The Future of Science Film Fellowship is a program for emerging filmmakers to develop new documentaries about efforts to make science more equitable and inclusive. This project builds on the success of the feature documentary Picture a Scientist, which chronicled stories of bias, discrimination and harassment against women scientists. Our goal now is to launch a new set of films that will amplify the conversation about race, equity and inclusion in science, and spark change in the scientific community.
In this first phase, we will select three emerging filmmakers and work with them to develop their films. The program welcomes applications from storytellers who are committed to exploring diversity, equity, and inclusion in science through their unique life experiences. A stipend of $10,000 will be provided, and fellows will participate in a 8-week workshop including mentorship and access to our research team to support story development. The outcome will be professional pitch decks that together we will use to seek major funding for the second phase of the Fellowship.
Throughout the entire process, our emphasis will be on providing access and opportunity for storytellers from historically marginalized communities while creating powerful new films about combating racism in science. The outcome of this effort will not only be a powerful set of unique stories about the future of science, but also a constellation of meaningful relationships among future science storytellers.
Since the release of Picture a Scientist, the film team has been researching new storylines about active attempts to remake the culture of science. Themes that have emerged during this early research include: belonging and identity; bringing one’s whole self to science and education; changing the culture of science by bringing knowledge, interests, and social structures from students’ own cultural backgrounds; students connecting with their traditions within their education after generations of stripping education of tradition; the expectations of mainstream culture that BIPOC students will not excel; how science, knowledge, and education are defined, and questioning these assumptions; and investing in communities and solving local problems.
The Executive Producers for this new project — scientist and science communication expert Dr. Mónica Feliú-Mójer, filmmaker and Columbia journalism professor Duy Linh Tu, and Picture a Scientist co-director Ian Cheney — will guide the process and oversee the business aspects of the productions. The goal is to empower authorship and inspire the creative process for the directors. The initial phase of the fellowship is sponsored by the Science Communication Lab, and supported by the Wonder Collaborative (an initiative of the Science Communication Lab) and Economic Hardship Reporting Project.
We are seeking emerging filmmakers to direct these episodes: people who have some experience with audio or visual storytelling, or in science storytelling, and who are looking for opportunities to grow. Preference will be given to applicants from historically marginalized communities. Any storytellers can apply but all should have a strong interest in working in film.
We want you to pitch your idea, but to keep in mind the guidelines and objectives laid out here. We imagine some of these films will feature a character, institution or community forging a new path for future scientists. Each film should also show why change is needed, providing a glimpse of the challenges and struggles faced by scientists from historically marginalized communities, detailing the history of how today’s current science culture came to be, and exploring the ways in which these scientists are already changing the landscape and very definition of science. In other words, films will highlight both problems and solutions. This set of films will illuminate and re-ignite conversations around belonging, identity, sovereignty, and our understanding of what scientific knowledge can be — and who defines it.
Interested filmmakers should submit an application describing their interest in this project, including specific themes or storylines that could be explored. We do not expect a full pitch or treatment of the topic. Instead, discuss why you are uniquely situated to tell this story through a brief discussion of your identity, experience, and cultural competencies. Tell us how you hope to evolve as a filmmaker and storyteller.
Applications are due: August 7th
Fellows will be announced: August 23rd
Fellowship (8 weeks) begins: September 13th
Things to know before you begin your application:
You’ll be expected to participate in 4-6 hours of virtual meetings each week, which will include a mix of meetings with mentors, lectures with visiting experts, and huddles with your fellow fellows. The bulk of your time will be on your own, writing and researching and building the materials for your deck.
No. This application is designed for individuals. However, if you tend to work in a partnership, you can certainly both apply as individuals. During the fellowship phase, you’re of course welcome to bring partners aboard to help you as you see fit.
Yes. The fellowship is designed for US-based applicants, and stories will focus primarily on US-based science culture, and fellowship workshop sessions will occur during USA time zone business hours, but we are open to applicants from around the world.
No, not at this stage. It’s possible that an in-person summit would be part of the fellowship process in the future, but currently the fellowship and workshop are designed to be virtual. We will update this website with any new information.
We use the term somewhat loosely: We welcome a range of experience, from early-career to aspiring filmmakers. Maybe you’ve worked on a handful of productions before, or have even made a film or two in the past. Maybe you’ve never worked on documentary films but you have a discerning eye, told non-fiction stories in other formats, and have a clear desire to work in the documentary space. If you’re in this realm of experience, we encourage you to apply.
Yes. We welcome ideas from all language backgrounds
Yes. As long as you have toed the waters of storytelling, we encourage you to apply.
While we can’t give feedback specific to your film idea, we’d be happy to field any questions you might have about your application. Please reach out to us at (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’ll do our best to respond within 1 week.
If you have more than one idea for a project, feel free to briefly indicate that in your application, but we recommend putting your best foot forward by choosing your most well-thought-out idea and devoting most of your application to describing it.
We are open to both, but we are especially interested in ideas that could be 1-hour or feature-length films. While this length can be intimidating and even if you may have doubts about your idea fitting this format, we encourage you to apply.