Documentary Filmmaker Support | BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship

MediaMaker Fellowship

BAVC MediaMaker Fellowship for emerging social issue documentary filmmakers. Image: stills from 5 past Fellowship projects collaged on a black background


2021 applications will open on January 4th.

The MediaMaker Fellowship is an important "early in" artist development program that provides nonfiction filmmakers with critical mentorship, access to industry contacts from all aspects of the field, an inclusive and supportive space for workshopping projects, and an opportunity for diverse filmmakers to build career-long relationships with peers.

Program Offerings & Structure

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

  • $8,000 distributed to each Fellow over the course of the Fellowship
  • Professional mentorship and strategy sessions focused on documentary storytelling, fundraising, and distribution. 
  • Three San Francisco (travel paid) convenings comprised of immersive tailored workshops, intimate feedback sessions, and presentations by leading filmmakers and industry figures. 
  • All-access pass, round trip flight, accommodations, and a customized itinerary for the True/False Film Festival in late February 2020 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.)
  • 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

  • Anyone from an underrepresented community directing a noncommercial project can apply for the MediaMaker Fellowship. Those eligible now include artists identifying as women, non-binary, and/or transgender, artists of color, and artists with disabilities. 
  • Applicants must become a BAVC member any level
  • The project should be non-commercial, documentary or non-fiction in nature, and should have the potential for social impact.
  • BAVC takes special interest in artists who are working on projects about community and social justice issues, but encourages projects of any genre or subject matter to apply.
  • 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 and who, above all, demonstrate a capacity for artistic growth.
  • 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).
  • BAVC will select ten Fellows – half Bay Area-based and half from outside of the Bay Area

Questions about the Fellowship? Email

Important Deadlines

  • 2021 Applications Open: January 4, 2021
  • App FAQ: Winter 2021 TBD
  • 2021 Applications Close: March 1, 2021
  • 2021 Fellows announced: April/May 2020



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 dilmmakers 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?
  • Application available: Friday, December 7, 2019
  • Application deadline: Monday, January 7, 2019 by 5PM PST
  • BAVC membership (at any level) required.
  • 2019 Fellows announced: TBA
  • True/False Film Festival: February 27 - March 4, 2019 (Columbia, MO)
  • Welcome Reception and First Convening: May 14 - 16, 2019 (San Francisco, CA)
  • Second Convening: July 10 - 12 (San Francisco, CA)
  • Camden International Film Festival: September 2019 (Camden, ME)
  • Third Convening and Year-end showcase: December 4 -6, 2019 (San Francisco, CA)
What is the commitment required during the fellowship?

The National MediaMaker Fellowship is a ten-month-long program. Applicants must be an active participant in all five in-person events (three convenings in the Bay Area, and the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, MO and the Camden International Film Festival in Camden,ME) and are encouraged to participate in the five informal convenings. Receipt of the $8,000 in funds is contingent upon attendance at all in-person events, except in cases of emergency or when prior permission has been obtained. More than two unexcused or unannounced absences will result in a reduction of funds.

In-person events will each be three to four days long, while the bi-monthly informal convenings will be two to three hours. 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, 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). Each fellow may also be asked to write blog posts or post on BAVC's social media channels. 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 - and the relationships you form - will help guide not only your current project, but also your career and future creative work. At the final 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, and where it is headed.

Can more than one person from a team participate?

No. BAVC only has the resoureces to support one person for 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.

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?

Yes.  The project you are applying with must itself be new to the National MediaMaker Fellowship and should be the second major project or represent a significant shift away from previous work. Preference will be given to projects that have completed 60% to 80% of their production.

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

There is no requirement that you have a media project at a rough cut stage before applying for a National MediaMaker Fellowship, but a work sample of some kind is expected and it is preferable that projects have 60 to 80% of their production completed.   


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 National MediaMaker Fellowship is an in-kind package of training, services, equipment and facilities, consultation, and support. The $8,000 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 may consider you for fiscal sponsorship.

Who is on the review committee?

The review panel for the National MediaMaker Fellowship is a mix of BAVC staff and board members and external industry experts such as funders, broadcasters, technologists, and programmers. We do not reveal who the panelists are in advance of the announcement of selected Fellows.  Panelists are required to disclose all confilcts of interest and sign a statement abstaining from reviewing any application for projects that they already have a relationship with.

What are my chances?

The review panel selects ten Fellows per year, depending on the quality and scope of applications received.  In addition to the eligibility requirements and judging criteria, reviewers are asked to consider factors such as diversity of applicants and projects (subject matter and formats) 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 preferred 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.