Filmmakers have been cooped up since... last spring. It's time to emerge!
As you walk toward the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel, there are tons of promising film grants, contests, and labs to help get you there. Good luck!
The following opportunities are organized by deadline—from early April through May—and by category: documentaries, narratives, screenwriting, and new media. If you're looking for a head-start on a different granting season, check out our most recent winter grant, fall grant, and summer grant roundups.
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 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: TBA; typically opens in March, closes early April
This grant from the Rogovy Foundation awards doc filmmakers between $15,000 (for development) and $25,000 (production/post-production) for work that addresses social issues and inspires others. From the Rogovy Foundation, "At the highest level, the Fund’s subject categories are Education, the Environment, and Civics. Please review our Ideals and Values for a sense of what types of topics we might support. Grants will be awarded to filmmakers who most closely match our defined areas of interest."
Deadline: May 15
Need some serious funding and support to get your feature documentary on broadcast television? Open Call might be for you! From ITVS, "Open Call gives independent producers up to $350,000 to complete production for a standalone broadcast length documentary to air on public television. The documentary can be on any subject, viewpoint, or style as long as it is in active production already, as evidenced via a 10- to 15-minute work in progress sample."
Deadline: TBA, opens in Spring
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."
Now accepting shorts, features, documentaries, or series, if you’ve got a script or are in the 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 and 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, and exceptional potential. Grant amounts will vary from $10,000 to $30,000 depending on the scale and merit of each project."
Deadline: March 31 (Early), May 31 (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 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, "Vanishing Angle will be partnering with post-production house DryDock to offer free post-finishing services to one short film every year. These services include color-correction, DCP creation, film festival strategy sessions, and marketing and release planning. These services are valued at approximately $10,000."
Deadline: May 1
If you're a Canadian citizen or a landed immigrant, the Film Board of Canada has 10 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: May 15 (depending on FAP region)
Are you a producer who is formally attached to a full-length, fiction feature film with a completed script and director in place? Want to pitch said film to executives? This one-week lab in October from Film Independent could be the place to do it. From FIND, "The Producing Lab helps further the careers of its Fellows by introducing them to film professionals who can advise them on both the craft and business of independent producing. In addition to attending lab sessions with legal, financial, and production experts, each Producing Lab Fellow will be paired with an experienced Creative Advisor with whom they’ll work to develop their project over the course of the program."
Deadline: May 26
Are you an 18- to 25-year-old doc or fiction filmmaker who could use mentorship from Sundance and Adobe? Who wouldn't! From Sundance, "The fellowship begins with a weeklong lab orienting filmmakers to the fellowship and year ahead. For the rest of the year, fellows work with their mentors, attend select Sundance Institute programs, enjoy eligibility for internships, receive additional creative and professional development opportunities, and attend the Sundance Film Festival."
Deadline: April 6
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."
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."
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 (Early), May 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 26 (Early), April 16 (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 5 (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 5 (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 (Regular)
In this eight-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, typically closes May
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
- 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 it in the comments!