How to get
free money grants for your next production!
So you’re looking to fund your next film. You’ve heard about filmmaking grants but how do you get access to them? Grants can seem confusing but we are here to help dispel some of the confusion and help you feel more comfortable applying for them.
What are Grants?
Grants are funding methods overseen by corporations, organizations, or the government to give opportunity to a party deemed worthy. Most grants are overseen by a board of directors who, through unique sets of rules and applications, determine the worthiness of a project for funding. Filmmaking grants help young and/or up-and-coming filmmakers with the difficult task of funding their projects. Because of their philanthropic nature, grants do not have the barrier to entry that most other funding methods do.
These grants are made to be be obtained by people who don’t usually have the means to fund their own projects, so don’t sell yourself short! Just because you have a small project doesn’t mean that no grant will want you. Your passion and professionalism will be your selling point just as much as the merits of your project.
FilmDaily.tv provides a resource (LINK) to find and research hundreds of film grants for all types of productions. From documentaries and feature films to foreign films and television shows, there are grants for anything you want to create under the sun. Thus, there is no reason you should not be considering grant funding for your next production. Not sold yet? Well how about this…
Why do I want Grants?
Do you want money for your project? Then you want grants! Don’t think of grants as a special thing only reserved for the highest caliber filmmakers. Think of grants like you do private donors or crowdfunding, as just another part of getting your movie made. Grants also come in many different varieties and flavors, so you may also apply for multiple grants for your project. Certain grants provide money for development, production, post-production, and even festival applications, so you have a potential for grant help at multiple points in the filmmaking process. Keep in mind, many grants have certain stipulations that may disqualify you or your project from accessing their funds. For example; grants for women filmmakers, documentaries, and national-specific grants are all enough to turn away many projects. So do your research so you don’t end up looking like a fool!
The application process can also help you iron out persistent hold ups you’ve had with your project. Just as constraints can help you find new ways to be creative, the application process for grants can help you figure out new ways to improve your film such as helping you iron out your budget when your plans will have to stand up to the scrutiny of a more experienced board of directors. So go through all of your budget with a fine-tooth comb so you look as professional as possible. Also, the best thing about grants? They’re FREE MONEY. Sure, not all grants are going to give you an Avengers 8 sized budget, but all money is money and not only do grants provide monetary aid, they also provide that intangible bonus known as approval. If a grant would give you free money, then that project sounds a lot more attractive than one funded by personal credit card debt.
How can I apply?
Grant applications should be submitted by the filmmaker. Not the producer, not their friend, not their mom. The grant overseers need to see there is a passion behind the project and that should be conveyed through the primary filmmakers whose idea the project is. Remember, as much as these grant boards are looking to give a boost to the next great filmmaker, they also want to make sure their money is not wasted. This money is being given out pro-bono, so if a grant project never comes to fruition, it was wasted when it could have helped another budding filmmaker.
Because of this, be prepared to be asked many questions about how you will be financing the film and where exactly all of the grant money will be going. The grant directors will want to know with certainty that all of their money is being put to good use or you can kiss that grant goodbye. Be sure to be confident when applying and during the questioning stage because if you undersell your project, what reason is there to invest in it? Most grant sites have very intricate FAQ’s to help you, the applicant, understand what exactly the grant directors are looking for. For example, the Filmmakers Without Borders Grant (LINK) has an in-depth guide to what kinds of films they are looking for, how the funding works, and how to apply for the grant.
Applying for a grant is much like applying for a job. Be prepared to have a CV/Resume, references prepared, examples of previous work, video-essays, short answer essays, details of the projects, and many other materials that would be just as at home on a Kickstarter or LinkedIn page.
All grant websites will have a guideline of what you will need to do in order to apply for funding. Most will have a downloadable form/document that lays out all of the necessary information. Be prepared to spend a long time on these applications. Just like any other part of filmmaking, grant applications take time, and putting in the effort is integral to getting your foot in the door and making a good first impression. Remember that persistence pays off!
In an interview with the Foundation Center, award winning filmmaker Banker White showed just how many grants you can accumulate for your project when he said,
“The project (Sierra Leone Refugee All-Stars) has been supported by grants from the Bay Area Video Coalition (Media Maker Award, 2008), Creative Capital (2008-2010), Arts Action (2010), Freedom to Create (2011) and The Bertha Foundation (2011, 2012).” (LINK)
So you see, grants can help fund/keep your project afloat for years during the production cycle and can help give you the ability to create work that may not perk the ears of corporate/private investors at first.
Keep in mind, countries other than the United States (I know, they exist) offer grants for productions in their borders. Canada is famous for the Film Board of Canada’s work in promotion of the country through the advancement of art but there are organizations like BBC Scriptroom (LINK), Fukui Film Commision (LINK), the Doha Film Institute (LINK) and countless other organizations around the world. Don’t be afraid to scour the internet for grants because they are out there no matter where you make movies!
In conclusion, you should be applying to grants. You should be applying for grants today! Right now! There are countless resources for finding grants and there are thousands of grants looking to give away money at this very moment! However, applying for grants does take time and effort so make sure to plan for that. But so is filmmaking! If you believe in your project then you should want the best for it. What better way to show that your voice and artistic vision is important than with the backing of an elite organization and your coffers flush with cash? Grants are out there, so go get them.
Friends of Wrapal that provide grants: