We support filmmakers from diverse backgrounds who are both committed to social change and to the art and craft of filmmaking. When we choose a project, it is because we believe the film needs to be made–and that the particular filmmaker is the one to make it. Our grantees have unique access to their subjects, a collaborative spirit, and the courage to take creative risks. When choosing a project, we look for:

  • Storytelling: Original story, tone, style, and structure
  • Diversity: In all its forms
  • Innovation: Filmmakers with unique voices and projects that take risks
  • Vision: A new perspective on an issue, special access into the story, and the ability to make the universal accessible and personal
  • Craft: Inextricable links between story and production value
  • Resonance: Timely, urgent, or compelling issues at stake

Completing and launching a documentary takes grit, nerve, and creativity; it also takes money, connections, and time. We offer women directors the tools to realize the full potential of their projects, both as works of art and as catalysts for change. Each of our programs represents a pivotal intervention in a woman’s filmmaking career; through them, we empower women storytellers to direct their own careers.

Accelerator Lab


The Accelerator Lab is focused on identifying and supporting women non-fiction directors who are first and second-time filmmakers. This program brings together ten projects helmed by first or second-time directors, with a special focus on underrepresented voices.

Each participant will receive a two-part grant for the production of a film, to be developed over the course of a 12-month program. All ten participants will come together at various points over the course of a year for an intensive period of mentorship and workshops with industry experts, creatively fusing the art and craft of filmmaking with best practices and peer-to-peer support.


  • Funding & Mentorship: Chicken & Egg Pictures has an established model of providing strategic funding and mentorship in ways that maximize that support. The Accelerator Lab will ratchet up this successful model, helping filmmakers meet their goals faster and with more intensive support.
  • Retreats: Mentorship will be focused in three intensive retreats held during the program that grantees will be required to attend. Mentorship will be aimed at helping grantees to make strides as artists, technicians, storytellers, and movement builders; giving deep, direct insight on grantees’ individual projects to release the most successful film possible; and providing grantees with the tools to parlay all of that growth and experience into a sustainable career.
  • Industry Meetings: One of the retreats will coincide with public film festivals or markets where grantees will have the opportunity to build industry connections and receive precursory visibility, as participants in special forum sidebars.
  • Peer Support: Participants will benefit from the knowledge and experiences of their peers as part of a vibrant community of shared ideas and mutual support.


  • Project Type, Length, and Production Status: This current round is geared only toward nonfiction feature length films. Projects must be currently in development or up to mid-production, with no more than 40% of their footage shot by the date of application. Projects must be aiming toward feature length films. (See FAQ for details on length requirements.)
  • Subject Matter: We’re passionate about films that address the global justice, human rights, and environmental issues of our time. While we prioritize films that focus on social issues, having a social issue in the film is not explicitly required.
  • Not accepted: We do not support fiction films, student projects, or any projects not directed or co-directed by a woman. (Transgender*/non gender-conforming individuals are accepted). Additionally, the Accelerator Lab does not accept short films, transmedia projects, or engagement/outreach campaigns.
  • International Applications: International filmmakers are encouraged to apply. Please note that if you are offered a grant, you must arrange to be represented by a U.S. 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor that supports international filmmakers.


Applications are now being accepted for the 2017 Accelerator Lab.

There is one deadline for the 2016 Open Call: Wednesday, November 9, 2016, 5:00 PM EST. The application fee is $35.

All applicants will be notified by April 2017. The first workshop will take place shortly after applicants have been notified in April 2017.

Begin your application here.

Application Checklist

Application Checklist

Filling out the Online Application

We recommend you go through the application questions well in advance of the deadline to prepare your answers, review the length requirements, and gather the requested links and documents.

Work Sample

To apply for a grant, you must submit two work samples and a third optional prior work sample. Please see the FAQ for complete details about work samples, but, in summary, every application requires a:

  • Short work sample (5-10 minutes) of the project with which you’re applying;
  • Additional work sample (7-30 minutes) of the film with which you’re applying;
  • Prior work sample (5-100 minutes) of a film that the applicant either previously directed or in which they played a prominent role, If applicable for first-time filmmakers and mandatory for second-time filmmakers. Please see the FAQ for details on how this requirement affects first-time filmmakers.

All work samples must be in English or have accurate English subtitles onscreen.


