The Southern Documentary Fund is proud to announce The SDF Emergency Research and Development Grant for documentary films made by current and aspiring filmmakers living and working in the American South. The grant is made possible with generous funding from The MacArthur Foundation.

Applications will open in the online portal on April 24, 2020. Applications are due by Midnight EST on June 7, 2020. Award recipients will be notified late-June with grant payout in July. 

  • Each grant awarded will be $5,000.

The SDF Emergency Research and Development Grant application has two parts: the online form and an attached budget.

Note: Please review the guidelines below carefully and answer all application questions thoroughly and thoughtfully. There will be a robust review process and submissions that are not complete will not advance to the final review stage.


  • Documentary filmmakers from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, and new and emerging makers are especially invited to apply.
  • Applicants residing in one of the following states: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia and at least 18 years old are eligible. They must remain a resident of one of these states and be physically present during the grant period. Makers who received an SDF grant in 2017-2018 or 2018-2019 or are enrolled in an academic or degree-granting program at the time of application or during the grant period are not eligible; however, school faculty are eligible to apply. 
  • Applicants must have a US social security number or US federal tax ID number.
  • Applicants do not need a fiscal sponsor in order to apply for a grant.
  • Applicants must be one of the key collaborators.
  • Applicants may submit only one project per grant cycle.


  • Funds may not be used to cover previously incurred expenses.
  • Previously funded projects cannot re-apply for this grant, even if in a different stage of production.
  • SDF staff and Board members are ineligible.


  • Projects in the research and development stage.
  • Projects must be non-fiction documentaries.
  • Well-written proposals.
  • Strong work samples.
  • Potential to generate public conversation.


  • Grantees must submit narrative and financial reports during the course of the grant period, along with photos, other publicity materials, and credits when available.
  • SDF support must be acknowledged with a tag line and 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.

Information Sessions will take place May 12th & May 16th. You can find more information and registration on our website:

For questions regarding eligibility or the application process, please email

As a fiscally sponsored project of SDF you are entitled to make one disbursement request per month. Your funds will be available for disbursement two weeks from the SDF deposit date.


1.     Fill out the disbursement form here at Submittable.

2.    If it’s your first request make sure to submit a W9 with the request. 

Disbursement checks must be made payable to an LLC or business checking account. For folks who don’t have an LLC you’ll need to make sure you have a business checking account set up in the name of the project with your bank prior to making a disbursement request. SDF cannot write checks to individual project directors. We also don’t pay your vendors directly.

3.     Submit the proper reporting:

Anticipated Expenses – Each time you make a disbursement request you must submit an outline of what the funds will be used for. 

Previous Expenses – You must also report on the actual expenses paid for with your previous disbursement funds. Examples of this reporting are a Quickbooks P&L for the specific date range that covers the expenses incurred. 

We need a report on previous expenses with the following detail:

Payee name

Check number and date

Purpose/description of the service/expense and budget category

Is there a balance forward? For example, you previously received a disbursement for $5,000 but only have expenses so far totaling $4,000. You will need to note a balance forward on your report and include actual reporting on that remaining $1,000 balance with your next disbursement.

Southern Documentary Fund