Documentary Film in the Public Interest Fellows Program

About the Fellows Program:  

The Documentary Film in the Public Interest Fellows Program is designed to support new research, analysis, innovation and provocation around core issues facing the documentary field. Through the fellows’ projects, the Shorenstein Center will engage in examinations of best practice, industry ecosystems, public impact and media policy.  

Who should apply?: 

Career professionals in documentary film, including filmmakers, executives, industry leaders, policymakers, and scholars are encouraged to apply. 

The Shorenstein Center is committed to diversity, and actively encourages applications from all demographic backgrounds, and across the political spectrum.  

 Am I eligible?  

The fellowship is open to individuals with unique expertise in the documentary field.   

  • Documentary Filmmakers: Documentary filmmakers and/or academics and practitioners with expertise in documentary filmmaking as it relates to public interest media, and/or its intersections with journalism.  
  • Documentary Industry Leaders and Executives: Industry professionals working at production or distribution companies, artist support organizations, foundations or grant-making organizations 
  • Journalists: Journalists with a history of writing about documentary film media or who are involved in the creation and distribution of documentary film.  
  • Scholars: Tenured or tenure-track professor employed by a college, university or research institution in documentary, journalism, technology or a field relevant to the documentary film focus.  
  • Policymaker: High-level official in a cabinet office, or policy adviser to a candidate for national office or high-level elected official. 

Minimum of 10-years experience. 

Applicants should not have participated in another fellowship within the two years prior to their preferred semester. 

Applicants must be fluent in English – listening, reading, writing and speaking. Non-native English speakers must provide TOEFL or IELTS score. 

Fellowships cannot be used for the development of a new film project. 

If you unsure if you are eligible we encourage you to contact our staff to discuss further. 

What is expected of a fellow? 

Applicants must be available to be in residence, full-time, for the duration of their fellowship (Fall Semester: September through December, Spring Semester: February through May, or Full Year: September through May) in Cambridge, MA.  

The Fellowship is a full-time appointment, and applicants are expected to commit to the work of completing their primary research project and engaging in the life of the Center, its activities and events. It is understood that busy modern professionals will have occasional essential obligations, and the Center aims to be considerate and flexible in such circumstances. However, any applicant with professional, personal or travel commitments that would require significant time away should consider applying when their schedule allows for the full commitment of a fellowship. 

What will I be working on? 

The quality and originality of an applicant’s project proposal is a key deciding factor in the selection process. The primary deliverable for a fellow is a research-based project that contributes to broad understanding of an issue within the information ecosystem, or addresses a problem related to documentary film, journalism, technology, public policy or public interest media (with ideal candidates focusing on the intersection of at least two of these areas and with an eye towards politics and/or public policy solutions). Project topics should fit into the existing work of the Center but provide a new angle or area of focus that is not covered specifically by one of the Center’s existing programs 

Projects can take many forms, including white paper, policy paper, annotated bibliography, podcast, video, or interactive. Projects should have an anticipated impact in society, and applicants should be able to clearly articulate their project’s desired impact. 

Fellows often work independently, with the assistance of a faculty mentor and research assistant, but some have also conducted a series of workshops with students, with the final output taking the form of a report or project illustrating the conclusions of the workshops. 

Fellows’ projects are published on the Shorenstein Center website, and many have been cross published or excerpted in a variety of high-profile media outlets and academic journals or have become the basis for a longer book.  

Life as a Shorenstein Center fellow 

In addition to their primary research project, fellows are expected to participate in a range of activities throughout the semester, including: 

  • Minimum of one public speaking event and one student-facing event (workshop, roundtable discussion, etc.) per semester 
  • Bi-monthly articles/interviews/expert opinion pieces for the Shorenstein Center site or one of the Center’s program sites (The Journalist’s Resource, etc) 
  • One video interview/profile for the Center’s website 
  • Periodic student office hours (1-2 hours per month) 
  • Regular meetings with fellowship cohort and faculty mentors 
  • Final internal report of activities and output 

 The Center hosts several high-profile evening events each semester, including its long-running Theodore H. White Lecture on Press and Politics, Richard S. Salant Lecture on Freedom of the Press, and its flagship Goldsmith Awards featuring the presentation of a prize for the best investigative reporting of the year, and a career award for excellence in journalism. Fellows are encouraged to attend. 

Elsewhere on campus, the John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum frequently features speakers from the highest levels of government for lively discussion and debate. The Kennedy School’s other Centers and initiatives regularly host experts in a wide variety of topics, and Shorenstein Center fellows are often asked to speak. And the wider Harvard University calendar features hundreds of activities and events each week, including lectures, panels, exhibitions, music, theater, film, sports and much more. 

Fellows receive a Harvard ID, which allows for discounted membership to Harvard’s athletic facilities as well as tickets to museums, exhibitions, movies, sports and the performing arts. Previous fellows have used their free time to explore the rich cultural and historical offerings of the Boston and New England area. Several fellows have brought their partners, spouses or families with them for the semester, many of whom get involved in a variety of Harvard activities open to the public. We are not able to provide spouses or family members with Harvard IDs. 

Financial assistance and other resources 

Fellows receive a stipend, paid in monthly installments at the end of each month of their term. Travel, housing, and living expenses are not covered by the Shorenstein Center. 

Fellows are provided with a desk in the Shorenstein Center offices, a Harvard email address, and a Harvard ID allowing access to libraries and other resources.  

Fellows are also able to select a paid Harvard Kennedy School student research assistant (eligible to work up to 10 hours per week) to help with their projects. 

How to Apply

Applications are now open for Spring 2024 and Fall 2024 Documentary Film Fellowships!

  • Visit the Shorenstein Center Fellowship Application portal
  • Create an account if you have never logged in before
  • Start a new application and select “Documentary Film Fellowship” and then the term you want to apply for
  • If you pause in completing the application before submitting it, your application-in-process will be saved and accessible under the “My Applications” tab.
  • Submit your application by the September 26th deadline.