Funding sources for documentarians

Funding sources for documentarians

- June 18, 2020

Documentarians looking for funding at various stages of production may never have had so many options. Literally thousands of funds are available to help in getting documentaries started in pre-production or completing projects in post-production.
We’ve whittled down the myriad of sources to seven that award funding in the pre-production part of the process. Some funding requires the awardee to have a 501c3 fiscal sponsor, but the below-listing do not. Check the links on each for specifics on each fund.
The Filmmaker Fund rewards up to $75,000 to projects at any stage of production. The fund’s mission statement is “primarily to remove the obstacles that lie in the way of great work.” These funders will even stay with the final project om giving advice on attending film festivals and distribution strategy; as a bonus, every funding recipient is invited the Filmmaker Fund annual creative retreat in California.
The Fledgling Fund supports documentaries with grants of between $10,000 and $25,000; Fledgling is looking for projects which have the “unique power to inspire, educate and mobilize diverse and sometimes overlooked audiences.” Though this fund takes international applicants, priority is given to those documentaries focused on “the urgency and impact of climate change” and aimed at US audiences.
Ford Foundation JustFilms. The Ford Foundation has an untold amount of funding available to the arts, including the JustFilms fund for documentaries. The pitch will be important when applying with the Ford Foundation, as any amount may be awarded. At present, JustFilms is seeking “artist-driven film and new media storytelling projects that explore aspects of inequality.”
ITVS short-form documentary open call is exactly what it sounds like: A year-round funding program for between $25,000 and $40,000 for short documentary films. Documentarians can even get up tot $26,000 for projects not yet begun. ITVS even provides development support and oncsulting on moving the project forward.
Roy W. Dean Film Grants. The Dean Film Grants support all types of films, including documentaries, with budgets of $500,000 or less. Three Roy W. Dean Film Grants are available yearly and are dispensed in spring, summer and autumn. One for Spring, Summer, and Fall. The awards for each grant are listed below. And any applicant gets a free 15-minute consultation on the specific project and on improving one’s proposal.
• The Sundance Documentary Film Fund is just one branch of the varied production work the Film festival organizers do for independent filmmakers of all stripes. Their documentary funding may cover certain aspects of the filmmaking process. The filmmaker may be awarded $20,000 for pre-production or even for audience engagement (!) after production. Up to $50,000 may be given projects already in production.
• The Tribeca Film Institute Documentary Fund is similar in cachet and resources to the Sundance fund, awarding between $25,000 and $50,000 for documentaries that “spotlight contemporary themes with unique, creative filmmaking.”

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