Forget about the fat man in the red suit, it's time to take matters into your own hands this holiday season! Below find all the opportunities that grantmakers are offering up this winter 2016-2017.
The following grants, labs, and contests are organized by deadline from December through February, and by category for documentaries, narratives and screenwriting. If you're looking for a head-start on a different granting season, we also have our most recent spring grants here, summer grants here, and fall grants here. (If you're a narrative filmmaker, don't forget to check out our breakdown of where to shoot for the best tax incentives too!)
An asterisk next to the grant title means there is an equivalent grant for both doc and narrative. To find out more specifics on a grant, click on the title and get started. As always, use your best judgement when deciding to apply.
Still from Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund recipient "The Trials of Spring" by Gini Reticker.Credit: The Trials of Spring
For filmmakers based in California, Washington, or Oregon, this grant offers from $1,000 to $10,000 to emerging documentarians. From PPF:
To support emerging documentary filmmakers. The term "emerging" is intended to denote a person committed to the craft of making documentaries, who has demonstrated that commitment by several years—but no more than ten—of practical film or video experience.
Deadline: December 1
If you've got a feature doc in the rough cut stage, consider applying to this Lab for mentorship, feedback sessions, and support. From FIND:
Through a series of meetings and workshops, the Documentary Lab provides creative feedback and story notes to participating filmmakers, while helping them to strategize for the completion, distribution, and marketing of their films.
Deadline: December 5 for non-members; December 19 for members
If you are a US based filmmaker looking to tackle the topic of mass incarceration in your next film, you could get up to $100,000 over a two-year period from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation. From RRF:
This year’s Artist as Activist Fellowship provides the opportunity for creative professionals who are committed to moving the dial on mass incarceration, and by extension racial justice, to seek a robust set of resources to advance their work. This is a departure from last year’s grant cycle, which invited artists pursuing projects on any topic to apply for support. Moving forward, the Artist as Activist Fellowship will be guided by an alternating theme. For the 2016 and 2017 cycles of the fellowship, the thematic frame is racial justice through the lens of mass incarceration.
Deadline: December 7
The National Endowment for the Humanities is the big daddy of government support for documentaries that address the humanities. The application process isn't easy—you need an experienced team, a non-profit organization or fiscal sponsor, two humanities advisors, and a lengthy application (Ken Burns' project descriptions are rumored to have been around 40 pages), but the payoff is worth it: one-to-three year grants in the $100,000 to $650,000 range. From NEH:
NEH encourages projects that feature multiple formats to engage the public in the exploration of humanities ideas. Film and television projects may be single programs or a series addressing significant figures, events, or ideas and drawing their content from humanities scholarship. They must be intended for national distribution. The program welcomes projects ranging in length from short-form to broadcast-length video.
Deadline: January 11
Like the above production grants, the development grants are for documentaries that address topics in the humanities, and the application process is just as extensive. The awards range from $40,000 to $75,000. From NEH:
Development grants enable media producers to collaborate with scholars to develop humanities content and to prepare programs for production. Grants should result in a script or a design document and should also yield a detailed plan for outreach and public engagement in collaboration with a partner organization or organizations.
Deadline: January 11
If you have a work-in-progress for a standard broadcast length film, this co-production funding of $150,000 to $350,000 from ITVS is the stuff doc dreams are made from. From ITVS:
We’re looking for exceptional storytelling that’s in line with our mission: stories that take risks, tackle important issues, and are seldom seen in public media. We know how hard you’ve worked on your project, and we’ll partner with you to help you finish it, then distribute it on public television.
Deadline: Opens December 12, Closes February TBA
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: January 13 (for February 24 decision)
The Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund supports 4-10 feature-length documentaries the highlight issues of social importance in the range of $10,000 to $25,000. This year, two-to-five additional grants will be provided for docs about extraordinary women. From TFI:
The Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund will provide funding to 4-10 feature-length documentaries that highlight and humanize issues of social importance from around the world. Funded films will be driven by thoughtful and in-depth storytelling, bolstered by a compelling visual approach. For films, based anywhere, that are in production or post-production with the intended premiere exhibition.
Deadline: Opens December 5, Closes February 5
The Center for Asian American Media will award between $15,000 and $50,000 for public television appropriate programs. From CAAM:
With support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), CAAM provides production funding to independent producers for national public television. Documentaries are eligible for production or post-production funding and must be intended for public television broadcast.
Deadlines: February 16
If you're a film based in Asia, Africa, Latin America, and Eastern Europe and you're looking for either production or post-production support, Visions Sud Est can be good for 20,000 Swiss francs on narrative features and 10,000 Swiss francs for documentaries. From Visions Sud Est:
The Swiss fund Visions Sud Est was initiated by the Foundation trigon-film Baden and the Fribourg Film Festival, with the collaboration of Nyon's Visions du Reel and the support of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. It supports film productions from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, aims at making them visible worldwide and guarantees their distribution in Switzerland.
Deadline: February 28
Launched to honor the memory of Derek Freese, this finishing fund is given biennially to an independent filmmaker and provides up to $35,000. From the Derek Freese Film Foundation:
Derek Freese Documentary Fund (DFDF) provides production support for feature-length documentary films that have both a strong narrative and compelling story, across a broad spectrum of subject matters.
Deadline: Opens January 9, Closes June 12
New this year, HotDocs and the Rogers Foundation have founded the $1,000,000 Hot Docs Ted Rogers Fund to support Canadian documentary filmmakers. From HotDocs:
Over the coming 10 years, production grants will be distributed to Canadian documentary filmmakers. Up to $35,000 will be granted to three or four projects each year.
A core component of Sundance's Documentary Film Program, this competitive grant looks for artful films about relevant topics, and it can get you $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the application type (Development, Production/PostProduction, Audience Engagement). From the Sundance Institute:
The Sundance Documentary Fund provides grants to filmmakers worldwide for 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.
If your documentary has the potential to make a difference when it comes to an important issue, the Fledgling Fund will support outreach and audience engagement strategies to an average $10,000 to $25,000. From the Fledgling Fund:
Grants support outreach and engagement for social issue documentary film and other storytelling projects that have the potential to inspire positive social change around issues that affect the most vulnerable.
This new fund offers £10,000 to 50,000 to doc filmmakers from any country in a mix of grants and investments. From BRITDOC:
The fund supports projects at the intersection of film and investigative journalism that break the important stories of our time, expose injustice, and bring attention to unreported issues, and cameras into regions previously unseen.
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:
Scottish Documentary Institute is offering year-round submissions of Scottish documentary projects in development (shorts and features) to our Docscene project pool. The projects will then be steered towards forthcoming training programmes or other funding opportunities, depending on theme and scope: Seed Funding, Interdoc, the Edinburgh Pitch and prepared for other submissions to funders, meet markets or pitching forums. The aim is to improve quality of project development and increase the talent pool.
Still from Bureau of Creative Works short film grant recipient "That Party That One Night" by Mylissa Fitzsimmons.Credit: Bureau of Creative Works
Brought to you by ScreenCraft and Bondit, if you’ve got a short script or a short film at the early stages of production, you could score $5,000 to $20,000 in financing and production services. From ScreenCraft:
Every 4 months, at least one filmmaker will be awarded this production grant of up to $20,000 in production funds. We announce the winner(s) 6 weeks after each final deadline.
Deadline: December 30 (Final)
This three day film financing market held during the LA Film Festival could be what you need to get your film off the ground. Not to mention, one producer will get an extra $20,000 if chosen for the Alfred P. Sloan Producer's Grant. From FIND:
During three days of intensive meetings with top executives, financiers, agents, managers, distributors, granting organizations and production companies, participants gain valuable exposure and build vital relationships as they propel their films towards completion.
Deadline: January 9 (non-members); January 23 (members)
In its inaugural year, this initiative will award up to $10,000 to a filmmaker with the best one-sentence idea for a short film. From Thomas Verdi of The Film Fund:
Starting out as an independent filmmaker not based in Los Angeles or New York, I found myself struggling to raise financing and find resources for my film projects, and it appeared that many contests were dominated by those who already had industry experience or access to better resources and crew. The Film Fund is designed to level the funding field, as no advantage is given to entrants based on industry experience. Effective storytellers should be able to succinctly convey the vision they have for their projects, and that is the basis of the contest.
Deadline: January, TBA through email
Specifically for New England filmmakers with film budgets under $350,000, the LEF Moving Image Fund supports original and creative films. From LEF:
The strongest proposals will be those that clearly articulate the ways in which the proposed project embodies the program’s funding criteria. A maximum of (6) grants of $15,000 each will be awarded to projects in the production phase during LEF’s major grants review. A maximum of (3) grants of $25,000 each will be awarded to projects in the post-production phase during LEF’s major grants review. In order to be eligible for Post-Production support, the project for which you are applying must have received previous LEF support.
Deadline: January 27
This will be the third year of the Episodic Story Lab, and will choose ten writers/filmmakers with an episodic pilot over a two-round process for a six-day fellowship. From Sundance:
The Sundance Institute Episodic Story Lab offers 10 writers (or co-writing teams) an opportunity to develop long-form episodic content in a setting where they can hone their writing skills and learn how to navigate the changing industry. Working with accomplished showrunners, as well as non-writing creative producers and studio/network executives, the Fellows participate in one-on-one creative story meetings, pitching sessions, writers’ rooms, and group conversations focusing on the key creative and tactical elements that are central to their success in episodic storytelling.
Deadline: February 1
Returning for its second year, the Bureau is commissioning 12 creative short films, of any genre, that can be made on a small budget between $1,000 to $3,000. From the Bureau:
Each year, The BUREAU provides 12 filmmakers with a grant to produce an original, low-budget short film, these films premiere to an engaged and highly invested audience of film-enthusiasts.
Deadline: February 6
You might consider this fund which invests and subsidizes script development, documentaries, and feature films if your film has a Danish co-producer. (Read more about how to work with an international co-producer here.) From DVF:
We support films, documentaries, television series and multimedia productions including international co-productions. Support is given to artistically interesting productions which further the strengthening of the film industry in the region. Financial support is provided in the form of subsidies and/or investments.
Deadline: February 8 (for April 10 decision)
The Sundance Institute will choose five emerging producers with projects in pre-production to attend the Feature Film Creative Producing Lab, the Creative Producing Summit, and the Sundance Film Festival, as well as receive $10,000 in stipends and yearlong mentorship. From Sundance:
The Fellowship focuses on the holistic producer, who identifies, options, develops, and pitches material; champions and challenges the writer/director creatively; raises financing; leads the casting/packaging process; hires and inspires crew; and navigates the sales, distribution, and marketing arenas. The Program is designed to hone emerging producers’ creative instincts and evolve their communicating and problem-solving skills at all stages of realizing a project.
Deadline: February 7
If you're an Australian-based filmmaker, you have got to get in touch with Screen Australia. The government film agency throws down major funds for low-budget features, documentaries, and large format programs, including up to 65% of your feature film budget if it meets the criteria. From Screen Australia:
Screen Australia’s Feature Film Production program aims to support a diverse slate of Australian films for theatrical release that entertain and enlighten domestic and international audiences while reflecting the unique characteristics of Australian identity.
Deadline: December 9 (March decision); February 17 (April decision)
The Doha Institute is around to seek out new cinematic voices from Qatar as well as from around the world. Grants for Qatar-based filmmakers are rolling, and the international applicant deadline is below. You can apply for funding for development, production, or pre-production depending on where you are a MENA or non-MENA application (Middle East and North Africa.) From the DFIGP:
The Institute’s approach is to champion projects whose thrust is to explore, expand and cultivate authentic storytelling, with a keen interest in propelling forward contemporary work that demonstrates a deep understanding of the specific possibilities of the medium of cinema. The Programme provides creative and financial assistance to filmmakers from Qatar, and to first- and second-time filmmakers from around the globe.
Deadline: January 23
The Jerome Foundation has a good track record of supporting filmmakers in New York and Minnesota with innovative artistic sensibilities. From JF:
The Jerome Foundation's Film and Video Grant Program is a production grant program for individual film and video artists who work in the genres of experimental, narrative, animation, and documentary production. Applicants must reside in one of the five boroughs and must be emerging artists whose work shows promise of excellence.
Brought to you by the renowned Berlinale Festival, this funds directors from regions with a "weak film infrastructure" (Africa, Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, Central Asia, Southeast Asia and the Caucasus) who have a German distribution partner. From Berlinale:
The World Cinema Fund supports films in distribution, that could not be made without additional funding: films that stand out with an unconventional aesthetic approach, that tell powerful stories and transmit an authentic image of their cultural roots.
If you've got a short film, music video, or feature with a woman helming the DP role, Digital Bolex might loan you $10,000 worth of gear and accessories. From Digital Bolex:
The relationship between a director and cinematographer is the most important on any film set, and the most famous director/cinematographer pairs have collaborative relationships spanning decades. We would like to see women cinematographers and directors involved in that kind of intimate collaborative process, and hope that we can start to help move our industry in that direction.
If you have a project—particularly one at the early stages—on which the writer, director, or producer is a woman, person of color, or member of the LGBTQ community, consider applying for this new BVEW opportunity. From BVEW:
Selected projects will receive significant discounts (15%-75%) from vendors and service providers nationwide to create savings in all stages of production, including AbelCine, Hive Lighting, Gotham Stages, and Nice Shoes. Recipients will be granted access to an exclusive Distribution Lab, presented in both NY and LA, focusing on audience building and distribution strategies. Participating companies include Lionsgate Films, FilmRise, Seed & Spark, VHX, Zeitgeist Films, and Cinetic. In addition, our sister company Big Vision Creative will choose several projects per year to co-produce and/or represent for distribution.
