Working Films has used the power of stories to inform and inspire for nearly 20 years. We build partnerships between nonfiction media-makers, nonprofit organizations, educators, and advocates to advance social justice and environmental protection. We help filmmakers raise public consciousness and create meaningful change and measurable impact with their documentaries.

With generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, we are pleased to announce our 2019 Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Docs in Action Fund. Now in its second year, the Docs in Action program funds the production of short documentaries to expand the canon of films available for grassroots groups and NGOs to enhance their programs, extend their reach, and move their missions forward.


Online Application – Opens January 23, 2019

Deadline for Applications – March 22, 2019, 11:59 pm EST

Docs in Action: Immigrant Justice

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 support immigrant justice organizing and efforts to end racist attacks on immigrant communities.

At a moment when many people have been moved by family separations, a fuller story of immigration needs to be told to address the harms perpetuated by immigration enforcement practices and policies that extend beyond the crisis at the border. Whether it’s through raids, people being picked up at courthouses, or the ending of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) – families are being separated and attacked across America.

A groundswell of opposition has been building, with many people feeling compelled to do something, but without a deeper analysis of the depth of this crisis, many don’t know how they can take meaningful action. We are seeking films that can demonstrate the issues and have potential to catalyze solutions.

Specifically, we’re looking for films that:

– Uplift stories of immigration that do not receive considerable attention by mainstream media (i.e. Stories from those with Temporary Protected Status (TPS), family based sponsorship stories, stories from individuals in detention or their loved ones, intercountry adoptees who are living without citizenship, etc.).

– Feature AAPI and Black immigrants. We hope to expand the popular definition of immigrant communities and show the varied experiences of different immigrant communities.

– Are Intersectional. We want to make connections between the immigrant justice movement and other historical and current liberation movements. We also want to make connections between present day attacks on immigrant communities and other oppressive policies and attitudes that impact communities of color or other marginalized groups.

– Demonstrate the resilience, strength, and legacy of community building within immigrant communities, and make clear the collective power of the immigrant justice movement.

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 preparing them for action.

The films will be featured within a comprehensive community engagement campaign developed by Working Films in consultation with the filmmakers 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  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.


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 sources of all revenue to-date including in-kind support.

Revision 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 revision 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 5, 2019 to enable planning and scheduling screenings in the spring of 2020.


This RFP is intended to solicit applications for grants made to individual artists and/or their non-profit or for profit production companies. Applicants 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 previously directed at least one non-student documentary film project. We will give special consideration to directors who represent the communities depicted in their films. For directors who do not represent the communities depicted, we will give special consideration to those whose past work has demonstrated a high degree of accountability to the subjects and communities featured.

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 revise


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 revision 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 work-in-progress project, one of your work samples must be an assembly from the proposed work if not a more advanced cut along with a second work sample of a previous short or excerpt from a longer-form film.

If you are applying for support to revise a completed film, a 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:

  1. Comprehensive presentation of the topic area
  2. Artistic excellence
  3. Audience engagement ability
  4. 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 (maximum of 1750 words)
  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. If you are applying to revise a long-form film, you must include as an appendix to the your resume a list of all screenings of the longer film, including festivals, with the film’s title on the top of the page.
  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(s) and/or community partner(s)

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