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Documentary Development Initiative

The Documentary Development Initiative is a new partnership between The Gotham and HBO Documentary Films. 

The program is created for storytellers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or storytellers with disabilities. The program’s intent is to provide resources to develop thought-provoking, character-driven contemporary ideas for documentary films and limited series. 

Through this initiative, up to 10 selected filmmakers will be given grants of $50,000 for research and creative development at an early stage. HBO and The Gotham will provide resources and mentorship to support the development of documentary projects. Initial funding may be used for creative development and ideation, research, treatment development, securing access, initial shooting and the production of work samples, trailers, etc. 

A grant from the fund would usually be the “first money in” from an outside source, though in some cases it could be a supplement to another initial small grant. The opportunity will exist for select grantees to receive follow-up grants for additional development. Grantees will also be paired with an established documentary filmmaker who will serve as their mentor for the duration of the program.

Ideas generated through the initiative will be offered to HBO on a “first-look” basis, giving HBO the first opportunity to make an offer to develop them further.

Funding for this grant is sponsored by: HBO Documentary Films, OneFifty, and WBD Access.


  •  Filmmakers must be 18 years of age or older.
  • Filmmakers must submit two films they’ve directed – either two short films OR one short film and one feature film. Filmmakers who have directed more than one feature film are not eligible.
  • Filmmakers must be allowed to work in the United States.
  • Applicants who advance in the application process may be asked for a letter of recommendation from a TV/film director, producer, writer, or professor.
  • Projects should not have funding in place from any broadcast or digital platforms or any other US distribution entity.
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