Meet Yet Another Grantmaker Embracing the Promise of Multi-Media Storytelling

One of the more intriguing trends in arts philanthropy as of late is funders' enthusiasm for storytelling.

For compelling proof, look no further than our recent post looking at the creation of the Flex Fund, whereby the Ford and Skoll Foundations will provide second-stage funding for joint projects by social entrepreneurs and filmmakers that aim to reduce inequality.

"We believe creative visual storytelling is vital to the pursuit of justice and equity in the 21st century," Ford said through its press release.

So, storytelling is clearly important—but there's a catch. The underlying thesis of Ford's endorsement of the form suggests that there's storytelling and then there's storytelling. In other words, we could spin a fascinating tale to you over a cup of coffee at the nearby cafe, but this kind of "storytelling," broadly speaking, is less impactful than creating a multimedia end product brought to fruition with the help of experts.

It's precisely this logic that also guides a new incubator program made possible by the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation.

The Saul Zaentz Innovation Fund in Film and Media at John Hopkins University aims to "empower and embolden new voices by bringing unique projects to life, connects selected applicants with prestigious artists, veteran executives, and successful entrepreneurs to further develop and produce their projects."

Initiatives include a mentoring program, an intensive lab where fellows analyze and improve their projects, and Brain Trust meetings where special industry guests lead brainstorming sessions to try and solve project-specific challenges.

The fund welcomes all kinds of projects related to audio-visual content development, production, and delivery, including short and feature-length screenplays, documentaries, virtual reality projects, experimental work, new production models, and more. What's more, the fund will also consider technology, video game, and emerging media projects. One caveat: While applicants can hail from anywhere in the states, all projects accepted into the incubator must be developed and produced in Baltimore.

And as Hollywood continues to grabble with its diversity problem, it's also worth noting that the incubator program isn't plagued by similar difficulties. "From transgender artists and a 50+ year old African American producer to a Jewish writer and an African American lesbian preacher," the program states, "the fellows' races, ages, religions and genders vary much like the stories they are telling."

To followers of Saul Zaentz, this support for the incubator makes perfect sense. After all, as previously noted, the the Saul Zaentz Company has provided consistent financial support to the Berkeley FILM Foundation. And the incubator fund itself was launched in March 2016 through a $1 million grant from the Saul Zaentz Charitable Foundation.

Interested artists can fill out and submit an application form at zaentzfund.com. The application period for the fund opens Monday, August 1st.