  • Each application must attach a budget top sheet. The system will accept PDF and Excel formats.
  • The budget should address the following costs of the film production: crew salaries, equipment, travel/housing expenses, post-production, office/admin costs, music, legal fees, etc. We should be able to follow your budget in tandem with your narrative material.
  • Please be sure to include a line item for directors’ and producers’ salaries; we believe that it is key for filmmakers to factor in their own payment in the budget.
  • You may use your own budget format, but we strongly encourage you to watch this Basic Budgeting Webinar to follow budgeting best practices.

Fiscal Sponsorship

A fiscal sponsor is a 501(c)(3) organization that shares its tax-exempt status with individual filmmakers, meaning that you are able to accept charitable grants. In exchange for this service, they may take a percentage from 2-8% of the incoming funds.

Applicants do not need to have a fiscal sponsor in order to apply. However, they must have one in order to receive a grant, so we urge you to find fiscal sponsorship soon after completing your application.

Application Fee

The 2016 application fee is $35. This fee must be paid for the submission to be complete.

  • The fee is payable by credit or debit card when paid online.
  • You will receive a receipt by email.
  • We prefer that you pay the fee online, but if you absolutely need to send a check or other payment, please email with “Application Payment Request” and the title of your project in the subject line to discuss it individually.


Programs FAQs

How much are your grants?

Grants for the Accelerator Lab will be up to $35,000 for each chosen film. The grants will be disbursed in installments throughout the program, beginning in April 2017, with further installments tied to agreed-upon deliverables and deadlines.

How do you define first-time filmmakers? How do you define second-time filmmakers?

We define a first-time filmmaker as someone who has never completed a feature length documentary film. An applicant still qualifies as a first-time filmmaker if they have made multiple shorts or a web series. We consider anything less than 50 minutes to be a short. We consider anything over 50 minutes to be a feature film.

We define a second-time filmmaker as someone who has not completed more than one feature length documentary film.

What if we are co-directors and one of us is a first-time filmmaker, but the other has made more than two feature-length films?

Co-directing teams with one first or second-time filmmaker and one more experienced co-director are allowed to apply, but first priority will be given to first and second-time filmmaking teams. Please note that the prior work sample of co-directing teams that consist of a first or second-time filmmaker and a more experienced filmmaker must be representative of the first or second-time filmmaker’s experience.

How do you define feature-length?

We consider feature films to be projects over 50 minutes, including those that may be aiming for a PBS hour (56:40), or a classic feature length (over 72 minutes). Combined web series or any shorts that could be counted as a feature when added together do not qualify as features for this Open Call.

What if I have previously made a feature-length fiction film, but this is my first feature-length documentary?

If you’ve made one feature-length fiction film, you are eligible to apply as a second-time filmmaker. If you’ve completed more than one feature-length fiction film, you are not eligible to apply.

What production stages are eligible?

To be eligible for the Accelerator Lab, applicants must be between development and mid production, with no more than 40% of their footage shot by the date of application. We’re only accepting projects between these stages because we want to ensure that we have the greatest opportunity possible to make an impact on the production and on the development of the director.

Can I apply with more than one project?

Please only apply with the one project that you feel is the best fit for Chicken & Egg Pictures. Read our guidelines and look at the films we have supported to get an idea of our interests. If you really cannot choose between two projects, you can email us at with a short description of both films and ask for our advice (this advice will not impact your application). Always include your project title name in the subject line of your email.

I identify as transgender/gender-non-conforming. Can I apply?

Yes, our application is open to self-identifying women (cis or trans) and gender non-conforming individuals.

If I’ve received a grant from Chicken & Egg Pictures in the past, can I reapply?

Currently active grantees are not automatically transitioned into this new program. Those who are first- or second-time filmmakers, and who are still in early production and haven’t shot more than 40% of their footage, may apply for this funding round. If you have completed a project that received a grant from Chicken & Egg Pictures but still qualify as a first or second-time filmmaker and are beginning a new film, you are welcome to apply.

If I applied in the past but my project was not selected, can I reapply?

If the director is a first or second-time filmmaker, and if the project has still not shot more than 40% of its footage, past applicants may apply again. We urge you to consider how your project has evolved since your last submission, and to clearly state how that progress is evident in both your proposal and work-in-progress.

What if I can’t afford the application fee?

In select situations, we are able to waive the application fee for filmmakers in need. Please email for further information.

I have not shot anything yet for my proposed project. I have a great idea, a character, and access. How can I apply?

