Grant Guidance: Government, State, and Private Funds for Filmmakers
A state-by-state resource list of film funders.December 15th, 2008 | Vanessa Willoughby
Although arts funding is not exactly at its peak, grants remain an essential source of financing for many independent filmmakers. Learning to navigate the grant research and application process, of course, can be quite a challenge. Some filmmakers jest that they spend more time fundraising than making their films. In an effort to combat that, The Independent created this resource to list state government grants in addition to some key private sources for film funding.
Whereas some funders will offer grants to individuals, many funders require individual filmmakers to have a fiscal sponsor. Nonprofit organizations like Film Video Arts, Center for Independent Documentary or Documentary Educational Resources act as the tax-exempt umbrella for individual filmmakers. Typically, a fiscal sponsor takes approximately five percent of any money raised. In return, individual filmmakers may receive administrative support.
Established by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is the nation's largest annual funder of the arts, funding art in all 50 states, including rural areas, inner cities, and military bases. For more information, visit the NEA grants section. Since the NEA is required by law to redistribute 40 percent of its budget to state arts agencies, each state has its own agency (see state-by-state list below) which funds and supports the arts. For more about state arts agencies, see the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies website. Other government grants for media and visual arts are sometimes available through National Endowment for the Humanities. The government maintains a website at Grants.gov in order to help find and apply to grants.
There are numerous other non-government grant-making organizations that support the media arts throughout the country. United States Artists supports American artists working across diverse disciplines, such as architecture, dance, media, visual arts, etc., with unrestricted cash grants. To see the past fellows and grant application procedure, visit their website. Grants from the Independent Television Service (ITVS) [see related article] offer completion funds for documentary projects to be featured on public television. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting also accepts applications for the Program Challenge Fund.
Numerous nonprofits offer grants for filmmakers nationwide like the Sundance Institute which offers the Sundance/Sloan Commissioning Grant and the Sundance Documentary Fund. Similarly, the Tribeca Film Institute funds both narrative and documentary projects through their Tribeca All Access program and their Gucci Tribeca Documentary Finishing Fund. Other organizations support specific types of projects like Black Rock Arts Foundation which funds interactive artworks throughout the world; the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media supports media activism by funding the pre-production and distribution of social issue film and video projects; or the Roy W. Dean Film and Writing Grants which are now available for shorts and low budget independents as well as documentary filmmakers.
It is nearly impossible to provide a comprehensive list of all film funders in the country. However, what follows will give you a running start of the key resources as well as the individual agencies and organizations in your state.
West Virginia :
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