The Documentary Storytelling Workshop is designed for documentary filmmakers who wish to move beyond the “talking head” format and learn how to find the story in their footage, develop character, craft compelling story arcs, and strike an honest, compelling balance between story and argument.

Participants accepted into the program receive a $1,000 grant. After the workshop, MPI may elect to acquire one or more projects to produce as MPI Original Films. Filmmakers are then mentored through the entire production process, which is funded by MPI.

STAGE 1: Virtual Sessions

In a multi-week series of virtual sessions, filmmakers develop their documentary concepts and learn directly from working documentarians. The workshop is designed so filmmakers can prepare for their documentary production including refining the documentary concept and subject(s), learning critical story fundamentals, determining specific production needs (equipment, releases/clearances), and more.

STAGE 2: Potential Acquisition and Production

MPI may acquire and produce as an MPI Original Film one or more short documentary concepts.

STAGE 3: Film Festival, Marketing, and Distribution

Once complete, the films developed and produced in the MPI Documentary Storytelling Workshop are prepared for release. MPI creates film assets—including a one-sheet (poster), electronic press kit, and website—and then submits the projects to film festivals and supports a full festival run. Finally, MPI creates a distribution and marketing plan to ensure the film reaches a broad audience.

MPI brought together an impressive list of industry professionals and expert filmmakers for the Documentary Storytelling Workshop, all of whom provided invaluable insights from their perspectives within the media landscape—from development all the way to distribution. Any budding filmmaker, especially documentarians, would benefit from such direct access to knowledge and experience.

Trần Hoàng Calvin, MPI filmmaker
TO apply

We will prioritize short film projects, ranging from 10–30 minutes, that can be shot, edited, and released within one to two years from the completion of the workshop.

Ideally, projects submitted to the workshop will be at the conceptual stage. Projects may enter the workshop if production has begun, or even if the project is in post, but if MPI chooses the documentary as an “official MPI Original selection” it must be possible for MPI to acquire the project at the end of the workshop, or at the very least, join the project as a co-producing entity.

MPI’s mission is to promote human freedom through film. Though we are open to a wide range of documentary subjects that advance our mission, at this time, we are particularly interested in stories that explore the following themes:

  • Exposing hypocrisy and/or confronting corruption of power (e.g., we supported the feature documentary Incarcerating US about over-incarceration in America); 
  • Individuals fighting against government abuse/tyranny (e.g., we supported the feature documentary Battle for Brooklyn about eminent domain abuse in New York City); 
  • Policy failures in education (e.g., we supported The Rubber Room) and solutions to K-12 education in underserved communities (e.g., we made mini-documentaries following student recipients of scholarships explored in our feature narrative Miss Virginia);
  • Freedom of speech/expression (e.g., we supported the feature documentary Los Últimos Frikis about Cuba’s most famous metal band); 
  • Entrepreneurship success stories and the American Dream (e.g., we supported the feature documentary Dog Days about immigrant street vendors in Washington, DC); 
  • Innovations and technology solving problems (e.g., our feature documentary Project Home: 3D Printing the Future about how 3D printed homes can help solve homelessness).

August 12 at 11:50 p.m. (PT)
Deadline for submissions.

August 19
Applicants are notified if they have advanced and are invited to participate in an MPI Documentary Storytelling Workshop to develop their scripts.

September 12
The eight-week Documentary Storytelling Workshop begins.


Applicants are welcome to submit up to three pitches, each submitted as a separate application.

Due to the high volume of applications, we are unable to contact everyone who has applied. We will reach out to you if you’ve been accepted. No calls please. We do not accept applications by mail.