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 (every other year) 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 2015, filmmakers Michael Collins & Marty Syjuco were awarded the Derek Freese Documentary Fund for Almost Sunrise, an important film about the epic journey of an ex-soldier who battles the psychological effects of war and the temptation to escape through suicide. Alongside another Veteran and friend, they embark on a 2,700 mile walk across the country that will transform them. We're so proud to be part of such an important film and help raise awareness of an issue that confronts so many of our brave Veterans every day.


The current application cycle is now closed. We're so excited to announce our 2017 finalists!

Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable
The Prison Within
The Rescue List
Same God

The winner will be announced on October 4, 2017!

Derek Freese Documentary Fund will start accepting applications on January 9, 2017. The application deadline for the 2017-2018 cycle is June 12, 2017, and final decisions will be announced in fall 2017. The completed application and supporting documents must be emailed in one document no more than 12 pages 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.

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

• Budget overview of all documentary-related expenses from development through distribution. This 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. Include a link to your work sample within your proposal. Downloads will not be accepted.

Click here for the application (pdf).
Please download the pdf application to your computer and use Adobe Reader (or a version of Adobe Acrobat) to fill out the form. Do not use your web browser to open and fill out the pdf. The form will not function properly in Edge, Internet Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox.

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


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