study Group

A monthly multi-part event, each highlighting a different filmmaker and writer.

A kind of grassroots book club, but for documentary art, The UNDO Study Group focuses on sharing ideas, urgent issues, and inventive approaches. Curious to engage deeply on a specific topic with a passionate group of thinkers, practitioners, and enthusiasts? Then you’ll want in on this experience, a mode of studying that we are doing our best to make social, participatory, rigorous and fun.
Participants get some material to read and a few links to films to watch. Then, they engage in a highly structured conversation led by a writer where there is the chance to ask questions, discuss in smaller groups, and contribute to a collective video essay.

Learn more

Workshops

24+ workshops for 400+ emerging artists creating teaching opportunities for 168 established artists.

We offer a robust calendar of highly-specialized growth experiences taught by top practitioners to transform participants’ practices, motivating them to take risks, broaden their capabilities in their field and complete new projects. Topics include the most quickly evolving methodologies alongside the strongest traditions in documentary arts.

Check out our upcoming workshops.

"UnionDocs has shown itself to be deeply engaged with the history and culture of its neighborhood, uplifting otherwise marginalized stories and showing the rest of the city what it really means to be a “good neighbor.”"

Remezcla

Labs

3 labs for 36+ filmmakers aiding production of 24 early stage features and 8 shorts docs.

Steadily growing over the past decade, we initiated a singular model for workshops and launched our unique and intensive Summer Labs for early feature documentaries. In many ways, the rhythm of our twice-weekly public events became both R&D and a space for relationship building. The benefits of this work then filtered into our educational and project-mentoring roles.

UnionDocs Collaborative Studio Program

We also run a kind of alternative doc film school, that gathers 12 emerging, international artists for 10 months and provides them with a deep immersion in theory and practice, while focusing their creative energy on local, socially-relevant issues to produce a collection of new short films, which are shown locally, and reach at top festivals like Sundance, Tribeca, and have been broadcast on POV.

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Summer Documentary Labs

We offer 2 intensive labs that mentor 24 exciting feature doc projects at early stages from around the world, offering a major springboard to seek funding, build out their team, and ultimately make and distribute their doc. Filmmakers have come from Australia, India, Sudan, Egypt, Israel, Denmark, Vietnam, Mexico, Argentina.

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Pod Pod

A three month residency opportunity for audio makers looking for a bit of motivation and peer support.

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UNDO Fellowship

A fellowship program that pairs 4 artists with 4 writers to expand radical filmmaking practices and research new languages of documentary cinema.

In 2019, with funding from the Ford Foundation, we established THE UNDO FELLOWSHIP pairing celebrated experimental doc filmmakers with established writers to research new practices in documentary art, offering 8 fellows $20k each along with significant opportunities for creative and intellectual work. The writing that results from these research projects are published in an annual volume, and shared during a two-day culminating symposium.

Learn more

“It’s a blessing to have UnionDocs and a project like Living Los Sures."

Ramon Peguero, Southside United HDFC (Los Sures)

"UnionDocs is a place like no other."

Travis Wilkerson, Filmmaker

"The collaborative nature and willingness to experiment means they are comfortable with an iterative design process, are willing to embrace a multi-faceted project and are able to take a considered approach to community participation."

iDocs

Productions + Publications

In designing collaborative projects, we bring together 20th Century documentary practice and contemporary networked culture. What opportunities do new technologies offer non-fiction? When is mastering age-old techniques the best route? We experiment with these questions and seek to bring together individual talents, voices, and stories and create multi-dimensional documentaries.

The success of our biggest productions, Living Los Sures (2015) and Say Something Bunny! (2017), made it clear that UnionDocs is more than an environment for aspiring documentarians to convene for knowledge and support. We also design and produce groundbreaking documentary projects that have gained recognition at the highest levels of our field.

Explore our Productions

Break Out '21, 2021

Break ꩜ut is a symposium (of sorts) that celebrates the research, writing and filmmaking initiated during THE UNDO FELLOWSHIP. Four ambitious research topics will be explored through a set of online screenings, study groups, and public dialogues. We are excited to share the ideas resulting from the inaugural year of this endeavor and eager to hear your questions, thoughts and feedback.
Five artists — all extremely different in their curiosities, aesthetics, methods, and personalities, but more or less aligned in their efforts to break out of the patterns and preconceptions that dominate the documentary form — paired up with four intellectually adventurous writers. Together they proposed a research topic inspired by the artist’s practice. Having stewed on these thorny questions in regular dialogue with the whole group of brilliant fellows, their drafts now seek readers.
So, Break ꩜ut with us! Choose a single thread of inquiry, or weave connections between them all. Tune into the stream to watch and listen in, or sign up for an UNDO STUDY GROUP to get the reader and join a rigorous and creative discussion.

