The UnionDocs Collaborative Studio (CoLAB) will span 8 months, inviting a select group of media artists to come together for a unique opportunity in one of NYC’s most exciting neighborhoods, Ridgewood, Queens.

The CoLAB offers a platform for exploring contemporary approaches to the documentary arts and a process for developing an innovative collaborative project with this group.

The program consists of weekly production meetings, seminars, screenings and other public events, along with regular critiques and encounters with visiting artists.

Program Dates & Deadlines

Oct 15th, 2024 — Jun 25th, 2025

Collaborative Studio Program Dates

July 22nd, 2024

Applications Open

Aug 11th 2024 11:59pm ET

Early Application Deadline (no fee)

Sep, 3rd 2024 11:59pm ET

Final Application Deadline ($15 fee)

Aug 2nd, 2024 11:00am ET

Information Session

Hear about the Collaborative Studio from past fellows.

The UnionDocs Collaborative Studio (CoLAB) represents a new and alternative model of collaborative documentary production and professional development.

Rather than applying with a project proposal or rough cut, participants are selected on the basis of previous work and enter the program with a blank slate, open to discovery and fresh connections on new projects. This year, we’re inviting a group of twelve New York-based emerging artists and filmmakers to participate in the program. CoLAB is designed to be affordable and, although participants are asked to make it their primary creative focus, the schedule does accommodate full-time, part-time or freelance work. Please note: while we’ve offered residency options in the past, due to upcoming building renovations, the participants in this year’s program will be required to have their own housing in NYC.

For the program’s first two months, from October 15th through mid-December, participants will gather remotely for once weekly research check-ins and seminar discussions, accumulating creative sparks and sources of inspiration. In January through the remainder of the program, participants will gather in person at UnionDocs twice a week to continue their research on the ground, and move ahead together into the production of their collaborative projects.

UnionDocs is not simply the host for this activity, it takes an active role producing the collection of short documentary works that comprise the collaborative project, leading the group through an incremental process where new ideas and new partnerships form; each participant finding their own avenues of creative contribution. A carefully selected group of accomplished Program Mentors from diverse backgrounds across the film industry will offer input and guidance throughout the production and editing process alongside the UNDO team.

The group’s collection of work will take shape around a shared thematic focus which is grounded geographically in UnionDocs’ neighborhood of Ridgewood, Queens and nearby communities. Each team of collaborators will be asked to research locally to explore the cultural histories and present-day realities of our nearest surroundings. Building off UnionDocs’ history of doing groundbreaking community-based projects like Living Los Sures, we’re excited to deepen this engagement through our second CoLAB since our move to Ridgewood. Our proximity to the borough boundary of Brooklyn and Queens is notable and leaves open many questions around what the New York Times has called a “historic interborough murkiness.” With a wave of media attention calling Ridgewood one of the hippest neighborhoods in the world, coupled with the never-ending rise of median rents in Brooklyn, these demarcations and questions of neighborhood and borough identity are brought into sharper relief.

The Brooklyn Rail summed it up with the title of their feature article: “UnionDocs Brings Auteurs Together.” For some, participation in the program may lead to further study. For others, it may lead to independent projects and strengthened careers within the industry. For all, it is an unparalleled immersion in the expansive field of documentary art.

Over 20 Guest Artists and Experts

Participants attend intimate sessions with more than twenty visiting experts; artists, curators, producers, critics, and academics who represent some of the most exciting voices in the documentary field.

Visiting Guest Artists will often share detailed history of a particular project from both a practical and a theoretical perspective, and then enter into an extended discussion with the group about the different creative and practical aspects of project development. For a Seminar, a visiting expert will generally present a short lecture and then engage the group in a close reading of the week’s assigned media and texts.

