How We Make Films

"I could produce, direct and edit as a lone wolf; but there's something wonderful about having a home. Kartemquin is a fellowship of kindred spirits, a hotbed of creative and intellectual energy, an environment that supports and yet demands of me that I do my best possible work."
—David Simpson

Kartemquin documentaries are producer-driven. People bring us ideas for stories they are passionate about and we help make them a reality, providing those filmmmakers with support in fundraising, story development, technical skills, equipment needs, office space, editing, legal and accounting services, marketing, distribution and audience engagement. When the filmmaker is finished, we provide their work with a home for life, continuing outreach and marketing across emerging platforms, and ensuring the long-term preservation and archiving of their work.

It’s a strong, collaborative relationship designed to help filmmakers make and distribute the film they want to make, to have a social impact, and for us to make sure that any film with the Kartemquin name maintains strong ethics, quality and commitment to our mission.

These films are Executive Produced by Kartemquin leadership, a portion of the budget covers the many services provided by Kartemquin, and they are on Kartemquin’s financial books. To ensure the results of this intensive working relationship are of the highest quality as cinema and social activism, we deliberately only produce a handful of projects at any time, and tend to favor working with filmmakers who we know, and who know us best. However, we are open to proposal submissions from anyone who feels that they have an idea that fits with our values and a commitment to getting their project made. We ask that prior to contacting Kartemquin about this arrangement, filmmakers prepare their proposal (including budget, fundraising plan, distribution plan, and outreach ideas) and spend some time on Kartemquin’s website to make sure that their project resonates with our mission and history.

We make films that reach out to people who aren't always in agreement with us. We believe in sparking dialogue, turning heads, and inspiring change.

Other ways to work with us:

Co-productions & Associations

Occasionally we have collaborated with producers on projects that we cannot fit within our regular production slate, providing long-term staff assistance, story/edit consulting, and technical advice. These are rare relationships, but we are open to exploring more. Recent examples include As Goes Janesville and Tony and Janina's American Wedding.

Fiscal Sponsorship

There are many good organizations that provide fiscal sponsorship to filmmakers and we are happy to give you a referral. We are not set up to facilitate multiple requests, but occasionally if the timing is right, we do take on new projects with this type of relationship. Please contact for more information.


Kartemquin’s staff and associates offer a variety of consulting services on documentary works-in-progress. Areas of expertise include: budgeting and proposals, technical services, work-flow, and creative story-telling. Hourly and day rates are available. Please contact Betsy at for more information.

KTQ Labs

Our KTQ Labs: Feedback Screenings program offers filmmakers the chance to bring demos and rough cuts of their works-in-progress for a free and friendly critique from our community. Email

Diverse Voices in Docs

Diverse Voices in Docs (DVID) is a professional development and mentorship program for documentary filmmakers of color, organized by Kartemquin Films and the Community Film Workshop of Chicago. The program hones skills and unites filmmakers who share experiences and expertise across six monthly workshops as they develop new projects. Email