Short Film Grants
A topic-oriented short film has a topic of social relevance at its core. Substance abuse, poverty, the environment, homelessness… these are all examples of a short film with a socially relevant topic. This is important as it is MUCH easier to get donations of time, equipment and materials when there is an “approach” behind the short film.
In the mid 1990’s I could have a 12 minute 35mm short film made for under a thousand dollars, an absolutely outrageous sum. Catering, locations, short film footage and development, other accessories, equipment – almost everything was funded by generous donations as the short film had two major social issues as its main themes – child abuse and its consequent link to drug abuse in later life.
Short Film Grants
Finding funding for your short film is often more difficult than making the actual film. Waiting for your agent, producers, or anyone else to show up and give you the funds you need can be demoralizing. But finding short film grants doesn’t have to be impossible! Because there are short film grants for every filmmaker.
Not only are they within reach, but you don’t have to exhaust yourself to look for them. Today we are discussing how to find and apply for the perfect short film grants for your project and we have attached the most comprehensive list of short film grants just for you. Let’s dive in!
The method? Go through production directories and cold calls until you can’t speak anymore. A typical pitch went like this: “We’re working on a short film that deals with some pretty intense social issues, and we were wondering if there’s someone we can talk to about a donation…” It takes a lot of calls, but it works .
In a way, getting donations is quite easy as many production companies are willing to contribute. The difficulty of this alternative to short film grants lies in the additional coordination effort, because you have to adapt your schedule to the sponsors.
An example of this is that we had to cancel a film shoot two weekends in a row because the 35mm camera that was donated to us was not available because it was fully booked for a paid shoot (a reality that has to be accepted with this approach).
But once the rental company’s schedule was settled, we owned the camera and were free to shoot, saving hundreds of dollars in rental fees.
Another problem with this route is producer coordination. It’s better if you have a specific producer working on fundraising as that in and of itself is a full time job. It’s best to have one producer manage the shooting logistics and another manage the donations.
Although our team was able to accomplish a lot with very little money, the short film ended up suffering because the director/producer (me) was overburdened with managing the logistics and had less time for creative shooting, acting, etc. A unique producer who handles donations , will solve this problem!
How To Research For Short Film Grants?
One of the first places to go when researching short film grants is right at your fingertips. It’s the internet. You want to start looking for the film organizations that give short film grants specifically for work at each stage of project development.
This gives you flexibility with your project so you don’t have to worry about completing the rough draft of the script or hiring actors before you’re ready.
Another way to use the internet to search for short film grants that support national and international artists. Some grants only sponsor their area or location. By searching various forums online, you will discover entities sponsoring anyone from anywhere. This in turn gives the applicant some flexibility.
Traditionally, the search for short film grants takes place in the library. There are dozens of sources to help you start your search. Starting at home, you’ll want to ask the librarian for a list of grants that serve your locale.
This makes it easier for you to drop something in the company mailbox or meet the scholarship manager in person before applying.
Personal contact can become a success factor. Sponsors may want to see you in person and get an idea of who you are before they consider your work. You can also use the library to help you write an actual scholarship.
Many speakers come to the library for tutorial demonstrations and networking meetings. There are often monthly themes that focus on how to get a scholarship or the dos and don’ts of scholarship writing. The great thing about the public speakers in the library is that they are affiliated with the grant organizations.
This is an opportunity to hear them speak in person and meet with them briefly in person after the talk. Acquiring short film grants from a variety of different sources has its benefits, if you make the most of your time and resources you will have your project funded in no time.
How To Apply For A Short Film Grant?
When applying for short film grants for funding, you need to be aware of the rules and take your time with each application. These scholarships will no doubt receive hundreds of annual submissions, but many applicants will not meet the criteria.
As a producer, it pays to have a list of short film grants handy because you never know when a future project might be a perfect fit. So make sure to bookmark this page for future reference!
The Best 15 Short Film Grants
Below is a list of the best feature film funding scholarships open to US filmmakers. All of these scholarships are still open and accepting submissions throughout the year.
1. AUSTIN FILM GRANTS
The Austin Film Society awards grants ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 specifically for Texas-based filmmakers. Feature film submissions open each spring. And you can submit your short film for funding at any stage of production.
The application is open to all, but they pay special attention to supporting women and people in communities of color.
CineReach supports a variety of films in all genres with investments ranging from $5,000 to $50,000. Your submission portal is open all year round. And they support short films at every stage of production, but especially value films in the early stages of development.
