Female Filmmakers Intitiative

2019 Financing Intensive Submissions Now Closed

For the last seven years, Sundance Institute and Women In Film have been working together to address the most challenging obstacles facing women filmmakers at structural and project-based levels. Accessing capital remains elusive for even seasoned creators, and our research has shown that women continue to deal with particular gendered biases that make it harder to secure financing.

Held on Monday, May 6 and Tuesday, May 7 in Los Angeles, the 2019 Women In Film Financing Intensive is designed to help approximately 12 filmmaking teams (6 narrative and 6 documentary) advance a front-burner project to the next stage of financing success. Over two days, filmmaking teams will participate in the following events: small group workshops focused on both pitching and financing strategy, an evening panel with financing experts, and one-on-one meetings with potential financiers and partners

The goal of this Intensive is for filmmakers who are actively seeking financing to walk away with stronger presentations as well as actionable, strategic steps to advance their projects to the next stage, and a chance to meet with potential partners.


To be eligible to apply, each filmmaking team must have:

1) A strong feature-length documentary or narrative project actively seeking financing.

2) The ability and willingness to discuss that project in small groups comprised of fellow filmmakers and high level advisors.

3) Producer-director teams are welcome, as are producers or directors on their own. If a producer attends on their own, there must be a director attached to the project. If a director attends on their own, they should be a director-producer hyphenate or be intricately involved in financing the project. This is a producing-intensive clinic, and that skill set will be required.

4) This Clinic will not be appropriate for highly seasoned filmmakers. First time filmmakers with strong projects are appropriate as are mid-career artists who would benefit from pitching, financing, and strategy counsel.

5) One participant with active Women In Film membership.

6) Los Angeles residence or means to attend. Travel is not provided.

Participants will be informed of selection the first week of April.



In 2012, the Sundance Institute and Women in Film, Los Angeles launched the Female Filmmakers Initiative to foster gender parity for women behind the camera. Our first step was to understand the hard numbers and the root causes behind the paucity of American female filmmakers so we could address the problem head-on. Our landmark research over the last three years revealed key barriers and opportunities for women filmmakers that inform our collective and individual work.



Together with Sundance Institute, we commissioned groundbreaking research with Dr. Stacy Smith and her team at USC’s Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism over the last three years (2013, 2014, and 2015). Before this project, an analysis of gender composition among content creators from the independent film sector had never been undertaken. We believe that by learning more about how women are faring in the independent film world, and the obstacles that are keeping women from commercial films, we gain powerful insights into ways to positively effect progress. Just below are thumbnail sketches of the research; but this is only the beginning of what we’ve learned. Click below for the entire studies.

Phase I: “Exploring the Barriers and Opportunities for Independent Women Filmmakers” examines gender differences in submissions and selections over multiple years for U.S. films in the Sundance Film Festival, and in Sundance Institute Feature Film and Documentary Film Programs. The study also delves into qualitative interviews with a targeted group of independent female directors and producers, industry executives, and thought leaders in the field.

Phase II: This new study updates Sundance Film Festival data to include 2013 numbers and delves into Sundance Institute’s Lab data, analyzing the rate at which female filmmakers enter Sundance’s artist labs and the rate at which they subsequently complete and exhibit their work. The Phase II study also continues further deep-dive qualitative inquiry, exploring gender-based perceptions among thought leaders in the field.

Phase III: “Exploring the Careers of Female Filmmakers” explores how female directors fare after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. We assess the types of films, distribution deals, and exhibition patterns of male and female U.S. Dramatic Competition directors. Then, through industry interviews with filmmakers, buyers, and sellers, we examine the unique impediments female filmmakers face.

The third phase of research garnered extensive media attention when it was published on April 21, and again in the spring of 2015, when it became part of the foundation of an ACLU action to expose and combat gender discrimination in Hollywood.

CLICK HERE for Phases I and II
CLICK HERE for a PDF of the latest press release


Resource Map

In an effort to provide U.S.-based female filmmakers a comprehensive view of available support, we created a Resource Map, surveying more than 150 programs from 50 organizations that serve female filmmakers. The result is a user-friendly, searchable database of programs, events, workshops, and services—an information storehouse where female media artists can tap into resources and opportunities.



Allied Organizations

Our Female Filmmakers Initiative is led by Sundance Institute and Women In Film Los Angeles, but includes other key organizations dedicated to gender equity in media. These organizations convene intermittently to discuss progress, inspire new ideas, and plan future collaborations.


AFI Conservatory

Alliance for Women Film Composers

Alliance of Women Directors

Athena Film Festival

Chapman University

Chicken & Egg Pictures

Creative Capital

Film Fatales

Film Independent

Fledgling Fund

Ford Foundation

FUSION Film Festival at NYU

Gamechanger Films

Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media


Impact Partners

International Documentary Association

Loreen Arbus Foundation

Loyola Marymount University

New York Women in Film & Television

Palix Foundation

Paley Center for Media

Producers Guild of America

Reel Image Inc.

San Francisco Film Society

Stony Brook Southampton Graduate Arts

Tangerine Films

The Harnisch Foundation

Time Warner Foundation

Tribeca Film Institute

UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television

USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

USC School of Cinematic Arts

Women & Hollywood

Women in Film & Video, Washington DC

Women Make Movies

Women Moving Millions

Women’s Media Center

Writers Guild of America




Support for Women at Sundance and for The Female Filmmakers Initiative is provided by The Harnisch Foundation, Morgan Stanley, Southern California BMW Centers, Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy, Palix Foundation, Archer Gray, David E. Quinney III, Gruber Family Foundation, The Jacquelyn & Gregory Zehner Foundation, and LUNA.