A Massive List of Winter 2021 Grants All Filmmakers Should Know About
Replace mittens with N95 masks and eggnog for hand sanitizer, and you have Winter 2021. At least there are still grants to apply for this season!
Some labs are on hiatus, and other grants are just plain dead. But, as luck would have it, there are new grants and returning stalwarts ready and open for applications right now. With some luck and some hard work on the following grants, you just might clinch one of the following doc, narrative, screenwriting, or new media opportunities of a lifetime.
As always, the following opportunities are organized by deadline—from December through February—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.
Still from 'The Hottest August' directed by Brett Story and Danielle Varga, a recipient of funding from the ITVS Open Call.Credit: The Hottest August
If you've got a feature documentary at the rough cut stage (or in early post-production in a few exceptional cases), why not apply to Film Independent's mentorship program that includes exposure to industry professionals and year-round mentorship? Additionally, for 2019, one lab participant will snag $10K in support from Susan Murdy Documentary Film Fellowship. From FIND:
Through a series of meetings and workshops, the Documentary Lab provides creative feedback and story notes to participating filmmakers, while helping them strategize for the completion, distribution, and marketing of their films. Additionally, the program serves to advance the careers of its Fellows by making introductions to film professionals who can advise on both the craft and business of documentary filmmaking.
Deadline: December 17 (December 23 for Film Independent Members)
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 can offer professional consultancies to Scotland-based filmmakers and 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: January 8
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: December 18
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—in the past elements that have been required include 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 up to $650,000 range. From NEH:
"The Media Projects program supports documentary film, television, radio, and podcast projects that engage public audiences with humanities ideas in creative and appealing ways. All projects must be grounded in humanities scholarship in disciplines such as history, art history, film studies, literature, religious studies, philosophy, or anthropology. Projects must also demonstrate an approach that is thoughtful, balanced, and analytical. The approach to the subject matter must go beyond the mere presentation of factual information to explore its larger significance and stimulate reflection. NEH is a national funding agency, so the projects that we support must demonstrate the potential to attract a broad general audience."
Deadline: January 6
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 awards enable media producers to collaborate with scholars to develop humanities content and to prepare programs for production. Awards should result in a script (for documentary film or television programs) or a detailed treatment (for radio programs or podcasts) and may also yield a plan for outreach and public engagement."
Note: the NEH site currently has an alert that CAGE is experiencing a high volume of registrations, and is encouraging applicants registering with SAM.gov to allow additional time for processing.
Deadline: January 6
Now offering funding for more stages including early development, this grant between $2,500 and $25,000 is specifically for New England filmmakers with film budgets under $400,000. From LEF:
"The goal of LEF New England is to fund the work of independent documentary film and video artists in the region, and to broaden recognition and support for their work, both locally and nationally. It also supports programs that highlight the rich history and ongoing legacy of innovation within New England’s independent film community."
Deadline: January 22 (for LOI)
The Sundance Institute will choose emerging producers with projects in production or post-production to attend the Creative Producing Lab and be part of a year-long mentorship program. From Sundance:
"A year-long program designed to nurture emerging producers with project-specific support through the Creative Producing Lab, Sundance Film Festival attendance, a $10,000 grant, year-round mentorship from a dedicated industry mentor, and ongoing support from Sundance Institute Staff. The Program is designed to hone emerging producers’ creative instincts and evolve their communicating and problem-solving skills at all stages of their next feature film project."
Deadline: February 18
Do you have a short non-fiction film that explores the systemic, social, and structural forces leading to gun violence in the United States? If you have made at least one short film before, you could land $50K to complete it with this new initiative. From the Sundance Institute:
"With the generous support of The Kendeda Fund and in partnership with TIME Studios, the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program is launching a new funding opportunity aimed at elevating stories addressing gun violence in the United States. The fund will award up to seven non-recoupable grants of up to $50,000 USD to nonfiction short films at various stages of production."
Deadline: February 8
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."
Deadline: February 8
If you're a filmmaker 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 25
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."
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: Rolling basis throughout the pandemic
Still from Michael Almereyda’s 'Tesla' a recipient of the Film Independent Sloan Distribution Fund.
If you can write one sentence, and want $10,000 to make a short film (either narrative, music video, or doc) then this grant is for you. From Thomas Verdi of The Film Fund:
"The Film Fund was born out of this frustration with the industry. Contests, grants, and crowdfunding campaigns are great, but there's a simpler way to way to fund a film. We're providing funding up to $10,000 per project for short films in a way that's a lot simpler than screenwriting contests, crowdfunding, or applying to grants, because we're sick of seeing these funding avenues dominated by industry experts."
Deadline: December 15
For the latest in the recurring monthly challenge from Sundance's Co//ab, this month is asking you to become more comfortable explaining your short film idea by sending in a short video pitch. From Sundance Co//ab:
"As creators, having a great idea is only the first step. It's equally important to be able to communicate that idea effectively so potential collaborators, clients, or backers understand and buy into your vision. This challenge asks creators to create a 1-2 minute pitch video for a short story, short film, or docu-short that quickly conveys the premise, tone, characters, creative execution, and/or why they're uniquely positioned to tell this story."
