I’m writing this post, mostly for myself. There is money to support creative documentary projects. There is even money out there that matches the goal of our nonprofit, Eclectic Reel. I am writing this to remind myself that I could take time to do more research on finding and applying for those.
Before the list of resources let me begin by saying. . . the overarching goal should be to find funders that already have an existing goal that overlaps with your documentary project idea. And yes, I would say that it’s best to have a rough plan for a documentary film idea. Know your theme. Know the story that will tell your theme in an interesting way. I would encourage you to at least do a bit of writing on those two ideas. You can then go look for funding sources that match that goal. Alternatively, you could spend some time looking at the resources available and then reverse engineer the process. The danger here is that you may be less passionate about the idea (unless you really find a funder that matches your vision as a director).
Also, know that grant writing takes time and rejection should be an expected part of the process. Write Grants. Seek feedback when you are rejected. Adapt. Rewrite. Try again. No just means that you haven’t found the right match for your documentary idea (or that you have not communicated that idea clearly or communicated it in a way that the funder can see that it matches their own funding goals).
Places to start?
First, I recommend local nonprofits in your area that overlap your vision as filmmaker (or organization). Don’t underestimate the power of local community contacts. Also, don’t forget that most faith communities are nonprofits. If you can find one to collaborate with this can turn in to a long term collaboration effort. Much of the funding for our films have come from faith communities that support human rights work and indigenous organizations.
Next, expand that search to your region. Many times there may be specific grants (or tax incentives) by state or region. In Washington state there are two resources you should know about:
Here’s other places that will give you a start for funding:
Good luck and if you see me ask me how my grant writing is going.
This past summer we spent 2 months on the Island of Guimaras in the Philippines. We met many people in many different communities and there are many possible projects, but one stands out.
We met many people working on environmental conservation. The Island has turtles who come back to nest on the Island. These are the big sea turtles who, as adults, migrate around Asia. This past year there were over 100 turtles that hatched and swam away so we know that the nesting spots are still being used, but the turtles are still at risk. (By chance, as we visited one beach, a fully grown adult turtle washed ashore—dead.)
The fisheries staff are working with local barangays (communities) to set up protected areas that will ensure adequate fish for future generations of fisher-folk as well as safe nesting beaches for turtles. After seeing increased fish numbers in a neighboring marine protected area, the local fishing communities are 100% supportive (enthusiastically so!) of the marine sanctuary developments. Meanwhile, the tourist industry (particularly the ‘island-hopping’ boats) continue to damage the coral reefs that support a healthy ecosystem for the turtles, fish, and communities that depend on them.
The municipality of Jordan has a new mayor and new SB officers (councilors) that are committed to improving tourism in Jordan and the rest of the province. While they want to make the tourist sites accessible to visitors, they also realize that they need to educate the stakeholders (tourism operators, boat drivers, tourists, etc.) about the protected resources on the island. The mayor and the council have already approved a resolution for marine sanctuary policies (for tourists and local communities). The municipality has asked us to help them educate the stakeholders regarding safe practices, policies and penalties/fines. We have already done some preliminary planning with a Peace Corps Volunteer and local fisheries technician to come up with the overall plan for the educational video.
An underwater camera would really help the fisheries staff to be able to document what is happening and would also allow them to loan out the camera to community members to document what is happening. We are currently fundraising to send a go pro underwater camera system to help the community get footage to be used in the education videos.