Our Story2020-09-09T15:43:16-04:00


The Points North Institute is a launching pad for the next generation of nonfiction storytellers.

We build a unique, interdisciplinary community of filmmakers, artists, journalists, industry leaders and local audiences, forming a creative hub where stories and talent are discovered, collaborations are born, and the future of nonfiction media is shaped.

Our programs include the annual Camden International Film Festival and Points North Forum, as well as a growing suite of artist development initiatives: retreats, residencies, workshops and fellowships that nurture the careers of diverse nonfiction storytellers and help them develop a stronger artistic voice.

“Camden has grown into a major documentary event.” – Peter Keough, The Boston Globe



When it was founded in 2005, the Camden International Film Festival was one of the world’s only small town film festivals focused exclusively on documentary film. With a deep commitment to supporting artists and building community, we allocated nearly 100% of the money we raised in the early years to filmmaker travel and accommodations.

We assumed that our location on the coast of Maine — far from major film capitals like New York and Los Angeles — would be our biggest challenge. We quickly discovered that these picturesque small towns could foster an intimate, focused environment in which filmmakers and audiences alike could find inspiration. We aspired to elevate a weekend full of documentary screenings into a rich experience – one that is just as unique and engrossing as the films themselves.

During those first five years, we steadily built a crew of committed staff and volunteers, a loyal audience base, a small group of engaged donors who recognized our long-term potential, and a network of filmmakers who helped spread the word throughout the documentary community. CIFF was described as being “among the elite of documentary fests” and named one of the top 12 documentary festivals in the world.

We have always championed filmmakers who push the creative boundaries of the documentary form and we are proud to have played our part in what is now considered a documentary “golden age.” Documentary filmmakers are increasingly recognized as artists, telling stories that break free from old conventions while reaching new global audiences and becoming a bigger part of mainstream culture.


In 2009, we took the second big step for our organization by launching the Points North Forum. What began as an afternoon of panel discussions has since grown into one of the largest gatherings of documentary filmmakers and industry professionals in the United States, with more than 50 funders, broadcasters, distributors and producers participating annually.

The core element of the Points North Forum has been our growing investments in the development of the next generation of nonfiction storytellers. The Points North Fellowship has become widely recognized as a vital launching pad for feature-length documentaries in development, helping early career filmmakers develop their artistic voices and connect with industry leaders through the Points North Pitch.


In 2015, we forged a new partnership with Tribeca Film Institute to launch the Camden/TFI Retreat, a week-long educational program dedicated to discovering and nurturing a new generation of U.S.-based filmmakers focused on creative, cinematic, character-driven documentary. In 2016, we officially launched the Points North Institute, creating an umbrella organization for CIFF, all our Artist Programs, monthly CIFF Selects screenings, and the Points North Impact community screening series. Since then, our Artist Programs have expanded to include the the North Shorts Grant & Residency (formerly the Shortform Editing Residency), the North Star Fellowship, Points North 1:1 Meetings, the LEF/CIFF Fellowship, and the 4th World Indigenous Media Lab, in addition to the Camden/TFI Retreat and the Points North Fellowship.

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CIFF has already cemented itself as the leading U.S. festival in providing its attendees with the winning combination of copious amounts of lobster, autumnal charm and phenomenal film programming. It’s impossible not to love! But what made it truly special for me was experiencing a place I’ve never been to before and being made to feel totally at home the second I stepped foot in Camden. I was already homesick as my plane left Portland for Los Angeles…
Fostering down home relationships and homemade experiences, Camden FF is chock-full of premiere films, boisterous audiences, and memorable moments. Ben Fowlie has diligently crafted an illustrious international festival firmly embedded in its home-grown roots.
- David Redmon, DOWNEAST
What was so pleasing about the Camden experience was the amount of care that went into cultivating strong relationships between the filmmakers and staff, filmmakers and audiences, and filmmakers and industry. And it started with their staff, who seemed more like friends than co-workers. Throughout the weekend, Camden managed to provide great New England hospitality while celebrating documentary filmmaking in the most humble and earnest way possible.
- Sofie Benoot, BLUE MERIDIAN
A boost in budget and a healthy amount of big dreaming has catapulted this small festival (in an even smaller town) from an under-the-radar sleeper into what could well become the premiere US fall festival stop for docs, drawing folks from around the northeast as well as anyone interested in catching nonfiction features intermixed with the changing fall colors of coastal Maine.
AJ Schnack, 2009
Points North gave my documentary the kind of introduction to the industry that filmmakers dream of. It was the conduit for relationships with broadcasters, funders, and colleagues that continue to this day.
- Drew Xanthopoulos, THE SENSITIVES
The Points North Fellowship launched not just our documentary project,
but us as filmmakers, for the long term.

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Hi, this may be interesting you: Our Story! This is the link: https://pointsnorthinstitute.org/about-us/our-story/