Past & Current Guests

Abigail Child (The Future is Behind You)
Abigail E. Disney (The American Dream and Other Fairy Tales)
Akosua Adoma Owusu (Kwaku Ananse)
Alan Berliner (First Cousin Once Removed)
Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief)
Amie Siegel (Black Moon)
Andy Bichlbaum (The Yes Men)
Angelo Madsen Minax (North by Current)
Barbara Hammer (Artist)
Ben Russell (A Spell to Ward off the Darkness)
Benjamen Walker (Theory of Everything Podcast)
Bill Daniel (Who Is Bozo Texino?)
Bill Ross and Turner Ross (Contemporary Color)
Caspar Stracke (Artist and Curator)
Cassim Shepard (Urban Omnibus)
Caveh Zahedi (I Am a Sex Addict)
Craig Baldwin (Filmmaker, Founder of Other Cinema)
Dan Streible (Orphan Film Symposium)
Deanna Bowen (The Paul Good Papers)
Deborah Stratman (Last Things)
Derek Howard (Cinematographer, The Hottest August)
Diego Echeverria (Los Sures)
Dominic Gagnon (Of The North)
Doug Block (112 Weddings)
Elisabeth Subrin (Maria Schneider, 1983)
Ernst Karel (Sound Artist)
Eryk Rocha (Sunday Ball)
Felix Endara (unseen)
Fred Ritchin (International Center of Photography)
Frederick Wiseman (National Gallery)
Gabriela Monroy (Artist and Curator)
Heidi Ewing (Detropia)
Hussain Currimbhoy (Sundance Film Festival)
Iva Radivojevic (Evaporating Borders)
Jackie Raynal (Two Rémi, Two)
Jad Abumrad (Radiolab)
Jem Cohen (Counting)
Jenni Olson (Curator and Historian)
Jennifer Fox (Film producer)

Joe Richman (Radio Diaries Podcast)
Jon Alpert (DCTV)
Jonas Mekas (Filmmaker, Founder of Anthology Film Archives)
Jonathan Caouette (Tarnation)
Jonathan Harris (Network Effect)
Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing)
Judith Helfand (Chicken and Egg)
Kazuhiro Soda (Campaign)
Kelly Sears (Phase II)
Kenneth Goldsmith (Ubu Web)
Khalik Allah (Field Niggas)
Laurel Nakadate (Performance Artist)
Lu Olkowski (Love Me Podcast)
Lynne Sachs (Your Day is My Night)
Madeleine Hunt-Ehrlich (Footnote to the West)
Malika Zouhali-Worrall (Video Visit)
Marie Losier (The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye)
Marin Karmitz (MK2)
Martha Wilson (Artist, Founder: Franklin Furnace)
Nan Goldin (Photographer)
Nathan Kensinger (Black Mayonnaise)
Pacho Velez (Searchers)
Pamela Yates (Granito: How to Nail a Dictator)
Patricia Aufderheide (Author: Reclaiming Fair Use)
Paul Dallas (Invisible Beauty)
Pawel Wojtasik (Single Stream)
Pejk Malinovski (Sound Artist)
Penny Lane (Confessions of a Good Samaritan)
Rodrigo Reyes (Sansón and Me)
Rosa von Praunheim (City of Lost Souls)
Sally Berger (Film Curator)
Samuel Gursky (Colorist)
Sarah Nelson Wright (Shifting Sands)
Sean Cole (This American Life)
Sierra Pettengill (Riotsville, U.S.A.)
Su Friedrich (Gut Renovation)
Thom Powers (DOC NYC, Hot Docs)
Tirtza Even (Chronicle of a Fall)
Vincent Moon (Híbridos - The Spirits of Brazil)

And many others…

“Aspiring filmmakers will have a unique opportunity to work with artists from around the U.S. and abroad, learning contemporary approaches to the documentary arts and ways to create groundbreaking collaborative projects.”

Participation in A Collaborative Documentary Project Geared for Public Exhibition

The central goal of the program is the production of a collective project, a unique collaborative documentary work, offering a way for a group of talented individuals to propose, develop and author (or co-author) original pieces. This final project approaches a singular subject or theme – rooted in UnionDocs’ immediate neighborhood – from multiple perspectives, in multiple media, following multiple stories, in order to develop a fascinating collection of interrelated short works.

The final manifestation of the whole project varies from year to year as suitable formats for each work unfold and distribution goals are defined. All projects will be shown first as a preview with UnionDocs and then seek other channels of distribution including festivals, museums, DIY events, online streaming, and broadcast.

