PROJECT OVERVIEW: Guided by its Executive Committee and with the assistance of its DP Advisors, Environmental Media Fund is undertaking an ongoing study into the feasibility of establishing independent financing entities to fund documentary films (for theatrical and television) and other factual programming.

The goals of the Documentary Project are to investigate methods of financing that:
  • Offer greater consumer choice than presently exists and better serves the public's need for timely access to information and ideas;
  • Promote the work of diverse and independent voices;
  • Offer independent producers more reliable methods of securing funds and distributing their programming without sacrificing their independence or the journalistic integrity of their programming content;
  • Offer donors, sponsors and investors more effective and predictable methods of achieving their charitable missions or investment goals; and
  • More effectively harness the vast financial resources of the public and the private sector in ways that stimulate a creative funding environment.


The Documentary Project study will be guided by its Executive Committee. Presently, the members of the Executive Committee include:

Katy Chevigny - President, Arts Engine / Media Rights
Terry Lawler - Executive Director, NY Women in Film & Television
Chris Palmer
- Distinguished Film Producer
in Residence and Director for the Center for Environmental Filmmaking School of Communication.
Sandra Ruch - Executive Director, International Documentary Association
Gail Silva
- Former President,
Film Arts Foundation
Robert Silvestri
- President,
Environmental Media Fund

STATEMENT OF NEED: The timing of the Documentary Project study is opportune. The popularity of independently produced documentary films is presently growing. Box office receipts from theatrical releases are setting new highs. This increasing interest is likely just the beginning of a long term trend driven by the audience demographic of aging but actively engaged baby boomers.

Independently produced documentaries and educational programs provide significant public benefits. Through distribution via television and cable networks, NGOs, government and international organizations, local community groups, schools, colleges and universities and at film festivals, they serve as an important means to educate the public and disseminate information about issues of general concern. They can stimulate public debate and community action, affect consumer behavior and voting preferences, and expose wrong-doing and lead to reforms. Whether the subject is the arts and humanities, science, health, social justice, history, business and economics, or nature and the environment, their images can be relied upon to convey powerful messages about human accomplishment and human folly.

However, at the present time many independent producers of documentary films are unable to secure financing and distribution for their work. Independent, diverse and minority points of view often go unheard. In addition, increasing reliance upon corporate and for-profit sponsorship for production funding has created significant conflicts of interest that can have direct impact on the journalistic integrity of the programming being produced and distributed. The potential for editorial censorship or undue influence, by private sponsors, on journalistic objectivity is a serious issue. This is important because the public's perception of influence, even where it doesn't actually exist, can often harm the integrity of a program.

The public's interests would be better served if producers had more reliable ways to secure distribution and funding, and funders and distributors had more reliable methods to insure the outcomes of their funding and distribution decisions. But present methods are inadequate and the public's ability to exercise choice in an open marketplace is severely limited, which in turn limits investment. 

The comprehensive study undertakne by the Documentary Project (DP) addresses these concerns. For more detailed information see "Background Information - Industry Analysis."

Copyright 2005 Environmental Media Fund, Inc. All Rights Reserved