With every level of creativity and experience in making a feature or short film, there are levels of hard work and dedication that goes in behind the scenes. Many aspiring filmmakers find ways to finance their projects through crowdfunding, but a film grant is just as vital. Unfortunately, funding is the biggest hurdle to getting a film project produced for many up-and-coming filmmakers who have limited avenues to get them made.

Maybe it’s a finished script or a passion project sitting in a closet gathering dust for several years. Film grants are a way for those ambitious enough to realize their dream of creating their first short or feature-length film. Many organizations are out willing to make that a reality. Some directors start a Kickstarter page or ask friends and loved ones for loans, but other viable solutions are out there.

Numerous organizations are willing to finance the Yet, there is a great deal of competition and applicants applying for the same grant, but here are some tips to help those that wish to stand tall above the rest.

Research

One thing to know is that not all grants are created equal. Many are looking to support a particular type of filmmaker or project. Research is where aspiring filmmakers will have to do their due diligence and research each foundation to see if their grants are a better fit for them. Read their requirements and deadlines, and check out the company or nonprofit websites to better understand who they are and why they are offering the grant.

A filmmaker should also find grants that fit their project’s scope, genre, and values.

Exploring the information on the foundation will better help cater the application to their specific goals. Many grants are distinctive such as supporting first-time female filmmakers, films on social impact or issue, a particular genre, minorities, and others of that caliber. The more a filmmaker knows about the grant, the better their chances of finding the right one. Another great advantage is getting to know the decision-makers.

Audience

Many of these foundations are run by board members or a committee of filmmaking industry members. Knowing the audience will help an applicant’s chance of getting awarded a film grant. Inquiry about who is on these boards and what their background is. Many of those involved want the highest quality projects that signify their organization’s values and resonate with the individuals on the committee. But don’t stop there.

It can be valuable to reach out to board members to see if their mission and the organization’s mission match the filmmaking seeking. Knowing the audience and what they’re looking for will shape the proposal for success. Preparation for the application is the next step in the journey for film grant awards.

Prepping

No two grant applications are the same, and time and dedication to feeling them are crucial and should be handled carefully. It’s not something filmmakers can throw together in a day and requires serious thought and planning. Organizing and using a checklist will allow the person time to put together an effort to be thoughtful about their answers. Time will also allow details on budgeting and production logistics.

Film grant decision-makers are looking at how a filmmaker will spend their award. They want to see a comprehensive list of how the applications budgets, schedules, and a well-thought-out plan. A serious filmmaker will create a catalog to show how funds will be used responsibly. The most time-intensive and research-heavy part of the proposal is getting a budget together.

Another part of preparing to fill out film grants is recommendations. Recommendations can come from peers like collaborators, professors, or those the filmmakers have worked with on past projects. Most applications now require recommendations and these committees want to see that these filmmakers are supported by someone whose judgment and background the committee can trust. It will increase a filmmaker’s credibility and chances.

With time, a budget breakdown and recommendations are critical elements that will help the filmmaker in the next part of the film grant process.

Standing Out

Getting a film is just as competitive as getting a movie made. Thousands of applicants hope to be rewarded and one step closer to achieving their artistic dreams. One of these efforts is a treatment for their movie. The film treatment is the crucial document for insight into the movie. A detailed plot summary that breaks down the film’s characters, story points, and tone will be a significant persuasion point for grant committees. Another helpful tool is visual aids.

When pitching a film concept, it should always come with visual aids. A visual treatment like a “mood board” or “lookbook” allows the committee image on the screen and the feeling the filmmaker is trying to evoke. This technique can include links to convey style, location photos, or casting. Another visual aid that will always be handy is a demo reel.

Demo reels provide a snapshot into a filmmaker’s style and show a filmmaker’s work’s quantity and overall quality. This reel is essential because it showcases the person as a filmmaker and their attempts to put in the hard work. Many directors try to show as many projects as possible and display their “greatest hits” of shots, scenes, and moments to give the audience a general overview of their work. However, if the director has a feature-length or short film in their back pocket, that’s also a plus.

A full-length, short film or music is necessary to get a well-rounded picture. These pieces of work will convey the filmmaker’s sense of style, editing, directing the cast, building tension, and creating story arcs. The film grant board members judge the merit of a filmmaker and give them a closer view of what the potential film could be if completed.

With all the filmmaker’s ducks in a row, they can go on to fill out the application.

Applying

A director’s time should be dedicated to filling out these applications and as many as possible. A filmmaker’s desirable grant is waiting to be found, but they tend to see ten more that might be a good fit and apply to all of them. The more they apply, the more chances they have of getting funding and opening an opportunity to perfect the application process. Grants will ask for something the filmmaker hadn’t thought of before and could enhance their proposal for future funding. Let’s not forget that grammar is vital, and an application filled with misspelled words could cost a filmmaker their chances.

These grant committees are getting hundreds of applications and won’t waste time on them.

As mentioned earlier, passion for the film goes a long way. Zeal and excitement can sometimes be the difference between getting funding for a director’s project and failing. However, the filmmaker should be genuine in their words. False enthusiasm is easy to spot, and speaking from the heart will come across in the application. Don’t forget to follow the film grant application requirements when filling out the form and follow-ups.

Conclusion

Independent filmmaking comes with great freedom and challenges but is worth it. Many of those who are looking to uplift filmmakers are there to help. They’re not there to be gatekeepers but supporters with their own rules to follow. Understanding and following the applications’ requirements will help directors realize their dream of creating art and begin their filmmaking journey.