The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund (DFF) supports engaging documentaries in post-production which exhibit compelling stories, intriguing characters, and an original, innovative visual approach. Since its launch in 2011, the SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has distributed more than $900,000 to advance new work by filmmakers nationwide.
DFF grants are awarded once each year to documentary feature projects and are open to filmmakers internationally. Individual grant amounts and the number of grants made will be determined on an annual basis. As with all SFFILM grants, in addition to the cash awards, recipients will gain access to numerous benefits through the comprehensive and dynamic SFFILM Makers artist development program.
The SFFILM Documentary Film Fund has an excellent track record for advancing compelling films that go on to critical acclaim. Previous DFF winners include Ljubo Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska’s Honeyland, which won a record number of juried awards at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival and was nominated for Academy Awards for both Best Documentary Feature and Best Foreign Language Film; RaMell Ross’ Hale County This Morning, This Evening, which won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance 2018 and was nominated for the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature; Liza Mandelup’s Jawline, which won a Special Jury Award at Sundance 2019 and is currently streaming on Hulu; Hassan Fazili’s Midnight Traveler, which won a Special Jury Award at Sundance 2019 and the McBaine Documentary Feature Award at the 2019 SFFILM Festival; Luke Lorentzen’s Midnight Family, which premiered at Sundance 2019 and won dozens of awards including a Creative Recognition Award for Best Editing from the International Documentary Association; Assia Boundaoui’s The Feeling of Being Watched, which has won audience awards at several film festivals and was broadcast nationwide on POV; Alyssa Fedele and Zachary Fink’s The Rescue List, which had its world premiere at the 2018 SFFILM Festival and was broadcast nationwide on POV; and Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer, which won Sundance’s Directing Award for documentary and was nominated for the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
- Applicant must be at least 18 years old.
- Applicant must be in a key creative role for the film: ideally, the producer or director.
- Applicants who are not SFFILM members must pay the $25 (regular deadline) or $45 (late deadline) fee. SFFILM members will have all fees waived.
- Filmmaker may not be SFFILM employee or board member.
- Filmmaker may not be a full-time student.
- Project cannot be a work for hire.
- Project must be a feature length documentary (60 minutes or more).
- Project must be in, or within three months of, post-production at the time of the final deadline.
- Projects can be produced or based anywhere in the world.
- Projects must be consistent with SFFILM’s mission and represent an imaginative contribution to the moving image art form.
- Project reflects excellence in storytelling and visual style.
- Project reflects innovation in storytelling and visual style.
- Projects that primarily use interviews as a storytelling device will not be considered.
- To begin the application process, navigate to the “Apply Now” page to review the required items for submission. If you have not yet created an account for the SFFILM Grant Platform, please do so (please note: this is separate from your SFFILM member account).
- Filmmaker clearly articulates the intended goals for the grant.
- Filmmaker explains how the project takes a visually innovative approach.
- Filmmaker demonstrates how the grant will impact short- and long-term professional and artistic goals.
- It is recommended that the 5-minute sample be 1-2 scenes from the film and not a trailer.
- Only one application per project will be accepted.
- Please note that while we encourage filmmakers to apply for to the SFFILM Festival and other SFFILM Makers grant, fellowship, and residency programs, winning a Documentary Film Fund grant does not guarantee acceptance into any of the above programs.
- Films that have previously submitted to this fund may reapply if significant progress has been made since the last submission.
- Filmmakers will be notified of their application status via email by the end of August. Funds for grantees will be available shortly thereafter.
- Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.
No. The SFFILM Doc Film Fund is open to filmmakers based anywhere in the U.S. or internationally.
The SFFILM Doc Film Fund supports feature-length documentaries in post-production. While we know the documentary production process is often nonlinear with various stages happening at the same time, films should be predominantly be in the post-production phase within six months of the final deadline.
We recommend sending 1-2 scenes so that the review committee can get a sense of the story and characters and if it can sustain a feature length film, your access to the central subjects, and the artistic voice and direction of the film. We recommend sending the scene(s) you feel most strongly portray these elements in lieu of a trailer. We understand the scenes will be in progress and do not expect them to be picture locked, color corrected, or finalized in any way. If you have a longer sample already cut, you are welcome to send that. If you send materials over 5 minutes, we cannot guarantee that the review committee will be able to watch more than the first five minutes of the materials you send. If you do not want the first five minutes to be watched, please include the timecode of the five minutes you would like the committee to watch.
The SFFILM Doc Film Fund supports a range of films from around the world. Films do not have to have a strong social issue and most often do not have that at the center of the film. The fund supports documentaries that exhibit compelling stories, intriguing characters and an innovative visual approach. Recent examples of this include Honeyland, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Midnight Family, The Feeling of Being Watched, Midnight Traveler, and Cutie and the Boxer.
The Documentary Film Fund grants its support to approximately 4 projects each year with grants of $20,000.
All applicants will be notified of their status through the SFFILM grant platform by mid-August.
For more information about our grants and fellowships, visit our FAQ page.