Philanthropic giving in the area of filmmaking falls into two general categories: Documentary film and narrative film. There are many subcategories and ancillary fields under each rubric, but there's not much room for ambiguity. If you're fresh out of film school and want to get your as-yet-undefined film project funded, you're not going to find much here. That goes without saying for most fields of interest, but lest there be any doubt, filmmaking grants are just as rigorous and competitive as any other.
We're keeping up with what filmmaking funders are doing in the field and everything we learn is contained in this guide. Profiles of all funders and program officers are regularly updated with new information.
Grants here are for social change through the arts, supporting out-of-the-box artists who are socially conscious and socially active. Favors artists working in digital and multimedia.
Bezos Family Foundation grantees include a substantial number of documentary film projects tackling the issue of education and opportunities for students.
Britdoc funds documentary filmmakers who spotlight underreported and unreported topics of importance. It also offers awards to creative storytellers.
This funder's grants support makers of short films and seek to build audiences for short films.
Catapult offers grants to documentary filmmakers and provide informal mentorship to filmmakers.
Cinereach grants are given to small and independent filmmakers involved in creating socially conscious films. They also administer the Reach Film Fellowship program with support from the Ford Foundation.
The Compton Foundation recently revamped its mission to include support for projects with "transformative leadership and courageous storytelling" and that inspires action toward a "peaceful, just, sustainable future." Their film grants are given to documentaries.
Creative Capital grants for film are limited to $50,000, but that’s not all they offer their grantees. Getting a Creative Capital grant means that you will get a ton of other help, too.
This law firm funder describes itself as “an enthusiastic supporter of cultural programs and initiatives" and is worth look at, so long as you create your work in one of the firm’s U.S. locations.
The foundation was created upon the death of famed music publisher Max Dreyfus, who worked with American greats like George Gershwin and Cole Porter. It provides smaller grants that can make a big difference.
This low-profile funder offers modest grants to documentary and narrative film projects.
The fund supports documentaries. It also offers filmmakers assistance with distribution strategies and film festivals.
Film Independent offers grants to creative, independent filmmakers and producers whose work supports diversity and "uniqueness of vision.”
With the motto of “helping stories take flight," the Fledgling Fund's aim is to help smaller films, documentary projects, and "creative media" projects with a social justice angle get off the ground and stay aloft.
This foundation makes substantial investments in arts and culture and supports a range of film projects and programs throughout the United States.
The Freese Documentary Fund awards up and coming documentarians up to $35,000 to finish projects.
Ford’s JustFilms Initiative is enormous. With it comes an enormous amount of competition. If your project has a social justice/human rights angle, you will have a better chance at a Ford grant. JustFilms grants range from $50,000 to $1 million and everywhere in between.
From the Heart Productions awards grants for short films, low budget independent features, web series, and documentaries.
Good Pitch brings documentary filmmakers together with foundations and other partners in a 7-minute, rapid-fire pitch session. Participants then give feedback and decide whether or not to pledge funding and other support.
Impact Partners supports independent documentary filmmaking that addresses contemporary social issues through grants to filmmakers and through a fellowship program for emerging filmmakers.
ITVS is all about documentaries and programs made for cable or public television. However, it does have a Diversity Development fund that offers grants for films on track for widescreen release. ITVS grants tend to range from between $15,000 to $100,000.
Through its grantmaking, the IDA supports documentary filmmakers with their filmmaking, production, and distribution costs.
The MacArthur Foundation provides the public with "high-quality, professionally produced documentary films, deep and analytical journalism, and well-produced news and public affairs programming." At present, all of its support for filmmaking is offered through partner organizations.
While primarily focused on bringing artistic expression into its region, this funder wants that artistic work to come from all around the world. This includes supporting the travel, accommodations, and appearance fees for filmmakers to share their work with the region.
The National Film Preservation Foundation has a specific commitment—to preserve the catalog of American film. If you're saving a historic and orphaned film, this is the foundation for you.
Park's film grants go to documentary projects that examine civil society, democracy, the environment and animal welfare.
The foundation established by the celebrated photographer supports human interest documentary filmmaking.
The San Francisco Film Society offers an array of support to individual filmmakers, screenwriters, and producers through its Filmmaker360 program, including help with project development, residencies, and a number of different grants.
ScreenCraft provides production grants for short films and online series.
In film, the Kevin Spacey Foundation awards grants to emerging artists who work in short film.
When it comes to film, Sundance garners more buzz and prestige than any other filmmaking initiative. Getting a nod from them is like being invited into the super-cool kids club.
Surdna's film grants go to artists and organizations whose filmmaking promotes cultural and economic development of their communities.
Time Warner Foundation supports diverse filmmaking schools and institutions.
Tribeca is Sundance’s twin, with equal buzz and prestige. Tribeca has a number of film grants that range from $10,000 to $100,000. Tribeca even offers small grants for all the young-buck filmmakers out there.
United States Artists gives out as many as 50 unrestricted $50,000 grants directly to artistic creators each year. Support for filmmakers is a significant aspect of this giving. It's a competitive grant.
Women In Film offers scholarships, grants, mentorship, and funds to female filmmakers and producers to finish their films.
Other Notable Funders
Heinz Endowment: Supporting film and video efforts in greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and surrounding cities. Grant amounts are far and wide ranging.
Jerome Foundation: Provides support to filmmakers in Minnesota and New York City through its MN/NYC Film and Video Grants program: Grants are generally $30,000 and under, but they do provide additional support for larger projects with pre-established fundraising plans.
William and Flora Hewlett Foundation: In 2014, only a handful of these grants were made, ranging from $25,000 to $200,000.