SPNN's Doc U Program

Doc U is a 12-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.

Applications for the 2021 program are closed.


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Program Details (2021)

Doc U runs for 11 weeks throughout the summer as a hybrid program (with virtual and in-person sessions). Sessions are held every Monday evening, 6pm to 9pm, from June 7th through August 21st.  Participants will have the first 10 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 10 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 10, 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 (in-person if safe to do so) on August 21st.

If you’re interested in past participants’ experiences click here to read blogs written throughout the process. 

COVID-19 Note:

Doc U will be a hybrid program with virtual and in-person sessions. Most sessions will be held via zoom. We believe that as a beginner, learning technical skills such as camera, audio, lighting and editing may be too difficult virtually, and we want to set up our participants for success. So for technical trainings that are deemed necessary in-person, we will hold these in-person at SPNN.

All in-person sessions will be held with COVID-19 safety protocols in place: 6-feet distancing, required masks, optional face shields, regular sanitizing, and pre-session symptom checks. We will pay close attention to the trends of the pandemic, and may adjust the program as needed to keep participants safe. This means that if the situation gets worse and we feel the program cannot continue without putting community members at high risk, we may postpone, extend or cancel the program. 

Apply here

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 Joua at lee.grande@spnn.org


Applications are closed for the 2021 program.


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 12 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. 

red background with white text McKnight Foundation