Want $1500 for Your Short Film? Join the Bureau of Creative Works

We pinch pennies, then use those pennies to make our films. Wouldn't it be great if we actually got paid pennies to shoot the shorts we're so hellbent on making?
That's exactly what the Bureau of Creative Works wants to do. Their goal: increase the value of short films as an art form and pay artists to make them. How? The first half of their model is to give 12 filmmakers $1500-$3000 each to make a short film. The second half is to house a subscription-based platform for filmmakers & film lovers to watch the shorts as they come out over the course of 12 months.
Founded by bonafide independent-filmmaker-duo Erica Hampton and Mike Ambs, the Bureau has a grant submission for this year's two remaining filmmaker spots, and a Kickstarter campaign for subscriptions. If you subscribe on Kickstarter, the Bureau waives the submission fee of the grant, and you get all twelve films to boot.
Disclaimer: I should point out that I'll be making a microbudget short about climbing on Mars for the Bureau this inaugural year. If you want to join the likes of me, I wholeheartedly recommend subscribing to the collective or submitting your own short film idea. However, please know that I have no influence or involvement in the selection process whatsoever!
Beyond just getting funds to make your short, the appeal of a platform like the Bureau is the prospect of growing a more viable short film community. Writing for No Film School, I see how many talented and thoughtful filmmakers are out there making amazing short films on a daily basis, without being able to make it a career. From Mike Ambs and Erica Hampton about the Bureau's hopes to change that:
Filmmakers spend $10k,$ 20k, $80k of our own money, that we don't have, to produce our work. We spend thousands submitting to festivals, we spend thousands just to hand over our work to distributors who often don't take the time or energy to promote what we've worked so hard to create. The BUREAU is the opposite of the this system, in every sense - and we hope that filmmakers will become a part of the community, to help it grow it, to help guide it, and to help make a unified statement that *this* is how things should work. We shouldn't settle for a system that constantly scrapes off the top. We hope that people will respond to what we're doing - we think it can have a real impact, not just in terms of opportunity for the 12 filmmakers each year, but a real impact on the audiences perception of films and their value. 

What's the Bureau looking for in a film grant applicaiton? Capable filmmakers with a strong voice, who will use the opportunity to experiment. A big part of the decision process will come from looking at your past work. And while the Bureau is just getting started this year, they have big plans for the future. From Mike and Erica:

We have such big plans for The BUREAU!  We are working hard to grow our audience, our partners and resources for participating filmmakers, and to continue to provide small production budgets for 12 films each year. Depending on how we grow, possibly more per year! We will steadfastly stand by our goal of providing a low pressure environment where filmmakers are free to experiment and create work that might otherwise never be made.

The Kickstarter campaign for the Bureau of Creative Works ends on October 25, and the film grant submission period closes December 4.
What do you think about the short film community today? As a filmmaker, what would you want to see from a platform like the Bureau?

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Your Comment


Not sure how they plan on helping people make shorts a career when they freely admit it takes many thousands of dollars to make a well produced short and they're giving out up to 3k for a film.

And since it's not mentioned in the article, they preselected 10 filmmakers so there are only two slots left to apply for.

I also don't really understand the appeal to film watchers when sites like Short of the Week already exist and offer more to the audience.

All that said, I hope it works out; The more money flowing to indie folks the better.

September 25, 2015 at 7:50AM, Edited September 25, 7:54AM


Hey David, I love platforms like Short of the Week. BUT what I like about the BUREAU model that's different is the commissioning aspect -- getting money at the beginning of the process to make a film. Sure, it might only be up to $3k, but I'll bet there's a lot of clever filmmakers out there who can make something great on that budget. There may only be two spots left now, as I do mention at the top of the article, but you can understand why they needed to solidify the other ten before the launch of their Kickstarter campaign. I think it's a great start!

September 28, 2015 at 9:06PM

Oakley Anderson-Moore

The film business is real cut throat. I'm learning this more and more going through a festival circuit. Independent film has to stand out over millions of others to even get a small beacon of light for distribution. It's really all about who you know. You could be the next Martin Scorsese and never even have your film see the light of day. The good thing is, for the most part I could give a damn about money and returns for my work, I just like it to be watched. It's so much more valuable to me to have entertained many than to have been paid by one.

September 25, 2015 at 6:36PM, Edited September 25, 6:35PM

Graham Uhelski
Director of Photography/Video Editor