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Funding documentary film projects around the world

Fact: documentaries are a popular form of art

These are the basics, but some grantees are more interested in some works and less in others. A grant focused on a specific social impact or issue will focus on the "why" of the project, while a grant aimed at supporting an aspiring filmmaker may focus more on the "who".

It is good to know that many scholarships and awards only accept applications once a year. It's worth reading their website to see if they're right for you, or checking their social channels for the latest future funding announcements and application deadlines.

Fact: documentaries are a great way to share your story

We believe that short documentaries play a unique role in pushing forward the form that we know and love. We encourage creative risk-taking in form and content. For some of you and your communities, we understand that current conditions may create boundaries for how you make your films so, as with all filmmakers, we encourage you to think expansively about the film you want to make. Perhaps your film is to be made locally or collaboratively? As ever we remain deeply committed to films that shed new light on the climate crisis and those that respond to the changing world around us.

You love a good story. Basically, every documentary tells a story. It is a narrative film art and craft. This is true even of so-called essay films, which explore a thesis rather than tell a character-driven story. If nothing else, almost all essay films need to have stories in them for the essay to work. To make an argument function in an engaging way, you usually need a story to illustrate it.

Fact: documentaries can be a source of revenue

Documentary Educational Resources welcomes applications for fiscal sponsorship of film and media productions, particularly in projects that support the mission to foster cross-cultural understanding, but will consider a wide range of social issue documentaries.

Know where the money is. The brutal truth is that there’s not a lot of money in the documentary field. The number of projects that get proposed is huge relative to those that actually get commissioned and made. You have to become very good at figuring out who has money to spend, and how they spend it. Even at a very early stage or when you’re just getting into the industry, you need to develop a sense of which production companies, producers, directors and so on are well connected and actually have access to the fuel of documentary filmmaking: money.

Application tips:

In a world in which apps for mobile devices are like grains of sand, you can stand out from the competition with this straightforward and elegant proposal template. It’s easily adaptable to fit any industry, and more suited for Android operating systems, giving potential clients clear visuals of their future tech.

Start by covering the basics, and make sure you answer all the application questions with as much detail as possible. You want the reviewers to trust you know what you are doing with regards to film making as they read your application. Grant reviewers will not hand money over to just anyone, so sell yourself and your project in every paragraph. Like anything of importance, triple check for grammatical errors. A misspelled word could cost you a film grant, as everything is expected to be perfect.

Research funding sources

Last but not least, you can of course apply for official funding. There are plenty of opportunities out there, so it’s worth doing your research to find the right ones to apply to. Keep an eye on any schemes focused on emerging talent, such as BBC New Creatives and Channel 4’s Random Acts for short experimental films.

Take a look at these resources including funding for outreach and distribution, our favorite impact guide, relevant blogs, residencies, pitch opportunities, etc. We have found these organizations and tools invaluable while doing our work and we hope they will be useful to you too at different stages of your filmmaking journey. We will update and add resources weekly as new opportunities arise.

Craft an elegant proposal

Use this marketing agency proposal template to create beautiful, persuasive proposals for your prospective clients. It’s fully customizable and includes sections for describing your services, showcasing past projects, and displaying pricing packages. Adding your own branding, which will fit seamlessly with the rest of the template, is easy.

We hope that now that you've read through our proposal ideas, you have a better sense of how you're going to propose. Know it's going to be the best proposal ever? Don't forget to share your happy-tears-inducing story on How They Asked after your partner says "yes" (to the question and to sharing the deets.

Be aware of grant writing guidelines

These are the basics, but some grants are far more interested in some pieces and far less interested in others. A grant focused on a certain social impact or issue is going to be heavily focused on the “why” of the project, whereas a grant hoping to support a rising star filmmaker may be more interested in the “who”.

It’s good to note that many grants and awards only open once a year for applications. It’s worth reading their websites to get a sense of whether they might be right for you, or following their social channels to stay up to date on any future funding announcements and application deadlines.

Stay current with industry trends

In 2023, indications show that change in the media and entertainment business is likely to continue. Studios and video streamers face the reality of their own market disruption, trying to find profits in a less profitable business. They not only compete with each other for attention, time, and revenues, but with social media, user-generated content, and video games. The latter have evolved more quickly, staying close to younger demographics.

As we look ahead to 2023 and beyond, the E&M industry will strive to maintain its balance in a landscape riven by fault lines and fractures. But the overall growth path is both clear and strong. Over time, the increasing availability of compelling E&M content, services and experiences will attract a greater share of consumers’ attention.

By Roger K. Olsson

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