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How to apply for a film grant

Funders look at hundreds of film applications every round, so any application you make should be as detailed and as striking as possible.
Elements of a successful film grant application

The success of your application will probably depend upon what elements you have in place.

The quality of your script, the director, the director of photography and acting talent that you have attached. It is important to maximise all these elements in order to make your application as enticing as possible.

  • Professional Capacity of the Applicant
  • Artistic strength, vision and originality
  • Project Feasibility
  • Potential Benefit to the Grant
  • Potential Impact on the field

"Finding support during the early stages is best...it is true that to be competitive in development it helps to have some footage that represents your project. AND when applying for production funds you are often expected to have strong sequences already shot and edited. BUT don’t let this discourage you.

Applying for grant funding should be approached like an important part of the creative process.

My strategy is to apply for foundation funding early and often. I really believe working to articulate your thoughts and communicate creative vision is a part of the process of making the film. It helps push the project forward whether or not your project gets support. Meeting deadlines also helps create a different type of needed structure.

Also, do your research: apply to film grants at the appropriate stage and for projects that match what the funder is looking for.

Most grantmakers have thorough FAQs and guidelines on their websites."

The following could help make your application stand out:

  • CVs: Including those of Producer, Director, Writer, Actors, Director of Photography, Production Designer
  • Budgets & Schedules
  • A concise paragraph outlining your idea: From a creative and technical point of view (e.g. the director’s vision, the distribution plans for the film etc).
  • Storyboards & Mood Boards: It's really important to illustrate your idea. Applications with storyboards or mood boards stand out far more than those without a visual element. Storyboards are graphic illustrations of the shots & scenes in your film. If you're not confident about drawing the storyboard yourself, why not seek out someone who is? e.g. a student artist, trainee storyboard artist etc Mood boards are like scrapbooks or collages that visually convey the mood, feel and look of your film e.g. photos, cuttings, drawings, influences etc.
  • Make an impression: It sounds obvious but typed treatments/ideas/applications are far easier to read and provide a much neater overview then a hastily written piece of scrap paper. Check for spelling errors/typos, label everything, and make sure your application delivers a first (positive) impression that will help your work stand out from the rest.
  • Showreel: Most funders will want to see examples of your work, so a well put together showreel is essential. If you haven't made a complete film, your showreel could include: graphic design, a photo gallery, ads, virals etc 

In order for an applicant to be eligible for support, the applicant must:

  1. Be the primary rights holder of the project;
  2. Be the director or producer attached with the film project.

In all cases both the director and producer must:

Have at least one previous professional credit to their name.

In order for a project to be eligible for support, the project must:

Be of high quality and suitable for theatrical release and/or television broadcast to audiences both locally and internationally.

What does ‘previous professional credit’ mean?

The director and producer on each project must have at least one previous professional credit to their name.

Professional credits include having previously worked on one of the following: a documentary or fiction film commercially released either locally or internationally, a documentary or fiction film and/or series broadcast on television either locally or internationally, a documentary or fiction film that has screened in at least an international film festival.

Eligible professional credits include but are not limited to: producer, director, associate producer, executive producer, DOP, editor, etc.

Be of high quality and suitable for theatrical release and/or broadcast to audiences internationally;
If there is a registered production company associated with the project

Whenever possible, trailers and sample footage should be sent via an online link such as Vimeo or YouTube. Both Vimeo and YouTube. allow for free password protected uploads of videos. 

What supporting documents do I need to provide?

There are three types of supporting documents that you may be requested to provide.

Proof of Ownership of Content
Government Issued Incorporation Documents

It may not be required or possible to provide these documents with your application. If you cannot provide them or do not require them please explain on the form in the space provided.

Proof of Ownership of Content - Please provide option agreements, or project chain of title agreements (when applicable).

An OPTION AGREEMENT is:

  • An agreement that demonstrates you optioned a book or piece of existing intellectual property to make a film (in the case where your project is based on a book or a piece of intellectual property).
  • An agreement that demonstrates you optioned the life rights for a character in a film (in the case where your project is entirely based around the life story of a central character/ subject).

see Film Contracts

Chain of Title Documents

A CHAIN OF TITLE AGREEMENTS is a series of documentation which establishes the proprietary rights of a film (ie. authorship rights, contributions), which defines who the owner of the proprietary rights is in the intellectual property of the film.

