Documentary Filmmaker Support | BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship

MediaMaker Fellowship

Applications open January 4th 2021, for the BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship for emerging documentary filmmakers.GIF cycles through stills from 2020 Fellowship projects in red TV-like frame


The MediaMaker Fellowship is devoted to supporting documentary filmmakers grappling with critical issues of our time through the use of bold cinematic language and innovative impact strategies. 

We are seeking candidates who have the potential to impact our understanding of how documentaries can transform the world, as well as expanding the quality of the art of nonfiction. 

Our cohort is a collaborative, community-driven space that places diversity, representation, and ethical relationships with storytelling at the very forefront of our practice. We aim to build a safe space for filmmakers to workshop their films, establish critical bonds and relationships, and gain valuable insights as they go on to build their careers in the field.

Applications for the 2021 MediaMaker Fellowship have closed. Applications for 2022 will open in the fall. 


Program Offerings & Structure

This ten-month-long program supports the development of documentary projects that are nearing post-production, and includes:

  • $10,000 distributed to each Fellow over the course of the Fellowship
  • Professional mentorship and strategy sessions focused on documentary storytelling, career sustainability, fundraising, distribution, and more. 
  • Three San Francisco (travel paid) convenings comprised of immersive tailored workshops, intimate feedback sessions, and presentations by leading filmmakers and industry figures. COVID-19 update: Travel will resume once it is safe for everyone, until then all convenings will be virtual. 
  • All-access pass, round trip flight, accommodations, and a customized itinerary for the True/False Film Festival in the Spring and a second industry conference in the Autumn (recent examples include the Camden International Film Festival in Maine, the International Documentary Association's Getting Real Conference in Los Angeles, and the Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival in D.C.) only if and when travel is safe and advisable. All plans subject to change according to pandemic restrictions and best practices, as well as the availability of festival programs. Festival attendance may be virtual in 2021. 
  • A built-in support network with informal convenings and check-ins throughout the year.
  • Opportunities to apply for continued mentorship and support in the future as a MediaMaker alumn.

Program Eligibility & Criteria

  • The project should be non-commercial, primarily documentary or non-fiction in nature, and should have the potential for social impact.
  • The MediaMaker Fellowship program is particularly interested in supporting a diverse cross-section of media creators, especially those who are working on their first or second feature-length project or are otherwise taking a creative leap with their project. Above all, ideal candidates should demonstrate a strong capacity for artistic growth.
  • Though it is not a requirement, it is preferred that projects have 60 to 80% of their production completed, with a funding commitment from at least one additional source (besides BAVC). During the COVID-19 pandemic, BAVC is relaxing these suggestions and considering projects that may have been forced to stall production or are otherwise further from completing production than we normally prefer. 
  • BAVC will select eight Fellows – half Bay Area-based and half from elsewhere in the United States. At this time the program cannot support Fellows who are primarily based outside of the U.S. 
  • Applicants must be a BAVC as a member or join at any level before applications close. Annual membership fees can be as low as $10 a year (you chose the price level, no proof of income required). If the cost is a financial barrier, please reach out via email so that we can waive your fee.

Questions about the Fellowship? Email

Important Dates

  • 2021 Applications Open: Monday, January 4, 2021
  • 2021 Applications Close: Sunday, February 14, 2021
  • 2021 Fellows announced: April 2021





Since 1991, BAVC's MediaMaker Fellowship has provided in-kind creative support for independent artists at work on social-issue nonfiction film and multimedia projects, with a particular focus on supporting emerging artists and underrepresented communities. The Fellowship builds an engaged national community of creative media artists from diverse fields, increases their capacity for project completion and lasting impact, and inspires new partnerships and collaboration to support future work.

The 2020 MediaMaker Fellowship is supported in part by awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Kenneth Rainin Foundation.



In 2020 BAVC launched the new MediaMaker Connect Mentorship Program

in the spirit of building the field, supporting nonfiction filmmakers to complete their projects, and facilitating connections between filmmakers at different stages of their careers. This new program provides emerging filmmakers, as well as MediaMaker Fellowship Alum, with 5-months of one-on-one mentorship in which filmmakers receive feedback and counsel from industry professionals addressing their unique challenges from story development to post-production roadblocks. This new effort extends the scope of the MediaMaker program from a one-year fellowship to a spectrum of support that spans early development to artistic fruition. BAVC is thrilled to deepen our commitment to cultivating a continuum of infrastructure and support for early-career documentary filmmakers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the timeline?
  • 2021 Applications Open: Monday, January 4, 2021
  • 2021 Applications Close: Sunday, February 14, 2021
  • 2021 Fellows announced: April 2021
What is the commitment required during the fellowship?

BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship is a ten-month-long program. Applicants must commit to being an active participant in all five in-person or virtual convenings Under normal cirumstances this would be two convenings in the Bay Area, one virtual convening, and two industry festivals or conferences. Fellows are also encouraged to participate in the five informal convenings furin interim months. Receipt of the $10,000 in funds is contingent upon attendance at all ievents, except in cases of emergency or when prior permission has been obtained. More than two unexcused or unannounced absences may result in a reduction of funds. 

In-person or virtual convenings will each be three full or 6 half days long respectively. The bi-monthly informal check-ins will be two to three hours.

Please note that in light of the pandemic, the Fellowship schedule has had become more fluid, and flexible, to accommodate the ever-changing needs of the Fellows, adapt to the changing festival landscape, and adhere to best practices for the health and safety of our communtites. 

