Feeling Depressed About Funding for Film? Head Straight to the Issue Funders

In recent post, we asked if changes to MacArthur's approach to documentary filmmaking—namely, it will be outsourcing funding to partner organizations—will have an adverse impact on the field as a whole.

For a strictly financial standpoint, the prognosis doesn't look too good. Since MacArthur funds can be used by partner organizations for unrelated expenses like paying down general operating costs, filmmakers rightfully worry that major grants of $100,000 or more will be a thing of the past.

MacArthur's decision also signifies increased consolidation across the field, and with it, the need for filmmakers to set their sights on more specialized, issue-specific funding sources.

Fortunately, there are some good prospects out there for film-makers focusing on different subjects. 

Take the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Out of their nine stated program areas, perhaps the most intriguing is Public Understanding of Science, Technology, and Economics. Sloan is concerned about our collective lack of scientific knowledge.

And so it's working to educate the public using the power of film. Most recently, Sloan awarded a three-year, $399,824 grant to the New York City-based Museum of the Moving Image for the continued support and expansion of its online publication devoted to the intersection of science and film. (By the way, would it have killed Sloan to round up that figure by a mere $176?)

As previously noted, the Sloan Film Program supports filmmakers at every stage of development—from screenplays to post-production to theatrical distribution—who create "dramatic and engaging narrative films that incorporate science and technology themes or characters, or challenge stereotypes of scientists, mathematicians, or engineers."

"We are very excited to continue our collaboration with the innovative Museum of the Moving Image, which maintains the most comprehensive, go-to site for Sloan's nationwide film program including over 500 award-winning film projects, more than a dozen renowned institutional partners, and some of the most gifted emerging and established filmmakers in the country," said Doron Weber, Vice President and Program Director at the Sloan Foundation.

And so Sloan's grant to the museum stands as a nice counterpoint to MacArthur's recent shift. While the latter is handing off funding to a cadre of various scattered partners and giving filmmakers heartburn, Sloan continues to pour money into its issue-specific mission, giving hope to filmmakers, producers, and universities looking to boost Americans' science proficiency.