Documentary Lab

The Documentary Lab is Firelight Media’s longest-running artist program. This 18-month fellowship is designed to nurture underrepresented nonfiction storytellers working on their first or second feature film. The Documentary Lab provides holistic support for fellows’ projects and careers through professional development retreats, customized mentorship, and a $25K project grant. Throughout the Lab, filmmakers build a network within the documentary ecosystem, connecting with the fellows and alumni, as well as forging industry relationships across the field.


Note: The Documentary Lab application is now closed. The latest call for proposals is archived below.


May 20, 2022
Firelight Documentary Lab Info Session

Firelight Media hosted an informational webinar about applying to the Documentary Lab for emerging nonfiction filmmakers of color.


Meet the 2022-2024 Documentary Lab Fellows

More than just a workshop, the Documentary Lab is unrivaled in its representation of diverse filmmakers, creating a 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 underrepresented filmmakers in the United States in 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’re looking for ambitious applicants making 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.

The timeline for application review, finalist notifications, and the upcoming Fellowship is below.

  • 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 an underrepresented community and reside in the United States or U.S. territories (Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, U.S. Samoa, Guam/Northern Mariana Islands).
  • The project must be a long-form/feature-length documentary; the Lab does not accept short documentaries, series, or fiction projects of any kind.
  • The 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 or pre-production, or completed films.
  • Filmmaker must be an emerging documentary filmmaker (working on their first or second feature-length documentary).

Filmmakers are not eligible to receive support through one or any of Firelight Media’s artist programs if:

  • The filmmaker is applying with a project that is a student film or related to ongoing coursework.
  • The filmmaker is re-applying to a program they previously received support from.
  • The filmmaker is contracted with another Firelight Media artist program and has not completed the final deliverables by the time they are selected for this program.
  • The filmmaker is employed by Firelight Media, Firelight Films, or PBS as an officer, full-time employee, or is a member of the board of directors.
  • The filmmaker does not hold the majority of the intellectual property of the film.


  • Monday, April 1, 2024 - Application Open Call Begins 
  • Monday, May 13, 2024 - Application Open Call Ends (The application on Submittable will automatically close at 11:59 PM EST on Monday, May 13, 2024. No late submissions accepted.)
  • May-August 2024 - Application Review Period 
  • August 2024 - Panel Review 
  • September 2024 - Finalist Interviews 
  • October 2024 - Final Notifications


  • Mid-November 2024 - Orientation 
  • Spring 2025 - Retreat #1 (in-person, location TBD) 
  • Summer/Fall 2025 - Retreat #2 (virtual)
  • Winter 2026 - Retreat #3 (in-person, location TBD)


View Documentary Lab FAQs here (pdf).

View a recording of the 2024 Documentary Lab Info Session below.

Questions about the Documentary Lab? Please write to us at

Funding for this program is provided by
The MacArthur Foundation logo.
The Ford Foundation logo.
The Open Society Foundations logo.
The Wyncote Foundation logo.
The Nathan Cummings Foundation logo.
The Park Foundation logo.
The New York Community Trust logo.
Abrams Foundation logo.
NYC Council on the Arts logo.
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