How to Write Your Documentary Film Grant Proposal with Joanna Rabiger

How to Write Your Documentary Grant Proposal

For the documentary filmmaker, obtaining a grant to do one’s film can sometimes feel akin to the quest for the Holy Grail. And so sitting down to actually construct a well-crafted documentary grant proposal can sometimes feel too overwhelming or intimidating a task. Which is why this episode is for you, #DocLifer!


We’ve started off TDL 3.0 with a bang, tackling a subject that is often talked about but little is actually known about: the mysterious world of the documentary film proposal.


Understandably so, many #DocLifers have reached out to us, requesting a show on this topic… which is why we’ve patiently been waiting for schedules to align to have a conversation with one of the industry’s leading documentary grant proposal writers around, Joanna Rabiger.


Topics Discussed

  • The importance of the grant proposal teaser or 10 min cut
  • Why not to write your proposal like a university thesis
  • The people awarding the grants are often doc filmmakers themselves
  • How using cinematic language on paper is key


Related Resources


The Documentary Core Application Project


The D.C.A.P. is where Joanna highly recommends beginning your documentary grant proposal writing, as many funding organisations either use this core template or something close to it!  


In our conversation with Joanna, she stresses the importance of a good trailer or 10 min cut for your grant proposal. One of the books she mentions is by renowned filmmaker and writer, Fernanda Rossi, and her book, Trailer Mechanics: How to Make Your Documentary Fundraising Demo .



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Host and TDL Founder, Chris G Parkhurst

Chris is a documentary filmmaker and the founder and host of The Documentary Life, a platform which aims to inform and inspire documentary filmmakers from around the globe.


  1. Brent Morris on 01/20/2018 at 3:06 PM

    Excellent information and conversation. Have several new ideas for making my proposals more insightful and relevant.

    • thedocu5 on 01/20/2018 at 6:30 PM

      Glad that this helped, Brent! Yeah, one of the things that has stayed with me from that conversation was when Joanna was talking about making sure to write simply, eloquently, cinematically. To construct your grant application as if you wanted the reader to experience the emotions, the cinema, that you wanted to convey with the film itself.

      Great to have you aboard, Brent. Let us know what, if anything, we can do to help with your documentary journey!

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