Explore Break Out '21

Unmute Please, 2020

Like everyone on the planet, the CoLAB started 2020 with a different map. Early inquiries centered an exploration of adolescence and what it means to be a teen in NYC. Just as production was taking off, we were thrown into the collective experience of uncertainty, constraint, and forced adaptation set in place by COVID-19. From meeting in person in Brooklyn several times each week to sheltering separately at UnionDocs and in locations across the globe, all neatly arranged in a video-conference grid, their community, good humor and creativity persisted, even if some promising projects had to be set aside.
Adapting quickly to new conditions of production, CoLAB participants found six pathways of possibility. The resulting work shares a sense of introspection and longing and surfaces many themes from the early research that continued to feel relevant like community and safe space, locality and collectivity, and how to survive pandemia, personal isolation and the weight of parental dynamics.

Explore Unmute Please

Take the L, 2019

Frustrations are peaking with the aging infrastructure that we rely on everyday. As systems lag and wait times climb, as climate change threatens further damage and forces decisive action, as corporate interests move to privatize transit and open lanes exclusive to the elite, it is obvious that major public investments are urgently required to preserve and improve. In the great rebuild to come, who will be asked to sacrifice and what priorities will be privileged? Will there be winners and losers? Or will we all gain?
The short documentaries in this program were developed by ten film and audio makers over ten months in response to this shared context. Starting in the throes of an impending shutdown, and now amidst an epic slowdown, the L train drama offered a jumping off point for the artists in this year’s UnionDocs Collaborative Studio to seek important stories, hidden poetics, and critical experiences.The works they produced challenge us to recognize fragilities, gaps and cracking within the dizzied and constant churn of civic circulation; to see transit as both a race to get ahead and a coordinated movement in unison, an expression of personal rhythms, routines and rituals as well as of social patterns of neglect and injustice; to notice the psychological and spiritual labor of public service and those who can be lost in the shuffle; to ask how intimate underground space acts on the subconscious and if we can rebuild from ruin to find connections.

Explore Take the L

Sanctuary City, 2018

New York proudly calls itself the ultimate city for immigration. More than a third of all current residents are foreign born, the largest number in the city’s history, and — in opposition to unremitting xenophobic policies and rhetoric from the Trump administration — the consensus in NYC calls for further support of diversity and inclusion. Still, have our images, stories, and understanding, our imaginary of the city, kept up with the city’s current complexity? Fellows were challenged to connect to individuals, families, and communities whose pathways to NYC are recent, whose circumstances reflect the contemporary moment, and whose presence broaden and update a picture of life in the city.

Explore Sanctuary City

Just To Get By, 2016—2017

This project highlights the creative solutions and difficult choices that individuals in NYC make everyday to survive the city, at a time when 50% of the population lives near or below the federal poverty level. The project brings attention to the difficult choices and resourceful solutions this underrepresented population must make in order to survive the city today. To access such stories, images, and sounds, fellows will pursue partnerships with local, low-income artists and craftspeople who have—so far—been unable to reach privileged networks of creation and distribution, often called ‘outsider artists.’
Through JUST TO GET BY, we are developing ways that the authorship of documentary can be shared with the subjects at the same time that fellows are encouraged to develop work across perceived boundaries of social class, age and race. Projects are not intended to be “outsider artist” biographies or portraits, rather each short documentary project produced will offer a different answer on what it takes “just to get by” and a different attempt to break with the conventions of documentary and address the problematics of representing people under the pressures of poverty.

Explore Just to Get By

Say Something Bunny!, 2016—2020

UnionDocs productions include SAY SOMETHING BUNNY!, a documentary performance by Alison S. M. Kobayashi, which received outstanding critical praise, a Drama Desk Award nomination, and was sold out for 3 years. It was hailed as groundbreaking by the off-Broadway and the documentary community alike. Prior to the pandemic, we designed, built-out and operated a performance space in Chelsea dedicated to the project.

Learn more about Say Something Bunny!

Living Los Sures, 2010—2014

In 2015, we completed LIVING LOS SURES, an expansive documentary project about the Southside of Williamsburg that The NY Times called “A must see for those interested in both the history of Lost New York and the power of nonfiction.” Produced over 5 years by 60 artists, it includes the restoration of LOS SURES (1984), a collection of 40 SHORT FILMS, the interactive documentary 89 STEPS, and the cinematic people’s history SHOT BY SHOT, demonstrating new possibilities for collaboration between an arts institution and its surrounding community to collect memories and share local culture. This project is still in distribution, and activated through annual local events and engagements at universities across the country. It will be highlighted by the Criterion Channel in Fall ’21.

