Derek 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 the final 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.

Click here for more info about the 2019 Application Form!



Derek Freese Film Foundation is so excited to announce the 2019 winner of the Derek Freese Documentary Fund!


Memphis, a film by David Zucker, tells the story of Memphis, a young man with cerebral palsy, as he navigates love and life and the harsh realities he faces as someone with a disability striving to be independent.


We are so happy to add this important subject matter to a diverse list of DFDF recipients!

2013Alive Inside, winner of the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, is a joyous cinematic exploration of music's capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity. Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription medication falls short. 


Michael founded The Alive Inside Foundation, dedicated to healing loneliness and disconnection in all our lives, especially in the lives of the very young and the very old living with dementia. They partner with communities to connect the generations and shift our relationship with life, aging, and growing up – and seek to end loneliness using empathy, music, life story, and film.


2015Almost Sunrise an Emmy-nominated documentary by Michael Collins and Marty Syjuco, is a powerful story of veteran resilience and recovery. The film follows two Iraq veterans, Tom Voss and Anthony Anderson, who struggle with depression upon returning home from service. Fearful of succumbing to the epidemic of veteran suicide, they seek a lifeline and embark on a 2,700-mile walk across America as a way to confront their inner pain. The film captures an intimate portrait of two friends suffering from the unseen wounds of war as they discover an unlikely treatment: the restorative power of silence and meditation. 

The filmmakers are committed to helping veterans, so they started the Moving Mountains Impact Campaign to empower veterans, family members, and health care providers to explore evidence-based solutions for moral injury, PTSD, and breaking the stigma around mental health.

2017Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable, Sasha Waters Freyer's documentary on the life and work of acclaimed photographer Garry Winogrand. His artistry encompassed the heartbreak, violence, hope, and turmoil of postwar America. The film tells the story of an artist whose rise and fall was larger-than-life, full of contradictions, and totally unresolved. The film has received critical acclaim and was released in theaters nationwide in 2018.

Derek Freese Documentary Fund 2019-2020 cycle is CLOSED.  


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.




  • Applicants must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident.

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

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

  • High Definition copy 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.

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



© 2019 Derek Freese Film Foundation 

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