SPNN's Doc U Program

Doc U is a 15-week beginner documentary production program for Twin Cities metro area community members. The power of the documentary film is its ability to shine a spotlight on issues, stories, and perspectives that would otherwise go unheard and thus unnoticed. It is this unique power that enables documentaries to broaden horizons. This program is for first time media makers. 

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Program Details (2025) 

We are moving this program from summer to January-April. 

Doc U runs for 15 weeks as a mostly in person class. Sessions are held every Monday evening, 6pm to 9pm, from January 6 through April 25.  Participants will have the first weeks to learn and create their own short documentary and will need time to work on their projects outside of the scheduled sessions. All films will explore issues and themes through the stories of 1-2 main characters.

In the first weeks of the program, SPNN staff and local documentary filmmakers will guide Doc U participants through the creative process through trainings and mentorship: story construction, video camera techniques, sound, lighting and video editing using Adobe Premiere CC. By week 15, each participant will have produced, directed, shot and edited a short 5 minute documentary. In the final week, participants will participate in a reflection session and attend the final screening. The program concludes with a public community screening.


Applications will open November 1. 2024.

Requirements to Participate: 

  • Be 18+ years of age
  • Be a resident of the Twin Cities Metro Area.
  • Have enough time in your life to create a short documentary (expect about 5-10 hours a week)
  • Have a compelling idea for a documentary that revolves around 1-2 main characters.
  • Meet one of the following criteria:
    • Low-income or working class. Low-income is 200% of the poverty level. Check here if you meet the low-income guidelines. If you qualify for any government program; food programs including SNAP and free or reduced school lunches, housing assistance, disability, medicaid, etc you automatically qualify for Doc U.  
    • Be a member of an underrepresented community in media (BIPOC, LGBTQ+, Women, Disabled, etc.)
  • Openness to mentorship from SPNN staff and visiting artists 
  • Be able to meet all program dates
  • Commit to attend the in-person sessions while wearing a face mask. Other pandemic safety protocols will be in place.


Questions? Please contact Bonnie at schumacher@spnn.org or Theng at pao@spnn.org


Past participants experience:
Doc U participants have greatly benefited from their participation in the program, leaving with a greater sense of confidence, new skills and knowledge, and an increased appreciation for media arts. Participants say they feel empowered to take their knowledge and use it in their communities to bring voice to those whose stories might not otherwise be heard. They benefited from the learning environments offered by Doc U and increased their ability to tackle demanding projects and bring them to successful completion. One past participant summed up her experience this way, "I feel the principals of Doc U and SPNN provide the footing people require to exercise their personal dreams under the auspices of a caring, professional and mentor based environment."

Embarking on learning a new skill is courageous. Doing it in 15 weeks requires dedication. It is worth the effort when important stories are told.

SPNN's Doc U program is made possible with funding from the McKnight Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. 

red background with white text McKnight Foundation
Black Background. White letters say National Endowment stacked on top of each other. Printed vertacle white letter it says for the arts and then in large white block letters it says ARTS. Under the text are three thin lines one in red, one blue, and one white. In white letters at the end of the three lines it says arts.gov