3. CREATIVE CAPITAL
Creative Capital offers grants of up to $50,000 specifically for artists. And that includes filmmakers who work in documentary or experimental cinema. Their applications open in February each year. In the past they have mainly funded short films, but there are no rules limiting film length.
4. ITVS OPEN CALL
ITVS offers full production financing of up to $350,000 for documentaries. The financing rounds take place every year in February and July. They are particularly looking for documentaries that take risks and address important issues.
You can participate at any stage of production and must be an independent filmmaker (who has not previously worked for a major film studio).
5. JEROME FOUNDATION
The Jerome Foundation is aimed at directors based in Minnesota or New York and provides grants of up to $30,000. It is primarily aimed at new filmmakers who need support with production and post-production financing. Applications are opened each spring and all genres are accepted.
6. MILLER/PACKAN FILM FUND
The Miller/Packan Film Fund seeks documentaries that enlighten, inspire and enrich the world. They have open calls each season and offer short film grants of up to $25,000. Their film project needs to be non-fiction, and they like stories that address social issues or deal with environmental issues.
7. PBS INDEPENDENT LENS
PBS has a graduation grant for documentaries that are well suited for television broadcast. It’s free for everyone and they accept submissions all year round. Funding levels will vary by project and they will edit films for TV broadcast (60-90 minute segments).
8. MOVING IMAGES INSTITUTE
The MPI awards scholarships, workshops and support for filmmakers throughout the year. They don’t state how big the awards are, just that they vary in size. MPI support is aimed specifically at new, aspiring filmmakers; the workshops take place in Los Angeles or New York.
The Fiscal Sponsorship program funds non-commercial projects through tax-exempt donations.
9. PANAVISION NEW FILMMAKER PROGRAM
Panavision offers equipment grants for film students and low-budget filmmakers. All filmmakers can apply and submissions are accepted throughout the year. These kits are for film schools, training programs or independent filmmakers. Given for free (or for a small fee).
10. PARE LORENTZ
The Pare Lorentz Grant offers grants ranging from $15,000 to $25,000 for documentaries that highlight issues in the United States. Submissions are possible every summer. In addition, each year there is a selected documentary topic.
For example, this year’s theme was criminal justice. The application is open to all and supports short films in the production or post-production phase.
11. ROY W. DEAN SHORT FILM GRANTS
The Roy W. Dean film grant offers a wide range of funding for films that make a social contribution. The submission portal opens every year in spring, summer and autumn.
Funding amounts vary by project, but are open to any independent film with a budget of $500,000 or less. They also offer grants to help with equipment and distribution costs.
12. SLOAN SCIENCE IN CINEMA
The Science In Cinema Filmmaker Fellowship is for any film that represents science education. Science education does not include science fiction, but specifically films that deal with scientific or theological topics.
In addition, they have other film funding programs; including the Rainin Grant, a $25,000 short film grants that address social justice issues.
13. THE GREEN ROOM
The Green Room is a $50,000 grant available free of charge to all filmmakers and applicants each winter. Unlike other grants, projects can be of any genre or project type. And that includes features, documentaries, short films, web series and experimental cinema.
14. VISION MAKER MEDIA
Vision Maker Media is for films that represent people from the Native American community. Their applications are open all year round. In particular, they look for projects that address current issues that reflect a shift in identity in the Native American community.
15. WOMEN IN FILM
Women In Film offers a range of funding opportunities specifically for female short filmmakers. One of their funding programs is a film finishing fund that opens every year in winter. Not only do they sponsor films, they also offer workshops and mentoring programs for female color filmmakers.
Filmmaking, theater and performing arts are very fun professions, but it’s also a business. And like any other business, it’s riddled with many of the same problems. Nine out of ten companies will fail within five years. Of those who survive, nine out of ten will eventually fail.
And if it took 100% of your effort just to get your foot in the door, it will take 200% to keep the momentum going and 500% to keep your success going once you’ve achieved it.
Aim, but be realistic (artistic and financial) about your goals. It’s very tempting to just dismiss the business, financial, and bureaucratic side of art and filmmaking, but if you take a hands-on, step-by-step approach, you have an infinitely greater chance of success than you ever will.
If you have an “I’m not interested in business or return on investment. It’s all about the “art” attitude.
So, Best Of Luck For Short Film Grants.