TFI Documentary Fund: Frequently Asked Questions

Is my project eligible?

The TFI Documentary Fund funds and furthers the development of exceptional character-driven, non-fiction works that spotlight contemporary themes with an original focus and bold, creative filmmaking. This fund allows TFI to fund many audience-grabbing genres that fall under the documentary umbrella including arts, sports, hybrid and experimental projects.

We DO support:

  • Films that are character-driven, as opposed to issue-driven
  • Films that depict dramatic, complex and layered individuals. If they are historical, there must be a contemporary connection to the subject matter
  • Films whose stories and ideas are grounded in the contemporary cultural environment
  • Films that are first-person, or personal in nature
  • Films in the advanced stages of development, production or post-production

We DO NOT support:

  • Short films or student projects
  • Films that are being made solely to support an advocacy campaign
  • Films with an intended exhibition date prior to selection
  • Films that are not 100% character and story driven

What are some examples of films that would qualify for funding?

Please refer to our previous grantees to get an idea of the types of films we fund.

In order to be eligible, what anticipated length should my film be?

The Fund is designed to support feature-length films with an intended length of at least 67 minutes.

Are films in development or early in production eligible for the Fund?

Yes, the Fund is designed to provide funds to films that are in the advanced stages of development or either in production or post-production. Films still in development must be thoroughly researched and have already secured access to subject(s), including footage already shot.

Are student films eligible for the Fund?

No, unfortunately we do not accept student film submissions.

What if I am turning my grad thesis into a feature?

Yes, grad theses being turned into feature films are eligible for the Fund. However, the new project should be a stand-alone documentary work-in-progress.

If I am a first time filmmaker, am I still eligible to apply?

We encourage both seasoned and first time filmmakers to apply for the Fund.

Are international productions eligible for the Fund?

Yes, international productions are eligible. All sample work provided must have English subtitles. The Fund will only consider proposals written in English.

Are animated documentary films eligible to apply?

Yes, animated documentary films are eligible, but they must be feature-length and focus on character.


How do I apply?

An application for the TFI Documentary Fund consists of a series of questions that must be answered and submitted online, as well as footage that may be mailed to the Tribeca Film Institute office or uploaded on URLs onto the application. In an attempt to reduce the amount of DVD materials we receive, we strongly encourage the use of video-sharing links, but we happily accept both.

What is the TFI/ESPN Prize?

As an extension of the TFI Documentary Fund, the TFI/ESPN Prize awards one $30,000 grant to a feature-length documentary that presents sports, competition and athleticism as a backdrop within a character-driven story. Projects eligible for the TFI/ESPN Prize can be in any stage of development or production, but cannot have distribution already in place. 

What is a proposal/treatment?

Your written proposal is separate from your online application; both are required. While the online application provides us with a reference for your information, the proposal/treatment is your chance to fully introduce your film and yourself. Your proposal/treatment should provide a clear overview of what happens (or what you intend to happen) in your story from start to finish, introducing all of the major characters and covering all of the major plot points. It is important that you not only lay forth the characters and major beats, but link them together in a way that reflects the tone and style of the story you intend to tell. Treatments that are too short or vague will not be considered strongly. Please remember – your proposal or treatment is your chance to explain the context and approach to your film, as well as delve into overall production notes.

Why do I have to request a specific amount of money from the Fund?

One of our main goals is to ensure that our funding will have the best possible impact on your film. We therefore ask that you submit a short break-down of how you will use the requested money allocated for the TFI Documentary Fund ($25,000 - $50,000.

Can I request funding to be applied towards outreach, marketing or distribution?

No, funds can only be applied towards the completion of a film.

I have both a trailer and a rough cut ready- which one should I submit as a sample?

The idea is for you to put forth what you consider to be your best work. We will accept all footage that you choose to make available and viewable via mail or online URL uploaded onto the application – whether it is a teaser/trailer, scene selects or a rough assembly/cut of the film. Sample footage from the project can be in any language or dialect; however, if it is not in English it must be subtitled.

