For a documentary film to make a difference, a solid strategy for audience engagement and strong partnerships are key. Filmmakers often lack time to do this work themselves or the expertise and the funds to pay for it. Emerging filmmakers, creators of color, and underrepresented artists can face the biggest hurdles, despite the potential of their projects. Working Films’ response to this challenge is the Impact Kickstart, a program offering in-kind partnership and strategy development to underrepresented documentary directors with feature films in progress that hold great promise to catalyze action to address important and current social issues.

Now in its sixth year, the Impact Kickstart program has helped underrepresented filmmakers create strategic goals for impact and specific plans to engage future partners, funders, and audiences in meaningful ways. Impact Kickstart was created to fill a gap in support for the impact campaigns of underrepresented filmmakers, including directors who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC), undocumented, LGBTQIA+, disabled, and female directors with a majority female and/or underrepresented film team.

Two films will be selected for Impact Kickstart in 2023. Each selected filmmaker will receive an Impact Kickstart from Working Films that includes the planning, facilitation and reporting out from a day-long strategy summit with potential partners and key collaborators. This summit will leave filmmakers well positioned to carry out an impact campaign with a clear strategy, goals, partners and a report that can be used for engaging supporters. Impact Kickstart recipients will also receive impact campaign funding of $60,000 and 1:1 Mentorship support.

The deadline for Impact Kickstart 2023 applications is Thursday, August 31 at 11:59pm EST. To apply, complete our online application using submittable. You’ll create a login so that you can work on your application and have your information saved. Before you get started you can find a preview of the application questions in this PDF. Please also check out this document of frequently asked questions. If you have any additional questions in the meantime, please email Gerry Leonard at

Working Films strives to make all of our events and programs accessible, including our application processes. To request an accessibility accommodation or adjustment, please email, or call us at 910-342-9000.

About Impact Kickstart

For nearly two decades, Working Films has planned and led strategy summits to inform the plans for impact campaigns and solidify partner commitments. Our team works in collaboration with filmmakers to outline priorities including: vision, outcomes, potential partners, priority audiences, strategic screening locations, and opportunities for meaningful action. From there, we work with filmmakers to create an invite list of aligned organizations, build out an agenda, and coordinate the logistics of the strategy summit. Both the film team and attendees will walk away from the summit with a clear sense of each other’s goals, current and future opportunities to leverage the film, and commitments to move the impact campaign forward in priority locations and in front of key audiences.


  • Film directors must identify as an underrepresented artist. We define “underrepresented” as directors who identify as Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color (BIPOC), undocumented, LGBTQIA+, disabled, and female directors with a majority female and/or underrepresented film team.
  • Applicants must be 18 years of age.
  • This opportunity is open to filmmakers with feature length documentaries in late production, post-production, or recently completed (within the last two years) that address issues of social or environmental justice.
  • 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.
  • Filmmakers must be prepared for the preparation, planning, and implementation of the impact strategy summit to take place between early 2024. This does not mean that your film must be complete in this time period, but that you are willing to engage in impact campaign strategy development. 
  • Only one proposal per applicant will be accepted. 


The selection for Impact Kickstart will based on: 

  • The catalytic potential of the story to address important and current social issues.
  • The strength of the story.
  • The clarity of the film’s vision and goals towards its impact.
  • The strength of the film team’s ideas or plans to engage organizations and other allies working on issues connected to your project (current partners and/or prospective partners).
  • The film team’s personal connection to the story and/or the level of accountability to and consent from the people and communities featured in the film.
  • The film team’s demonstrative skills and/or potential of the applicant to implement plans for impact.

In all of our work, we prioritize amplifying and increasing support for underrepresented artists, as well as those who work in deep accountability with the individuals and communities featured in their films. We recognize that being accountable includes the work of dismantling the dominant culture and approach within documentary filmmaking and storytelling. As part of Impact Kickstart 2023, we will consider the following as part of our selection process: 

  • Film projects that address a wide range of issues and themes, but have a social justice focus as part of the film’s vision and goals.
  • Films that have various ways to describe what “impact” means for the individuals and communities that are featured.
  • Films that highlight different strategies and tactics to leverage the power of documentary film and storytelling, that includes policy advocacy, grassroots organizing, healing justice, transformative justice, etc.
  • Films that are nonlinear and abstract that do not follow traditional storytelling methodologies. 
  • Films at different points of their strategy for the film’s impact campaign.
  • Films with different levels of goals and outcomes they hope to accomplish with their impact campaign.
  • Films that address issues at the local, state or national level.
  • Films that have previously applied to Impact Kickstart.

The selection process will transpire through a panel process that includes Working Films staff and past Impact Kickstart award recipients who reflect the eligibility section of this award. We commit to acknowledging our power and privilege throughout this process, as well as our own subjectivity and biases when reviewing projects. We recognize that this kind of decision-making is never completely objective and we will challenge and examine our own perspectives in the selection process.

Impact Kickstart 2023 Webinar with Q&A:

Click APPLY NOW to submit your application!