UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art

322 Union Ave. Williamsburg
Brooklyn, NY 11211 — Map

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Summer Documentary Intensive

There’s a story you want to tell.
There’s an image you need to record.
You found a seed for a documentary.

Ready to dive in?

This is where you start.

Meet the 2016 Summer Documentary Intensive Fellows!

About the program:

The UnionDocs Summer Documentary Intensive is a 5-week program for a select group of emerging filmmakers from the US and abroad. Based in one of NYC’s most exciting neighborhoods, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, the program explores contemporary approaches to documentary film, offers a stronger understanding of the best practices and business of production, and helps to develop the foundation of your independent project.

The program consists of screenings, seminar discussions, professional development sessions, critique, mentorship, many guest artist and industry professionals master classes and weekly visits to relevant sites around New York City. The Summer Documentary Intensive exposes participants to a diverse set of creative documentary practices from around the world, encouraging experimentation and discovery. In many ways, it is a condensed version of the guidance available to fellows in our Collaborative Studio. Drawing inspiration from the worlds of art, anthropology and activism, it should not be mistaken for an industrial, journalistic, or traditional documentary training. In an article in The New York Times, film scholar Scott MacDonald, remarked, “UnionDocs has a healthy sense that the older definitions of what constitutes ‘experimental’ cinema and what constitutes ‘documentary’ are up for grabs.”

Twelve to fourteen applicants are selected for the program on the basis of their past experience and the strength of a current documentary proposal or concept. Previous work in documentary is not required, but a demonstrated commitment to independent creative work is necessary. Through the Intensive, participants work to develop their ideas, formulate practical plans, learn technical skills, and assemble a package of descriptive materials that will help them pursue further support for their project. Mentorship as well as critique by instructors, participants, and guests artists cultivate the proposals in safe yet serious environment.

We bring together an exciting international group, and this peer interaction is a big asset to the program. Up to six participants will have the option to stay in the UnionDocs residency, an affordable and convenient housing option for international or out of town guests. Regular readings and assignments for seminars stimulate creativity, open discussion and debate, and offer a common set of references for the group. Participants will engage in writing a treatment and fundraising proposal for their project and edit a sample trailer to begin seeking potential funders and producers. A formal pitching session and a proposal evaluation are the final results of the five week experience.

The Brooklyn Rail summed it up with the title of their feature article: “UnionDocs Brings Auteurs Together”. For some, participation in the program may lead to the development and completion of a documentary. For others, it may lead to independent projects, collaborations or strengthened careers within the industry. For all, it is an unparalleled immersion in the expansive field of documentary art.

Application Deadlines: 

Open in January 2017

Primary Benefits

Regular screenings and seminars on a diverse and exciting collection of documentary works. Gain a broader understanding of contemporary nonfiction forms.

Master Classes with guest artists and industry professionals who represent some of the most exciting voices in the documentary field.

A stronger understanding of business and best practices of managing a documentary production.

Bottom line: Get the tools you need to take your documentary idea further: a refined pitch, an improved media sample, a fully articulated proposal, realistic budgets and a production plan.

Residency Option

The Summer Documentary Intensive is split between residents and non-residents. Five resident participants live in the two-floor residency at 322 Union Avenue, while non-resident participants set up their housing independently or already live in NYC.

International applicants have priority for the residency option, as we have found that it can be difficult to arrange short-term housing when arriving in NYC from abroad. However, any applicants to the program may choose to be considered for a spot in the residency because they are attracted to the kind of dynamic interaction and inspiration that can come from an intentional living arrangement. Having a place to come back to after work or play, where roommates share a vision and are involved in an ongoing experience is something pretty unique in the city.