CoLAB projects have been shown at The Museum of Modern Art’s Documentary Fortnight, BAMcinemaFest, The Brooklyn Museum, MOMA PS1, True/False Film Festival, Brooklyn Film Festival, Camden International Film Festival, The International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, Morelia International Film Festival, Carpenter Center for Visual Art at Harvard, the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art, Fordham University’s Ildiko Butler Gallery, the docXchange initiative at HotDocs, Visible Evidence 18, the Volksbuehne in Berlin, DocNYC, Visions du Reel, ExDoc, TEDxBrooklyn, in temporary installations in vacant urban space, in DIY presentations in church basements, and at large open outdoor events in NYC.

Finding ways to connect to the community through our work is a big part of what we want to do together. Watch this recap of a day of art, story and local experience celebrating Los Sures and some Collaborative Studio films at "Living Los Sures: A Brooklyn Barrio"

Collaborative Process: Weekly Production Meetings and Regular Group Critiques

In pursuing inventive documentary projects, CoLAB operates differently than a traditional film/art program, laboratory, or fellowship. Applicants do not arrive with pre-existing projects that they hope to advance nor work exclusively on independent interests.

Instead, we offer the scaffolding and an organized tried and true process to bring a set of independent voices and perspectives together to focus and share goals and skillsets. This allows for a balance of creative autonomy and shared responsibility, where participants cooperate and invest in each other’s work but have security in their own vision. It is not the case that the group must agree as a collective upon creative decisions. Three or more person partnerships often form, and individuals may play different roles on different projects. In this way, the production as a whole may embrace contradictions and diverse aesthetics in a multi-dimensional representation of the shared subject.

The program will incorporate the leadership of at least two artist Mentors – experienced filmmakers or producers in their own right – who will help facilitate regular feedback sessions with the cohort throughout the development and production of their collaborative projects. Through the Mentors’ personalized input, as well as constructive peer feedback from within the cohort, participants will find ample creative support and guidance to challenge themselves and experiment with new approaches to their practice.

Get a sense of some of the award-winning work that comes out of the Collaborative Studio.

Access to UnionDocs Screenings, Exhibition, Lectures, Parties and Public Events

Participants also have open access to UnionDocs’ public programming, which includes a dynamic range of events from October through June, representing the best in contemporary and historical non-fiction in film/video, sound, writing, photography, and interactive work.

With a 90 seat capacity, the audiences at UnionDocs are small but very dedicated. Sophie Fiennes, whose film “The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema” was one of our first events, told us that “It is these kinds of screenings that I really like, as I believe in the collective event of cinema.” The intimate and somewhat unconventional environment at UnionDocs has made for truly great conversations and the participants of the CoLAB are often at the core of the discussion. Participants have found this regular interaction with the wider NYC documentary community to be a very useful addition to their experience.

UnionDocs is a space where ideas are generated, watch highlights from post screening conversations with guests like Cíntia Gil, Boris Buden, Morgan Quaintance, Natalia Lassalle-Morillo, Sophie Cavoulacos,Enrico Masi & Serena Moscardelli, Yehui Zhao, galle, JT Green, Fil Corbitt, Jemma Rose Brown, Ariana Martinez, Ignacio Agüero, With Helena De Llanos & Ruth Somalo and Ross Lipman.

Access to In-House Production Equipment and Editing System

While our resources are limited, we encourage participants to own or have easy access to the basic tools for their preferred approach to documentary arts, UnionDocs can offer access to high quality video and audio packages plus many accessories, lighting, support, stabilization and other specialty gear that can be used on CoLAB projects. UnionDocs also has a professional editing system that can be booked by participants. This is especially useful for group and final edits. In addition, participants also often share their personal equipment and UNDO can sometimes facilitate relationships with vendors that may allow affordable rentals of specialty gear. Finally, we are avid supporters of DIY-strategies, and encourage creative forms of documentary that make intelligent use of available tools.

