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The Institute for Documentary Filmmaking

A Graduate Certificate Program

The annual January through June Institute for Documentary Filmmaking is the central educational offering of The Documentary Center and is an intensive theoretical and hands-on exploration of the documentary form.

This six-month nine-credit program leads to a Graduate Certificate in Documentary Filmmaking.

Priority deadline for admission to the 2017 Institute is November 1, 2016. Applicants who wish to have the option of enrolling in the five-month tuition payment plan must apply by this priority deadline. Any applications received after the priority deadline will be reviewed for admission on a space available basis and admitted students will not be eligible for the payment plan.

The Institute is rigorous and accelerated. For many, it is an excellent substitute for attending a two or three year film school. In order, however, to cover the amount and breadth of material necessary to prepare our students to enter the highly competitive world of documentary filmmaking in six short months, the program is fast-paced, calls for a high degree of collaboration amongst students, and requires a strong commitment to all aspects of the program’s pedagogy. Twenty-seven years of students who have completed the Institute have found it to be a transformative experience in their lives. The Institute faculty work hard to maintain a commitment to the highest standard of excellence in the field and we expect our students to reach that bar as well. So plan to work hard, commit yourself to the world of documentary filmmaking during your tenure in the Institute, and you’ll find the creative, intellectual, and professional rewards to be great.

Individuals who attend the Institute come from such diverse backgrounds as broadcasting, law, psychology, literature, science, anthropology, museum studies, and education. Many participants do not have any media or filmmaking backgrounds, while others have extensive experience in these fields, so prior technical experience is not a requirement. 

What all participants share, however, is a commitment to creating non-fiction stories and developing their expression in a visual form.  Moreover, each member of the Institute must have a demonstrated ability to work collaboratively, as this course – as well as all filmmaking – is a highly interactive, interpersonal experience.

Webinar Recording: 2016 Institute for Documentary Filmmaking

In this 30-minute webinar Nina Seavey, Director of the Documentary Center at George Washington University, will tell you more about the 2016 Institute for Documentary Filmmaking.

In this intensive 6-month accelerated graduate certificate program you will:
• Learn to tell a compelling non-fiction story
• Receive a theoretical background and hands-on training in documentary production
• Gain skills in screenwriting, storyboarding, cinematography, lighting, sound, and editing

Apply Now!

Thinking of applying to the Institute for Documentary Filmmaking? Visit our application process page to find out more.

Student Testimonial

"The Documentary Institute changed my idea of storytelling. The heart of the program is learning how to form a compelling story, which was an important foundation as we went through the stages of learning to be filmmakers. For students who are looking for an intensive, accelerated overview of documentary filmmaking, this program is very helpful. Students come away with a basic understanding of everything needed to start making documentaries."

— Caitlin Carroll, Class of 2011

Washington's Best Film Award

Presentation (by Ted Leonsis & Mayor Vincent Grey) to "Released to Life" - A film by the 2011 Institute for Documentary Filmmaking