National Film Preservation Foundation: Grants for College Performing Arts

OVERVIEW: The National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) was created by a 2008 congressional act to preserve American films, as well as improve access to them for study and exhibition. College and university libraries, archives, and related institutions have been frequent recipients of NFPF funding.

IP TAKE: If your passion lies in preserving historically significant films for posterity, this is the foundation for you.

PROFILE: The National Film Preservation Foundation (NFPF) was created in 2008 by way of the Library of Congress Sound Recording and Film Preservation Programs Reauthorization Act of 2008 with a primary focus on saving already-produced American films that would not likely survive without public support.

The foundation’s priority is to save “American orphan films of historic and cultural interest,” which it pursues through all three of its grant programs:

Basic Preservation Grants: for preservation of “orphan films” (works that have been abandoned by their owners or copyright holders) and that are “(1) made in the United States or by American citizens abroad and (2) not protected by commercial interests. Grant amounts range from $1,000 to $18,000 in cash and/or donated laboratory services. This grant must be used to incorporate “new film preservation elements” (such as the soundtrack), to create “[t]wo new public access copies,” and/or to create “[c]losed captioning for sound films destined for online or television exhibition.”

Matching Grants: for “complex, large-scale preservation, reconstruction, or restoration projects involving a single film or film collection of special cultural, historic, or artistic significance.” Grant amounts range from $18,001 to $40,000, but—as the program title suggests—the organization receiving the grant must “match” at least twenty percent of this gift through another avenue of funding. The bigger scope of this grant means that the foundation requires that applicants have previous experience restoring a film with a NFPF grant.

Avant-Garde Masters Grants: for “preservation of a film or films by a single filmmaker or from a cinematic group significant to the development of avant-garde film in America,” though “[w]orks made in the past 20 years are not eligible.” Grant amounts range from $5,000 to $50,000.

Recent grantee organizations have included museums, film cooperatives, and, yes, colleges and universities from Alaska to South Carolina. Just a handful of postsecondary organizations that have been funded by NFPF over the years include Indiana University, U.C. Berkeley, Emory University, the University of Idaho, University of Minnesota, and University of Georgia.

NFPF keeps a detailed grant search engine where you can look up previous years’ grantees as well (or you can peruse by state).

All three grants require that you be a public or 501(c)(3) organization to apply for support. All three also have an open application process. Keep in mind, however, that these are complex and detailed applications that require thorough discussion and analysis of the “significance” of the film (i.e. its uniqueness, historical significance, and worthiness for preservation), your goals for its future study and exhibition, your experience in preservation, your budget, and your facilities.

Note as well the foundation’s emphasis that, “Materials originally created for television or video are not eligible, including works produced with funds from broadcast or cable television entities.” Also worth pointing out is that not all grants need be focused on preserving performative pieces. Indeed, NFPF funding has frequently gone to universities to preserve documentaries, home or travel recordings of or by important historical figures, and other non-fiction recordings of historical significance.

It’s also a multi-part process. There’s a registration deadline (late January or early February, depending upon the grant) to determine your eligibility. After passing that stage, there is then a full application deadline about one month later (again dependent upon the grant). Applications must be submitted in hard copy.


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