Sundance Documentary Short Film Fund

Sundance Documentary Short Film Fund

Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Fund and The Marshall Project have partnered on a series of short film projects aimed at finding, nurturing, and elevating documentary stories about the U.S. criminal justice system.

We are looking for filmmakers or teams with an individual in a key creative position (director, producer, director of photography, or editor) who has been impacted by the U.S. criminal justice system to develop stories that take a fresh approach to criminal justice narratives. Non-recoupable grants of up to $25,000 USD per project will be awarded to support up to five nonfiction short films, which will be launched on The Marshall Project website and a streaming or broadcast partner.

We’re looking for narratives of all kinds—journalistic, investigative, historical, animated, vérité-led, and more—that shed light on any part of the system, including immigration, policing, domestic violence, guns and racial injustice. We seek to select teams or filmmakers, especially artists from diverse backgrounds, who have been impacted by the criminal justice system in some way in order to empower and amplify voices not often heard. At the intersection of journalism and nonfiction storytelling, this partnership aims to amplify the work of these artists while offering balanced and impactful reporting.

About The Marshall Project

The Marshall Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization that seeks to create and sustain a sense of national urgency about the U.S. criminal justice system. We achieve this through award-winning journalism, partnerships with other news outlets, and public forums. In all of our work we strive to educate and enlarge the audience of people who care about the state of criminal justice.

About Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program

The Documentary Film Program supports nonfiction filmmakers worldwide in the production of cinematic documentaries on contemporary themes. Established in 2002 with founding support from Open Society Foundations, the program is a vibrant global resource for independent nonfiction storytelling.


Projects with at least one key creative (director, producer, director of photography, or editor) impacted by the criminal justice system

Directors or producers with at least one completed short film that premiered at an international film festival or online platform (example: Vimeo, New York Times: Op-Docs, the New Yorker, YouTube, etc.)

Directors or producers who have demonstrated experience in creating high-quality documentary films

What are we looking for?

The following are requirements for projects to be considered:

Stories about the contemporary criminal justice issues in the U.S. that have not been told or will be told through a new or different perspective

Stories that can be effectively told in a short format (10–30 minutes)

Stories that clearly identify the issue and have a clear sense of purpose and direction

Projects may be at any stage of production, but secured access to subjects and location is required

Projects with high production value and sound quality

What happens after you apply?

Once the application closes, we expect it will take one to two months to consider the submissions and notify applicants. We will notify all applicants of their status once a decision has been made; notifications will not be made on a rolling basis. Please do not contact the office to request status updates. Due to the high volume of applications, we cannot provide any feedback.

Deadline: 30 September

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