For over 18 years Working Films has recognized the power of stories to inform and inspire. We build partnerships between nonfiction media-makers, nonprofit organizations, educators, and advocates to advance social justice and environmental protection. We have a successful track record of helping filmmakers use their social issue documentaries to raise public consciousness and create real, meaningful change with measurable impact.

With generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, we are now funding the creation of new work to expand the canon of films available for grassroots groups and NGOs to enhance their programs, extend their reach, and move their missions forward. Working Films is pleased to launch this inaugural Request for Proposals (RFP) for our Docs in Action Fund.


Online Application – Opens January 16, 2018
Deadline for Applications – March 19, 2018, 11:59 pm EST

Docs in Action: Just Recovery

Under this RFP we will award at least two grants of up to $30,000 each in support of the production of short non-fiction films (up to 30 minutes in length) that can be used to mobilize residents who have been impacted directly, as well as audiences across the United States, to demand “just recovery”.

We are defining just recovery as the long-term cultural changes, planning, partnerships, investment, and infrastructure needed to build intersectional models and alternatives for communities hit first and worst by the catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Content for “just recovery” can include films that: 

Showcase infrastructure for community self determination around disaster recovery and preparedness, in particular those that involve participatory public processes, community-centered leadership, and direct accountability to those most impacted by the disaster itself.

Expose the intersections of climate change, colonization, racial injustice, gentrification, immigration, and disaster recovery.

Illustrate how addressing colonization and white supremacy are integral in the struggle to achieve climate justice.

Offer learning exchanges and capacity-building connections between places struggling for a just recovery, such as between post-Katrina New Orleans and post-Maria Puerto Rico/Boriken.

The Docs in Action films supported through this RFP must be compelling in their approach and exhibit a unique artistic vision. As stated in our mission, we use documentary film and visual art to reach critical audiences and move the dial toward meaningful change and impact. This objective requires that the film projects submitted to us have the highest level of clear information combined with artistic excellence. They must have the potential to thoroughly engage an audience while prepping them for action.

The short films selected for Docs in Action funding will become a part of a curated set under the issue area of just recoveries of catastrophic climate disasters. The films will be featured within a comprehensive community engagement campaign developed by Working Films in consultation with the filmmaker and subject matter experts. A screening schedule of the films will be created and, on occasion, the filmmaker may be invited to attend. When filmmakers are asked to attend screenings, they will receive an honorarium for participating.

Films considered under this RFP can be new work, works-in-progress, or cut-downs of longer-form documentaries. Only one project can be submitted per applicant and the applicant must be the director of the film.

New Work
We are looking for new, original work for this initiative. This means that we will consider fully funding a project, under 30 minutes, budgeted up to $30,000.

Under this RFP, Working Films will accept short documentary films, under 30 minutes, that have already begun production. The request for funding for a work-in-progress (up to $30,000), can only be applied to the cost of completing the project. The submitted budget must reflect the project’s entire cost and the source of all revenue to-date including in-kind support.

Reversion of Longer Films
Working Films will accept applications that propose to cut-down a longer-form non-fiction film to meet the time specifications of this RFP (under 30 minutes). The longer film must have been completed no earlier than 2016 and be at least 59 minutes in length when originally distributed. The submitted budget for the reversion must reflect the film’s entire cost, including the reversioning, and the source of all revenue to-date including in-kind support and screening fees. A list of all screenings of the longer film, including festivals, must be included as an appendix to the applicant’s resume with the film’s title on the top of the page.

All projects must be fully completed no later than December 3, 2018. This will enable Working Films to begin scheduling screenings in the spring of 2019.


This RFP is intended to solicit applications for grants made to individual artists and/or their non-profit or for profit production companies. Films may feature stories from anywhere in the world, but the applicant must be living in the United States and planning an impact campaign to be carried out in the U.S. Applicants must be at least 21 years of age as of the RFP application deadline.

This RFP is open to filmmakers who have completed at least one non-student documentary film project as the director before the application is submitted and will serve as the director having total creative control of the project for which support is requested. We are “Committed to accountable media creation, production, technical assistance, and training with communities who are building a generative future through a just and equitable transition away from exploitation of our people and the planet.” We will, therefore, give special consideration to directors whose past work has demonstrated that same commitment and a high degree of accountability to the subjects and communities featured.

Working Films has an extensive list of local, regional, and national NGO partners, however, it is advisable for the applicant to seek their own subject matter expert(s) and/or partner(s) and provide a letter of support from them with their application.

This RFP will not support: 

Applications from non-media organizations

Applications through fiscal sponsors; individual artists and production companies will be funded directly

Completed short films, installations, Virtual or Augmented Reality, games, or interactive work

Student work and/or proposals from currently enrolled students

Long-form work completed prior to 2016 applying for support to reversion


The Application must include a comprehensive line item budget expressed in U.S. dollars. It should include all expenses and any revenue raised to date. Revenues can include grants, donations, and in-kind contributions.

Work Samples

With the exception of applying for a reversion of a longer form film, all applications should include URL links and, if appropriate, passwords of two different work samples, running no more than 10 minutes each in length, with noted ins and outs of a 4 minute section for the panel to review. The 10 minute samples can be completed shorts of 10 minutes or less or excerpts from longer films.

If you are applying for a new project, at least one work sample must have been completed after December 31, 2014.

If you are applying for a work-in-progress project, one of your work samples must include at least an assembly from the proposed work.

If you are applying for support to revise a completed film, a password protected link to the completed long-form film must be included as one of your work samples. Your second work sample should be a completed short of 10 minutes or less or 10 minute excerpt from a longer film, either must include noted ins and outs of a 4 minute section for the panel to review.

Work samples can include completed graduate school film work.

Review Process

All applications will be reviewed by Working Films staff and a panel of media and subject matter experts. Incomplete applications will be rejected automatically. The criteria for review are weighted equally in these four areas:

Comprehensive presentation of the topic area

Artistic excellence

Audience engagement ability

Accountability to subjects and featured communities

How to Apply

To access the application click here: https://docsinaction.smapply.io/

The application will ask you for the following:

  1. Your name and contact information
  2. A 2-3 sentence description of your project
  3. A narrative describing your proposed project
  4. Why are you the one to tell this story?
  5. Why will your film be a useful resource once completed?
  6. What do you hope will occur as a result of bringing the story you’ve chosen to light?
  7. How does accountability factor into your relationship with the community or individual(s) whose story you’re telling?
  8. A budget for the project.
  9. Your resume including specific film credits with dates, roles and responsibilities, and running times for completed films, videos, and/or digital productions.
  10. Your project’s key personnel with short bios (maximum of 200 words each).
  11. A total of two work samples, each from a different project, totaling no more than 10 minutes each unless your proposed project is a re-versioning of a long-form film (See details above for instructions).
  12. Letter(s) of support from your subject matter expert(s) and/or community partner(s)

If you have questions, please contact us at info@workingfilms.org