Projects in the development stage are eligible, but we require filmmakers to have some filmed material. No matter what stage of the project, first-time filmmakers are required to submit at least five minutes of consecutively-edited footage to apply. Second-time filmmakers may submit a combination of types of samples. Please see the FAQ for details on requirements for work samples.

What work samples do you require for the application?

All applicants must submit:

    1. A short work sample of the project with which they’re applying;
    2. An additional work sample of the film with which they’re applying; and

If applicable for first-time filmmakers / mandatory for second-time filmmakers:

    1. A prior work sample of a film that the applicant either directed or on which she held a prominent role.

See below for details about these different kinds of work samples.

Short work samples should run between 5-10 minutes. The sample may consist of a trailer, a couple of select scenes, a quick character study, or any 5-10 minute excerpt from what you’ve edited of the film so far.

Additional work samples should run between at least 7-30 minutes. The sample may consist of a longer trailer; a more cohesive group of selects; an in-depth character strand; any 7-30 minute consecutively edited portion of the film; or a combination thereof. No more than 30 minutes total is permitted. (See below for more definitions of these types of samples.)

    • IMPORTANT NOTE: Since we’ll be looking at your ability to construct a story, we encourage first-time filmmakers to ensure that their long work samples primarily consists of long constructed scene selects/excerpts.

Prior work samples can run between 5-100 minutes. The purpose of a prior work sample is to give us a sense of the director’s visual style, storytelling ability, ambition, and ability to follow through. Prior work samples may be documentary or fiction, in the form of a short film, web series, commercial, music video, animation, experimental video, or feature film.

    • First-time filmmakers (if applicable) must submit a prior work sample from a film that they’ve directed, or a separate project in which they held a prominent role in the production, such as producer, A.D., cinematographer, editor, sound recordist, or outreach/engagement coordinator. Please be sure to describe your role in the creation of the completed work submitted.
    • Second-time filmmakers must submit a prior work sample of a completed film on which they served as director or co-director.
    • Co-directing teams that consist of a first-time/second-time filmmaker and a veteran filmmaker must submit a prior work sample from the first-time/second-time filmmaker.

All work samples must be in English or have accurate English subtitles onscreen.

Here are a few important technical notes to keep in mind when submitting your work samples:

    • All work samples must be accessible via a downloadable URL (Vimeo, YouTube, or private hosting site). You must provide us with a link and password to review the sample. Please ensure the links are downloadable.
    • Please test your links and passwords and make sure they play all the way through the samples. Please also make sure your links will stay live and be accessible through April 2017.
    • We prefer that you submit using a link and password, but if you are absolutely unable to submit online, you may email, with “DVD submission request” and your project title in the subject line to request permission.

Some notes on trailers, character strands, scene selects, and raw footage:

    • Trailers: Trailers can often be slick, fast, and energetic, and may not give us an accurate sense of your film’s tone, character development, or story structure. If you’re submitting a trailer, we encourage you to also attach a couple of additional scenes to give us more of a chance to experience your style and get a feel for your characters, access, relationship to the material, and narrative arc.
    • Character strands: If you’ve been following a character over time and want to show their evolution or development, you might want to string together scenes that show the character’s progression. A character strand doesn’t require formal transitions or the scenes to be interwoven with others, but it should demonstrate a character’s story arc, what makes them unique, and your depth of access to them. Please do this only if the character is your lead and a major part of the story.
    • Selected Scenes/Excerpts: If you are a bit further along, you can send us a selection of edited scenes or an excerpt of an early assembly of the film. These can be edited together consecutively to tell us a part of your story (with transitions), or they can be intercut with black in between (no transitions), to show us the range of your story. Scene selects or excerpts should provide us with a feel for how your story will play out in real time; they should also offer a sense of your tone, pacing, and cinematic language.
    • Raw (Unedited) Footage: If you haven’t started editing or have only just started shooting, you may send us up to five minutes of select raw footage. Choose selects of raw footage that contain the heart, soul, and spark of your character or issue — the part that shows us why you’re pursuing the story. Remember that, since we’ll be looking at your ability to construct a story, we encourage everyone, and especially first-time filmmakers, to ensure that their samples primarily consist of scene selects or excerpts and to only use raw (unedited) footage as supplementary material.

If you haven’t started production yet, we encourage you to take a leap and do a small shoot capturing a simple part of your story that could give us a sense of what you plan to make. This can be as simple as a single interview you filmed yourself on a digital camera, or even on an iPhone. Be bold!

