A Massive List of Spring 2020 Grants All Filmmakers Should Know About
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. From SFFILM, "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."
For the Episodic Story Lab, Sundance Institute 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: March 11
If you are interested in TV and web series, interactive storytelling, or app-based work, IFP is looking for 10 innovative creators with fiction and non-fiction serialized projects. From IFP, "IFP is looking for 10 outstanding debut or “breakthrough” series creators working independently on fiction and non-fiction episodic projects in development created for TV and digital platforms. The episodic project submitted to the Lab is not necessarily the Creator’s first work on a series, but displays a bold and innovative talent whose unique vision suggests significant future accomplishment. Series Creators who have won or been nominated for significant episodic awards (Primetime Emmys, Golden Globe, IFP Gotham Awards, etc.) for other digital and/or television episodic works are ineligible. Series Creators who have worked as showrunners on other series, or created prominent web series, will be judged on a case by case basis."
Deadline: March 31
The Roy Dean Grant includes over $30,000 of in-kind services and products is open for shorts, docs, and features films with a budget under $500,000. This Spring, $3,500 will come in cash sponsored by Sonny Fassoulis. From FTHP, "We fund compelling stories about little known subjects, historical films, and films that touch hearts. We like films that expose, and bring, important information to light; as well as films about little known people when there is a good story."
Deadline: March 31
Working on your first feature, with a budget under $1Million? Apply to be a part of the long-standing IFP lab for a year-long mentorship program presented by the Time Warner Foundation. 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: April 14
If you're an Australia-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. From Screen Australia, "Screen Australia’s Feature Film Production Program aims to assist in the creation of a diverse range of successful Australian films that resonate with their audiences – films that entertain, enlighten and reflect an Australian sense of identity both domestically and internationally."
Deadline: April 16 (for June 22 decision)
Now accepting shorts, features, documentaries, or series, if you’ve got a script or are in early stages of production, you could be one of two filmmakers to score up to $30,000 in financing and production services. From ScreenCraft, "In partnership with BondIt Media Capital, a film & media fund based in Beverly Hills, ScreenCraft is offering two production grants per year to talented filmmakers for narrative features, short films and TV pilot series scripts and documentaries that display originality, vision & exceptional potential. Grant amounts will vary from $10,000 to $30,000 depending on the scale and merit of each project."
Deadline: April 30 (Final)
Could you use $10-15K plus free camera rental from ARRI to make your short film? Heck yes! Check out this initiative from Shore Scripts, "The Shore Scripts Short Film Fund offers an opportunity for emerging screenwriters and filmmakers to have their short film financed and produced. The Fund welcomes submissions from screenwriters and filmmakers from around the world. We accept short scripts, animations, and proof of concept shorts for TV pilots and features."
Deadline: March 31 (Regular), May 2 (Final)
If you're a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant, the Film Board of Canada has 10 provinces that offer emerging filmmakers $3,000 - $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: May 15 (depending on FAP region)
If you have a short film under 20 minutes with a strong sense of vision and craft, DryDock and Vanishing Angle will finish it, on the house! From Vanishing Angle, "Independent production studio Vanishing Angle and post-production house DryDock have teamed up to co-sponsor a grant worth $10,000 in post-production services to two short films per year. The services include color correction, DCP creation, film festival strategy sessions, marketing and release planning, and the use of their screening room. Vanishing Angle and DryDock seek to support independent filmmakers as they navigate the often financially challenging phase of post-production."
Deadline: June 1
Need help releasing your film as far and wide as it can possibly go? Why not let the people at Sundance be your guide. From the Sundance Institute, "We help independent storytellers build audiences and sustain careers through innovations in marketing, distribution, and data transparency and imagine a world without barriers between storytellers and their audiences. The Creative Distribution Initiative empowers filmmakers navigating the changing business of independent film. Through an array of online resources, the program provides support and insights on creative funding, marketing, and distribution. Stay tuned for more research projects coming in 2020."
Deadline: Open Until Full
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 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."
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts an international screenwriting competition established to identify new talent in screenwriting. From the Academy, "Each year, the Academy Nicholl screenwriting competition awards up to five $35,000 fellowships to amateur screenwriters. To enter, submit a feature length screenplay and entry fee via the online application when the competition is open for submissions. Fellowship winners are invited to participate in awards week ceremonies and seminars and expected to complete at least one original feature film screenplay during the Fellowship year."
Deadline: March 6 (early); April 9 (Regular)
Could you use $1K, a table read of your script at the next Annual Hollywood Pitch Festival, and overall career development? Check out this program from the ISA, "New Season - Compete in Your Own Genre! 6 Genre Winners will receive $1000 cash each and one will be selected as the TRMS Grand Prize Winner for a career-changing table read experience at the Austin Film Festival and Writers Conference this October."
