logoDerek Freese Documentary Fund (DFDF) provides production support for feature-length documentary films that have both a strong narrative and compelling story, across a broad spectrum of subject matters. This award is given biennially to an independent filmmaker and provides up to $35,000 in finishing funds.

DFDF helps support documentary filmmakers who are in various stages of the production and post-production process, and have a powerful story to tell and a strong vision for a finished film. Applicants must include a proposal and sample work that conveys the narrative and aesthetic visual for the final film, containing footage of no more than 15 minutes. We do not fund student films.

The Derek Freese Film Foundation was created in 1997 to honor the memory of Derek Freese, an aspiring filmmaker who passed away two days after arriving in Hollywood to pursue his dream of making movies. In January 2013, the foundation launched the Derek Freese Documentary Fund to honor his love of film. Through Derek's lens, we find great storytelling, interesting characters, and creative filmmaking.

In fall 2013, filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett was awarded the first-ever Derek Freese Documentary Fund for Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory, a moving film about the power music has to awaken the deeply locked memories of those suffering from Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Alive Inside's inspirational and emotional story left audiences humming, clapping and cheering at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the Audience Award.


Derek Freese Documentary Fund will start accepting applications on January 6, 2015. The application deadline for the 2015-2016 cycle is June 8, 2015, and final decisions will be announced in fall 2015. The completed application and supporting documents must be emailed to Joan@film.org.

Proposals must include:

• Synopsis/Treatment providing a narrative summary, including project topic, subject profiles, and essential story lines, and clearly communicating a vision and theme for your finished film.

• Resume and Bios highlighting previous credits and relevant experience for the primary applicant and key individuals working on the film.

• Projected timeline for the film providing a brief description of the project's status and timeline for completion.

• Distribution/Marketing Strategy outlining intended plan for distribution and outreach to target audience.

• Budget detailing a comprehensive breakdown of all documentary-related expenses from development through distribution. This line item budget should include the amount requested, list the production-related expenses that the award would be used to cover, and state how that amount would impact your film.

• Fundraising strategy that lists secured and intended funding sources. Applicant must either have nonprofit 501(c)(3) status or be able to secure a 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor for the project. A film production company or individual may submit an application without a fiscal sponsor in place. Once a project is chosen to receive DFDF, the applicant will need to submit documentation from a fiscal sponsor before the grant can be processed.


• DFDF may contact the applicant with questions about the application or proposal.

• DFDF will not return DVDs to applicants.

• Award winners may be required to submit a financial report during the course of the grant period and/or a final financial report.

• A DVD of the finished film must be submitted to the foundation.

• Derek Freese Documentary Fund support must be acknowledged with a logo – of similar size and stature to other logos in the credits – at the end credits of the film as well as on all publicity and promotional materials relating to the production. In addition, it should be noted in the credits and publicity that DFDF is "proudly managed by The Greater Philadelphia Film Office" with logo included.

Sample Work

Please provide a sample of the work in progress no more than 15 minutes in length. The sample work should accurately represent the film you plan to complete and provide a solid example of your storytelling technique and visual aesthetic.

Please upload your sample work to an online sharing site such as YouTube or Vimeo, and include the link with the proposal requirements. Downloads will not be accepted.

Click here for the application (pdf).

If you still have questions after reviewing the guidelines and application, please contact Joan@film.org.


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