If you are a student or a low-budget indie maker, Panavision might supply you with free camera packages. From Panavision:
The New Filmmaker Program loans film or digital camera packages (based on availability) to filmmakers for student thesis films, “low-budget” independent features, showcase reels, Public Service Announcements, or any other type of short not-for-profit project.
If you have a high-concept script that you'd like to get in front of major studios, production companies, and agencies, check out this opportunity. From Script Pipeline:
Supported by Good Fear Film + Management, Energy Entertainment, Darko Entertainment, Lakeshore Entertainment, and other Script Pipeline partners, the competition presents the best scripts and filmmakers to major companies. One winner in each category receives personal development assistance from Script Pipeline’s executive team. We will also select up to 5 finalists for each division.
Deadline: December 1
If you know someone who should be nominated (or can nominate on your behalf) who excels in the brave task of nonfiction writing, this new initiative could be for you. From the Sundance Institute:
Fellowship is designed to increase conversations between writers and critics and filmmakers with works-in-progress through participation in events at the Sundance Film Festival, the Based on a True Story Conference, and the Sundance Edit and Story Lab. In addition, financial and editorial support will be provided to encourage in depth critical writing about nonfiction.
Deadline: December 9
If you have a family friendly script, you could win up to $1,500, a consultation with renowned screenwriter James V. Hart, and a call with a literary agent. From ScreenCraft:
Calling all family-friendly feature film screenplays! Families are the most influential moviegoing audience, yet there’s a surprising lack of high-quality films that appeal to the WHOLE family. This contest avoids the genre-bias of some other contests by seeking exclusively screenplays that are life-affirming stories of faith, courage, hope and love. Whether you have a family drama, comedy, animation, or action-adventure film, WE WANT TO READ YOUR SCRIPT.
Deadline: December 30
This contest offers $20,000 in prizes and introductions to executives, agents, and other potentially important industry contacts. From BHSC:
The Beverly Hills Screenplay Contest is committed to fostering new talent and providing opportunity for screenwriters entering the industry to further develop both their craft as well as their careers. We are able to enhance the prospects of emerging screenwriters by honoring only the very finest in screenwriting achievement and encourage all original, artistic, and independent voices to submit your work to be considered alongside some of the country’s as well as the world’s very best new talent in cinematic storytelling.
Deadline: January 10 (Late)
For screenwriters looking for ongoing mentorship to develop the skills that'll take their careers to the next level, ScreenCraft's Screenwriting Fellowship offers that and more, including a $1,000 writing grant, six months of one-on-one consultations with the ScreenCraft staff and mentors, and meetings with lit agents. From ScreenCraft:
The chosen recipients will receive ongoing professional support and a special trip to Los Angeles for meetings and introductions to key entertainment executives, producers and representatives. To apply, simply submit your feature film script or original television pilot script on this application page. Apply now and join a growing community of visionary screenwriters with meaningful connections to Hollywood mentors.
Deadline: January 15 (Final)
If you've got a short story with cinematic potential, you could win $1,000 and introduction to a plethora of literary agents. From Screencraft:
Whether you’re writing flash fiction or a novella, we want to read your story! The grand prize winner will receive $1,000 and personal introductions to literary agents, managers, producers and publishers. The top 5 finalists will be read by our network of over 40 literary and entertainment industry professionals. All rights and ownership to stories submitted to this contest remain with the author, until and unless other agreements are made.
Deadline: December 19
A popular screenwriting competition where first prize gets $10K, and genre winners get $500. From Scriptapalooza:
From choosing our judges to creating opportunities, our top priority has always been the writer. We surround ourselves with reputable and successful companies, including the many producers, literary agents, and managers who read your scripts. Our past winners have won Emmys, been signed by agents, managers, had their scripts optioned, and even made into movies. But the most important prize of all is this: Scriptapalooza will promote, pitch, and push the Semifinalists and higher for a full year. No other competition in the world does that.
Deadline: Jan 6
This writing program gives you a salaried position for a year as you get hands-on experience writing specs and pitching stories. From Nickelodeon:
Our global Writing Program is one of the best in the biz. Consider the facts: alum have gone on to create their own Nickelodeon shows and write for all sorts of TV series and films. While in the Program, writers meet our series creators, work in writers’ rooms, and receive hands-on experience writing spec scripts and pitching story ideas in both live action and animated television. Basically, they write a lot and do cool things, all while being provided a salary!
Deadline: Opens Jan 2, Closes Feb 28
Keep an eye on our Grants, Contests & Awards section where we will be sharing new opportunities that come up throughout the season.
Do you know of a grant or other opportunity that's not listed here? Share it in the comments!
Featured image from 'Dear White People,' whose director, Justin Simien, participated in a Film Independent fellowship.