Program Overview

One of the Top Ten Documentary Film Programs in the Nation

Program overview

The annual January through June Institute for Documentary Filmmaking is the central educational offering of The Documentary Center. This six-month advanced nine-credit program leads to a Graduate Certificate in Documentary Filmmaking.

6 month program

A six-month, nine-credit program leads to a Graduate Certificate in Documentary Filmmaking.

Program Overview Docuwood

D.C. is the hub for non-fiction filmmaking in the U.S. Major production companies - including National Geographic Television, WETA, and more - are located within the DC metropolitan area.

Program Overview Internships

All students are eligible for hands-on internships during the first four months of the Institute and are highly sought after by production companies large and small.

There are no other intensive graduate documentary filmmaking programs in the nation like the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking at the George Washington University (GW). For close to 30 years, we have been the only institution that offers this type of concentrated, intensive training and education in nonfiction production. The Institute for Documentary Filmmaking has been ranked one of the top ten documentary programs in the nation.

Held in “Docuwood” - The Epicenter of U.S. Documentary Filmmaking

Our location adds to your unique experience in the Institute. Washington, D.C., is considered the “Docuwood” of filmmaking: PBS, Discovery and National Geographic are all based in Washington, D.C., as does an entire industry that supports these nonfiction giants. Our students regularly intern for these and other esteemed non-fiction production entities and these organizations frequently provide professional development and networking opportunities for our students. Our students also benefit from access to the largest historical collections in the world at the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institution in your everyday work that no other location or program can offer.

Welcoming Students From Diverse Professional and Academic Backgrounds

Individuals who attend the Institute come from such diverse backgrounds as broadcasting, law, psychology, literature, science, anthropology, museum studies, and education. Many participants do not have any media or filmmaking backgrounds, while others have extensive experience in these fields, so prior technical experience is not a requirement.

What all participants share, however, is a strong commitment to creating non-fiction stories and developing their expression in a visual form.  Moreover, each member of the Institute must have a demonstrated ability to work collaboratively, as this course – as well as all filmmaking – is a highly interactive, interpersonal experience.

Learn from the Best in the Business

GW Documentary Center Founder and Director, Professor Nina Seavey oversees all aspects of The Institute for Documentary Filmmaking. Throughout the course of the six-month program, she teaches classes, reviews assignments, meets with and counsels students, and works closely with Institute instructors and staff to ensure the success of the program. She also holds regular office hours each Tuesday and Thursday from 4:00 - 6:00 PM throughout the first four months of the program. During production, she is available 24/7 via email and phone to address questions as they arise. Similarly, she holds small-group critique sessions which all students are strongly encouraged to attend. Upon completion of the graduate certificate program, Seavey mentors Institute graduates throughout their journey towards becoming a filmmaker.

Priority Application Deadline for Admission to the 2020 Institute: November 1, 2019

Applicants who wish to have the option of enrolling in the staggered tuition payment plan must apply by this priority deadline. Any applications received after the priority deadline will be reviewed for admission on a space-available basis and admitted students may not be eligible for the payment plan. 

Early Admission Application Deadline for the 2020 Institute: September 15, 2019

Applicants who wish to be considered before the priority application deadline of November 1, 2019, can do so by submitting all required materials by September 15, 2019.  These applicants will learn of their admission decision by October 4, 2019. Accepted applicants will need to follow the same enrollment and deposit guidelines as November applicants.  

Space in the Documentary Film program is extremely limited. Admitted applicants who wish to reserve a seat in the program must complete the following steps:

1.   Accept admission in TargetX within two weeks of notification.
2.   Register for SMPA 6230 no later than December 6, 2019 via GW’s Registration Transaction Form (form will be provided to you)
3.   Submit an initial tuition payment of $500 no later than December 13, 2019.
The program reserves the right to rescind the admission of any applicant who fails to complete these steps by the deadlines given.