Filmmakers looking for opportunities to fund their films can apply for film grants. Usually, the director, writer, and/or producer pass/es the film project proposal for a grant application. It is typical to apply for more than one grant and just edit the proposal according to the requirements of the funding agency. Some grants may offer cash funds, while others may offer free production services or resources.
Funding may come from from arts and culture organizations, non-profit organizations, film schools, production companies, film suppliers (like Kodak, Adobe, or camera rental companies), and philanthropists. Certain companies, mostly multinational companies, occasionally come up with funding opportunities for filmmakers as well.
Major U.S. Film Grants Available to American and International Filmmakers
Film Scholarships and Grants for Student Filmmakers in the United States
1. Look for grant-giving organizations with open calls for grant submission fitting the time frame of your production.
Make sure your concept and script fit the type of project sought by the grant-giving body. If you’re making a documentary film exploring issues about endangered animals, it is best to check out funding from an environmental foundation or an animal welfare organization. If you’re shooting a film in another country, a national film council may offer you financial support, discounted rates, or any other resources that can help you during the filming.
Most independent film projects coming from various genres and formats (like drama, action, horror, or comedy; live action or animation) are eligible for grant proposal submissions in arts and culture organizations and other public and private film funding agencies. There are times that production companies also come up with funding projects for independent films. Scripwriting competitions and film festival projects are also possible sources for film funding.
You can find information about film grants through various media sources including filmmaker and film festival websites, e-groups, film groups, online newsletters, magazines, newspapers, TV, radio, film-related events, among other venues.
2. Finalize the film’s script and the other supporting materials you want to include in your proposal. Other than the actual grant proposal being tailor-made for each particular grant, make sure that your story suits the type of grant you are applying for.
3. Write a one-page abstract that contains the synopsis and any other significant information about the film concept and script. You can sum up a good story and proposal to a few sentences, no matter how complicated the subject matter is.
This abstract is helpful when you’re already writing your proposal. It can also serve as a pitching guide.
4. Make your grant proposal, then complete all the needed documents and review them prior to submission. Other documents that may be required to accompany your proposal include the production budget, cast and crew list, storyboard, script breakdown, production workplan, marketing and distribution scheme, and production timetable.
To demonstrate proof of credibility as a filmmaker, prepare a copy of your sample work or film reel, a filmography, and curriculum vitae. These materials are usually part of the list of requirements coming from the funding agency as well. Remember that grant application is a competitive endeavor. Aside from the merit of the proposal, the selection committee also looks at the background of the filmmaker attached to the project.
5. Submit your proposal. While there are grant applications that can be completely done online, most are mailed or personally handed over (for local applications).
Most grant-giving bodies send an acknowledgment letter or email after the receipt of a proposal. There are times that they may contact you if they need additional information, they require your physical presence, or they have to interview you by phone. Some require you to also pitch your project in front of a panel, especially those who are already shortlisted for the grant.
Some grant-giving agencies also allow you to check the status of your application online or by phone. In many cases, you must simply wait for them to update you about the status of your application.
“Independent Film Grants, Foundation and Film Financing Resources,” Caryn.
“The Granting Program,” The Global Film Initiative.
“Film,” Michigan State University Libraries.
“Film Production Financing, Packaging and Grants,” Producers Masterguide.
“Texas Filmmakers’ Production Fund,” Austin Film Society.
“The Roy W. Dean Film and Video Grants – How to Apply,” From the Heart Productions.
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