While access to equipment is provided, knowledge is freely shared, and cooperation is encouraged, this program does not provide specialized technical training. Rather, it is designed for resourceful individuals who learn by doing and do not view technical aspects as barriers to creativity and production. If necessary, we can recommend several local organizations that can provide technical training to complement your involvement in the CoLAB.

Book UnionDocs for Meetings, Screenings and Shoots

UnionDocs is located at 352 Onderdonk Avenue in Ridgewood, Queens. The first floor is a commercial space run by the UnionDocs staff. It includes a lobby area, workshop space/screening room, a larger cinema space for public events, a tech booth, and a small office. Resources on the first floor are available to participants for production on Collaborative projects within the schedule of the space’s other operations.

Three Day Winter Retreat

In January, we gather in a retreat environment for each artist to pitch up to two ideas for potential production. Through a rigorous presentation and discussion process a selection of the projects to produce that year is made. Program directors, participants and attending board or advisory committee members participate in the selection of the works that will be produced.

The location for the retreat varies each year. For many years, CoLAB was offered a beautiful facility along the Hudson River in upstate New York for a three day retreat inclusive of free room and board. This time away from the city will be integrated with the project proposal period and collaborative production activities.

International Participants

Meet some of the International and US based fellows from recent Collaborative Studio Programs.

Once notified of acceptance into the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio, it is recommended that international applicants immediately begin the process of securing a visa to enter the United States of America. UnionDocs partners with International Arts & Artists, a non-profit organization based in Washington, DC that is a designated sponsor for the J1 visa.

Candidates apply for sponsorship from International Arts & Artists, who administers the application process and provides a Certificate of Eligibility. The candidate is then able to make an appointment at the US Consulate in their home country to apply for the J1 visa. This whole process takes several weeks to complete, so it is important that it be initiated immediately after accepting the invitation from UnionDocs.

Applying for a J1 visa does require additional fees to International Arts & Artists.  For a more detailed description of the steps and costs associated, please visit International Arts & Artists. International participants who already have or are able to secure an alternative visa will simply be required to provide proof to UnionDocs that they will be able to stay in the USA for the full length of the 6-month program.

Please indicate in your program application whether you will be joining us from outside the United States, and we will plan to expedite our review process. Because the wait-time to schedule a visa interview at your local embassy can vary significantly from place to place, we strongly encourage international applicants to submit their materials as quickly as possible.

Application Details & Program Fees

To be considered complete, applications require:

Two media samples

—Two letters of recommendation

—$15 application fee


Applicants cannot be enrolled in a full time degree program while participating in the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio.

Applicants should have a Bachelor’s Degree or equivalent in experience.


Annual program fees are $3,200, payable in two parts: $500 deposit due upon accepting the invitation; remaining balance ($2,700) due at the start of the program.

Scholarships & Crowdfunding

For each Lab, UnionDocs will offer the equivalent of 2 full scholarships prioritizing underrepresented artists or those coming from historically marginalized backgrounds. Applicants interested in this possibility should indicate in their application, though it will have no impact on their review.

A private crowdfunding platform at is also available to accepted applicants, where they can accept tax deductible donations to offset their program fees.

Past Instructors

Jessica Beshir

Jessica Beshir is a Mexican-Ethiopian writer, director, producer and cinematographer based in Brooklyn. Her feature directorial debut, Faya Dayi, premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and screened around the world garnering many awards including the Grand Jury Prize & Fipresci Award at Visions du Reel, the Grand Jury Award at Full Frame, the Truer Than Fiction Award at Independent Spirits, Best Cinematography awards at the ASC, IDA, DOC NYC and was shortlisted for Best Documentary Feature at the Academy Awards.

Ross Meckfessel

Ross Meckfessel is an artist and filmmaker who works primarily in Super 8 and 16mm film. His films often emphasize materiality and poetic structures while depicting the condition of modern life through an exploration of apocalyptic obsession, contemporary ennui, and the technological landscape.

