Rachel Friedland is a Mixed Asian American visual artist/filmmaker.

There isn’t an end to the resources available to both established and emerging mediamakers, but finding those resources can be hard, especially if you’re just getting your feet wet in the industry.

Say you have an idea for a film, but you don’t have the equipment, space, or skills yet to tell the story you feel needs to be told. Perhaps you already begun to film, but it needs some polishing. Maybe you’re looking to have take a look at what you have so far, critique it and give you some advice.

Based on the stage of your project, fellowships, residencies and labs can provide all kinds of support. Knowing the type of help you need, whether to finish a film or to just get started, is essential prior to applying to any program.

So how do you know which type of program you should be applying to?

Let’s start with the shortest programs available: labs. Labs run from a couple weeks to a few months. As such, they are more workshop oriented so mediamakers can develop skills quick. Most labs offer mentorship along with intensive training in regards to technical filming/editing skills, how to produce a film and how to market/distribute a film. They also offer support like critiques and collaboration with others. labs are good for those who are either in the middle of creating their film, or have finished their film and need to do some touch ups – or are unsure of how to get their film out into the world.

IFP’s Screen Forward Lab assisted in the creation of 195 Lewis. 195 Lewis‘ creator, director, writer and executive producer Chanelle Aponte Pearson won the euphoria Calvin Klein Spotlight on Women Filmmakers ‘Live the Dream’ grant for 195 Lewis at the 25th Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards.

“Shout out to the 2015 Screen Lab Fellows! This community makes space for vulnerability around the difficulties of the filmmaking process, and the fresh eyes of fellow filmmakers offer invaluable insights. 195 Lewis owes much of our progress to IFP and the Screen Forward Labs.”
195 Lewis Creator, Writer and Producer Rae Leone Allen’s IFP testimonial

Both fellowships and residencies run for longer periods of time, normally for a few months to a year or longer. These two types of programs are similar in relation to what they may provide, however their differences are important to note as a fellowship or residency might fit better into your lifestyle.

Fellowships vary in terms of who they’re geared toward. There are some that are a good fit for established mediamakers, and some that most help those just emerging into the field. Some fellowships provide learning experiences focused on the development of certain skills such as leadership, filming and editing. Some also provide professional mentorship, to ensure these skills are developed under the influence of prominent luminaries in the field. Fellowships are great for those who don’t have the means to create/distribute their film, as most offer a stipend or grant to fund their accepted filmmakers.

Bing Liu, a graduate from Kartemquin’s Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) fellowship, received funding from ITVS to make his film Minding the Gap a full feature film.

“What I didn’t learn as I set out to make my first feature documentary was that your story will make even more of a difference with guidance from veterans and a community of passionate filmmakers, which I found in Kartemquin’s Diverse Voices in Docs fellowship.”
– Liu’s DVID testimonial

A residency is a program generally offered to already established mediamakers who are looking for a productive space with all the necessary tools to complete their project. Thus, residencies provide a living space alongside access to studio facilities and equipment. Residencies are perfect for those who are looking to hone in on their craft, dedicating a few months to a year on their work. They’re also great if you’re looking to do some traveling. If you’re accepted into a residency, you’ll have to move to their provided living space, most likely in a different city, state or country. Keep in mind that some of these residencies are conducted like a semester of college. You may be required to attend seminars, watch films and complete readings and writing assignments as well as work on your project.

Martina Scarpelli was accepted into ANIDOX:RESIDENCY for her short animated documentary, Egg, currently in development. Check out the other accepted doc animations here.

To put it simply, labs are great for mediamakers looking to develop certain skills fast, or are working on other things and don’t have the capacity to dedicate a lot of time to their project. Fellowships are for those who need funding to complete their projects, or who are looking to advance their skill set and have longer amounts of time to dedicate to developing them. Residencies cater to those who need to get away to focus solely on their work. All three types of programs offer amazing learning experiences as well as great networking opportunities.

Be mindful of the type of experiences and support you’re looking to get. We hope this helps those of you who were unsure of what type of program you should apply for. If there are any programs we have yet to add to our list, or if you think there is something that should be made more clear, please let us know!

Our list of fellowships, residencies and labs »

Use our free and comprehensive guide to get your project made and seen. »

Don’t miss another deadline! Our calendar includes funding deadlines, calls for entries, festivals and other documentary events. »

Get more documentary film news and features: Subscribe to POV’s documentary blog, like POV on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @povdocs

Published by

POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.