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, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Program Dates & Deadlines
July 4, 2022 – Aug 5, 2022
Summer Documentary Lab 1—
For Projects in Early Production
Aug 15, 2022 – Sept 2, 2022
Summer Documentary Lab 2—
For Research & Development
Jan 20, 2022
Feb 18, 2022
Early Deadline *No application fee
March 15, 2022
Final Deadline *$15 application fee
Feb 9, 2022
Information Session at 12PM
April 1, 2022
Applicant Interviews Begin
Early May 2022
Notification for invited participants & waitlist
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
Kelly Anderson (My Brooklyn)
Francisco Bello (War Don Don)
Alan Berliner (First Cousin Once Removed)
Angad Bhalla (Herman’s House)
Caitlin Boyle (Film Sprout)
Marcelo Bukin (Dreaming Nicaragua)
Gary Chou (Orbital)
Sarah Christman (As Above So Below)
Ramona Diaz (Don’t Stop Believin’: Everyman’s Journey)
Jacqueline Goss (The Observers)
Zachary Heinzerling (Cutie and the Boxer)
Tracie Holder (Women Make Movies)
Ellen Kuras (The Betrayal – Nerakhoon)
Adella Ladjevardi (Cinereach)
Penny Lane (Hail Satan!)
Peter Levin (Director/founder Splash Studios)
Marilyn Ness (Charm City)
Omar Mullick (These Birds Walk)
Terence Nance (Random Acts of Flyness)
Jenny Raskin (Impact Partners)
Emily Rothschild (Long Shot Factory)
Lana Wilson (The Departure)
Martha Shane (After Tiller)
Merrill Sterritt (Film Presence)
Michèle Stephenson (American Promise)
J.t. Takagi (Sound Recordist & Filmmaker)
David Teague (Editor, The Departure)
Basil Tsiokos (Programmer Sundance & Doc Nyc)
Stefanos Tsivopoulos (History Zero)
Pacho Velez (Searchers)
Stephanie Wang-breal (Blowin’ Up)
James N Kienitz Wilkins (The Plagerists)
Debra Zimmerman (Women Make Movies)
Sophia Nahli Allison (Love Song for Latasha)
Elegance Bratton (Pier Kids)
Angelica Negron (Composer, Memories of a Penitent Heart)
Chloe Gbai (IF/Then Shorts at Field of Vision)
Terra Long (350 Mya)
Derek Howard (The Hottest August)
“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.
Regular screenings and seminars on a diverse and exciting collection of documentary works
Gain a broader understanding of contemporary nonfiction forms. Seminars are held two to three times per week with experienced academics, critics, and programmers who will guide discussions regarding readings and films they assign. Films are chosen to showcase the range of documentary today, but also to respond to ideas in the participants’ proposals. These seminars are designed to stimulate creativity, open discussion and debate, and offer a common set of references for the group. Once a week, these seminars also include a guest artist to discuss their own work with the lead and the participants.
Fridays are devoted to on-site visits to some of the most influential documentary organizations based in New York.
“Site visits give participants a chance to meet directly with programmers, production houses and funders to ask questions and gain understanding about their process. In the past, field trips have been made to POV, the Tribeca Institute, Impact Partners Film, Chicken and Egg, NY Times Op-Docs, Topic, Dig it Audio, Full Circle Post, Technicolor, Film Society of Lincoln Center, IFP, Women Make Movies, and AbelCine, among many others.
“Overall the program was amazing and life changing in a lot of ways. I felt like I was working in a vacuum for years, so it was fantastic to feel like I was part of a community… words can’t express the gratitude and appreciation. I plan to come for more weekend sessions when I can.”
—Rodney Evans (Vision Portraits), Summer Documentary Lab Fellow, Creative Capital Grantee, Guggenheim Fellow, Sundance award-winner. Summer Documentary Lab 2016
Bottom line: Get the tools you need to take your documentary idea further: a refined pitch, an improved media sample, a fully articulated proposal, realistic budgets and a production plan.
The primary goal of both Summer Documentary Labs is to support the development of your project. We provide a framework of instruction, workshops, assignments, and deadlines; all designed to push your work forward. Group critiques with peers and one-on-one sessions with the lead instructor and mentors challenge you to clarify your interests and perspective. Additionally, a meeting will be set up with a project consultant from the field who is specifically matched to your project and goals. You will leave the program with a deeper understanding of your intentions, a concrete production plan, and well-rehearsed options for articulating the project, pursuing funding, and cultivating an audience.
Application Details & Program Fees
Applicants must have a documentary project in early phases of development. Applicants should have demonstrated access to their subjects and/or the ability to pursue the proposed project given the right resources. It is best if applicant already has some footage to work with. Applicant should not be completed with production.
Applicants should have a Bachelors Degree or equivalent in experience.
Fees have been set up to be as a low as possible, while also providing for a meaningful experience in a well-organized environment. UnionDocs is a small independent non-profit organization that has grown from grassroots. We do not have an endowment, nor institutional affiliation, so we rely on these fees to help with the program’s operating costs. We strive to deliver a lot more for participants than they would expect to get paying for a single course at university.
Early Production Lab Fees
$3200 (5 weeks)
Research & Development Lab Fees
$2200 (3 weeks)
$500 deposit is due immediately upon accepting the invitation to join the summer lab. The full balance is due Jun 1, 2022.
Scholarships & Crowdfunding
For each Lab, UnionDocs will offer the equivalent of full 2 scholarships for BIPOC filmmakers. Applicants interested in this possibility should let us during the interview, and we will give further details.
A private crowdfunding platform at donate.uniondocs.org is also available to accepted applicants, where they can accept tax deductible donations to offset their program fees.
All requests for refunds must be submitted in writing to the Executive Director of UnionDocs. The refund policy for participants enrolled in the Summer Lab is as follows:
—50% refund of deposit is possible with withdrawal before May 25, 2022
—50% refund of total program fees is possible with withdrawal before June 15, 2022
—No refunds are possible after June 30, 2022