Deadline: March 12 (Early)
This screenplay competition from Nantucket Film Festival gives $7K in cash prizes and VIP festival access to winners with scripts for features, shorts, and episodic screenplays. From Nantucket, "Showtime Tony Cox Screenplay Competitions recognize emerging writers in four unique categories as the best from the pool of submissions each year. Finalists in each competition are read by prestigious juries, receive top industry recognition, and participate in a Festival focused specifically on screenwriting that includes cash prizes for all competitions and a Mentors Brunch with a prominent screenwriter (past mentors include Noah Baumbach, Oliver Stone, Robert Towne, David O. Russell, and Nancy Meyers)."
Deadline: March 15 (WAB extended)
If you're looking to be discovered in this genre and win $1K in the process, this contest could be for you. From Screencraft, "Whether you’re writing a contained science fiction drama or an epic fantasy saga, we want to read your feature film script. The jury is out of this world — with judges who love sci-fi movies—from top companies including 20th Century Fox, Sony and United Pictures Group! Don’t miss the industry’s #1 sci-fi & fantasy feature screenplay contest."
Deadline: March 31 (Final)
A long-standing and popular festival and competition amongst screenwriters, win this competition for a chance to be signed with a major agency and have your script optioned, acquired, and produced. From AFF, "For over two decades, Austin Film Festival has been catapulting writers into life-changing careers. With one of the most noteworthy competitions among Hollywood tastemakers, AFF consistently yanks newcomers from the isolation of their desks and ushers them into the bustling world of film and television."
Deadline: March 27 (Early), April 17 (Regular)
This competition program has four categories and gives awards to the top three of each, plus a grand prize which this year is to the tune of $8,000. Also, every entry gets feedback. From Slamdance, "The Slamdance Screenplay Competition is dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging writing talent. We welcome screenplays in every genre, on any topic, from anywhere in the world. We are looking for work that is truly compelling and stories that are truly unique."
Deadline: April 6 (Early)
A popular screenwriting competition where first prize gets $10,000 and genre winners get $500. From Scriptapalooza, "This year we are awarding over $50,000 in cash and software prizes. Our First Place Winner will receive $10,000 Cash and all our Genre Winners will receive $500 Cash. But the most important prize of all is that Scriptapalooza will promote, pitch and push the Semifinalists and higher for an entire year. We have relationships with producers, managers and agents that are actively looking for material. No other screenplay competition in the world does that."
Deadline: April 13 (Final)
$25,000 is up for grabs for one winner (and $2,500 for a runner-up) along with consultations and personal introductions meant to give you a leg up in the industry. From Script Pipeline, "The 18th Annual Script Pipeline Screenwriting Competition connects talented writers with production companies, agencies, and managers who can help launch their career. As one of the longest-running and most successful screenplay contests, we focus specifically on finding writers representation, supporting diverse voices, championing marketable, unique storytelling, and pushing more original projects into production."
Deadline: May 1
In this 8-month mentorship program, writers get to build relationships to further their careers. From CBS, "There are many different paths writers can follow to get their first foothold in being hired in television. As part of its ongoing commitment to create additional access for writers of diverse backgrounds CBS’ Diversity Institute has launched a different kind of writers program which highlights one of those paths. The focus of this eight month program is on opening doors: providing opportunities to build relationships with network executives and showrunners; to support new and emerging writers in their efforts to improve their craft, and to develop the interpersonal skills necessary to break in and succeed."
Deadline: May 1
The Sundance Screenwriters Lab is more than a five-day screenwriting workshop. It's the gateway for all films chosen to be in the Director's Lab, as well as eligibility to many of the Sundance grants. From the Sundance Institute, "Through one-on-one story sessions with Creative Advisors, Fellows engage in an artistically rigorous process that offers them indispensable lessons in craft, as well as the means to do the deep exploration needed to fully realize their material."
Deadline: Opens April 2, Closes May 18
Are you a VR content developer who can build on and support the open ecosystem? This $5million fund from Razer could be worth looking in to. From OSVR, "OSVR knows that VR content developers can’t afford to be limited by walled gardens and closed ecosystems. By supporting OSVR, developers can not only remain focused on creating the best VR experience without any limitations, but instantly gain audience as new VR platforms get released. This fund is open to all developers, indie or major, to apply. For every successful applicant, OSVR funding partners will purchase copies of their content in exchange for OSVR integration."
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."
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) like 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."
- IFP’s Guide to Granting Organizations — IFP
- POV's Documentary Funding Calendar — PBS
- indiefilmTO's The Ultimate Guide To Grant Writing (For Filmmakers In 2018)
- Huffington Post's Best Screenwriting Contests & Fellowships of 2018 — HuffPo
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!