Be challenged. Get inspired. Move your project forward leaps and bounds.
Join a select group of emerging filmmakers to think through every aspect of your work-in-progress in this tightly structured program.
The UnionDocs Summer Documentary Labs are based in one of NYC’s most exciting neighborhoods, Ridgewood, Queens.
Program Dates & Deadlines
July 3, 2023 — Aug 4, 2023
Summer Documentary Lab 1—
For Projects in Early Production
Aug 14, 2023 – Sept 1, 2023
Summer Documentary Lab 2—
For Research & Development
Feb 15, 2023
Mar 10, 2023
Early Deadline *No application fee
Apr 14, 2023
Final Deadline *$15 application fee
April 7, 2023
Information Session @ 3pm (EST/-5 UTC)
May 3-10, 2023
Applicant Interviews Begin for Projects in Early Production
May 13 — 19, 2023
Applicant Interviews Begin for Projects in Research & Development
May 12, 2023
Notification for invited participants & waitlist – Early Production
Jun 4, 2023
Notification for invited participants & waitlist – Research & Development
Hear about the Summer Documentary Labs from Executive Artistic Director, Christopher Allen and our expert instructors + mentors.
Through daily screenings, seminar discussions, professional development sessions, artist visits and weekly “field trips”, our labs expose participants to a diverse set of creative documentary practices from around the world.
Drawing inspiration from across disciplines, this intensive program should not be mistaken for an industrial, journalistic, or traditional documentary training. Scholar Scott MacDonald highlighted in The New York Times that, “UnionDocs has a healthy sense that the older definitions of what constitutes ‘experimental’ cinema and what constitutes ‘documentary’ are up for grabs.” Much emphasis is placed on workshopping lab participants’ writing about their projects as a way to both clarify the creative direction and attract potential team members, funders and producers. Participants receive focused, honest and helpful feedback on their project proposals from prominent documentary artists and industry experts.
For each lab, twelve to fourteen applicants are selected on the basis of their past experience and the strength of a current documentary proposal or concept. While many filmmakers who have already completed feature projects have found the intensive useful to their next project, a previous feature in documentary is not required so long as a commitment to an independent and creative vision is demonstrated. We aim to bring together exciting international participants, and the peer interaction is a big asset to the program.
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 the development and completion of a documentary. For others, it may lead to independent projects, collaborations or strengthened careers within the industry. For all, it is an unparalleled immersion in the expansive field of documentary art.
A stronger understanding of the business and best practices of managing a documentary production.
Invited industry experts lead weekly sessions developing skills and knowledge concerning the business of documentary production, such as proposal writing, fundraising, rights management, fiscal sponsorship, and more. This curriculum was developed to offer the fundamentals that documentarians need to prepare for the planning, production, editing and release of an independent documentary. Each session will feature guest speakers sharing tips and secrets of the trade, with an emphasis on real-life case studies and best practices.
Past & Current Guest Speakers
João Vieira Torres (Aurora)
Joanna Rabiger (Grant Writing Specialist)
Jenni Morello (One of Us)
Alison O’Daniel (The Tuba Thieves)
Rebecca Adorno (Homeroom)
Jeffrey Winter (The Film Collaborative)
Rodrigo Reyes (Sansón and me)
Sarah Archambault (Riotsville, USA)
Nausheen Dadabhoy (An Act of Worship)
Jessica Beshir (Faya Dayi)
Laura Coxson (No Man's Land)
Troy Herion (Bulletproof)
Sahar Driver (Impact strategist)
Patrick Hurley (Sandbox Films)
Esther Cassidy (For the Next 7 Generations/Grant writing)
Yance Ford (Strong Island)
Iris Ng (Shirkers)
Kellen Quinn (Time)
Derek Howard (Cannibalizing The Conductor)
Rupeshi Shah (Jane Fonda em Cinco Atos)
Travis Wood (Meerkat Media)
Monika Navarro (Firelight Media)
Lucila Moctezuma (Chicken & Egg)
Milton Tabbot (The Gotham)
Kelly Anderson (UNSTUCK: an OCD kids movie)
Francisco Bello (Dreaming Against the World/The First Wave)
Alan Berliner (Letter to the Editor)
Angad Bhalla (Herman’s House)
Marcelo Bukin (Brooklyn Experience)
Gary Chou (Orbital)
Sarah Christman (Swarm Season)
Ramona Diaz (A Thousand Cuts)
Jacqueline Goss (OR119)
Zachary Heinzerling (McCartney 3,2,1)
Ellen Kuras (The Betrayal – Nerakhoon)
Penny Lane (Listening to Kenny G)
Peter Levin (Director/founder Splash Studios)
Marilyn Ness (Charm City)
Omar Mullick (You Resemble Me)
Terence Nance (An Oversimplification of Her Beauty)
Jenny Raskin (Impact Partners)
Emily Rothschild (Long Shot Factory)
Lana Wilson (Pretty Baby, Miss Americana)
Martha Shane (Narrowsburg)
Merrill Sterritt (IF/Then - Field of Vision)
Michèle Stephenson (Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project)
J.t. Takagi (She Rhymes Like a Girl)
David Teague (The Departure)
Basil Tsiokos (Sundance)
Stefanos Tsivopoulos (History Zero)
Pacho Velez (Searchers)
Stephanie Wang-Breal (Florence from Ohio)
James N Kienitz Wilkins (Still Film, The Plagiarists)
Debra Zimmerman (Women Make Movies)
Sophia Nahli Allison (Girls Like Toyin)
Elegance Bratton (The Inspection)
Angelica Negron (Composer, Landfall)
Chloe Gbai (Netflix)
Terra Long (The Stammering Alphabet)
Isidore Bethel (Acts of Love)
Silvia Castaños (Hummingbirds)
Estefanía "Beba" Contreras (Hummingbirds)
Leslie Benavides (Hummingbirds)
Jillian Schlesinger (Maidentrip)
“The program did an incredible job of creating a sense of urgency for the filmmakers. That feeling acted as a motivator for me to produce the best possible work while there in Brooklyn. I was more than happy with the overall structure. I felt that I was pushed, but I also felt that I had enough time to get the work done.”
Summer Documentary Lab 2016, NYC multi-media artist, Franklin Furnace Fund grantee, represented in London by Rokeby Gallery.
Artist Encounters with guest artists and industry professionals who represent some of the most exciting voices in the documentary field.
For an encounter, a visiting artist often shares the detailed history of a particular project from both a practical and a theoretical perspective as part of a larger conversation with the group. Encounters with visiting artists provide encouragement, inspiration, and exposure to a diverse set of conceptual perspectives and practical methods. UnionDocs has an expansive network of filmmakers from NYC and beyond that are invited for these opportunities.