Documentary Lab

Firelight Media’s flagship Documentary Lab seeks out and develops emerging filmmakers of color who make artful and innovative nonfiction films. The 18-month Documentary Lab provides filmmakers with customized mentorship from prominent leaders in the documentary world, as well as funding, professional development workshops, and networking opportunities.




More than just a workshop, the Documentary Lab is unrivaled in its representation of diverse filmmakers, creating an exclusive network of talented, unique storytellers that receive ongoing support from a project’s conception to its completion. Over the last decade, the Documentary Lab grew from a mentorship program to a robust artist development initiative that has supported over 100 emerging filmmakers, and granted over $600k toward productions and distribution.

The Firelight Media Documentary Lab is an 18-month fellowship program that supports filmmakers in the United States from racially and ethnically underrepresented communities directing their first or second feature-length documentary film. The Documentary Lab provides filmmakers with a $25,000 grant toward their projects as well as customized mentorship from prominent leaders in the documentary world, professional development retreats, and networking opportunities. 

We look for applicants who make artful and innovative documentary films that focus on underrepresented communities and provide new narratives about the most pressing issues of our time. Firelight Media will consider all types of long-form documentary projects – historical, investigative, personal, vérité, and experimental.

Firelight Media utilizes the Core Documentary Application. As part of your submission, you will need to share a work sample or rough cut no less than 10 minutes and no longer than 30 minutes.

  • Only the director of the film is eligible to apply and enter the program. We can accept co-directors if they meet all eligibility requirements. If you’re applying with your co-director, please indicate that in your application. We cannot accept more than 2 directors per project.
  • Filmmaker must be from a racially and ethnically underrepresented community and be residing in the United States, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories.*
  • The project must be a long-form/feature-length documentary; the Lab does not accept short documentaries, series, or fiction projects of any kind.
  • Film must be a work-in-progress. We accept films from early production through production or post-production. We do not accept films in development, pre-production or completed films.
  • Filmmaker must be an emerging documentary filmmaker (working on their first or second feature length documentary).
  • Filmmaker cannot apply with a student film to the lab.

*Firelight Media accepts applications from filmmakers who identify as people of color based in the United States regardless of their citizenship status. At the moment, we do not accept filmmakers who are based internationally for this program.



  • May 2, 2022 – Application Open Call Begins
  • Monday, June 13, 2022 – Application Open Call Ends  
    (The application on Submittable will automatically close at 11:59 PM EST on Monday, June 13, 2022. No late submissions will be accepted.)
  • June - September 2022 – Application Review Period
  • September 2022 – Panel Review
  • Early October 2022 – Finalist Interviews
  • October - November 2022 – Final Notifications


  • Mid-November 2022 – Orientation
  • Early to mid February 2023 – Retreat #1
  • Early to mid October 2023 – Retreat #2
  • Late March to early April 2024 – Retreat #3


View a recording of the 2021 Documentary Lab Open Call Q&A on our YouTube page.

View Documentary Lab FAQs (PDF).

May 2, 2022
June 13, 2022

The dates for the 2022 Documentary Lab Open Call are Monday, May 2, 2022 - Monday, June 13, 2022 at 11:59PM EST. 


We strongly suggest that you first write your application in a Word document or create your own separate copy as a back-up prior to applying via the Submittable portal. Please be sure to save your document then copy & paste your responses into the online application via Submittable. Uploading files into your application via Submittable might take some time, do not wait until the last hour to submit, we do not accept any late submissions.

Questions about the Documentary Lab? Please write to us at

Major funding support for Firelight Media’s Documentary Lab is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with additional support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, the Wyncote Foundation, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Park Foundation, the New York Community Trust, and the NY State Council on the Arts.


Join Our Mailing List

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.