ITVS Humanities Documentary Development Fellowship

A one-time, 12-month unrestricted fellowship to help pandemic-affected independent documentary filmmakers with early development of high-potential projects that increase the diversity, urgency, and relevance of the nation’s humanities-centered documentary pipeline.

The deadline for this round was December 1, 2021 11:59 PM PST

The Application Process


Supported by NEH Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (#SHARP) funding, the ITVS Humanities Documentary Development Fellowship will help pandemic-affected independent documentary filmmakers develop high-potential projects that align with NEH’s “A More Perfect Union” initiative, and increase the diversity, urgency, and relevance of the nation’s humanities-centered documentary pipeline. Support will be awarded in the form of 12-month, unrestricted stipends to a diverse cohort of independent documentary filmmakers at all stages of their careers, as well as advisors working in the humanities who will provide input and counsel to strengthen filmmaking humanities practices.

Hear more details about the ITVS Humanities Documentary Development Fellowship in a Sundance Insider Session on October 28 at 11a PT. Register here.

What to Expect

Review Process

ITVS staff review all applications for eligibility, completeness, and responsiveness, and then use a peer review process to evaluate all eligible and complete applications. Peer reviewers include humanities scholars, documentary specialists, and others with relevant expertise. Final selections will be made based on the selection criteria outlined below as well as the quality of the concept, the potential of the partnership with humanities scholars, and the demonstrated track record and economic need of the applicant. 

Project Development

Over a 12-month period spanning 2022 and 2023, this fellowship and the dedicated coaching that comes with it will allow funded documentary makers more time and energy to develop early concepts into high-quality humanities projects. Each fellow will be supported by advisors drawn from relevant fields in the humanities, along with the support of ITVS staff. Advisors will include thought leaders, as well as experts in archival research and third-party rights clearance, with the goal of strengthening the humanities scholarship and quality of the content. 

Filmmakers will develop a concept and nurture it through the early phases of research and development with the input and expertise from humanities scholars, positioning a project to compete for development and production funding with a full treatment, advisors, and a plan for production, distribution, and engagement.


You are eligible to apply if:

  • You will maintain ultimate business and artistic control of the project you are developing as a director or producer of the project;

  • You have previous film or television production experience as a director or producer;

  • You are experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic;

  • You are a citizen or legal resident of the U.S. and its external territories;

  • You are not a principal of, employed by, or otherwise represent production entities outside of the U.S. and its territories;

  • You are only applying to this ITVS funding initiative at this time; projects under consideration in other ITVS funding calls will need to wait for that process to be completed;

  • You are not currently a signatory to an open ITVS production license contract;

  • You are in contract compliance with any previously closed ITVS funded project;

  • You are not a full-time student, and the proposed project is not a student project;

  • You do not hold another NEH award concurrently (individual sub-recipients may hold other fellowships or awards during their NEH funded period of performance);

  • You do not have overlapping project costs with any other pending or approved application(s) for federal funding and/or approved federal awards;

  • You are not a full-time employee, board member, director, officer, or immediate family   member of ITVS, nor a former employee who has worked for ITVS within the past 12 months;

  • You are age 18 or older.

Note: the ITVS Humanities Documentary Development Fellowship is supported through the NEH Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (#SHARP) funding. Any person or project applying for these funds is eligible to receive funding through only one of the NEH-supported documentary entities providing this funding (ITVS, Firelight Media, and Sundance Institute).

Selection Criteria

Submissions will be evaluated based on how effectively the project proposal incorporates the following:

  • Explore, reflect on, and tell the stories of our quest for a more just, inclusive, and sustainable society throughout our history.
  • Bring the perspective of the humanities to questions of racial justice, gender equality, the evolution of the American landscape, as well as America 's place in the world.
  • Strengthen Americans' knowledge of our principles of constitutional governance and democracy as well as projects that address the experiences of Native Americans and other underrepresented communities.
  • Develop innovative approaches to sustaining the nation's humanities infrastructure and preserving its historical record.
  • Reflect regional, racial, ethnic or cultural issues otherwise unavailable on public television, including the experiences of people with disabilities.
  • Speak to or from a variety of political, social or critical viewpoints that bring new ideas or greater depth of discourse to the medium.
  • Successfully explore aesthetic values, formats, genres or production techniques not generally utilized on television.