Where can I find grants for film?
By Scarlett Shepard, Founder of the Women’s Film Institute
Where’s the money? This is a common question that every filmmaker asks themselves when they need to advance their project to a certain phase of production. There are millions of dollars out there for your film, you just need to know where to find it! Are you wondering where to start? Finding funding and support during the early stages is always key to bringing you closer to finishing your film. It’s good to start early because many grant deadlines are offered once a year and funders can take months to reach a decision whether to fund you or not. Here are some key components to have in place before applying to grants:
Know Your Story / Set Your Fundraising Goals – Start by setting goals that will help you to understand your story and scope of need. Remember that Foundations are mandated to give money to people and projects that match their current goals. You are helping them to fulfill their mission and support work that they cannot do on their own.
Build Your Fundraising Committee of 5 to 7 people – Assemble a team that has experience in funding and grant writing and that can leverage their networks and community to raise funds for your film. Make sure to keep your committee engaged by providing them with regular progress updates, offer support and guidance, and reminding each member of fundraising goals. Bottom line, fundraising committees are the work of a team with a strategic plan (a clear roadmap on how to obtain funds) and not pure luck. Fundraising is not just asking for money. It is the process of identifying potential donors, cultivating them, asking for funds, and stewarding them.
Recruit, Recruit, Recruit! First things first—figure out who should be on your fundraising committee. Start by making a list of all the people who are already close to your project; include a diverse group of people who have different skills (and connections) that are critical to the needs of your film.
Trailer – According to Fernanda Rossi, New York-based story expert advises: “The length of your trailer can range from one minute to 20 minutes. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, for example, prefers the term “work-in-progress,” and advises that submissions be 10 to 30 minutes-which is the benchmark range for most grantmakers. For pitch forums like Sheffield Doc Fest’s Meet Market, IDFA’s Forum and Hot Docs’ Toronto Documentary Forum, the trailer ranges from one to 5 minutes. For fundraising events, your trailer can be as long as seven minutes. And a general fundraising trailer might be as long as 20 minutes.”
Write a Kick-Ass Funding Proposal – In addition to the trailer, you should have proposal that clearly outlines your project. Grantors want compelling proposals and films. More pointers here: Writing a Kick-Ass Funding Proposal
Build trusted relationships with Funders – Carole Dean, president of From The Heart, authored “The Art of Film Funding”, says: “Don’t be shy. You would never enter a grant without first making contact with the grantor. This is your great opportunity to introduce yourself and make an important connection. Place your call in “prime time” from 10 to 12 or 2 to 4 and ask to speak directly to the operations officer in charge of the grant. If they don’t answer, try again later or get information on the best time to reach them. More information: How to Win a Film Grant
Website & Social Media & Community – Start building a community and fan base for your film right away. It takes a village to make and raise money for your film. How many friends do you have on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Linkedin and Twitter?? Your community should start with your inner social circle. Share and promote your film (clips, photos, articles, etc.) with friends and family, and give them concrete ways to support you and your film. More info: 10 Social Media Tips for Filmmakers (Especially When Crowdfunding)
Prepare for the highs and lows of securing funding – Sometimes you have to hear “NO” to get to “YES. This doesn’t mean your film sucks and you should quit filmmaking because you didn’t receive a grant or a funder passes on your project. Applying for a grant requires plenty of tenacity, preparation, and research. Ask the funder for feedback to continue to build the relationship, and for referrals for anyone they might know that would be interested in learning about your film. Keep in touch with the funder with updates about your project because they might fund you later on a different phase of your production, or on a different project.
Remember, Grantwriters fund projects based on what matters to them and aligned with their mission/objectives/initiatives. Your grant proposal has to have a solid plan for using the money. Whether you’re just starting out or need that last bit of money to finish your film, here’s some resources for funding and Request for Proposals:
NYFA Source is the nation’s most extensive database of awards, services and publications for artists of all disciplines including dance, folk, traditional, media, performance, interdisciplinary, visual, music, literature, theater, and arts management.
The Foundation Center – Where can I find grants for film or videomakers? At the Foundation Center you can find information about nearly 90,000 grantmakers.
The Women’s Film Institute has gathered a list of filmmaking tools, discounts, services and information on our site. This site is helpful to all filmmakers. We’ll be adding more tools and discounts to this page every week! I recommend bookmarking it for your reference.
Women’s Film Institute Podcast:The Art of Securing Funding For Filmmakers with Morrie Warshawski. In this podcast episode, Scarlett Shepard (Founder of the Women’s Film Institute) speaks with Morrie Warshawski. Morrie offers some really helpful tips on raising money for filmmakers. Learn how to secure funding for your film from individuals, foundations, and corporations.
Grant researching takes times and grant writing can seem daunting. Women’s Film Institute has compiled a comprehensive list of over 200++ funding opportunities and professional development programs to serve U.S. and international women filmmakers. We’ve compiled this list so that you can start your search right away and start taking steps to build relationships with funders to secure your film the funding it deserves.
Always remember that you and your film have tremendous value to the world, and making a film is not an easy undertaking. Do something everyday to advance your project, even if it seems like a tiny step that you wished were bigger. Keep in mind that, no matter how small, each step will get your film closer to the next phase of production and will bring you closer to fulfilling your dream of reaching the big screen.