What makes a good logline?

A logline is a concise, story-driven description that explains the heart of your project in one or two sentences. Because nearly every film festival, producer, distributor, or other industry professional will want to see one, you should spend time developing a strong logline for your project. A good logline introduces your central character, their world, their goals, and the forces standing in their way. It should be in concert with your title and tagline, and offer a bit of double meaning and mystery that compels the reader to want more.

A few examples from projects recently funded by Chicken & Egg Pictures:

    • Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry: Can an artist change China? Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry follows two tumultuous years in the life of Ai Weiwei, when he became a superstar, a dissident of the art world, in the headlines, a first-time father and an online god to tens of thousands of Chinese netizens, all while trying to stay out of prison.
    • Black Out: A literal and metaphorical journey towards enlightenment, Black Out shows how children reconcile their daily lives in Guinea, one of the world’s poorest countries, with their desire to learn.

What makes a good synopsis?

A strong synopsis, like a strong logline, will focus on the heart of the story that drives your project. It will be longer than a logline, but still keep it concise — we recommend sticking to 1 to 2 pages. Your synopsis should give your story a beginning, middle, and end, mentioning key moments where your character or characters encounter particular challenges. It should also mention briefly the broader implications of the personal struggles at stake.

A few examples of synopses from projects funded by Chicken & Egg Pictures:

    • Among the Believers: A Pakistani radical cleric, Aziz declares a war against the government to impose Islamic utopia in the country. The government retaliates by destroying his seminary and killing 150 students. The film charts the coming-of-age stories of his students, representing the hard circumstances both extremism and poverty pose for many young Pakistanis. Talha, 12, dreams of becoming a jihadi preacher. Zarina, also 12, escapes the madrassa and joins a secular school, but her poverty forces her to drop out.
    • Beautiful Sin: What if you desperately wanted a baby, but your country and religion prohibited you from trying the one medical treatment that could help you? Beautiful Sin tells the surprising, decade-long story of three couples struggling with infertility in Costa Rica who fight their government in an international human rights court for the right to use in vitro fertilization. Costa Rica is the only country in the world that has outlawed the treatment, in which doctors create embryos in the lab.
    • Southwest of Salem excavates the nightmarish persecution of Elizabeth Ramirez, Cassandra Rivera, Kristie Mayhugh, and Anna Vasquez — four Latina lesbians wrongfully convicted of allegedly gang raping two little girls. This bizarre case is the first to be adjudicated under momentous new legislation: for the first time in U.S. history, wrongfully convicted innocents can challenge convictions based on debunked scientific evidence. The film also unravels the sinister interplay of mythology, homophobia, and prosecutorial fervor that led to this modern day witch-hunt.

How many applications receive funding?

The 2016 Open Call for the Accelerator Lab will fund ten applications: a combination of first-time and second-time filmmakers.

If I am selected for the Accelerator Lab, would Chicken & Egg Pictures request a credit on my film?

The standard credit we’ll request of grantees in the Accelerator Lab will be “In Association with Chicken & Egg Pictures.”

Do you provide feedback on applications to which you do not award grants?

We are a small staff with limited capacity, and cannot provide one-on-one feedback to applicants (except for those whose projects are shortlisted). We do, however, believe wholeheartedly in the importance of feedback, and are constantly searching for ways to offer more support to all our applicants.

How do I get Chicken & Egg Pictures to executive produce my film?

Occasionally, we deepen our relationship with a current grantee by becoming Executive Producers on a film. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis for currently-supported projects only and is not a part of this Open Call.

Submissions for the Accelerator Lab will open on October 11, 2016. To download the application questions in advance, click “Apply.”

Breakthrough Filmmaker Awards

The Chicken & Egg Pictures Breakthrough Filmmaker Award responds to the reality that only a few women non-fiction directors in the U.S. are able to work full-time as independent storytellers. Despite progress by talented women filmmakers across the country, there are still numerous roadblocks that stand in the way of those filmmakers truly breaking through in the documentary industry. These roadblocks are often tied to gender, race, class, disability, and geography, among other factors.

This program recognizes and elevates five mid-career women* directors with unique voices who are poised to reach new heights and become strong filmmaker-advocates for urgent issues. The award consists of a $50,000 unrestricted grant and a year-long mentorship tailored to each filmmaker’s individual goals. We support these artists in breaking through to the next level of their careers and as they become influential leaders for the issues they are exploring on-screen.