Explore the project at livinglossures.com

Documenting Mythologies, 2010

Documenting Mythologies follows a group of media-makers on a road trip from Brooklyn to rural Maine. Diverse aesthetic approaches to documentary are used to explore a theme inspired by the 1957 collection of texts by Roland Barthes titled Mythologies. For Barthes, myths aren’t just the traditional stories we tell; there are myths everywhere within our everyday lives. They are the meanings that we take for granted, “the falsely obvious,” a confusion of Nature and History. For the group on this journey some fifty years later, myths are found in objects like little fountains, places like the Big Apple, habits like online personae, and in the ubiquitous and flexible word ‘whatever.’

Explore Documenting Mythologies

The Commons Berlin, 2005

The Commons_Berlin is a performance documentary, which was presented at the Volksbühne Theater in Berlin for the Rollende Road-Schau festival June 2005. The piece consists of short documentary fragments created by the members of UnionDocs . These pieces were presented in a variety of media and were interwoven with a narrative in live performance.

Explore The Commons Berlin

The Commons Radio, 2005

A collaboratively created, layered audio narrative, The Commons Radio weaves together scholarly interviews, dramatic recreations, original music and everyday sounds. All hour-long shows are part of a broad approach to the subject of The Commons, a.k.a. the relationship of the one to the many.

Explore The Commons Radio

Production Spotlight

Living Los Sures

“It’s a must see for those interested in both the history of Lost New York and the power of nonfiction cinema.”

New York Times

“The hour-long documentary, against all odds, has become the talk of the town. That’s thanks to UnionDocs"

Vogue

“It is a story of the people, by the people, and most importantly, made for the people of this city.”

Picture Motion

In 2015, we completed LIVING LOS SURES, an expansive documentary project about the Southside of Williamsburg that The NY Times called “A must see for those interested in both the history of Lost New York and the power of nonfiction.” Produced over 5 years by 60 artists, it includes the restoration of LOS SURES (1984), a collection of 40 SHORT FILMS, the interactive documentary 89 STEPS, and the cinematic people’s history SHOT BY SHOT, demonstrating new possibilities for collaboration between an arts institution and its surrounding community to collect memories and share local culture. This project is still in distribution, and activated through annual local events and engagements at universities across the country. It will be highlighted by the Criterion Channel in Fall ’21.

Fiscal Sponsorship

a program that currently supports 40+ projects

UnionDocs also operates a fiscal sponsorship program that currently supports 40+ film projects (over 85% NY State productions), managing around $400k of contributed income annually.

Learn more about our Fiscal Sponsorship

Publishing

WORLD RECORDS JOURNAL is the first peer-reviewed journal dedicated to documentary arts. Published semi-annually, it brings together the voices of scholars, critics, makers, and curators to offer complex perspectives on documentary to challenge and extend its margins. We recently published the 5th volume, BEYOND STORY, which pushed the field to move past its obsession with conventional narrative structure. The journal is taught in universities around the country and has been featured at significant film festivals worldwide.

Shop our publications

Signal to Noise Award

The Signal to Noise Award celebrates creative work that synthesizes audio documentary and experimental sound design. This award provides an opportunity for audio projects to come to life by giving one applicant a production grant to push their project across the finish line.

Learn more about the Signal to Noise Award

Roberto Guerra Documentary Award

Kathy Brew and UnionDocs as a fiscal sponsor have come together to honor the memory of Roberto Guerra by supporting and encouraging an emerging filmmaker in the creation of his or her documentary work. In the spirit of Roberto Guerra’s intuitive and sensitive eye, the Award aims to recognize a Latin American or US-Latino artist who is developing his or her own vision through innovative documentary art and at the same time responds to the issues of our times.

Learn more about the Roberto Guerra Documentary Award

Because the people at UnionDocs are lovely and friendly, I always felt a revivifying sense that the process of play—of filmmaking—was being received and responded to.

Wayne Koestenbaum, Author

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Team

In cultivating and renewing this open community, we recognize the strength of multiplicity in intersectional identity and emphasize this in recruiting and selecting our board, advisors, featured artists, instructors, and program participants. People coming from BIPOC background are: 67% of invited artists, 6/9 people on our core team, 8/12 on our advisory board, 4/9 of our board of directors, 9/14 of our most recent CoLAB, 9/13 of our most recent Summer Lab.

Meet the Team

Work with us

Access

UnionDocs has an entryway with ramped access and is equipped with an ADA-accessible, non-gender-segregated restroom. Our screening room and exhibition space is wheelchair accessible. We are committed to inclusion across our programs. To make any additional access requests for upcoming programming, please contact [email protected]

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are at the forefront of our priorities and community-building efforts. To ensure accessibility to LABS, we offer participants payment plans, grant writing support, and a custom crowdfunding platform (donate.uniondocs.org). Additionally, UnionDocs offers at least two full scholarships in each workshop and lab for participants from historically underrepresented communities, a commitment of $50k+ to at least 54 individuals annually.
We promote our programs through an effective digital marketing suite, including a mobile and SEO friendly website featuring e-commerce, online ticketing, and membership functions.