Documentary Filmmaking: Developing Your Story

The feedback on my proposal was really helpful in forcing me to think more deeply about my idea. I'm walking away with a much clearer vision and more confidence than when I started. I also loved hearing the insights of a diverse panel of advisors, as opposed to just one, as each one had a unique perspective on the industry and making documentaries. I learned so much from every single one of them.

     —Vanessa J., Washington, DC, USA

Sundance Collab offers a robust collection of online courses in the Sundance spirit of amplifying your independent voice as a storyteller. Join our global community to hone your craft, network with other creators, and develop career strategies to help you navigate the film and television industry.

Learn the steps for developing a feature documentary--from conception and prep through production--with accomplished documentary filmmakers as your guides. In this live, online course, you will develop a compelling proposal for potential funders of your project.

In class sessions, you will analyze clips from multiple documentary films, complete interactive exercises, and discuss core concepts. Designated homework, reviewed by your course advisor, is designed to move your project idea through to a polished draft of a funding proposal. The course concludes with a one-on-one mentoring session with your advisor focused on your project. 

By the end of the course, you will:

  • review a wide variety of formal approaches to documentary.
  • articulate the difference between your topic/issue and your story. 
  • identify ethical issues in documentary filmmaking. 
  • discover ways to access and cast your characters.
  • review interview techniques and best practices.
  • learn techniques for achieving your aesthetic goals.
  • understand basic considerations of production including assembling your team and gear and anticipating potential roadblocks in the field.
  • understand how to organize and prepare your material for post-production.
  • get an overview of strategies for outreach and engagement campaigns.

This course is ideal for:

  • storytellers with an idea for a feature-length documentary, looking for an educational setting and guidance from experienced filmmakers and the support of a community.
  • documentary filmmakers moving from short-form to their first feature-length project.

Course enrollment is approximately 50 participants per session, with a participant to advisor ratio of 12-to-1. To apply, you must be prepared to work with a documentary project you plan to produce and/or direct.

Space is limited. Applications for this course are considered as they are received and applicants are accepted on a rolling basis until the course is full or the deadline has passed, whichever comes first.

Sundance Collab provides accommodations and support services to participants with disabilities. Accommodations and services are designed to meet the needs of each participant. Please email us at to arrange for services.