NBC News Launches Documentary Filmmaking Fellowships With $270,000 In Annual Grants

NBC News announced that its NBCU Academy and NBC News Studios would launch a fellowship program to award six filmmakers $270,000 in grants each year to create feature length documentaries.

The program, Original Voices, will allocate $45,000 each to fund the documentary projects, in all stages of production, that will highlight social issues and identities. The fellows will get access to NBC News Studios and expertise in areas like story and editing, marketing and festival distribution. They also will be able to consult and partner with journalists and executives at NBC News, MSNBC, CNBC and Telemundo.

NBC News Studios said that it identified 50 filmmakers to apply for the fellowships, with an emphasis on diversity, including Latino, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Indigenous and tribal populations, LGBTQ+, women or people with disabilities. No distribution rights are attached for NBC.

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Winners will be announced at the end of February 2021. Three documentary filmmakers will serve as the jurors to select the fellows. They include Dawn Porter, who directed The Way I See It, the look at White House photographer Pete Souza that premiere on Oct. 16 and drew total viewership of 3.7 million, the highest rated non-news program in MSNBC’s history. (The project was co-presented by Focus Features and NBC News Studios/MSNBC Films.) Porter also directed John Lewis: Good Trouble, from Magnolia Pictures.

Also on the jury will be Nanfu Wang, who directed Hooligan Sparrow, I Am Another You, One Child Nation and In the Same Breath. She won four Emmys, among other honors, and was recipient of the 2020 MacArthur Genius Grant. Another juror will be Cristina Costantini, whose documentary Mucho Mucho Amor premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2020 and debuted on Netflix. Her feature film Science Fair, won the Sundance Festival Favorite Award.

Yvette Miley, senior vice president, diversity and inclusion for NBCUniversal News Group, said in a statement that the goal is to support “independent filmmakers who seek out stories that reflect our increasingly diverse communities.” NBC News Studios launched last year, and Molly O’Brien serves as head of documentary.

Last month, NBCUniversal News Group announced that it would invest $6.5 million over the next two years in NBCU Academy, a new multiplatform journalism training and development program for four-year university and community college students. The initiative includes $3.5 million in scholarships, with the goal to reach students from underrepresented groups and diverse racial, economic and geographic backgrounds.

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