The Peng Zhao and Cherry Chen Fund for AAPI Voices

The Peng Zhao and Cherry Chen Fund for AAPI Voices at Kartemquin Films is a new two-year funding opportunity to support AAPI documentarians and the development of high-impact stories that reflect the varied experiences of their communities. Beginning in 2022, the fund will span multiple funding cycles. Each year, two $50,000 co-production awards will be awarded (in Year One by invitation-only), and seed funding will also be made available for projects in early development. 


The purpose of this initiative is to invest funds and critical support in AAPI-identifying filmmakers making documentary films that center AAPI voices and stories that deepen their audiences’ understanding of the complexity and diversity of the AAPI communities in the US. While stories might have an international filming component, the majority of the story should take place in the United States and focus on AAPI individuals and communities living in the US. Projects that are well into the production phase of their timelines will be eligible for support.In addition to funding support, projects selected through the co-production grant rounds should expect and have interest to enter into a formal partnership agreement with Kartemquin Films.

Project applicants must:

  • Be AAPI-identifying;
  • Tell an AAPI story based in the US;
  • Be in early- to mid-production (with a preference to mid-production);
  • Be working on a feature length documentary film project (no shorts or series);
  • Be interested in entering into a co-production agreement with KTQ;
  • Complete an Inquiry Form + Values Assessment + Supplementary Questions Form.

In our consideration of applications, we will be prioritizing:

  • Those who have meaningful connections to the communities on which their project focuses;
  • Emerging filmmakers, to expand the pool of those we’re in formal relationship with;
  • Stories that are struggling to secure funding or may not be clearly “commercially viable;”
  • Projects that are either by Midwest-based directors or producers, or telling a Midwest-based story;
  • For the initial co-production funding Round 1, Year 1, alumni of KTQ programs and/or folks who have worked on other KTQ Films, though not necessarily as director/producer.

In alignment with our KTQ Values, we strongly encourage and will give special consideration to applicants that are from other underrepresented groups in documentary, including:

  • Immigrants and/or undocumented folks
  • Indigenous
  • Persons with a disability (PWDs)
  • Veterans
  • Those with non-traditional educational backgrounds (did not complete college or HS, GED, trade school, etc.)
  • Career changers (transitioning to documentary from different vocational/professional background)
  • Women

Anyone currently working at Kartemquin is ineligible. Grantees in a present funding cycle or currently participating in another KTQ Filmmaker Development Program (e.g. Diverse Voices in Docs or the KTQ / Hulu Accelerator) are also ineligible until they have completed those programs.

In the first round of funding, (2) co-production grants will be awarded in the amount of $50,000 each for feature-length documentary/nonfiction film projects. Applicants should indicate what the projected total runtime for their project will be.

In addition to the grant funding for the project, and co-production agreement and services from Kartemquin, selected filmmakers will be assigned a mentor with significant professional experience in documentary filmmaking.

In the second round of funfing, seed grants will be award in the amount of $10,000 and $5,000 for projects in early development in support of developing the doc core application for the project; treatment, pitch deck, proof of concept, demo or work sample filming and editing; paying team members in support of the completion of aforementioned; and time spent preparing and rehearsing pitch; designing or hiring a designer to develop a pitch deck; application fees, travel, lodging and/or conference/festival attendance costs to pitch forums, events or opportunities.


The timeline will be as follows (subject to change, please check back for updates):

  • Informational Calls w/ Interested Alumni: Late March - Mid April
  • Application Open: Friday, April 1st, 5:00 PM CST - Friday, April 29th, 4:59 PM CST
  • Applications Reviewed: May 2022
  • Notification of Decisions: Early June 2022
  • Funds disbursed: As early as mid-June 2022 (dependent on timely confirmation of grantee award acceptance, and receipt of agreement and disbursement information)
  • Mentors Assigned: By June 30th, 2022


The timeline will be as follows (subject to change, please check back for updates):


The Fund represents a substantial investment by Mr. Zhao and Ms. Chen, building on their long standing commitment to accelerating opportunity and prosperity for the 23 million members of the AAPI community in the United States. Mr. Zhao is a founding board member of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), which has become a catalyzing force for improving AAPI advocacy, power, and representation across American society. Mr. Zhao and Ms. Chen have also convened and funded a variety of other initiatives focused on supporting their home community of Chicago and elevating AAPI voices, including through their support of the award-winning documentary “Finding Yingying,” a Kartemquin film directed by Jenny Shi.

Questions? Email us at