Cíntia Gil
Seminar Instructor

From 2012 to 2019, Cíntia Gil directed Doclisboa – International Film Festival, before moving on to head Sheffield DocFest until 2021. In 2022, Cíntia started the programme of screenings and study groups Artistic Differences, at UnionDocs (NY), as a co-curator together with Jenny Miller and Christopher Allen and joined the selection committee as the documentary consultant for THE DIRECTORS’ FORTNIGHT (LA QUINZAINE DES CINÉASTES) at Cannes Film Festival.

Nathan Kensinger
Seminar Instructor

Nathan Kensinger (b. San Francisco, CA) is an artist based in Brooklyn, New York whose work explores hidden urban landscapes, post-industrial ecologies, forgotten waterways, environmental contamination, and coastal communities endangered by sea level rise and climate change. His work encompasses photography, film, installation, curation and writing.

Christopher Allen
UnionDocs Executive Artistic Director

A social entrepreneur and new media artist, whose individual & collaborative projects have been exhibited in galleries and museums internationally.

Toby Lee
Seminar Instructor

Toby Lee holds a PhD in Anthropology and Film & Visual Studies from Harvard University, an MPhil in Modern Greek Literature from Oxford University, and a BA in Anthropology and Modern Greek Studies from Columbia University.

Carlos A. Gutiérrez
Seminar Instructor

Carlos A. Gutiérrez is a film/video programmer, cultural promoter and arts consultant based in New York City. He is the Co-founder and Executive Director of Cinema Tropical.

Leo Goldsmith
Seminar Instructor

Leo Goldsmith is a New York-based scholar and curator who works at the intersection of experimental moving-image media, documentary film, media ecologies, and digital culture.

Courtney Stephens
Seminar Instructor

Courtney Stephens is a filmmaker and writer based in Los Angeles.  She has curated series of experimental work for New York’s Museum of the Moving Image and Flaherty NYC, contributed footage to Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, made shorts ranging from the purely experimental to found-footage to more purely documentary. She co-programs Veggie Cloud, an ongoing film and lecture series in Los Angeles.

Eric Hynes
Seminar Instructor

Eric Hynes is a New York-based film critic and reporter, as well as Curator of Film at Museum of the Moving Image. He has written for the New York Times, Film Comment, Rolling Stone, IndieWire, Slate, the Village Voice, and Time Out New York.

Residency Option

Residency Details

$1100 / month includes all utilities, air conditioning, internet, laundry, access to shared working space, second-floor terrace with grill, biweekly professional cleaning of common spaces.

Additional resources, images and details available here.

The UnionDocs Collaborative Studio is split between residents and non-residents. Six resident participants live in the two-floor residency at 352 Onderdonk Avenue, while non-resident participants set up their housing independently or already live in NYC.

International applicants have priority for the residency option, as we have found that it can be difficult to arrange short-term housing when arriving in NYC from abroad. However, any applicant to the program may choose to be considered for a spot in the residency because they are attracted to the kind of dynamic interaction and inspiration that can come from an intentional living arrangement. Having a place to come back to after the intense days in the lab, where roommates share a vision and are involved in an ongoing experience, is something pretty unique.

“UnionDocs has been the most educational, ambitious, fun loving program I’ve ever attended (ever). The people are fantastic, the idea exposure and material is wonderful, simultaneously explorative and grounding. If you’re interested in collaborating with great media makers, questioning formal tropes, and sussing out new ways to document the world en mass, then I can not recommend it highly enough.”

Emile Klein, Collaborative Studio Alumni, Radio Producer, Artist

Detailed Schedule for the UnionDocs Collaborative Studio

Oct 15th—Dec 17th, 2024

Remote Research Period

6pm –– 9pm

Research Meetings (via Zoom)

January 7th – June 25th, 2025

In-Person Development and Production Period

6pm — 9pm

Production Meetings

4pm — 6pm

Seminars & Artist Visits


Mid-October – Mid-December

Remote Research


On the Ground Research


Pitching and Project Selection

Mar – May

Project Production

Late May

Rough Edit Critiques

Early Jun

Fine Edit Critiques

Late Jun

Collaborative Preview in the Park

A public screening of the collaborative studio projects.

Recent UnionDocs Collaborative Studio Projects