322 Union Ave is a great place to live in one of NYC’s most exciting neighborhoods, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It has a lot of shared resources and opportunities for fun while also having adequate privacy and comfort. There are three floors, a big second story porch, and a beautiful backyard with plants tended by UnionDocs. The two floors above the commercial first floor space consist of 5 nicely-sized bedrooms, two full bathrooms, and a shared kitchen, dining room and study room. Both have wood floors, get lots of light, and were recently renovated. Bedrooms can be locked, but common spaces are shared by the five residents and staff. The apartments are furnished, so residents need only bring their personal items. The building also has high-speed internet and a washer and dryer. The location is close to excellent transportation, making most spots in Manhattan and Brooklyn within a short subway ride.

Schedule and Fees

ScheduleSample WeekMilestonesFeesResidencyRefund Policy

2017 dates TBA.

Monday – Thursday 10am – 5pm Seminars, meetings, and screenings.
Fridays: 10am-2pm Site Visits

The Summer Documentary Intensive is a five-week program with full day commitments Monday-Thursday. In addition to the meeting schedule above, expect five independent hours each week of work towards proposal writing or trailer editing and five hours of assigned watching and reading. Outings in the city on Fridays are half-days.

Monday Film Screening, Seminar. Professional Development Session
Tuesday Film Screening, Guest Masterclass Professional Development Session
Wednesday Film Screening, Seminar. Professional Development Session
Thursday Film Screening, Guest Masterclass Professional Development Session
Friday Site Visit

Week 1:
Initial Pitch to participants and leaders
Week 2:
Presentation of honed Written Proposal
Week 3:
Presentation of new project Media Sample
Week 4:
Elaborate a Budget and Production Plan
Week 5:
Final pitch to experts in the field

Application Fee $15

Program fees are $2800, payable in two parts:

    $500 deposit due upon accepting the invitation.


    Full balance due date TBA.

These fees have been set up to be as a low as possible, while also providing for a meaningful experience in a well-organized environment. UnionDocs is a small independent non-profit organization that has grown from grassroots. We do not have an endowment, nor institutional affiliation, so we rely on these fees to help with the program’s operating costs. We strive to deliver a lot more for participants than they would expect to get paying for a single course at university. 

$300 / week includes common charges (electricity, heating, gas, water and high speed internet as well as bi-monthly cleaning).

A deposit of $300 required at time of contract to be refunded upon move-out.

All requests for refunds must be submitted in writing to the Executive Director of UnionDocs. The refund policy for participants enrolled in the Summer Intensive is as follows:

    50% refund of deposit is possible with withdrawal before TBA date.


    50% refund of total program fees is possible with withdrawal before TBA date.


    No refunds are possible after TBA date.

Key Instructors

Christopher AllenExecutive Artistic Director
Lucila MoctezumaExecutive Producing Director
Malika Zouhali-WorrallLead Instructor

A social entrepreneur and new media artist, whose individual & collaborative projects have been exhibited in galleries and museums internationally (more)

A creative catalyst in New York’s independent film community since 1996, as manager of the Production Assistance Program at Women Make Movies, director of the Media Arts Fellowships for the Rockefeller Foundation, founder of the TFI Latin America Media Arts Fund for the Tribeca Film Institute, and longstanding board member for The Flaherty (more)

An award-winning director, producer and editor of British/Moroccan origin. She is one of the directors and the producer of CALL ME KUCHU (2012), a documentary that depicts the last year in the life of the first openly gay man in Uganda, David Kato.(more)


I honestly feel like the program surpassed my expectations. […] I cannot stress how valuable the contributions of my colleagues and instructors were. It was great growing and learning from each other in a nurturing and encouraging environment.
Flora Charner, Journalist, Filmmaker
Flora Charner

I really believe the future belongs to small and creative institutions with one-on-one contact like UnionDocs.
Juliana Borges, Filmmaker
Juliana Borges

I think the program not only stands up to how it was described, but it exceeds expectations. In a relatively short period of time it gives an overall review of the documentary art, from theoretical knowledge, getting familiar with the work of other filmmakers to practical analysis to your own project to working with the group of classmates, all very creative filmmakers
Julia Vassey, Journalist, Filmmaker
Julia Vassey

SDI is going to be my source of confidence going forward.
Tarini Manthanda, Filmmaker
Tarini Manthanda

2017 deadlines TBA