Creative Capital: Grants for Film

OVERVIEW: Creative Capital considers themselves a "provider of risk capital in the arts" in that they take an individualized approach to their grant making the way a venture capitalist would. They also provide grantees with ongoing support and advice over the course of several years and are one of the only national nonprofit organizations that award individual grants through open applications.

IP TAKE: Creative Capital takes a venture capital approach to their funding in that their grants are seen as long-term investments, not just hand-outs, so you can expect a lot of follow-up support if you land one of their grants. The caveat: You have to be a professional artist with at least five years of experience.

PROFILE: Since 1999, Creative Capital has committed some $40 million in both grants and services to several art disciplines, including emerging arts and film/video. They take a somewhat different approach to grant making than many of their counterparts as they not only grant money, but provide important services that help the artist beyond the creation of his or her work, taking chances on projects that they consider "bold, innovative and genre-stretching." Their grants include "sequential financial support and tailored advisory services" to ensure that the projects they support have the maximum amount of success and their artists are building sustainable, long-term careers.

All Creative Capital grantees receive up to a $50,000 grant. In addition to the cash grants, they also receive career development services such as financial skills classes, professional development workshops, industry contact development, marketing and public relations services, and fundraising workshops. Grantees are also offered the opportunity to take a five-day retreat with other Creative Capital grant recipients to network and gain additional skills and knowledge. These career development services include a three- to seven-year commitment period that involves a "high level of engagement between Creative Capital and the artist." Creative Capital estimates the value of these additional services at upwards of $45,000.

Each third year Creative Capital awards around 20 or so film and video grants, and all grants awarded are to individual artists, not organizations. The competition for Creative Capital is also among the top tier of talent. For example, past recipients like Deborah Stratman's work has been featured at the Museum of Modern Art, Cam Archer's film Wild Tigers I Have Known was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award, and Nina Menkes work has been screened at a number of film festivals, including Sundance and the Toronto Film Festival.

At each stage, evaluators look for proposals that clearly articulate and demonstrate the following:

  • The artistic strength, vision, originality and potential for impact of the project.
  • The professional capacity of the applicant.
  • The feasibility of the project.
  • The potential benefit of our support, especially the non-monetary aspect of our program. 

They also look for artists who "demonstrate bold, inventive and singular ideas in both form and content; are at a catalytic moment in their creative practices and in their approach to their career;  are deeply engaged with and rigorously committed to their art forms;  have potential for significant artistic and cultural impact;  understand the professional landscape of their field; and are generous and demonstrate a readiness to accept the kinds of assistance [Creative Capital] offers."

Recently Creative Capital also launched On Our Radar. As Executive Director, Ruby Lerner, explained to us, "Recognizing that we’re in the privileged position of receiving many more terrific proposals than we can possibly fund, we created On Our Radar. If you make it past our very competitive 'Letter of Inquiry' round, and progress to the second tier of our evaluative process by being invited to formally apply, you can elect to post a brief project description, your email contact info, and a thumbnail photo of the project to the On Our Radar website. We promote these projects to our entire email list and have seen this create opportunities for artists who we are unable to support with awards, but who we none-the-less recognize as having talent." 

Their application process is on a three year cycle, alternating between fields of discipline for two years, then following up with grantees in the third year. Deadlines for Letters of Inquiry are usually at the beginning of each year, with the submissions deadline every March. Look into the guidelines further if you think you might qualify to receive Creative Capital funds, and as always, sign up for their email to keep up with future open submissions.


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