It’s time to leave hibernation and start applying for grants.
Like the exposed woolly mammoth carcasses thawing from the permafrost, new filmmaking opportunities are now being revealed thanks to the coming of spring!
As in previous iterations of this list, the following opportunities are organized by deadline—from early March through May—and by category: documentaries, narratives, screenwriting, and new media. Good luck.
Note: An asterisk next to the grant title means there is an equivalent grant for both doc and narrative.
As always, use your best judgment when deciding to apply.
If you have a rough cut for your first film, apply to be a part of the illustrious, 16-year running IFP lab for a year-long mentorship program. From IFP, “The IFP Filmmaker Labs ensure that talented, emerging voices receive the support, resources, and industry exposure necessary to complete, market and distribute their first feature. Focusing exclusively on low-budget features, this highly immersive program provides filmmakers with the technical, creative and strategic tools necessary to launch their films – and their careers. Open to all first-time feature documentary directors with films in post-production.”
Deadline: March 4
For those of you working in the art of short-form storytelling in Southeast Asia, check out the second iteration of IF/Then in your region. From TFI, “From the open call, 15 projects will be selected to receive a travel stipend to participate in a 3-day Story Development Lab in Jakarta (11-13 June 2020). At the end of the Development Lab, seven of those original 15 projects will move on be selected to participate in the Docs by the Sea Lab (21-24 August 2020) and Docs by the Sea Pitching Forum (26-28 August 2020) in Bali. All selected participants will pitch their stories to key decision-makers at the IF/Then Pitch Competition, and will also have a chance for one-on-one meetings with broadcasters, commissioning editors, film fund organizations, and film festival programmers during Docs by the Sea.
The top two projects (as selected by an industry jury) will receive a USD $20,000 production grant, plus a year of mentorship and an opportunity to participate in the IF/Then distribution initiative.”
Deadline: March 6
The Scottish Documentary Institute is rapidly becoming a renowned force behind interesting documentaries coming out of the region, so if you’re based in Scotland, the Consultancies are a good way to get your foot in the door. From SDI, “Throughout the year we offer professional consultancies to Scotland-based filmmakers, for projects (shorts and features) in development, production or distribution. Our consultants include SDI core team members as well as first-rate UK based and international external advisors.”
Deadline: March 6
A grant from one of the most prestigious doc-only film festivals, IDFA, this grant is earmarked for a film with a European co-producer and key European production elements, while the director has to be from the IBF country list. From IDFA, “This category caters to documentary projects in all stages of production that have a director from a country on the IBF Country List and that are realized through international co-productions between at least one European and one non-European producer. The maximum contribution per project is €40,000.”
Deadline: April 1
If you’re looking to develop an Australian documentary or co-production, you could get up to $30,000 for development from Screen Australia, “Screen Australia’s Documentary Development program assists experienced documentary makers to achieve planned outcomes for the development of their projects. This could include further research, writing the next draft of a script or treatment, strategic shooting and/or editing to attract marketplace development or production finance, or compiling a sizzle reel.”
Deadline: April 2
If you have a documentary in post-production, the San Francisco Film Society wants to help you finish it. So far, it has granted $650,000 in finishing funds for documentaries that went on to achieve great acclaim, such as Zachary Heinzerling’s Cutie and the Boxer and Hale County This Morning, both Academy Award® nominees for Best Documentary Feature. FromSFFILM, “DFF grants are awarded once each year to documentary feature projects and are open to filmmakers internationally. Individual grant amounts and the number of grants made will be determined on an annual basis. As with all SFFILM grants, in addition to the cash awards, recipients will gain access to numerous benefits through the comprehensive and dynamic SFFILM Makers artist development program.”
Deadline: April 6 (Regular), April 30 (Late)
The Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund supports a handful of feature-length documentaries the highlight issues of social importance in the range of $10,000 to $30,000 along with very helpful nurturing and mentorship. From TFI, “The Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund will support projects that explore the biggest issues impacting Planet, People and Progress: highlight diversity, gender equality and active citizenship; celebrate the acts of courage, compassion and strength that are driving social and environmental change; showcase using innovation for good, including protecting the earth and advancing sustainability; and honor and salute women and diverse leaders who are making a difference.”
Deadline: April 6
This brand-new grant from the Rogovy Foundation will award doc filmmakers between $5,000 to $25,000 for work that addresses social issues and inspires others. From the Rogovy Foundation, “The Miller / Packan Film Fund supports documentaries that Educate, Inspire and Enrich. The Fund is financed through the Rogovy Foundation. We believe in the transformational power that comes from enlightening narratives and inspiring characters. The Fund began granting in 2016. Each year, grants totaling $200,000 are awarded to between eight and twelve filmmakers. The fund operates an open call submission process, and awards are announced bi-annually. Each grant is one-time only and offered in amounts up to $25,000.”
Deadline: May 15
Previously called Digital Open Call, the new Short Form Open call consists of co-production funding for short docs and series. From ITVS, “Short-Form Open Call offers development and co-production funding to help you complete your short nonfiction film or series for distribution on public media’s web-based platforms…We provide co-production support and up to $40,000 in production license funding for non-fiction films under 30 minutes in length. We accept short film proposals in pre-production and mid-production…For projects in R&D that have not yet begun principal production, we provide development support and funding up to $25,000 to help you take your original series idea to the pilot stage. ITVS will work with you to develop the story and determine the length and number of episodes.”
A core component of Sundance’s Documentary Film Program, this competitive grant looks for artful films about relevant topics, and it can get you $14,000 to $40,000, depending on the application type from Development to Production/PostProduction. From the Sundance Institute, “The Sundance Documentary Fund provides grants to filmmakers worldwide for feature-length projects that display: artful film language, effective storytelling, originality and feasibility, contemporary cultural relevance, and potential to reach and connect with its intended audience. Preference is given to projects that convey clear story structure, higher stakes and contemporary relevance, forward going action or questions, demonstrated access to subjects, and quality use of film craft.”
Deadline: Rolling; next deadline for decision June 15
If you’re just starting out on a documentary, you know how hard it is to raise money when you have nothing to show. Because, hey, you need money to shoot something to show! The Catapult Film Fund will give you $5,000 to $20,000 to shoot enough footage so you can fundraise for the rest of the project. From Catapult, “Catapult Film Fund provides development funding to documentary filmmakers who have a compelling story to tell, have secured access to their story, and are ready to shoot and edit a piece for production fundraising purposes. Our mission is to enable filmmakers to develop their films to the next level at a moment where funding is hard to find.”