HBO Documentary Films, The Gotham Open Submissions For Documentary Development Initiative’s Second Go-Round

EXCLUSIVE: HBO Documentary Films and The Gotham Film & Media Institute on Tuesday opened submissions for the second cohort of their Documentary Development Initiative, designed for storytellers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or storytellers with disabilities.

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Launched last fall, the program provides up-and-comers with resources for the development of thought-provoking, character-driven contemporary ideas for documentary films and limited series. Among those resources is a grant of $50,000 to each participant for research and creative development at an early stage. Ideas generated through the Initiative are offered to HBO on a “first-look” basis, giving the network the first opportunity to make an offer to develop them further.

“It has been a joy to watch the creative process unfold during the course of this past year’s development initiative,” said HBO’s SVP of Documentary Programming, Sara Rodriguez. “We are thrilled this essential program will continue to help elevate the voices in our documentary community that don’t often get heard.”

Remarked The Gotham Deputy Director Kia Brooks, “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with HBO Documentary Films on this empowering initiative seeking to uplift voices in the media industry. We have seen time and time again the impact we can make when we equip storytellers from historically excluded communities with the necessary resources to bolster their careers. After a successful first year, we are excited to support a new cohort of creatives.”

“WBD DEI is proud to be part of the effort to increase opportunities and representation in media,” added Warner Bros Discovery’s VP of Equity and Inclusion Pipeline Programs, Grace Anne Moss. “The Documentary Development Initiative helps to ensure meaningful inclusion in the documentary space from an early stage of the creative process.”

In its first year, the Documentary Development Initiative offered $50,000 grants, one-on-one mentorship, and group workshops to 10 emerging filmmakers from across the United States. Beyond the initial grant, HBO Documentary Films and The Gotham provided further resources and mentorship, to support the development of documentary projects. 

“When I began making films not that long ago, I could count on my hand the number of contemporary BIPOC directors I could look up to. So for me, mentorship is about building solidarity and community,” said award-winning documentary filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo, who served as a mentor to the first cohort. “I don’t want to be one of the only (insert marginalized identity here) filmmakers out there hustling. I want a field as complex and nuanced as the world we live in. When there are more of us, we feel less alone, make better work, and build a safer, richer, and more exciting world. I mentor so that I can have more peers, more friends, more allies!”

First cohort participant Jasmin Mara López shared that “this fellowship offered me the freedom and time to consider my vision and the direction I want to take my work, to further explore and understand myself as an artist. The most rewarding aspect of this has been to build community and learn from a beautiful group of thoughtful individuals—mentors and fellows.”

Added Zeshawn Ali, who also participated in the first installment of the program, “Rarely in our careers are we afforded the privilege of space between our projects and work. The ability to take a step back and think about what types of stories move us and shape the ways we want to present work to the world. This program was a rare opportunity where we could ideate with a foundation of support, mentorship and community. It encouraged me personally to think about more creative risks and work that felt more personal. I’m really thankful for the opportunity this program has given me.”

Those interested in applying for the program can do so through August 31 at 11:59 pm HT (Hawaii-Aleutian), at this link.

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