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The Institute for Documentary Filmmaking

A One-of-its-Kind Documentary Filmmaking Program

The Institute for Documentary Filmmaking is an advanced, six-month, nine-credit program that leads to a Graduate Certificate in Documentary Filmmaking.
 It is held annually between January and June and has been named one of the top ten documentary film programs in the nation. The 2019 Institute began January 15 and goes through June 30. Applications to the 2020 program will be accepted starting in July. 

Rigorous and Accelerated

For many, it is an excellent substitute for attending a two or three year film school. Thus, the program is fast-paced, calls for a high degree of collaboration amongst students, and requires a strong commitment to all aspects of the program’s pedagogy. 

Students From Diverse Professional and Academic Backgrounds

Individuals who attend the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking 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.


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A Commitment to Non-Fiction Story Telling

All participants share a drive to creating non-fiction stories and developing their expression in a visual form. Moreover, each member of the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking must have a demonstrated ability to work collaboratively, as this course is a highly interactive, interpersonal experience.

A Three Tiered Structure for Success

  • Theory and Principles (January through March on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.): Students watch many films, read a number of texts, and complete many writing and visual story assignments.
  • Technical Training (late February, March and April): Students meet in small group workshops to master high-definition cinematography, lighting, sound, and Adobe Premiere editing. There are two REQUIRED intensive training weekend sessions. We will inform students of the dates of these weekends at the time of admission to the Institute.   
  • Group Film Production (May and June): The final stage of a students' time in the Institute is the production of the group film project. Students will be working around the clock to complete this short film. This is a time of great creativity and marks the entrance into the real world of documentary filmmaking. Upon completion of the program, most groups screen their films at festivals around D.C. and the country. 

Advanced Training

If there are specific aspects of filmmaking, such as cinematography and editing, for which you would like more advanced training after completing our six month program, we will help you identify opportunities that will advance your long-term career goals.

Ongoing Mentorship

We continue to mentor our students long past the completion of the Institute. We provide on-going career advice, job recommendations, proposal commentary, strategy sessions for films in production and post-production and more.


Learn More: Application Process 

Student Work

Queens in Training

Queens in Training (2017)

Life in Strides

Life in Strides (2017)