Deadline: December 16
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: Opens January 4, closes January 17
If you plan to tackle a social justice issue in a meaningful and creative way, you should apply to this grant from the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US. Development grants can be up to $25K, with Post-Production Grants around $40K, in addition to other support like the six-month FilmHouse residency. From SFFILM:
"The SFFILM Rainin Grant program is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US. Grants support films that address social justice issues-the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges-in a positive and meaningful way through plot, character, theme, or setting and benefit the Bay Area filmmaking community in a professional and economic capacity.
The program is open to filmmakers in the US and internationally who can commit to spending time developing the film in San Francisco."
Deadline: January 21 (Regular), February 11 (Final)
The Sundance Institute will choose emerging producers with projects in production or post-production to attend the Creative Producing Lab and be part of a year-long mentorship program, along with a $5,000 grant. From Sundance:
"The year-long program is designed to nurture emerging producers with project-specific support through the Creative Producing Lab and Creative Producing Summit, a grant to support the producer and the project, year-round mentorship from a dedicated industry mentor, and ongoing support from Sundance Institute staff. The program is designed to hone emerging producers’ creative instincts and evolve their communicating and problem-solving skills at all stages of their next feature film project."
Deadline: February 18
This will be the fifth year of the Episodic Story Lab, and will choose writers/filmmakers with an original episodic pilot for a six-day fellowship. From Sundance:
"The Sundance Institute Episodic Lab is a six-day program at the Sundance Resort in Utah that offers writers the opportunity to workshop an original pilot script, while developing their writing and pitching skills. Working with accomplished showrunners, non-writing creative producers and executives, the Fellows participate in one-on-one story meetings, pitching sessions, and simulated writers rooms, which together provide creative and strategic keys to success."
Deadline: Opens February 10, closes March 10
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: Rolling basis throughout pandemic
If you're a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant, the Film Board of Canada has ten provinces that offer emerging filmmakers $3,000 to $5,000 grants a year in technical services to complete your film. Deadlines depend on the province, so be sure to check them out individually. From NFBC:
"The National Film Board’s mandate is to reflect Canadian values and perspectives through the production and distribution of innovative Canadian audiovisual works accessible in relevant media of today. The Filmmaker Assistance Program (FAP) is designed to help developing independent filmmakers complete their films/videos by providing technical services and support."
Deadline: Check for your specific region
If you have a nearly completed (or finished) a narrative film with a leading character that is a scientist, engineer, or mathematician, this grant could be for you. From FIND:
"The Sloan Distribution Grant will be a $50,000 grant awarded by Film Independent to a film that is entering its distribution phase... Eligible films must depict themes, stories, and characters grounded in real science, technology, or economics."
A popular screenwriting competition now in its 20th year, first prize gets $10K, and genre winners get $500 a pop. 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: December 14
If you have a family-friendly script, you could win $1000 and an in-person introduction to a literary manager. From ScreenCraft:
Think you can handle $25K, long-term circulation, and script development? That's what one lucky winner gets, with $2,500 for runners up. From Script Pipeline:
"For the winner, Script Pipeline provides additional, long-term assistance to refine the pitch, or help the writer draft a polished screenplay. Our execs review the project and offer feedback at all stages of development. When the work is ready for circulation, we send the material to specific producers who would be a good match—a network of over 200 companies that includes partners at Good Fear Film + Management (Mulan), Madhouse Entertainment (Slender Man), QC Entertainment (Get Out), Lakeshore Entertainment (Age of Adaline), and others looking for relevant, high-concept, marketable films."
Deadline: December 31
If you plan to tackle a social justice issue in a meaningful and creative way, you should apply to this grant which is the largest granting body for independent narrative feature films in the US. From SFFILM:
"These grants are open to filmmakers anywhere in the US, as well as internationally, and range between $10,000 and $25,000. The funds allow filmmakers to devote dedicated time to furthering their work, and the grant includes a two-month FilmHouse residency in the Bay Area to further develop the screenplay, and have access to both peer and established mentorship engagement. The screenplay must explore issues pertaining to social justice."
Deadline: January 21 (Regular), February 11 (Final)
In its fifth year, ScreenCraft's Screenwriting Fellowship offers winners an all-expense-paid trip to Hollywood and three 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... Past ScreenCraft Fellowship winners have optioned their projects and signed with top representatives at 3 Arts Entertainment, United Talent Agency, Creative Artists Agency, Anonymous Content, Paradigm Talent Agency, ICM, Bellevue Productions, Plattform, and more."
Deadline: February 28
If you have a film that incorporates all that is cool about science and you have a fiscal sponsor that can accept the award for you (like the Sloan-funded VR film about LIGO), this New Media grant could be worth exploring. From Sloan:
"Program goal: Advance public understanding and engagement with science through the support of innovative projects that use a range of media to reach a broad, cross-cultural audience. Grants support both traditional and web-native media that fall outside the other Public Understanding programs. Supported media types include opera, dance, music, museum exhibits, interactive games, smartphone apps, ebooks, web-native video, conferences, art and science festivals, and other cultural events."
Positioned as an intimate VR community of no more than 200 creators, Kaleidoscope acceptance could lead to funding from the likes of Oculus and invitations to events like World Tour and the DevLab content accelerator. From Kaleidoscope:
"At Kaleidoscope our mission is to give independent VR creators and studios the resources they need to do great work. An invite-only community, Kaleidoscope helps secure financing, distribution and exposure for premium VR content."
- IFP’s Guide to Granting Organizations — IFP
- POV's Documentary Funding Calendar — PBS
- indiefilmTO's The Ultimate Guide To Grant Writing
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 in the comments!