A CHAIN OF TITLE AGREEMENT is:

  • Copyright on music (in the case where music is a central focus of your story, and obtaining rights to that music is imperative to the project).
  • Trademark clearances (in the case where a “brand or “logo” is a central focus of your story, and obtaining rights to that trademark is imperative to the project).
  • Talent agreements, including DOP, or releases from subjects, characters, life rights (in the case where the participation of the central character is imperative to the project).
  • Proof of Errors and Omissions Insurance (in the case that the subject matter of your story increases your chances of risk or liability and protection against this is necessary).
  • Government issued incorporation documents of Production Company - Please provide documents supporting the history of corporate ownership or company chain of title agreements.

If you are applying in association with a production company, you should be able to provide one of the following official documents to prove the existence of your company as a registered business.

If you cannot provide one of the following documents you have the option of explaining why, as we are aware that different incorporation standards exist within each region.

GOVERNMENT ISSUED INCORPORATION DOCUMENTS OF A PRODUCTION COMPANY are:

A certificate of incorporation (a legal document relating to the formation of a company or corporation). It is a license to form a corporation.
Any documentation issued by the state government that indicates the existence and recognition of your production company.
A company chain of title (an agreement indicating the transfer of ownership of a production company into your current holding).

Synopsis (max. 3 pages)
Treatment (max. 12 pages)
Director's statement (max. 3 pages)
Producer’s biography and filmography
Director’s biography and filmography
Producer’s statement
Budget topsheet
Financial plan and secured financing
Written explanation on the finance strategy (max. 1 page)
Written audience engagement plan (max. 1 page)
Production schedule
Previous work of the director: online available on streaming platform (such as Vimeo)

Compile all items above in one pdf or Word document and reply within one week of the notification e-mail you received. Only complete dossiers will be taken into consideration.

My project has been pre-selected and you asked me to send a treatment. However I think my script represents my project much better. Can I send my script?

No. Due to the amount of applications we receive, our selection committee is not in a position to read scripts.

What is a treatment?

A treatment is generally longer and more detailed than a synopsis and it may include details of directorial style. A treatment reads like a story: it is the full story of the film in it's simplest form. The average number of pages is between 7 - 12 pages.

What type of budget plan should I submit?

An estimated top-sheet will suffice. In other words we are interested in knowing the general budget of the film.

see Film Proposal

What is a financial plan?

The financial plan should explain first of all which financiers you have on board and for which amount. Also indicate any pending fund applications. How would you like to cover the remaining financing?

see Film Business Plan

What is a production plan?

We don't need a full shooting schedule. We would like a simple timeline or calendar of the estimated period that you are developing the film, financing, when you ideally will go into production, in post production and what is your estimated date of finalizing the film. We are aware that these plannings are subject to change.

What is an audience engagement plan?

The environment in which independent films are distributed is constantly changing. That makes the distribution of your film difficult to predict. At the same time there is an even bigger need to think about appropriate and realistic distribution methods. We would like to read about your strategies for creating an awareness about your film. How do you intend to find and to attract your audience?

see Film Audience

What sort of previous work should I include?

Previous work is an important element in considering the project dossier. This is previous work of the director. This can be a short film, a documentary and/or a feature film. Please provide the committee with the work you think is most relevant in assessing the project at hand.
Please do not send showreels.

Application Cover Sheet

Project Treatment – a thoughtful, clear written description of what the plot or doc will encompass (1-2 pps)

Shooting Script (up to 20 pages, Narrative/Fiction projects only)

Artistic Statement – What you are trying to do artistically and how you will organize the elements into a coherent and interrelated dramatic whole? (1-2 pps; for docs; can be incorporated into project treatment)

Production Timeline

Fundraising Strategy – A key factor in determining our acceptance of a project is the filmmaking team’s ability to raise funding to complete the project. Include specific grants that you intend to pursue to meet your budget. Please include specific grant targets.

