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Documentary Development Initiative Cohorts

The Documentary Development Initiative is a partnership between The Gotham and HBO Documentary Films. The program is for storytellers who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and/or storytellers with disabilities. It seeks to provide resources to develop thought-provoking, character-driven ideas for documentary films and limited series. 

Through this initiative, filmmakers receive grants of $50,000, plus resources and mentorship to support the development of documentary projects. Grantees are also paired with an established documentary filmmaker who serves as their mentor for the duration of the program.

2024 Cohort

Rolake Bamgbose — Fellow

Rolake Bamgbose is a two-time Emmy-nominated filmmaker and former journalist with over a decade of experience producing and directing compelling documentaries and short films. She is a Los Angeles born, first generation Nigerian-American passionate about shining light on circumstances that drive cultural shifts, and illuminating varying experiences throughout the African diaspora, and other marginalized communities around the world. She is a member of the Directors Guild of America (DGA), Producers Guild of America (PGA) and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS).

Zackary Drucker — Mentor

Zackary Drucker is an American multimedia artist, director, and producer who has dedicated her work to telling stories that expand our cultural understanding of difference. Her credits include directing the Hulu Original documentary Queenmaker: The Making of an It Girl; and co-directing the Sundance award-winning HBO original documentary film The Stroll and the HBO documentary series The Lady and the Dale. She has performed and exhibited her work internationally in museums, galleries, and film festivals including the Whitney Biennial 2014, MoMA PS1, Hammer Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, MCA San Diego, and SF MoMA, among others.

Dan Chen — Fellow

Dan Chen is an Emmy-nominated director from small town Manhattan, Kansas, where he developed his love of horizon lines and do-it-yourself filmmaking. The son of Chinese immigrants, his work explores outsiders fighting human nature, flawed systems, and the passage of time. He has screened work at Tribeca and Slamdance, appeared on Vimeo Staff Picks and Short of the Week, and his documentary feature film debut Accepted received an Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Social Issue Documentary as a part of PBS’ POV series.

Dawn Porter — Mentor

Dawn Porter‘s films include Gideon’s Army (Sundance 2013), Trapped (Sundance 2016), The Way I See It, and John Lewis Good Trouble. Porter’s work has been featured on HBO, Netflix, CNN, PBS, MSNBC, MTV Films, and other platforms. Porter’s latest documentary, The Lady Bird Diaries, an all-archival documentary about Lady Bird Johnson, debuted at the 2023 SXSW Film Festival where it won the Lone Star Prize and is currently streaming on Hulu.

Elizabeth Lo — Fellow

Elizabeth Lo is a filmmaker whose work includes Stray (New York Times Critics’ Pick, Independent Spirit Award nominee 2021) and Hotel 22 (Sundance 2015). She’s been featured in Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film,” DOC NYC’s “40 Under 40” List, and Cannes Lions’ “New Directors Showcase,” and is a recipient of the Locarno, NYFF, Yaddo, and MacDowell artist fellowships. Currently she is directing her next film, Untitled Mistress Dispeller Project, co-financed by Anonymous Content and Impact Partners, and supported by the Concordia Studio Fellowship and Rooftop Filmmaker Fund.

Anthony Caronna — Mentor

Anthony Caronna is a filmmaker in Brooklyn, New York who over the past decade has transitioned from experimental live theater to filmmaking. In part because of this unique background their work has been celebrated as genre breaking. Most recently they co-created and directed the critically acclaimed four-part docuseries Last Call: When a Serial Killer Stalked Queer New York for HBO.

Andy Sarjahani — Fellow

Andy Sarjahani is an Iranian-American documentary filmmaker and cinematographer raised outside the Arkansas Ozarks. He is interested in people, our relationship to place, and how that shapes our worldview. His work has been supported by The Pulitzer Center, ITVS, The New Yorker, Center for Asian American Media, DOC NYC, New Orleans Film Society, Southern Doc Fund, and PBS.

Nanfu Wang — Mentor

Nanfu Wang is a documentary filmmaker whose work includes feature documentaries Hooligan Sparrow (Sundance 2016), I Am Another You (SXSW 2017, Special Jury Prize winner), One Child Nation (Sundance 2019, Grand Jury Prize Winner), and HBO’s In the Same Breath (Sundance 2021). Most recently, Wang directed and executive produced Mind Over Murder, a six-episode documentary series for HBO. Wang’s films have been shortlisted for three Oscars, received seven Emmy nominations, one DGA nomination, three Independent Spirits Awards nominations, and two PGA nominations among other awards.

Krystal Tingle — Fellow

Krystal Tingle is a Jamaican-American, award-winning director, writer, and producer living between Los Angeles and her hometown of Miami, Florida. Her films explore themes of faith, joy, womanhood, and the rich complexities of Blackness across the diaspora. Her film Over The Wall, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and won the Audience Award for Best Documentary Short at the BlackStar Film Festival. She is known for her work on the Emmy-nominated, Critics Choice Award-winning The 1619 Project.

Fernando Villena — Mentor

Fernando Villena directed With Any One of Us after a 20-year editing career. The film was nominated for two Sports Emmys. Giving Voice, co-directed with long time collaborator Jim Stern, was voted Festival Favorite at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival. It follows the lives of five teenagers as they compete in The August Wilson Monologue Competition. He next directed HBO’s Dear Rider, an intimate portrait of Jake Burton Carpenter and his role in making snowboarding a global phenomenon. Villena’s latest project is an HBO limited documentary series, The Golden Boy, based on the life of boxer Oscar De La Hoya.

Monica Villamizar — Fellow

Monica Villamizar is a three time Emmy-winning Colombian-American filmmaker and foreign correspondent. She directed and produced the documentary Transition, which premiered at Tribeca 2023 and won the Audience Award at the Berlin Human Rights Film Festival. She was a producer on Showtime’s series The Trade and National Geographic’s documentary The First Wave, which was awarded the Best Documentary Emmy in 2022.

David France — Mentor

David France is an Oscar-nominated filmmaker, New York Times bestselling author, and award-winning investigative journalist. His documentary films have screened globally and received Peabody, Emmy and BAFTA awards. His films include How to Survive a Plague (2012), The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017), and Welcome to Chechnya (2020).

2022–2023 Cohort


  • Zeshawn Ali
  • Brit Fryer
  • Juan Pablo González
  • Melanie Ho
  • Crystal Kayiza
  • Jasmín Mara López
  • Amber Love
  • Khaula Malik
  • Habiba Nosheen
  • Mobolaji Olambiwonnu


  • TJ Martin
  • Cecilia Aldarondo
  • Sam Pollard
  • Rudy Valdez
  • Matt Wolf
  • Alex Stapleton
  • Geeta Gandbhir
  • Jennifer Tiexiera
  • Matt O’Neill
  • Smriti Mundhra