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Lightbox: Illuminating Opportunity — January 2023

Original publish date: January 3, 2023

Stressing about getting your film off the ground? You’re certainly not alone. But don’t lose hope; there are a host of different programs aimed at helping independent filmmakers breathe life into their projects and advance their careers. This month, we shine a spotlight on some of the top-tier initiatives that might offer indie moviemakers the boost they need to get their cameras rolling. Take a gander (and maybe a few notes), and your next project might be a “go” sooner than you think. 

1. Sheffield DocFest and MeetMarket 

Sheffield DocFest is the UK’s leading documentary festival and one of the world’s most influential markets for documentary projects. The 2022 festival edition attracted 25,424 in-person attendances, 4,899 admissions online, and welcomed over 2,000 industry delegates from 69 countries. The 2023 festival will take place from June 14-19.

In its Film Programme, the festival screens over 130 films from more than 50 countries across the world. Film submissions are now open for the 2023 edition, and is open to completed documentary films of all lengths, from shorts to features. The Standard Entry Deadline is February 10, 2023 and the Late Entry Deadline is March 3, 2023.

Sheffield DocFest is also home to the MeetMarket, the festival’s flagship industry pitching event. The MeetMarket connects documentary makers and their projects to UK and international industry representatives including funders, broadcasters, distributors, festival programmers and exhibitors. The MeetMarket is open for submissions, and welcomes documentary projects in any stage of production. The deadline for all project submissions is February 17, 2023.

Find out more about the Sheffield DocFest.

2. The Black List: WIF Feature Residency and WIF Episodic Lab

The Black List and partner Women in Film (WIF) are providing two screenwriting programs this year. The Feature Residency is a year-long residency for six non-professional women, non-binary / gender non-conforming, and / or trans feature screenwriters. After an intensive in Los Angeles, writers will meet twice a week for a month to receive guidance from industry professionals as they seek to develop feature screenplays.

The Episodic Lab takes in six to eight non-professional TV writers for four weeks of professional guidance, script workshopping, and development.

As part of the process for both programs, writers get face time with literary agents, production companies, and fellow writers. The programs aim to give underrepresented artists the opportunity to script, pitch, and workshop their projects. All scripts must be live on the Black List here before applications are submitted.

Submissions for the Black List X WIF Episodic Lab are open through January 8, 2023. Submission for the Black List X WIF Feature Residency are now open and accepting applications through March 5, 2023.

3. Film Independent: Episodic Lab and Documentary Lab

Split into two specified labs, Film Independent’s program offers specialized opportunities for filmmakers in different mediums.

For the Episodic Lab, six to eight writers will be given support and mentorship from experienced showrunners, creative producers, and executives. A focus will be put on the craft and business of writing. Thanks to funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, one participant will be awarded a $20,000 development grant.

For the Documentary Lab, there will be meetings and workshops that provide filmmakers with story notes and advice on completion, distribution, and marketing. After a series of one-on-ones, filmmakers will be given the opportunity to pitch their project to participating industry executives. 

Applications for the Documentary Lab are now open through January 27, 2023. Submissions for the Episodic Lab are now open through February 10, 2023.

4. Princess Grace Foundation: Awards Program

 This initiative offers a $10,000 unrestricted cash grant to the lucky few who are chosen from a pool of U.S.-based artists. These filmmakers must live and work in the United States to qualify. Additionally, all applicants must be nominated by a non-profit university, media arts center, or a previous Princess Grace Award winner. Absolutely no self-nominations are allowed (but hey, we don’t blame you for asking). The selection process relies heavily on the applicant’s artistic merit. Nominees must supply a letter of recommendation as part of their application, as well as an artistic statement, work sample, and headshot. 

Applications for the foundation’s Awards Program open on January 14, 2023, nominations are due by February 15, 2023, and final applications must be submitted by May 1, 2023.

5. Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival 

At its core, this is a genre-focused film festival with a foundation built on horror fare. However, many other types of movies are welcome as well, including thrillers, science fiction, and comedies. In fact, the event is an exhibition of more than 100 films. Additionally, the festival is jampacked with events, such as a vampire ball, make-up competitions, visual arts exhibitions, master classes, and industry panels. With crowds that exceed 50,000 attendees and high international appeal, the festival has built a respectable record with high numbers of secured distribution deals. 

Feature film submissions are now open through February 17, 2023. Programmers encourage as early a submission as possible!


Please note that film festivals and markets are chosen based on Dear Producer’s annual study, which asks distributors from where they acquire films, how many films they distribute in a year, and other factors.   


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