I do not have a seven-minute trailer completed at this time- what should I provide as a sample?

We need a footage sample from the proposed film, so that we can understand your project and your current stage. We ask for a sample that is at least 5-7 minutes long, as such a sample is usually able to convey the subject, approach and scope of the project. Alternately we are happy to look at scene selects or an assemblage. We encourage you to send as much footage for us to look at as you are comfortable sending.

Can I provide a previously completed work instead of a sample from the submitted project?

Yes. If you do not have footage of the submitted project to share with us, we can accept a previously completed work as a work sample.

When is the submission deadline? Is there a fee?

The 2016 submission deadline is TBD. If mailing footage DVDs, materials MUST be postmarked by the final deadline. There is no fee to apply to the TFI Documentary Fund.

What is an Artistic Statement?

The Artistic Statement is your opportunity to discuss your creative vision for your project. This is where you can speak to the tone and style of the film, and to the reasoning behind your creative choices with regards to subject matter, medium, setting, etc. It’s also the place to touch upon your motivation for telling this story and for how you’ve decided to tell it.

Do you need a budget from me? Why?

We do require an actual or estimated budget top-sheet, and the more detailed a budget you can provide, the better. This allows TFI staff to accurately evaluate your project and the strength of your plans for seeing it realized. For example, this can include any expenses accrued from an initial shooting period; securing rights to footage and/or music; or cost of equipment.

Can I e-mail you my submission materials?

No. We require that you upload all documents as attachments on your online application. Here you may upload project footage and/or a rough cut to a link online or send in two DVD copies (NTSC format, Zone 0 or 1) as detailed on the application and in the Rules & Regulations page.

What kind of photo do I need for my application? How can I get it to you?

You should upload a photo that is at least 10" (or 3000 pixels) with a 300 dpi resolution, so that it’s attached to your application. While you definitely don’t need a professional headshot, you should upload a picture that you are comfortable seeing online and in print, as it may be used for promotional purposes if your project is selected. Be sure to name your photo 'firstname_lastname.jpg' before uploading it! We cannot accept photos by mail or email.

What if there are developments with my project after I submit it?

Please keep us posted about new project developments by emailing with the subject “UPDATE: Project Title (Application #)”. Depending on how far along we are in the review process, we will do our best to take developments into consideration. However, once submissions close, new proposal drafts, additional footage or new cuts will not be accepted or taken into consideration (unless otherwise instructed).

Can I apply to other TFI programs?

Yes! Upon applying to the TFI Documentary Fund, you will answer a number of preliminary questions that will determine if your project is also eligible for other programs open at that time. You need only to fill out one application per project. If you would like to submit another project for consideration, you are welcome to, but you must fill out a separate application.

How will I know that the Fund has received my submission materials?

As soon as you submit your application, you will be notified by email that TFI has received your submission. If you would like to verify that there aren’t any outstanding elements to your application, you can do so by emailing, and including your initial confirmation email or your Project Tracking ID#.

Will the Fund return my submission materials?

No, we will be unable to return any of your submitted materials.


How are winning films selected?

Initial rounds of evaluation will be conducted and thoroughly vetted by Tribeca Film Institute staff. Final Selections will be made by TFI and a select group of industry professionals.

When will I be notified if my film is awarded funding?

You will be notified whether or not you are granted funding, exact date for 2016 is TBD.

If my project is selected to the TFI Documentary Fund, will it screen at the Tribeca Film Festival?

Acceptance to the TFI Documentary Fund does not indicate acceptance to the festival. Filmmakers with completed films seeking to apply to the Tribeca Film Festival should fill out a separate application by visiting

Where can I find additional answers to questions?

You will find more information about the application process in our Rules and Regulations. Our staff will be happy to answer any other questions or concerns you may have. Please contact us at or call us at 212-274-8080 x33.