Additionally, applicants must commit to citing BAVC along with other major funders of the project that they develop through the Fellowship (such as in project credits or in any “About,” “Funders,” or “Sponsors” page of a project web site) with BAVC logo and link; and may also be asked to participate in the production of a short promotional case study video about their project (with assistance from a BAVC-trained filmmaker) or contribute to a blog post. These commitments are all designed to “help us help you” as a Fellow, and we frequently use these materials to gain exposure opportunities for your project at conferences, public forums, funder presentations, and other events.

Do I have to complete my film during the year of my Fellowship?

Not necessarily. We hope that the Fellowship will help you make great progress with your project, and that what you learn, as well as the relationships you form, will help guide not only your current project, but also your career and future creative work. At the final culminating event in San Francisco, participants share something of what their trajectory has been over the course of their Fellowship: where they began the year, how the project changed through the MediaMaker, how the Fellow’s creative process has influenced where the project is now, where it is headed, and what support is still needed to reach that next stage.

Can more than one person from a team participate?

No. BAVC only has the resources to support one person from each project accepted to the program. This person should be the applicant to the Fellowship and should have creative control over the project. We ask applicants to identify additional project partners in the application to get a better sense of the team the applicant has surrounded themselves with or of possible future collaborators and supporters of the project.  

How will travel and lodging be managed for traveling participants?

BAVC will provide all traveling participants with stipends in advance of events to cover airfare and/or other transportation costs but Fellows are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. BAVC will make arrangements for lodging and will secure registration to industry events as needed. Lodging will be provided for Fellows for all events; Bay Area-based filmmakers will have lodging provided at industry events.

Please note that at the moment, due to the pandemic BAVC is abstaining from travel and in-person gatherings. Going into 2021 we plan to follow best practices and make decisions that center the safety and well-being of our Fellows as well as the communities we are a part of.

What will happen at the industry events?

Fellows will be provided with all access passes to all programming. They will also be provided with an itinerary that balances pre-arranged networking and workshop opportunities with unscheduled time to experience the events.

What are the geographic limits for eligibility?

There are no geographic limits for eligibility save that applicants live in and are residents of the United States. The cohort will most likely consist of five Bay Area-based Fellows and five Fellows from outside the Bay Area.

Are previous MediaMaker Fellows participants eligible to apply?

No. In the past we have allowed Alum working on their second major project to apply but we have decided to definitively make room for more Fellows and instead support Alum through extended programming and other support. 

What stage of the project should an applicant have attained before submitting?

A work sample of some kind is expected and it is preferable that projects have 60 to 80% of their production completed, but there is no requirement that you have a film at a rough cut stage before applying for a MediaMaker Fellowship. During the COVID-19 pandemic, BAVC is relaxing these suggestions and considering projects that may have been forced to stall production or are otherwise further from completing production than we would normally prefer. 


The application suggests that I have some funding secured for my project before applying. What counts as secured funding?

Application reviewers want to see that your project has the ability to draw funding and move forward to completion. If you are the only person who has invested in your project to date, it may put you at a disadvantage compared to other applicants.  However, if your project has no other funders and the budget is small, or if you have already completed a strong work sample for your project without obtaining other funding, reviewers will take those factors into consideration, so lack of funding is not necessarily a disqualifying point for an otherwise compelling work-in-progress.

Do I have to have a fiscal sponsor to apply?

No. The MediaMaker Fellowship is an in-kind package of training, services, equipment and facilities, consultation, and support. The $10,000 stipend is for Fellows and is not itself a grant. If you are accepted to the MediaMaker program and need a fiscal sponsor in order to obtain other grants, BAVC will consider you for fiscal sponsorship.

Who is on the review committee?

The review panel for the MediaMaker Fellowship is a mix of external industry experts such as funders, broadcasters, technologists, programmers, along with BAVC staff and board members. Panelists are required to disclose all conflicts of interest and sign a statement abstaining from reviewing any application for projects that they already have a relationship with. The roster of panelists are revealed when the selection of Fellows are announced.

What are my chances?

Last year, any given application had around a 10% chance of being selected. Those odds change every year based on many factors. This year, applications will go through several rounds of review including a final panel that will select eight filmmakers and projects for 2021. In addition to the eligibility requirements and judging criteria, reviewers are asked to consider factors, such as the diversity of applicants and projects, and to recommend a strong overall slate.

The question to ask of yourself as an applicant is: is the Fellowship the right opportunity for my project at this time in its lifecycle?

What should I submit for my work sample?

The work sample is a chance for applicants to share their approach to visual storytelling. Work from the proposed project is required and all samples must be hosted online. If the sample is password-protected for privacy, please clearly state the password in the first line of the description field, along with any other relevant information.


How long should my work sample be?

Work samples should be no longer than ten minutes.

How can I prepare to apply before applications are open?

BAVC uses the Documentary Core Application, in order to help streamline the application process for all applicants. You can use this checklist to help you begin to prepare your materials for this and other opportunities.

You should expect to find a few additional (and important) questions on the application that are specific to the BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship. To prepare we suggest that you consider:

• what you hope to learn or gain through your year as a Fellow

• how you foresee the experience contributing to your professional and creative development

• what you see yourself contributing as a member of the BAVC MediaMaker community and an active participant in the Fellowship (supporting the other Fellows as they support you)

• what experiences, professional and personal, and what creative point-of-view, you might bring to the table as a Fellow