Budget – should be well-developed, realistic and consistent with your narrative that includes all phases for which you need fiscal sponsorship: development – pre-production – post-production – outreach. (top sheet acceptable)

Key Crew Bios – Principle personnel: Producer, Director, Writer, Cinematographer, Editor. (1 parag per)

1. Narrative Proposal

  • Synopsis/Treatment: (up to 4 single spaced pages) Provide a narrative synopsis that communicates the story your documentary will tell and presents a clear and concise vision for your finished film. Some questions you may wish to address include:
  • What is the story you plan to tell and how do you plan to tell it? Consider themes, characters, narrative-arc and point of view.
  • Why is the topic/story important?
  • What pressing issue does the film address and how does the project relate to the themes in work?
  • What is the stylistic and visual approach?
  • Are there specific creative elements you plan to employ in telling the story?
  • Are there challenges that this particular project presents and how you plan to address them?
  • Status and Time-line: (1-2 paragraphs) Provide a brief summary of the status of the project and a time-line for completion.
  • Funding Strategy: (1-2 paragraphs) What other sources do you plan to approach for funding and what is your overall strategy for raising the funds required to complete the project as described? Be specific.

Audience, Distribution and Outreach:

Discuss your strategic plan for distribution and outreach. Key questions to address include:

  • Who is the audience for your film?
  • How do you plan to reach your audience?
  • What is your distribution strategy?
  • What outreach activities are you considering in relation to your project?
  • How will you engage and interact with your audience?

 Resume and Bios of Key Personnel and Advisers:

Provide a resume for the primary applicant (Project Director).

In addition, give a brief 1-2 paragraph bio of each of the attached key creative personnel (e.g. Director, Producers, Co-Directors/Producers, Cinematographer, Editor, etc.) and key advisers, highlighting previous credits and relevant experience.

Having one or more content related advisers (i.e. historians, scientists, etc.) attached to the project is recommended if relevant to the subject being explored.

Budget
Save the budget as a single pdf document with the name ProjectTitle_Budget.pdf. You will need to upload this document to the online application.

Amount requested: State the amount you are requesting from the Fund (grants range from approximately $15,000 – $25,000) and list the production related expenses from your budget that the funds would be used to cover.

Also provide a one paragraph statement telling us how the amount requested would impact your film.

Line Item Budget: Provide a comprehensive line item budget including all expenses. We do not require a specific software or format, but the budget should be typed and broken down on a line item basis in the form of a spreadsheet.

A budget cover sheet or narrative budget summary alone is not adequate. Include detailed budget notes for any areas that may be viewed as out of the ordinary or which requires further explanation.

Sample Work

Provide a sample of the work in progress up to 15 minutes in length. You can provide a longer cut, but only the first 15 minutes will be considered. The work in progress can be cut scenes or selects, an early rough cut or a trailer. The sample work provided should accurately represent the film you plan to complete and provide an example of your overall stylistic and visual approach. It should include at least some originally shot footage. It may contain un-cleared footage and/or music. Sample works will need to be made available online through Vimeo.

Review Criteria

Do the Project Director and the project presented meet the grant goals and eligibility requirements?
Does the project tell a compelling story and address a pressing issue?
Does the project exemplify the spirit and nature of the grant?
Does the project take an innovative approach to the subject matter? Has the story been told before and if so, does this project's approach bring something new to the story?
Does the Project Director have the access necessary to tell the story in a compelling way?
What is the quality of the work sample provided? Does it have a strong visual style and does it reflect the spirit and nature of the grant, such as exhibiting high production values, artistic writing, outstanding music composition and skillful direction, camerawork and editing?
Is the treatment well written and does it give a clear picture of the film's story and themes.Does the treatment articulate the film's connection to the grant and its stated objectives?
Are the Project Director and production team assembled experienced and capable of completing the project as described?
Does the proposal identify an audience and a realistic plan for reaching and engaging that audience? Does the project have a realistic strategic plan for raising the remaining budget and a reasonable chance of securing public distribution in theatrical release, broadcast or cable television, or educational/ancillary distribution (to schools, museums, or other institutions)?
Is the budget thorough and realistic? Are line items in the budget within industry norms and standards?