Through these awards, Chicken & Egg Pictures is making a bold investment in women artists, and an equally bold statement about representation and gender equity. We view this as inextricably connected to elevating the critical social justice, environmental, and human rights issues of the day, ensuring that a greater diversity of voices are participating in the storytelling that drives change.

We announced our inaugural Breakthrough Filmmaker Award recipients in January 2016. Meet them here.

Recipients of the Chicken & Egg Pictures Breakthrough Filmmaker Award are chosen through a confidential nomination process. Unsolicited applications are not accepted.

*Chicken & Egg Pictures supports self-identifying women (cis or trans) and gender nonconforming individuals.


In addition to financial support, the Chicken & Egg Pictures Breakthrough Filmmaker Award grantees will participate in a year-long mentorship program that will focus on strengthening their professional infrastructure, increasing their public and industry visibility, and fulfilling their specific personal and creative goals.

This intimate, in-depth mentorship program will address each grantee’s needs and aspirations using a tailored, multi-layered approach. Each grantee will:

    • Work with Chicken & Egg Pictures to define what “breaking through” means for her;
    • Brainstorm the best strategy to move her forward in her Breakthrough year;
    • Develop specific goals and tactics to accomplish those aspirations, which she will execute during the program year with our support;
    • Have access to a strategic planning coach and an industry support network to build out those tactics and achieve those goals;
    • Participate in group retreats where she will have the opportunity to make connections with veteran filmmakers, industry decision-makers, and fellow Breakthrough awardees; and
    • Contribute to an ecosystem of women filmmakers supporting one another by mentoring one filmmaker from the roster of active Chicken & Egg Pictures grantees.

Impact & Innovation Initiative

The growing demand for short-form and immersive content offers exciting possibilities for filmmakers. For newcomers, these frontiers can be low budget or low-stakes entry points. For social change, they can engage both strategic constituencies and larger audiences. They can also help filmmakers expand a portfolio and attract funding for feature-length work. Through the Impact & Innovation Initiative, Chicken & Egg Pictures works to support women filmmakers to explore and create new ways of telling stories that enhance impact campaigns.

We do not currently accept unsolicited proposals for this program. You can follow us on Twitter and Facebook, or sign up for our newsletter, to stay updated on news and announcements regarding the Impact & Innovation Initiative.

Reel Reproductive Justice

Chicken & Egg Pictures created Reel Reproductive Justice in 2010, in response to the nationwide, state-level attacks on reproductive health care. Funded and curated by Chicken & Egg Pictures, this cohort is made up of eight independent documentaries; each one is a compelling, story-driven exploration of the struggle for reproductive rights and access to care across the United States and around the world.

From the OB-GYN wing of a public hospital in Nicaragua, a country where all abortion has been illegal since 2006, to the last clinics in Alabama and Mississippi currently threatened by the TRAP (targeted regulation of abortion providers) laws, the films feature health care providers, civil rights lawyers, policymakers, activists, and women and men making choices about their health, their family, and their futures.

This past spring, Chicken & Egg Pictures launched a Reel Reproductive Justice national screening tour at medical schools across the United States. To find out more about the context for and goals of the tour, as well as information on the eight films in the Reel Reproductive Justice cohort, visit

Diversity Fellows Initiative

The Diversity Fellows Initiative supports seven non-fiction projects helmed by first or second-time women filmmakers. This initiative is supported by The Harnisch Foundation, and brings together participants for 12 months of tailored mentorship, workshops, and programming with Chicken & Egg Pictures staff.

Chicken & Egg Pictures created the Diversity Fellows Initiative to identify and increase the number of talented, diverse women non-fiction directors in the industry pipeline, and help their films reach the fullest potential in order to contribute to our greater goal of using artful and innovative storytelling to catalyze social change. By nurturing these filmmakers, we elevate diverse and talented storytellers who will play a vital role in the struggle to ensure social change for years to come.

Fellows were chosen from applications to the Accelerator Lab, and received travel grants and stipends enabling them to come to New York for the 2015 DOC NYC Film Festival. They also participated in Chicken & Egg Pictures’ signature story workshop; as part of this workshop, Fellows receive 12 months of individualized follow-up to track their progress and receive feedback.

For more information on our current Diversity Fellows, as well as our partnership with The Harnisch Foundation, please visit our blog.